By Steven Yates
September 20, 2008
Those who know me, know that in early June I dropped almost everything to deal with a family emergency. It is not as if there was a sudden dearth of topics. There was the Georgia-Russia fracas which took our minds off Iran, the two major-party coronations (or Nuremberg rallies, if you prefer), Ron Paul's alternative convention in Minneapolis, the evidence of intimidation and unconstitutional harassment of supporters of Ron Paul in and around the McCain coronation, the bailout out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, bank failures and other signs of a rapidly deteriorating economy, the sudden appearance of Sarah Palin on the national stage, and doubtless several others. But I am a strong believer in the moral priority of family. Thus when my aging parents needed my help in the worst way I was there even when it meant tabling other projects including writing this column. My parents have given me much, and the time had come to give something back.
Those three months of near-isolation did afford me space to think. A few weeks ago, LewRockwell.com reprinted a column by Charley Reese—who just retired. The column was entitled "Basic Premises." Reese recommended writing out one's premises as a good method for clarifying one's thinking. I don't always agree with Reese, but I do agree with this.
And so over the intervening weeks, during those periods of time I had to myself (often in the very early morning), I took his advice. Initially I ended up with close to 20. I realized, however, that some were either versions of others, or derivative instead of basic. I sought the basic ones, and ended up with seven. My premises differ from Reese's somewhat, doubtless because of the differences in our backgrounds—and to be honest, because some of his are derivative instead of basic. But so far as I can tell, mine are consistent with his. In any event I am convinced these are true. I'd like to think many are common horse sense. Those who disagree 180 degrees need read no further.
- The universe is indifferent to human life—indeed, to
2 - Concentrations of power are dangerous wherever they are found.
3 - Most people never think about what does not affect them directly and immediately.
4 - Governments in the U.S. (federal, state, local) are not fundamentally different from governments anywhere else in the world.
5 - The truth will not necessarily make us happy.
6 - Life is short.
7 - We are deluded if we think we can save ourselves.
These all have corollaries, of course, both individually and in combination, and they have logical implications. For example, the most immediate implication of (1) for the human condition is that we will not long survive if we sit on our duffs. Specific courses of action are necessary for survival and self-improvement. And we are better off if we are able to keep the fruits of our labors, as opposed to having them taken from us at gunpoint, or its equivalent, and redistributed. On the other hand (and here is where I part company with the Ayn-Randroids and many libertarians), I do not believe a truly civilized society will allow people to starve if it has an alternative, or allow the strong and wealthy (or simply the clever) to steal the rest of the population blind and say caveat emptor. This last brings me to (2).
Back in the very early 1990s—while researching my first book Civil Wrongs—I came to the realization that in any population is a minority that is fascinated with power, measures all values in its terms, and will do anything to obtain and maintain it—often using money to keep score. And as the oft-quoted Lord Acton famously wrote,"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." While power-seekers often end up in governments, they are also drawn into the upper echelons of large corporations, and into foundations where they can use the power of the purse to determine which agendas are funded and which wither on the vine. Think Ford and Rockefeller.
By the end of that decade I had concluded that the number one problem for those who want to live in a free society is: how do we control power. "How, that is, do we control that minority that is in or that seeks power, while maintaining justice." The best answer I had at the time: Constitutionally limited government.
(3), however, suggests limits on what we can do. The masses don't think—although in fairness, their incapacities have been made worse by America's government school system which is designed to produce a mass of serfs, not a free people. Both Jefferson and Jackson warned that vigilance is the price of liberty. America's masses have been anything but vigilant. A corollary of (2) and (3) together is that there is bound to be a power elite in any society. Much of its actions are hidden almost by default: it isn't that the primary actors are hiding so much as that the masses aren't paying attention and are usually content so long as their paychecks keep coming and sports is available on television.
Another corollary is that any program of reform—including "third parties"—that depends on getting the masses on board, is probably doomed. The masses will respond to serious inconveniences such as the lights going out during ice storms and hits on their pocketbooks from inflated gas prices, but very little else. They won't notice gradual change. I think the Fabian socialists realized this, which is why they recommended stealth, infiltration, and the subversion of institutions from within instead of overt revolutionary activity. Their efforts were brilliantly successful. This is the key to the Saul Alinsky movement which guided Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. Anyone who has read Rules For Radicals knows that it gives sound advice on how "change agents" can gain power in communities by getting "buy-in" from dominant personalities. I think it likely that the power elite understands mass human psychology and mass behavior better than we restore-the-Republic types. Why wouldn't they" They've been bankrolling "education" and "social sciences" (i.e., studies in manipulation and social control through conditioning) for decades now.
