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Farewell, Liberals and Conservatives

When the Statists Come Marching In.


by James Leroy Wilson
November 26, 2002

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Farewell, Liberals and Conservatives_James Leroy Wilson-When the Statists Come Marching In. The U.S. Senate vote of 90-9 in favor of establishing a Department of Homeland Security (signed by President Bush on November 25) is just the latest evidence that liberals and conservatives are no longer politically relevant. No liberal could possibly have voted for this measure; neither would have any conservative. Yet most Democratic Senators are said to be liberals, and most Republicans are said to be conservatives. If this were true, the overwhelming bi-partisan vote would have been against the measure, not for it.

Democrats, generally speaking, are not liberals, they're progressives. And Republicans are not conservatives, they're tories. Progressives and tories have different political goals: progressives believe The State (what I call the behemoth of coercive powers given to national, state, and municipal government) is the only means to achieve a more just society and a better human future; tories believe that The State is the means by which societies can preserve and enhance their relative stability, security, and prosperity. Progressives believe in a strong centralized State to "improve" society, whereas tories believe in The State in order to preserve society from domestic and external "threats."

In short, progressives and tories are statists, and will either propose, or at least go along with, any and every measure that will give more power to the State. Although their goals are different, they have more in common with each other than either has with genuine liberals and conservatives. Hence that 90-9 vote for Homeland Security.

It's easy to say that liberals are progressives with a libertarian streak, because they care about civil liberties, and that conservatives likewise are tories with a libertarian streak, because they understand the necessity of free markets. But actually, it is libertarianism, that is, anti-statism, that define both liberals and conservatives. Liberals think in terms of individuals and individual rights, whereas conservatives emphasize the importance of strong social institutions. Whereas the statists - the bickering, supposedly partisan progressives and tories - have pure contempt on such concepts, viewing individuals as mere statistics, and voluntary associations and decentralized government as threats to be regulated and subdued. Why else would they authorize the United States government to spy on any one of us? Forbid using the Internet as a forum to talk about marijuana? Or try to "save marriages" by getting more involved, rather than letting two individuals draw up a contract/covenant on their own, with the blessing of whatever churh they chose? And usurp local authority on everything from the Pledge of Allegience to assisted suicide?

The honest, thoughtful liberals and conservatives are unlike progressives and tories, because their orienation is grounded in liberty rather than statism. Individualism and strong institutions are but two sides of the same libertarian, anti-State coin. For the same power that weakens and destroys our social institutions like church, family, community associations, etc., is the same one that weakens and destroys individuals. Just as diversity in investing is the preferred strategy in the stock market for long-term success, so is it best for individuals to have a multiplicity of communities - strong family ties, strong friendships, strong church, strong neighborhoods, on which they can rely if disaster strikes. But when the State promises to take care of the individual economically, a strong incentive to preserve social ties is destroyed. When social institutions are held together only by a sense of affection and not by tangible interests, they lose a lot of reason for being. Individuals do not feel the need, personally, for these bonds, and by looking at their tax bills and seeing the "social programs" the State has created, they have less incentive to voluntarily help their neighbors. They, not reasonably, believe that the State has taken over the responsibility to take care of their neighbors.

Which leaves the individual solely dependant on the State. It takes but a moment's reflection to show how anti-individual this really is. For every progressive politician who wants to give money to an "artist," for every tory who wants to subsidize a struggling domestic industry, there are other individuals, having consented to none of this, who are forced to pay their taxes. But how can they complain? They will get their welfare, their health care, their pension, on terms that the State deems reasonable and fiscally responsible. That's the deal, that's the bargain with the devil. The State will take care of you. The quality and methods by which they take care of you will, of course, be decided by The State. It is hard to rail against "special interests" and exhort to "clean up Washington" if one still believes in a statist ideology.

At their best, conservatism and liberalism are neither philosophies nor ideologies, but sensibilities. The conservative disposition is admirably suspicious of change for the sake of change, and of the idea that "new" wisdom is superior to ancient wisdom. Liberalism likewise is to be admired for refusing to allow individuals to be boxed in by society, and to refute as absurd the idea of tradition for the sake of tradition.

But it isn't the best, rather the worst, of liberalism and conservativism that led to their own irrelevence. Liberalism, for all of its concern for the welfare of the individual, let itself be seduced by statist progressivism. It refused to acknowledge truths about economics and human nature, somehow believing that human desires, choices, and actions should bear no relationship to the prices of the things humans want and need. That only The State had the resources to take care of individuals, forgetting that the only "resources" the state had were the will and the sweat of those same individuals. Liberalism took prosperity for granted, and granted the State powers to "help" the poor and "protect" middle-class workers and consumers. It didn't take into account the unseen costs of compliance to regulations and stifled initiative.

And conservatives, hearing the patriotic call to duty of wars both hot and cold, were seduced by toryism and decided to treat human beings not as human beings but as citizens of States in which the "interests" of our own State is priority #1. There is pragmatic flexibility here: the Wall Street Journal is libertarian in immigration but authoritarian on the War on Drugs, while National Review magazine is vice-versa. Both understand the importance of free markets to some degree, and that there should be, ideally, some sort of limits on the State, but in both cases toryism, an unhealthy faith in the State, trumps their own logic when logic doesn't suit their pro-state State prejudices.

Both liberals and conservatives purposefully and willfully compromised what was their best principles in exchange for some idealistic pot of gold that "only government" can achieve. But now they seem to exist in name only, having no more actual power and influence than the Libertarian Party itself.

Perhaps this will go to show genuine conservatives and liberals the futility of voting for Republicans and Democrats. Statists believe that human goodness and happiness lie in taking the lives, liberties, or property of some, without their consent, in order to benefit others and thereby create a net gain for society. This belief is at war against all benevolent religious belief, against reason, against nature itself. It is self-destroying. The State is unlike every other social institution in that it purposefully seeks the misery of some to achieve the happiness of others. Marriages and families don't do that. Schools don't do that. Churches don't do that. Businesses, which seek expanding and wealthier markets, certainly don't do that. Not even "government" as outlined in such places as the book of Deuteronomy or the Declaration of Independence does that. It takes The State to teach us the ethic that the benefit of society as a whole depends on the misery of at least part of society. The State coercerces, whereas other social institutions rely on voluntary choice.

That is, the State relies on negative means, whereas genuine society relies on positive means. The State's only purpose is to place a negative calculation into individual human affairs, to deceive the individual into believing that the only way he can gain is at the expense of others.

So let's give statism applause, if only because it embarking to its final destruction; we may be in the final Act of the bizarre tragedy called human history. Its lies, its frauds, its death toll, is now culminating in all-out insanity in the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and the Muslim world. It is impossible to square a circle, and likewise you can't make somebody better through threats and coercion. Yet this is precisely what States try to do. This will put the American Empire, along with the rest of the world, on its path of destruction, and will leave humanity in the condition God, and reason, intended it to be, free from having to pay for Kings and Empires, free from having to be citizens of The State.

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