If Adolf Hitler had had television to assist him in his efforts to ban the use of tobacco, I wonder how similar his campaign would have been to the televised congressional circus now being conducted against steroids. In the same frenzied self-righteousness with which Congress supports military wars against the lives of innocents, and domestic wars against domestic liberties, hearings into the dangerous nature and use of steroids are nudging Scott Peterson, Michael Jackson, Robert Blake, and even Martha Stewart from television’s center stage.
The tone of this current statist inquisition was well-expressed by Congressman Tom Lantos, a Democrat from California. Lantos, who never met an expansion of state power that he did not immediately embrace, referred to steroid manufacturers as an "arrogant industry" that chooses not to "play by the rules." Had one turned to the hearings just as Lantos spoke these words, one might have thought he was being critical of the Bush administration! But, of course, congressional hearings will never become so bold as to question — much less criticize — the very base of the political power structure in America. It is those who are in the market for buying and selling substances voluntarily chosen by their consumers who must be attacked. That arrogance lies in those who presume the authority to exercise coercive power over the free choices of individuals would never enter the mindset of Mr. Lantos. To entertain such a thought would condemn Lantos and his congressional colleagues to a fate few of them would be able to withstand; namely, to sustain themselves through productive services to men and women in a free market.
I have never used steroids, and have no case to make on their behalf. From what I have read about them, I suspect that people are well-advised not to use them for body-building purposes. I will add that any parent who knowingly allows his or her child to use steroids for such ends is doing a very poor job of parenting. At the same time, I am a member of that rapidly decreasing minority who believes that each person is the owner of his or her body and, consistent with ownership principles, should be in uninhibited control over themselves. To suggest that the state should be able to usurp such control — particularly when ostensibly for the "good" of the person intruded upon — is to revert to the mentality that burned "witches" at the stake in order to save the soul of the person thus possessed.
If people-pushers were truly desirous of benefiting others — rather than exercising power over them — they could accomplish their ends by conducting research into various foods, drugs, and other substances, and making known the results of this research to people who would then be free to incorporate such information into their personal cost/benefit analyses regarding their use. There are organizations who publish such research (e.g., Consumer Reports) to people who choose to subscribe to their services. When such information is provided in the marketplace, the liberty of individuals to accept or reject it is respected.
But people-pushers have never been content with simply informing others; they demand the obedience of their neighbors to their values. Nor are such people particularly interested in being benefactors to others. It is the power to control their fellow humans that underlies such campaigns as the "wars" on drugs, tobacco, fatty foods, and now steroids. That such undertakings are referred to as "wars" should be a tip-off not only as to their purpose, but as to the enemy. H.L. Mencken got to the essence of this motivation when he observed that "[t]he urge to save humanity is almost always a false-front for the urge to rule it."
If Mencken and I have it all wrong, and the lifestyle warriors are truly desirous of protecting young people from the harmful consequences of nostrums offered to their youthful minds, they might redirect their attentions. Criticisms have been offered of high school coaches who, perhaps obliquely, suggest body-building substances to teenaged athletes. Because of their inexperience, and trusting in their adult teachers, these children are unable to appreciate the long-term costs that are implicit in what, at the moment, seems to be a harmless endeavor.
But if protecting the lives of young people is truly the concern of the anti-steroid crusaders, they ought to look beyond the world of athletics and consider a far more dangerous school-induced threat to the minds and bodies of the innocents. By conditioning students in the mindset of institutionally-structured authority — to which they are to subordinate their wills and lives — the government school system has played an essential role in the creation of brigades of automatons whose primary function is to serve the state. Where else, but in such schools, do children learn to recite their daily catechisms of "allegiance" to the state, and to salute the banner under which they are expected to identify and organize themselves?
If there are school coaches who subtly encourage steroid use, there are many more teachers whose job it is to openly inculcate and reinforce the minds of their charges in the virtue of service to the state. If you doubt this, think back upon your own education in government schools. How much time was spent in helping you understand yourself as an independent, self-directed person, and to assist you in exploring the spiritual, creative, and rational nature of your inner being? On the other hand, how much time was spent defining your role and functions in the political and social hierarchy to which you were expected to subjugate yourself? How much time was spent learning about the superiority of your nation’s political system; the importance of patriotism; the glory and moral necessity of its victories on battlefields; and the heroic nature of young men who had gone off to fight and to die in defense of "liberties" it was never considered the right of soldiers to exercise?
We laugh at Islamic suicide bombers who respond to promises of seventy-two virgins awaiting them in the next life, and forget that young Americans have been lured into service to the war-machine with a different set of promises: the learning of new skills, college tuition, and the prospect of discovering what it was never the intention nor the capacity of government schools to provide, i.e., "to be all that you can be."
Such lies and illusions are offered to the young because the statists know that grown adults would be more likely to resist such importunities, at least if their own lives hung in the balance. But teenagers are more easily seduced, whether by the glory of battle or the vision of becoming a major league ballplayer. And so the state preys upon both their innocence and the gullibility of their parents. Each is told that war is a glorious cause, while steroids are a threat to their lives, despite the fact that for every young person who has died from steroid use, thousands more have died from war.
This is child abuse of the worst kind! In deadening the minds of children with patriotic opiates, the schools have helped to produce a society of anesthetized adults incapable of discriminating between "truth" and "lies," or even of appreciating the importance of such distinctions in formulating government policies. Most of us have become what the state trained us to become: people who look upon "honesty" and "deception" as nothing more than alternative strategies; people who are willing to accept the fundamental political doctrine that a lie is as good as the truth, if people will only believe it!
If we love our children as much as we profess to, we owe them the opportunity for lives that are better than this. Do we not, as parents, have an obligation to protect them from those who threaten their lives? Should we be content to allow others to dehumanize our children, or should we provide them with an environment in which they can live in harmony with their nature? If we are prepared to take on this responsibility, we must help our children resist the indoctrination that would make them slaves of the state, "resources" to be employed on behalf of the interests of those in power. To do so, however, we must unlearn our own conditioning, and to "just say no!" to the peddlers of the statist narcotics.
Butler Shaffer [send him e-mail] teaches at the Southwestern University School of Law.