We don’t run this country, or any country. Our political ideas are not taken seriously by politicians, editorial writers, or the talking heads on television. They are not taken seriously in the school systems. There is no textbook in any social science that takes them seriously.
What are these ideas? I have compiled a list of non-negotiable political demands. Each demand calls for the abolition of a government practice or a government agency.
- Wars that have not been declared by Congress
- The maintenance of military bases outside the United States
- Military defense treaties (NATO, CENTO, etc.)
- America’s membership in the United Nations Organization
- Graduated ("progressive") income taxation
- Tax-funded education at any level
- Government licensing of the right to keep and bear arms
- The Federal Reserve System’s monopoly over money
- The Social Security system
- Medicare and Medicaid
- The Central Intelligence Agency
- NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)
- The National Parks system
- The Post Office
- The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
- The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
- The Food and Drug Administration
This is my short list. I could have made it longer. But this is long enough.
This list of things to abolish is so far outside of mainstream politics that anyone proposing more than one of them is dismissed as a kook. The vast majority of voters would agree with this assessment. Neither of the major political parties would adopt even one of these demands in its platform, even when most voters who read their party’s platform (under 1%) know that political parties rarely push for any plank in their platforms once the election is over.
These practices and institutions are therefore equally non-negotiable by the people who control this country.
Non-negotiable political demands are inescapable concepts. It is never a question of non-negotiable political demands vs. no non-negotiable political demands. It is always a question of whose non-negotiable political demands are in force and which agencies will enforce them at what cost.
For those of us who have adopted this list as our own, national politics is a fruitless waste of time, money, energy, and emotional commitment. With the exception of Ron Paul, no politician committed to this list or anything close to it has run for the Presidency since Grover Cleveland. No one receiving the nomination of his party for any office above Congressman in my lifetime has publicly committed to as many as half of these demands.
Yet I contend that most of these demands will be met within the lifetime of my children. Why am I so optimistic about this list? Because I am optimistic about the costs of continuing to operate everything on the list. They will bankrupt the central government.
WHEN MONEY DIES
People ask me: “When will we get our liberties back?” I always answer: “When checks from Washington D.C. no longer buy anything.”
An overnight collapse of the monetary system would be catastrophic. In contrast, the erosion of the dollar to zero over a decade or more would be liberating.
The government is going broke. All over the West, all national governments are going broke. This is the fundamental political fact of our age. This is the elephant in the living room.
Two historians of international repute announced this scenario within a few months of each other: Martin van Creveld, in The Rise and Decline of the State (1999), and Jacques Barzun, in From Dawn to Decadence (2000). In their concluding chapters, both authors predicted the disintegration of the modern nation-state, and for the same two reasons: (1) the inability of the nation-state to defend its citizens from crime and violence: (2) the impossibility of the nation-state to fulfill its promises of income security to retired people.
The nation-state is steadily losing legitimacy. This is the political fact that the pundits refuse to discuss. Without widespread legitimacy — respect that generates voluntary cooperation by citizens — a civil government is doomed. It must resort to power, and the enforcement of power is costly.
The nation-state is growing broke. Local civil governments will then step into the gap. The break-up of the nation-state is assured. This will not be secession in the sense of an armed rebellion at the local level. It will be something far more fundamental: the disintegration of the nation-state. It will not be able to enforce its laws and collect taxes. That is always the end of a unit of civil government.
PLANNING FOR THE TRANSITION
People who have adopted the list of non-negotiable demands should not get excited about any election above the county. If they do, they are wasting scarce resources. They are deluding themselves. Congress is not about to adopt even one of the demands. The framework of modern national government rests on the extension of government power into more and more areas of economic life.
This was described half a century ago by political scientist C. Northcote Parkinson. He was a humorist. He took very serious themes and made them funny. His most famous book was Parkinson’s Law. His most famous law was this: “Work expands so as to fill the time allotted for its completion.” But his most relevant law really had the characteristics of a law: the hierarchy of promotion. In every government agency, people get promoted in terms of how many employees are under their jurisdiction. Until they get the required number, they will not get promoted.
Government only grows. Budgets only grow. This guarantees the eventual breakdown of government. When tax resources cannot be expanded because government policies have reduced economic growth and therefore the tax base, the government can no longer fulfill its economic promises. This usually occurs very rapidly — “without warning” for those who believe in salvation by legislation, which includes almost everyone. Those who have become dependent on welfare payments find that the government increasingly allocates scarce resources by (1) forcing people to line up or (2) making payoffs to officials. This was the two-fold solution in every Communist paradise.
When this happens, paralysis appears at the top. This creates opportunities further down the chain of command. This is the logic of secession by standing still. The local governments do not formally secede. They just cease cooperating with the national government. This was how the Roman Empire fell. Legitimacy shifted to local agencies of government. The central government maintained the illusion of sovereignty, but this was a sham, especially in the Western half of the empire after Constantine moved the capital to Constantinople.
When Byzantium replaced Rome, its rulers maintained their authority by stable money. For a thousand years, the government did not debase the gold coinage. The government survived.
The Federal Reserve System will not do equally well. Neither will Washington.
Those who have mentally adopted the list of non-negotiable demands must face political facts: that list operates, negatively, in every state capital and in Washington. It is non-negotiable for the other side. It will remain non-negotiable for as long as the central government does. This will not be forever.
February 25, 2008