Trust Revisited

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Trust your government, we are told. We must revere those of our fellow men who happen to be elected officials. Never mind that they may have been chosen by 51% of the 40% of the registered voters who bothered to vote. Never mind that this is 20% of the registered voters, which is perhaps 15% of the adult population.

We are told that such worthy men deserve our “trust.” Never mind that we did not trust them enough to vote for them (if they are even elected officials). We are told to trust them because, well, because they are in the government. Never mind that the government is merely a monopoly provider of force.

Consider this story from the Washington Post: since June, nine children have died while under the “protection” of the D.C. Child Protection System.

For the record, in case there is any confusion, the District of Columbia is controlled by the federal government. There are no competing state or local bureaucracies. It is a federal city.

And look at what a mess it is.

For those who believe that power, force, and money can solve all problems (i.e., for those who believe in politics), Washington, DC should provide a wake-up call. It is the ultimate statist city. It is wholly dominated by the centralized, national state, the Leviathan spawned by FDR and nurtured by George Bush. And yet helpless children die, despite their “protection” by the almighty secular state.

The Post notes that “40 children whose families were under city supervision died from 1993 through 2000 after government workers failed to take key preventive actions or placed the children in unsafe homes or institutions.” A total of 229 children died from 1993 to 2000 “while they or their families were under the District’s protection.”

If it were true that government can solve problems, those children would be alive today. If it were true that the government should ever “do something,” those children would be alive today.

If it were true that government is worthy of trust, Indian reservations would be the most beautiful and prosperous places in America. They are, of course, horrible pockets of poverty and despair — and fully controlled by the federal government that claims to deserve your unthinking trust.

There is a simple reason that babies die in Washington, DC, and that Indian reservations are terrible places to live: a government bureaucracy, by its very nature, cannot do anything right. At most, all that a government can do is take money from some people and businesses which would otherwise be spent on other things, and give it to other people and businesses to be spent on visible things now. (For a further explanation, see Ludwig von Mises short work Bureaucracy; you can read it online at Mises.org).

To show, furthermore, that the ineptitude of the state is never for lack of trying, consider two international examples. The Soviet Union stood for the proposition that the government, when given control of literally every aspect of human life, could make heaven on earth. The Soviet Union, after all, was a “worker’s paradise.” There was no want, no suffering, no hardship.

At least that was the Soviet propaganda. The reality was that, in the land of government, they did it wrong. In every way imaginable. Despite the total control of daily life by the government, or rather because of such control, life in the Soviet Union was closer to hell on earth. Those Soviet citizens who trusted their government (if there were any such persons) were sorely misguided.

To cite a more contemporary example, those under the protection of a very restrictive foreign government were killed and/or maimed on December 1, 2001, when two suicide bombers detonated themselves in a Jerusalem mall.

The attacks may have been in response to the killing of two Palestinian youths. As the Washington Post reports, earlier in the day,

two Palestinians, ages 11 and 19, were killed near the West Bank town of Jenin in what doctors said was Israeli machine gun fire. The 11-year-old and other youngsters had been throwing stones and a homemade sound bomb at soldiers, witnesses said. The 19-year-old was a passenger in a taxi.

Because of the killing of the Palestinian boys, one might suppose that the Israeli defense forces were on high alert (as if they are ever not on any other type of alert, given the chaos which is the Middle East). And yet the Israelis were unable to prevent the terrible devastation wrought by two suicide bombers.

There is a lesson in this. No government can deliver protection or prosperity, no matter how much it controls the lives of everyday people.

Trust in yourself. And, like the government’s own money says, trust in God. There is no reason to trust the government.

Mr. Dieteman [send him mail] is an attorney in Erie, Pennsylvania, and a PhD candidate in philosophy at The Catholic University of America.

© 2001 David Dieteman

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