12 June 2009

Razing The Servile State

[T]rends of evolution can change, and hitherto they almost always have changed. But they changed only because they met firm opposition. The prevailing trend toward...the servile state will certainly not be reversed if nobody has the courage to attack its underlying dogmas. ~ Ludwig von Mises
Mises was correct to identify courage as a necessary component in beating back the "servile state". (He'd be gratified, I'm sure, to know I agree with him!) Fortunately, I don't think lack of courage is our problem at present, here in the United Servile States of America. As I listen to critiques of His Beatitude and his policies, it strikes me that the courage is there. What is missing is much greater precision in identifying the "underlying dogmas" which Mises writes of. So far, the criticism is limited to explaining that, and how, the policies are socialist and in the long term unaffordable. Call the policies socialist, then show how they are socialist. (As, for example, here, where Karl Rove argues that we will become a European style welfare state. That is not a problem if you accept, as many now clearly do, the dogmas which underlay the welfare state.) Follow up with demonstration that the policies won't work somehow. Also, with respect to the in-fighting in the Republican Party, one must show that the so-called moderates lack the fortitude necessary to confront the left.

What is really missing, among conservatives, is awareness that the problem with moderates is not lack of courage, as Rush Limbaugh, for example, is wont to assert. Rather, moderates share belief with the President in some, if not all, of those underlying dogmas. Perhaps, as General Powell suggests, "the people" want higher taxes and more government, but the question is, Should they want these things? or, more importantly, Should they have them? You don't always get what you want. And sometimes you simply don't have a right to what you want.

Now, the General may be right about the trend, but that tells us nothing about the desirability of the trend. That's the problem with following a trend: the trend itself cannot tell you whether you should be following it. This is an important point. I'll come back to it in a moment, however.

There is another failure among conservatives. They keep talking as if we do not already live in, what Ludwig von Mises (following Hilaire Belloc) called The Servile State. To hear them talk, if we don't stop His Beatitude, we shall wake up one day in a police state. The sad fact is, we are already there. And the fact that conservatives do not see this may be testimony to just how many of our servile state's underlying dogmas they themselves have already accepted.

I can only put forth the briefest argument that we live in a servile state. Let me begin with the premise that socialist and communist states are servile states. Now consider some of the goals expressed by Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto:

1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
3. Abolition of all right of inheritance.
4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
5. Centralization of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital. and an exclusive monopoly.

6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
8. Equal liability of all to labor. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries: gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equable distribution of the population over the country.
10. Free education for all children in public schools.

Granted, not all of those goals have been reached here. But anyone paying attention, I think, clearly understands that these are not vastly different from Leftist goals today, at least not in spirit.

We live in a servile state. The task, then, is not to prevent a servile state from arising in our midst. The task is to raze the one we have (and have had for quite some time) straight to the ground, and then grind it to dust.

I tabled above the topic of historical trends. Let me now return to it ever so briefly. One of His Beatitude's most cherished dogmas seems to be that the direction of societal evolution will continue into the future, and that it must do so. Attempts to reverse these obvious trends are doomed to failure. We must submit to the path of history; we don't want to be on "the wrong side of history," a phrase used by His Beatitude during his inauguration speech:

To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
No assertion that "those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent" are unethical, or immoral in doing so. They are simply on the wrong side of history. There was a time when these tactics were on the right side of history, but not any longer. I suppose one could argue that it is unethical or immoral to be on the wrong side of history. But let us note the larger claim: His Beatitude, the god-like one (if Evan Thomas is anyone to listen to), knows where history (like Hegel and then Marx before him) is going, and is therefore fit to lecture leaders around the world on where history is going and how they will best be on its right side. They, apparently, must simply take his word for it.

The Blessed One re-iterated this idea during his speech at Langley, when he told attendees that new interrogation policies will put us on the better side of history. Well, thank goodness. I have been fearful that our so-called torture tactics were wrong, in the sense of being unethical or immoral. Now we can take solace in the fact that they are not wrong. They just fly in the face of what His Lordship tells us is the right side of history. Torture? That is so bell-bottoms and tie-dyed t-shirts.

The notion of historical inevitability shows up in El Jefe's approach to economics. In short, there will be no "going back" to whatever conception of capitalism He thinks has existed here. Even in this he affirms the inevitability of historical trends, Mises summarizes it:

In the last decades there [has] prevailed a trend toward more and more government interference with business. The sphere of the private citizen's initiative [has been] narrowed down. Laws and administrative decrees [have] restricted the field in which entrepreneurs and capitalists [are] free to conduct their activities in compliance with the wishes of the consumers as manifested in the structure of the market. From year to year an ever-increasing portion of profits and interest on capital invested [has been] confiscated by taxation of corporation earnings and individual incomes and estates.
Bush's mistake -- deregulation -- was the attempt to reverse an obvious trend. That is to say, Bush's policies were simply on the wrong side of history. History is going in the direction of more, not less, regulation -- more, not less, government intervention in the free (HA!) market. His Lordship is clearly on the right side of history: less, not more, private activity; more, not less, government activity. There is, of course, a problem with calling it a mistake: nothing tells us, even assuming historical inevitability (as unscientific a doctrine as ever there was), that we should be on the so-called right side of history.

Mises rather nicely disposes of the idea of the inevitability of historical trends in the article to which I've linked. But that is only one of the dogmas acceptance of which underlay servile states, especially ours. And, like Mises says, they need to be critiqued.

Part II


About Me

James Frank SolĂ­s
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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