Is There a Natural Anti-Liberty Mindset?

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The immediate and obvious answer to this question might be "Yes, of course there is." An anti-liberty mindset would explain our wars — at home on freedoms we like to think were sanctified in the first ten amendments to the Constitution, and abroad on other people and other countries who do not quickly enough bend to our great will.

The anti-liberty mindset would also explain how Americans quietly bear government taxation that consumes over half of what they make each hour, and each year. At this point, logic tells us that no future generation will be able to pay the obligations taken on by our government. But an anti-liberty mindset certainly explains why Americans tend to believe that our children somehow will be willing to try!

If a natural and predominant anti-liberty mindset exists in 21st-century America, notwithstanding this country’s 19th-century groundbreaking role in everyman over every government, then the libertarian movement, whether as a unique political party, as green shoots in mainstream politics, and even as a social networking opportunity is doomed.

There are many signs of an entrenched anti-liberty mindset — and Will Grigg’s fascinating reports of everyday police action against individuals in this country communicate largely that most people still side with the police. Most who watch the ubiquitous cop or military shows on TV, whether dramatically posed or reality postured, tend to cheer for the state over the individual. A recent annual Harris poll asking for the "most respected" occupations found that of jobs with highest prestige in the eyes of the “people,” nearly all are government enforcers. The only occupation with over 60% in the "highest prestige" category was that of firefighter, the one-third of firefighters who are employed full-time as firefighters working for local government. Over 50% of poll respondents believed that scientists, doctors, nurses, military officers and teachers were positions of highest prestige. Given the flow of federal and state dollars into these occupations, all may be considered government jobs of a similar sort. Police officers and clergy rated 40% for most prestige. Garnering less than a 40% rating for "highest prestige" in descending order, were the generally market-based private professions of engineering, farming, architecture, elected members of Congress, law, business leadership, athletics, journalism, union leadership, entertainment, banking, acting, stockbroking, accounting, and real estate.

Charles Burris recently shared a report paid for by those in authority that examined whether public school discipline practices "foster the public good." The report itself was not surprising. My several years of teaching in a public high school left me amazed at the prison-like atmosphere, minute-by-minute demands for submission and conformity, and an underlying sense of institutional threat. That experience confirmed to me that public school is not, and was never, about creating learners or thinkers, but instead an attempt to develop automatons unpracticed in independence, and consequently unable to effectively question authority. What was interesting in this 2009 report was the underlying theme that chronic troublemakers in school should be removed into — dare I say — some sort of educational internment camps.

Lastly, we have the recent non-story of employee allegations under oath that Erik Prince, former CEO of Xe, nee Blackwater, arranged for and threatened murder of both Americans and non-combatants in the several wars which Xe/Blackwater is supporting overseas. One would expect that a scandal of this nature might be treated with the same frenzy as the Bernie Madoff situation — but of course, these allegations are one of many reports that directly challenge the cherished idea of military service as a prestigious occupation and government killing as a moral endeavor.

It seems to me that the anti-liberty mindset is the most serious challenge facing America today — even beyond the ongoing catastrophe of our fiat-money system that continues to enable the corporate state. The fiat-money system will eventually crash the state — but we will still be battling the anti-liberty mindset in the smoking ruins.

However, the anti-liberty mindset may be itself vulnerable to collapse. The cycle of state growth is corruption, overreach, terror, and eventual collapse. In spite of admonitions to respect police and law enforcement, more and more people see these state agents as tax collectors, felons in uniform and pigs, no offense intended to the four-legged variety. In terms of protection, we utilize private security systems that we pay for — no one today expects a policeman to actually be there when a crime is committed, or even to arrive until long after the assailant has fled. We get more crime solving on TV shows and books than we do in real life, where as a rule, no forensics are done and no sustained investigations materialize.

In spite of our purported respect for teachers, we really do not respect them at all. Instead, we have developed a well-deserved cross-generational contempt for teachers in government institutional settings. In the age of the Internet and online encyclopedias, where one is a click away from learning how to do nearly anything, and the great writings that may interest us are instantly accessible — we have teachers who wish instead for us to sit quietly and complete badly formulated true/false questions from even more badly written eight-pound textbooks. Confirming this is a recent story in national newspaper insert called "American Profile." The second youngest person who actually remembered an exceptional teacher was a 39-year-old woman — and the teacher she remembers is currently her boss! The youngest was an 18-year-old college student who lauded her second grade teacher for "inspiring curiosity" and "being kind." She must have had more recent teachers, but likely none who could be accused of inspiring either curiosity or humanity.

Finally, in spite of our ostensible regard for those who serve the state as members of the military, the long-term trends bear out that it is less respect we have for these people than it is fear and dislike of them. America has already evolved a Praetorian class, with a volunteer military made up of people groomed socially, genetically, and geographically to serve the state, and who are socially, economically and geographically unwelcome in most communities after their service. Most military retirees who identify as such, cluster in certain state-supported locations near atrocious domestic military bases and expensive government health care. The mentally and physically wounded from our wars are kept unseen, unheard, often heavily medicated and out of journalistic view. Those others who truly integrate into civil society do so without reference to their military service, and keep it thankfully buried like any other mistake that is in the past.

Is there a natural anti-liberty mindset? No, there is not. Children want to ask questions, to explore, to experiment, and to think. People truly want charity, or as that word is also understood, kindness and love. In such an environment, liberty flourishes. But there is an artificial anti-liberty mindset promoted incessantly by all things state, and by all things political. It can be rejected, combated, and I hope, destroyed. The first step is to recognize that the anti-liberty mindset is not natural — in spite of the state’s sustained and subtle messages to the contrary.

This article originally appeared on Campaign for Liberty.

LRC columnist Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D. [send her mail], a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, has written on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for MilitaryWeek.com, hosts the call-in radio show American Forum, and blogs occasionally for Huffingtonpost.com and Liberty and Power. To receive automatic announcements of new articles, click here.

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