“Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable.”
– George Orwell
I was chatting with my sainted bride at breakfast this morning and she related to me that she had heard a story on National Pinko Radio discussing the forced evacuation of Times Beach, MO during the Christmas season in 1985. Two thousand residents excepting one elderly couple left. God help the elderly couple today for they would have probably been tased or shot for their refusal to abandon their own property at the government’s pleasure. In the brief quarter century since then, the government has become quite a bit more militarized at home. Allegedly, for the first time since the Founding, an entire town had been forcibly evacuated outside of wartime, with merely the clothes on their back. Apparently, the EPA had discovered high levels of dioxin which forced an immediate evacuation. Imagine waking up on Christmas Eve and seeing government employees in ridiculous spacesuits standing in your yard and forcing you to leave immediately. Or else.
There is no doubt that dioxin is poisonous in quantity and harmful to humans but the heavy-handedness of the government in addressing the problem is typical and yet again, the germination of the problem in Times Beach was a result of a subcontractor spreading waste oil on dirt roads to quell a dust problem after he had contracted to disposing of waste from a facility charged with manufacturing Agent Orange during the American Vietnam conflict, Hoffman-Taff which leased to NEPACCO.
Again, we discover yet another germination of problems in America with government’s obsession with waging war. I have written in the past on the increasing militarization of American society accelerating with the entry into WWI in 1917 and the unique synthesis of fascism and a national security state that has led us to the juncture we are at today. We are waging war on four known fronts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen and involved in countless unacknowledged mischief around the globe in the War on Terror ( a critically misguided euphemism if ever there was one) stacking up enemies faster than we can maim and kill their wives and children.
I suspect that there is a doctoral thesis or two here to examine how sustainable the American economy is without the warfare state. The enormous increase in defense expenditures (and the appropriate slice of the DOE, intelligence community and Fatherland Security tangentially related to the Pentagon activities) has warped any reasonable calculation of the crowding out of private capital and peaceful investment. I am constantly in awe of the lefty collectivists whose abhorrence of war can evaporate overnight when one of their own gets in the White House. The economy has been in the virtual thrall of government planning for so long that the combination of the monopoly money scrip issued by the FED, massive resource mismanagement, regulatory warping of unfettered market decisions and the crushing tax burden on the productive classes is leading to the final act in the American parabola. We are on the downward slope and the financial apocalypse will be worthy of the demise of the other great empires that have crash landed in the refuse of their own epic mismanagement and corruption.
I don’t have the answer but my economic antennae tell me that we have been sating ourselves at the War Trough for so long that it has permanently warped our ability to have an economy built on peaceful exchange on two levels: in the respect of unfettered markets and the production of non-war related goods and services. One merely has to read von Mises and Hazlitt to realize that the glazier is wearing a uniform. I often wondered that if the government ever got wind of Hazlitt’s “broken window” fallacy, they may in the best style of the odious and tyrannical Paul Krugman, propose we destroy one American city every year to provide a rebuilding project for the masses. Who knows, maybe they could riff on the dioxin excuse used on the poor town of Times Beach.
I happen to live in one of these national security bubbles in southern AZ where the local military installation is the heart of the economy and its demise would make the area virtually unlivable because everything and everyone depends upon the base for their material living. We are almost immune to the rampant and deepening unemployment embroiling the nation. This may be one of several hundred such burgs throughout the US not to mention the gargantuan military-industrial sector proximate to Mordor. When the inevitable collapse of the currency or whatever other economic Black Swan befalls us happens, these pockets of apparent prosperity will dry up and blow away. This present Depression is unique in that all the factors that will deepen it and expand the misery are being followed to the letter by the rulers in DC:
- Keynesianism rules the intellectual roost
- Spending cuts are institutionally impossible
- Federal Reserve policy exacerbates weakness in the diminishing fiat currency
- Decision-makers still think anything Krugman says is credible
- The war on the world continues unabated
- Forced wealth redistribution continue through the tax system and spending programs
- The regimist house economists continue to wage a viscous war against small businesses
If an enemy of these united States wanted to set in motion a program of savage self-destruction, they would elect these rulers we have now and allow the system to maul and flog itself into a maelstrom of bureaucratic suicide. We take such pride in being the exceptional nation that we have failed to look closely in the mirror and see the imperial etching and scarring of Rome on the cratered visage in the looking glass. All imperial powers die and our morbid self-deception about imperial behavior has merely caused us to find another name for our self-murder.
