CXXXV – Power Is What They Want

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The
headline blared out at me: u201COmaha Schools
Split Along Race Lines.u201D The Nebraska legislature
had enacted a statute subdividing the Omaha
public schools into three independent geographic
districts: one populated primarily by whites,
one by blacks, and one by Hispanics. This
throwback to earlier u201Cseparate-but-equalu201D
thinking should not be surprising in a culture
that has seen individual liberty supplanted
by politically-defined categories of group
rights. If groups — not persons
— have u201Crights,u201D then dividing political
power and benefits among the u201Cchosenu201D collectives
seems inevitable.

What
called my attention to this story was the
fact that, prior to moving to California
nearly three decades ago, my family lived
in Omaha. At that time, the government schools
were embroiled in another controversy: school
busing. The statists used governmental power
to forcibly move students from one school
to another in order to achieve a racially-balanced
distribution throughout the city. Today,
just the opposite seems to be the underlying
policy, with separate districts dominated
by separate racial/ethnic constituencies.

On
the surface, this appears to be but another
example of the inconstancies associated
with political programs. For the same reason
that orthodontists need overbites, and lawyers
need disputes, statists need an endless
supply of social u201Cproblemsu201D for which to
offer their violent remedies.

All
that is essential to the politically-minded
is that the threats they perceive, and the
solutions they propose, have a sufficiently
plausible basis that will allow the boobeoisie
to embrace their programs. There is no need
for consistency in purpose or outcome in
their policies. If unintended consequences
should arise, they can be dismissed as evidence
of just how complicated the u201Cproblemsu201D are
for which only the foresight and skills
of state planners are capable of resolving.
Contradiction, in other words, is taken
as a confirmation of our personal inadequacies
for functioning in a complex world!

In
such ways have we learned to accept the
contrary promises of politicians who promise
us both tax cuts and increased defense spending;
free trade and the protection of American
industries; and the virtues of personal
liberty along with increased police powers.
So heated is the debate over abortion, that
we fail to grasp the antithetical positions
of the contestants. Most of those who preach
the importance of u201Cchoiceu201D nevertheless
seek to mandate human conduct in other matters;
while many of the u201Cpro-lifeu201D advocates tend
to be supporters of wars and capital punishment.
Likewise, the advocate of urban renewal
— resulting in the destruction of older
buildings — can equally endorse historic
conservancy. In either case, it is the power
to make decisions over the property of others
that underlies both programs.

We
do not pay sufficient attention to the fact
that statists are less interested in either
the substance of their specific u201Cproblems,u201D
or the merits of their proposed solutions,
than in retaining and aggrandizing control
over the lives of others. We spend far too
much of our time giving credence to statists'
issues by making reasoned or empirical responses
to their proposals, and too little time
addressing the underlying power ambitions.
Though some of their fellow travelers doubtless
care about the merits of the policies, the
statists' principal concern is to advance
a tenable case for extended state control.
I am not suggesting that their proposals
go unchallenged, but that we understand
them as fungible expressions of a deeper
need for power.

The
self-styled cause of u201Cenvironmentalismu201D
is a case in point. The idea of centralized,
state economic planning met its death following
decades of failed efforts. Such planning
was organized around the premise that the
lives and resources of people should be
subject to the collective decision-making
of the state. When such thinking proved
destructive to material needs, a different
rationale for such systems had to be discovered.
The regulation of the u201Cenvironmentu201D provided
just such an alternative. After all, what
is the environment except u201Ceverything that
is not me?u201D

Threats
to humanity, to other life systems, and
to the planet itself were quickly forthcoming
as a justification for the state regulating
property interests and human activity. No
more did control over the lives of people
have to depend upon failed examples of state
planning for the production and distribution
of goods and services. It was now the salvation
of life, itself, that provided statists
the raison d'tre for their ambitions for
power. They were unable to deny the superiority
of the marketplace for the production of
food, television sets, houses, and even
toilet paper. But protecting the entire
planet from the alleged ravages of self-seeking
humans was a u201Cproblemu201D that could only be
undertaken by, . . . yes, you guessed it,
a new form of state planning!