What of (4), which many red-blooded Americans will deem "unpatriotic." Once we realize that power tends to corrupt, I am unsure why anyone would think our governmental systems would be immune, simply because they are ours. All such systems—and those in faceless corporate empires?tend to attract the same kinds of people. And speaking of corporations, many freedom-believers (and I would include past versions of myself in this before I wised up) operate under the assumption that the bad guys automatically flock to government and the good guys go into corporations to participate in the "free market." I do not know how they explain Big Pharma's efforts to destroy the dietary supplements industry and ensure that we remain the sickliest, most sedated, and drugged up society in human history. The truth: large corporations don't want a free market economy, they want an economy they can control. Their primary instruments are government agencies—in the case of Big Pharma, the FDA, which has clearly been owned by Big Pharma and Big Agrabiz concerns (e.g., Monsanto) since before aspartame, a known carcinogen, was placed in diet drinks as a sugar substitute. Thinking individuals, of course, could thwart such efforts through their choices as consumers, of course. The trouble is, again, there aren't enough thinking individuals out there. Thus Big Pharma's controls over the FDA and over so-called scientific medicine remain, and our so-called health care industries remain sick care industries.
One of the downfalls of Randism and Libertarianism were their na've trust in corporations and their belief that their denizens wanted free markets.
(5) asserts that the truth will not necessarily make us happy. Tie this back into (1). In an indifferent physical universe, the truth usually won't make us happy, or even especially comfortable. We don't want to think about it, but we live in a broken political system. To my mind, the only statesman running for the nomination of a dominant political party this past year was Ron Paul. He and his supporters were thwarted through a combination of mainstream media neglect (always effective with unthinking masses for whom if it isn't on TV it isn't real) , actual blocking of his efforts by Republican Party operatives, and vote stealing which was pretty much proven in New Hampshire. Despite this, the warmongering John McCain is the nominee. Moreover, McCain's—or more likely, his handlers'—choice of "true conservative" (pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, etc., etc.) Sarah Palin has already succeeded magnificently at getting the "true conservatives" among the masses with the program. (And her politics aside, she's hot!!)
The plain truth is—someone who does not have power elite approval is not going to advance in the controlled political system of today's America. The Ron Paul people are marching on. I have begun to wonder if learning skills such as organic gardening, etc., for survival as the economic fortunes of the majority of Americans continue to decline might not be better uses of their time.
(6) makes me wonder as to the importance of haranguing the public about any of this. It is true that the masses won't listen. But the issue (6) raises cuts deeper than that. Over the past four months working through my parents' situations I've been in and out of hospitals, combined nursing home/skilled nursing facilities, and assisted living centers—before we finally settled on one of the latter. The residents are not just elderly, but infirm. Many cannot walk or bathe without help. Many have dementia, the best known form of which is Alzheimer's disease; they cannot remember where they are, or in some cases what their relatives' names are. Others are on medication ("gratefully" supplied by Big Pharma for huge fees) for constant arthritis pain, or worse. Some are incontinent. A few are utterly helpless, and would starve if not fed by nursing assistants.
The uncomfortable truth is that we're all going to get there someday. We're all going to become variations on one of these themes—unless, of course, heart attacks or cancers or sudden accidents do us in first. Or, as I only half-jokingly sometimes say, we are murdered by the government. That "someday," I've come to realize, is a whole lot closer than we think. Readers, have you ever noticed that the older you get, the more the years seem to speed up"
In the final analysis, there remains just one basis for any sort of optimism about the future: the faithful realization that this is God's universe, and that God never intended that we understand all its workings, or why events play out the way they do. We can, of course, get some understanding if we pay attention. The lesson we learn from history—especially the history of our attempts to organize politically and socially—is that human nature is too fouled up by sin for us to ever build the Utopia philosophers as far back as Plato have dreamt of. An honest "free trade" system, moreover, is as Utopian as any form of Marxian communism.
The United States of America was as close as we came to a Utopian order. The U.S. was founded on a distrust of concentrations of power—on the belief that while government was necessary, it was just as necessary to keep it on a short leash. Chroniclers of our period in history will eventually record that our system failed because its founders could not keep the European banksters out. Later, we failed to recognize Fabian socialism and its "penetration and permeation" methods which continue to this day. Today, our broken system is dominated by a political class—elite-sponsored, well organized and monied?that stopped representing "we the people" long ago.
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Those who measure all value through money and power don't grasp who is really in charge, of course, and never will. This means that those of us who have trusted Jesus Christ as our personal savior will come out on top in the long run. It also means that we have to keep our eyes on the prize, as the saying goes-because nowhere were we promised lives free of trials and troubles. Christians especially may be in for a very rough ride before the real "end of history" is made manifest.
© 2008 Steven Yates - All Rights Reserved