Cashing in on Government

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Until the 1990s, lots of folks down South still thought of the Democrat Party as just one political alternative, not as the power-lusting, junta-in-waiting we see today. After eight years of misrule and unending lies, and now the attempt to employ politicized courts to bypass the Constitution and impose an unelected president, you have to wonder: is there nothing these people won’t do to grab or retain power? Even more profoundly, you have to wonder why they are fighting so hard.

In their respective platforms, Gore and Bush are not completely different—much to the GOP’s discredit. Both parties promise to expand government and even where Bush is better, he is unlikely to follow through. But a Gore victory means the continuation of power for the same crew that has been in charge for eight years. As just one measure of how far public confidence in them has dropped, consider that when Clinton’s own lawyer turned up dead in his apartment the other day, many people, including elected lawmakers, suspected foul play.

To be sure, some old-time conservatives in the South still vote straight-ticket Democrat because they recall that the Republicans, after invading and conquering the Southern states, ran a military dictatorship from 1865-1877. In those days, the Democrats had their doubts about the merit of despotism. But much has changed. Now, it is they who are running the new Reconstruction. And the means they are using is not the military (certainly not the military) but pressure groups and the courts.

But why is retaining the presidency so important to the Democrats? It’s one thing to be disappointed at the loss of an election; that comes with the territory. And while it’s true that the presidency is a big deal, the idea of the American system is that people compete for office but not everyone can win. Besides, they’ve already had eight years in office. Enough is enough.

Why engage in this bloody fight to the death at the expense of all morality and sense of fair play? Is George Bush such a threat to the Left that they would unleash every weapon in their arsenal, including legions of aspiring journalists, to destroy him? Is Al Gore so much beloved by them that they will do anything to put him in charge?

Surely not. So what is it that the Left fears from a Gore loss? In a phrase, the end of the gravy train. Seeking to further enlighten the rest of us, a Democrat attorney Cleta Mitchell wrote these words in the Wall Street Journal (November 20, 2000):

"The fundamental motivation for Democrats is their understanding that winning control of government is tied to paychecks, jobs, government grants, public money for private groups and companies, government contracts, union bargaining advantages, rules by which trial lawyers bring lawsuits, and on and on. The use of government to feed friends and starve enemies is something Democrats know instinctively. Winning elections means getting or keeping a livelihood."

Sounds like a third world country, but we shouldn’t be surprised. While the American economy and culture are highly advanced, the American system of government is, in its bare essentials, no different from any other government on the globe, now or at anytime in history. The only difference is that there is a lot more cash to pass out.

Government anywhere and everywhere is always about gaining at the expense of others. There has been no advancement in this base reality. We can change the definitions and claim that we are governing ourselves because we vote. But that doesn’t change the core moral problem of government, which is that everything it has, it has via theft. Not one penny of its $2 trillion budget comes from revenue gained on a voluntary basis.

Expansive government divides society into two castes, those who give up their money to the State and those who take money from the State. In order to the keep the system going, those who give must vastly outnumber those who receive. This was true in the earliest days of the nation-state and it remains true today. The presence of voting, or what remains of the restraints imposed by the Constitution, change nothing about the essential operation.

When you read the founding documents, you find massive concern about factions. Today, political mavens think that they feared partisanship and would thus endorse what is called bipartisanship. This is ridiculous. By factions, the founders meant groups of people at war with each other over who will control the public purse.

Their solution to this problem was not to abolish differences of opinion but to keep government small, so the stakes of gaining power would be low. You limit the power of faction by limiting the scope of government. All the mechanisms we learn about in civics class—the separation of powers, the bill of rights, the electoral college—were instituted as means toward that overriding goal.

But this vision has been betrayed. And you don’t have to be a political scientist to see how the factions break down. In the current American context, the Gore vote represents those on the take from government, just as the Bush vote represents those who are paying the bills.

If you look at the typical voter in each camp, you gain an understanding about the makeup of each caste. Investors, private-sector employees, and middle-class families favored Bush by more than 10 points. Government employees, non-investors, welfare recipients, and unionized workers went with Gore. The famous county-by-county map showing the geography of voting patterns displays an America dominated by the payers, while the takers congregated in large coastal cities went with Gore.

The only way someone like Gore can get elected is to rally the tax-eaters in the major population areas, who, together with left-wing ideologues and others living off the system, form a localized majority. The way for someone like Bush to fight back is to rally the rest of the country against them. If Bush had done more of that, and less pandering to gain the approval of the media, he wouldn’t be having the trouble he is today.

This election has highlighted this deep division like no other. But the solution to the problem is more complicated than simply electing Republicans, who can sound fabulous in opposition but inevitably sell out once in office. The solution is to end the system of looting, graft, payoffs, and redistribution that is inherent in any system of government, and is wildy conspicuous in our government. That requires that we not only dislodge would-be dictators from public life, but also dismantle the machine they are seeking to control.

Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., is president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama. He also edits a daily news site, LewRockwell.com.

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