first lesson we learn in a course in economics is that there is
scarcity. Technically, the definition of scarcity — or maybe
merely its description — is this: “At zero price, there is
greater demand than supply.”
second lesson we learn is that men deal with scarcity through the
division of labor. They specialize in production, which enables
them to increase their output and therefore their wealth.
politics, these two principles are inescapable. Seldom are we taught
how to apply these analytical principles in politics. For today’s
lesson, I consider the problem of resistance.
begin with the application of the principle of scarcity. “There
are more groups trying to use the State to get into my wallet and
control my behavior than I have resources to fight.” Then there
is the application of the principle of the division of labor: “We
must specialize in our efforts to resist.”
One and the Many
is also a political application of the philosophical dichotomy between
the one and the many. The collective — the one — seeks
to extend its power over an ever-larger area. In politics, the final
goal of this impulse is empire. At the same time, in the language
of a representative of Boston’s Democrat machine (Tip O’Neill),
all politics is local. So, the empire has many parts that must be
coordinated. There is always tension between the center and its
extremities. Here is where Leviathan is weak. Leviathan’s right
hand not only knoweth not what its left hand doeth, the right hand
wants at least 30% of whatever the left hand hath grabbed.
political symbols of these two extremes, consider the United Nations
and a local zoning commission. The United Nations has officially
gargantuan appetites, but not much power. It also lacks the necessary
funding. The zoning commission seems more restrained in its grab
for power, but it is far more of a threat to your wealth than the
United Nations is or is likely to become. It has legitimacy, and
it also has immediate power.
between the UN and your zoning commission are the United States
government, your state government, and the regional Council of Governments
(COG). All of them are a threat us. All of them want their fair
share of our wealth. All of them, if left to their own devices,
would gladly take away whatever liberty we have left.
being the case, we must fight. But it’s expensive to mobilize resistance
politically against seemingly benign political or even bi-partisan
power grabs by local authorities. If the target of your resistance
has not committed some atrocity — that is, a presently unpopular
extension of its inherent power, which, if not reversed within two
years, will come to be regarded as essential to public order —
you will have trouble mobilizing your troops.
raise money, you must appeal to basic political instincts: the desire
for power, the sense of moral outrage, or envy, or fear. Whenever
local political despots reign through institutions that are regarded
as legitimate and necessary to the public good, writing an effective
fund-raising letter will not be easy.
hottest buttons will be local, but only if there is an immediate
threat to life, liberty, or property. Otherwise, the recipients
will not send in much money. If a threat is not immediate, then
a fund-raiser who is sounding the alarm against a distant monstrosity
has the advantage. When all else fails, you must find something
dastardly that is being planned either by the United Nations or
I attended a meeting of conservative political activists. They did
not have either influence or money, which was probably why I received
of the participants runs a small organization that offers resistance
to land use planning. He told us that the election of President
Bush caused an immediate fall-off in donations. He was able to get
back into the mails only by writing a direct-mail package that warned
against new land-use plans by some United Nations agency to confiscate
likelihood of the UN’s being able to pull this off is low. Compared
to the power of some local zoning commission or regional Council
of Governments to affect your net worth, the UN is hardly worth
considering. But as a symbol of where the war on property rights
is headed, long-term, the UN is an appropriate target. Its symbolic
importance is far greater than its actual authority, both for the
power-grabbers and the resistance movement.
Should I Hate Most?
who are on the fringes of the conservative movement, which means
the fringes of the political fringe, are too often beguiled by the
fund-raising letters that warn of some imminent awfulness that the
UN or Teddy Kennedy is planning. Now, that awfulness is very real,
I have no doubt. It is the imminence that I question.
person cannot afford to fight every battle (scarcity). Each of us
gains the greatest results from his efforts by fighting the monsters
that he best understands (division of labor). The problem comes
when a highly motivated specialist in some area of resistance identifies
the monster that he best understands as the greatest threat to everyone’s
liberty. It isn’t.
greatest political threat to everyone’s liberty is the original
principle that sustains the State’s interventionist system: “Thou
shalt not steal, except by majority vote.” All the rest follows
from it. But it is too broad and too amorphous to mobilize against.
We can only mobilize individuals by calling on them to fight specific
rarely spend much time thinking about either political philosophy
or economic theory. They are too busy being up in arms over this
or that threat that has pressed their individual hot buttons. With
free mailing on the Internet, they see their opportunity to flood
their mailing lists — maybe 25 people per list — with
Web links to horror stories relating to their target’s latest pronouncement
or conference. They cannot understand why most of their recipients
do not get excited.
some UN committee or subcommittee is formulating a blueprint for
taking away my liberty. Of this, I have no doubt. But that same
UN committee was doing the much the same in 1956, when I got into
the conservative movement. At some point in my odyssey, I figured
out that I had better conserve my energy and donations in order
to allocate both more rationally.
political revulsion combined with hate . . . that’s a free resource.
At zero price, I can always obtain all I want. So, I always keep
plenty of hate in reserve for whatever project the UN is promoting.
But I don’t have enough time or money to do anything concrete about
whenever I receive an e-mail link about the UN, I curse that ancient
monster as part of my liturgy of revulsion, and then I go on to
hate the UN. That’s free of charge. But just because I hate it does
not mean that I worry very much about it. It has long been a toothless
bureaucracy that is basically a sinecure for senior politicians
from third-world countries who want to extract career-long wealth
from the folks back home. These days, even the U.S. government has
ceased to pony up the funds that the UN says Washington owes. I
feel confident that nobody in Congress is going to lose the next
election based on his rival’s campaign if it focuses on the incumbent’s
vote against funding the UN.
UN has never taken away any of my property. Recently, a state regulatory
agency took away a very valuable resource from the non-profit organization
that I manage. It did so on the basis that the resource was a threat
to my health. I was using officially approved safety devices to
reduce that health threat effectively to zero. No matter. “Shut
it down.” I had to shut it down.
is free. There’s plenty of it to go around. I suggest that you keep
it in reserve for all of the distant bureaucracies that are planning
world conquest, but which have not secured the necessary funding.
contrast, political mobilization is costly. Its assets must be allocated
rationally. Assets should be concentrated on local and regional
agencies that are an immediate threat to your liberty and your net
my slogan: “Hate Globally, Fight Locally.”
don’t know if there is a political movement here, but
there may be a bumper sticker.
For a free subscription to Gary North’s twice-weekly economic newsletter,
Gary North’s REALITY CHECK, send a blank e-mail to: reality@agora-inc.