Imagine a country that was non-interventionist with the wealth and resources of America. What would happen if the enormous tribute we paid through taxation, regulation and misplaced resources of time and wealth were used for peaceful purposes? Would that production of peaceful goods and services in essence speak to the need to pursue paths of non-violence in the way we live every day? Has the unique brand of warfare/welfare state that is America permanently scarred most folks thinking to such a large extent that the moral imagination to consider peaceful cooperation with neighbors is out of the question?
If you don’t live in a homeowners association, find a friend who does and you will find that even the most banal of human activities – home ownership – has a tremendous amount of threatened violence built into it. If you refuse to comply with their many demands, they have the ability to levy fines enforced by the proxy of state violence leveled against your refusal. We travel to other end of the spectrum and you cannot read the news without discovering that we have killed more women and children with robot aircraft. Everyday. If a foreign power were doing that to your neighborhood, would you submit (yes, I see all the emphatically nodding heads on readers in the American Northeast but your culture is distinctly more Soviet and submissive than where I live in the American Southwest)? Would this make you want to emulate that country?
We are a nation that has been at war for so long, we do not know anything else. Except for a relative quiet period from 1932-41, we have been bayoneting the planet since 1890. From China to Russia to every port in between. The exceptional nation is built on not minding its own business and insisting on micromanaging everyone around it. The United Kingdom is a perfect example of Buppert’s Rule of Empire:
“Whatever an empire practices abroad, no matter how noxious the policy, will eventually be used at home with a vengeance.”
I went to an antiwar rally last month at which there was a counter-demonstration by the usual suspects in the conservative realm with their “We Support the Troops” mantras, it happened to be smaller than the leftish contingent opposing the War on Terror (or Terrible People or Evil or Life or whatever it may be right now). I found the sentiments of the lefty folks curiously bipolar in that they wanted to cease violence abroad but were happy to champion their socialist nostrums which are the real forms of domestic violence. Several of them sported T-Shirts which sported a slogan reading: Say No to Torture. The counter-demonstrators made fun of these slogans. Consider what I just said. It belies a tacit agreement that the torture and physical or psychological maiming of other human beings is fine. That is where our virtue barometer has fallen. If one follows a timeline from birth (abortion) to torture to the death penalty, you can see that the people have a complicit agreement that their government may forfeit their lives at will and they will sign off on it as long as they are not the subject of such violence themselves. If that is not a component of evil, I do not know what is.
We are one of the first empires in history that insists that all economic gain be negative in return but the primary mission of the empire appears to be to sustain a bloated and ineffective military hyper-power presence around the globe. Whether it is the Navy’s emerging readiness difficulties afloat, critical manning shortages in the volunteer force or the dead-end programs which abound throughout DoD, the paradigm is in big trouble. Programs which at times have multimillion dollar awards to the companies call “cancellation fees”. One can treble the budget of all these government agencies and within a couple years they would be back at the trough begging for a new infusion of cash. This is the nature of bureaucracy as von Mises instructed years ago.
“The bureaucrat is not free to aim at improvement. He is bound to obey rules and regulations established by a superior body. He has no right to embark upon innovations if his superiors do not approve of them. His duty and his virtue is to be obedient.”
So now we have the worst of both worlds: a militarized state with a will to rule the world and the creeping red carpet of violence starting to spill over into the homeland. I am not speaking to the “global terrorist” threat but the domestic terrorism practiced by the government on a daily basis whether the all too familiar police abuses or the increasing surveillance on every human transaction in America. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn tells us that “ [a] state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny.”
Not to worry because on the one hand, all empires collapse of their own outlandish weight and excess but on the other hand, the death paroxysms can be a threat to every man, woman and child living in the country. Take heart in the fact that all empires collapse and dissolve.
I know I tend to prattle on about the likes of Wilberforce and Spooner but those two worthies provide us with the vision to know that what may not be today can be tomorrow and again, we owe it to our children.
Give peace a chance.
“For peace is not mere absence of war, but is a virtue that springs from, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice”
– Baruch Spinoza
Notes in the Margin: I will be on the Peter Mac show on 12/29/10 at 1900-2000 CST and we will be discussing defense issues and future privatization.
I also ran into the keenest four minute video that clearly explicates why government is wrong at the most base level. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGMQZEIXBMs
I have updated and annotated the Media and Interviews page to make it easier to navigate.