We
were initially warned of a coming u201Cice age,u201D
with mankind facing a refrigerative fate
unless a collective solution was found.
Not long thereafter, the source of the threat
was not in global cooling, but warming,
with many of the advocates of the incipient
u201Cice ageu201D now warning us of a slow death
in a u201Cgreenhouse.u201D It mattered less whether
cold or heat was to do us in. Indeed, the
u201Cproblemu201D has more recently been described
as u201Cglobal change,u201D a prognosis that
allows for any deviation to be regarded
as an environmental u201Cthreatu201D around which
the statists can offer their collective,
coercive responses.

Is
the planet getting warmer? The answer is
clearly u201Cyes,u201D although — as polar shifts
from u201Ccoolingu201D to u201Cwarmingu201D illustrate —
the causal factors may be too complex to
permit of simple reasons. The politically-correct
explanation has been that increasing levels
of carbon dioxide are to blame. But the
production of carbon dioxide is an unavoidable
byproduct of the life process. Plant and
animal life have long been engaged in a
symbiotic exchange of carbon dioxide and
oxygen for their mutual survival.

Many
of those who profess affection for the environment
forget this essential fact: nature pulsates.
Birth and death; periods of global cooling
and warming; seasonal and climatological
variations; tectonic processes of growth
and disintegration; polar reversals; and
the creation and destruction of star systems,
are just a few of the more apparent examples
of nature as a great synthetic dance between
seemingly opposite but symbiotic forces.

I
admit to an ignorance of all the forces
at work upon the world at any point in time
and, for this reason, am unwilling to employ
the powers of the state to enforce my momentary
visions upon the rest of you. I embrace
the sentiment so well expressed by H.L.
Mencken: u201CThe fact that I have no remedy
for all the sorrows of the world is no reason
for my accepting yours. It simply supports
the strong probability that yours is a fake.u201D
I do, however, believe that most of our
personal and social difficulties arise from
our insistence upon superficial answers
to problems generated by complexities we
are unwilling to examine. This is why politicians
— and their statist camp-followers — are
so eager to translate every undesirable
condition into a u201Cproblemu201D to be resolved
by the transfer of power to themselves.

The
dumping of our entropic byproducts into
the air, water, and ground, are nothing
more than trespasses upon the property interests
of others. They are ways in which we have
been taught, largely by the state, to socialize
our costs by imposing them upon others.
How different, in kind, is the man who throws
an empty beer can from his car from an Air
Force pilot who drops bombs from his plane?
Is there not a parallel between a government
that imposes corporate research and development
costs upon taxpayers, and businesses that
loose dust, chemicals, and other pollutants
upon their neighbors? Responsible behavior
consists in the internalization of
all the costs of our activities. By its
very nature, the state never has been and
never can be a model for responsible, non-trespassing
behavior.

As
one who shares with Carl Jung the view that
the world will become better only as I address
and deal with my contributions to social
turmoil, I have my own solutions to the
problems of environmental pollution. Unlike
the state — which can function only as a
socializer of costs — I am able to confine
my decision-making to what is mine (i.e.,
my property interests). While recognizing
the inevitability of my actions producing
entropic byproducts (e.g., I have no intention
to cease breathing in order to reduce my
contributions to carbon dioxide levels!)
I will use reasonable means to internalize
the costs of my conduct.

Life
is an endless process of autonomous change.
Those who call upon the state to regulate
this process, and to bring it within restricted
boundaries that they imagine themselves
fit to design and control, are in stark
opposition to living systems. I am unwilling
to entrust anyone with such power over my
life or yours, particularly to those who
are uncertain as to whether we shall collectively
expire in a refrigerator or a sauna. In
words whose source I do not recall, u201Csuch
power would nowhere be so dangerous as in
the hands of those who fancied themselves
fit to exercise it.u201D

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