Even the most piddling life is of momentous consequence to its owner.
~ James Wolcott
"Good morning, and here are the lies your government would like to have you believe today!" A friend of mine, who worked for an all-news radio station a number of years ago, told me of his temptation to go on the air one morning with such a greeting. While such words would be refreshing to hear today, they would be passé in this age of "The Daily Show," YouTube, "The Colbert Report," and other sources that have discovered that the best way to satirize absurdity is to factually report same.
The late stand-up philosopher, George Carlin, was fond of saying that he "never believed anything the government ever told him," a comment that brought more cheers from his audiences than just about anything else he said. Truth, coupled with the technical capacity to communicate it to others, has a way of percolating to the surface despite the greatest efforts to suppress it.
Even the most eager honor-student alums of high school civics classes have become aware that the system they were conditioned to revere has not lived up to its promises. Events of the past eight years, alone, reflect more than just a failure of political systems to meet the expectations of protecting the lives, liberty, and property interests of people. They demonstrate, instead, that the state is inherently hostile to and at war with human life in all of its expressions. The interests of humanity and the state are, and will always be, in conflict with one another.
Life manifests itself only within individual organisms, whether they are acting singly or in association with others. There is no way for any group to act other than through its members choosing to direct themselves toward some common end. Individuals, alone, are the carriers of DNA from one generation to the next
The self-interest motivations of individuals assures us that they will always act for the purpose of enhancing their lives, however they define such ends; to be better off after acting than if they had not chosen to act. Liberty is the condition in which individuals are able to act in pursuit of their highest interests. By its very nature, then, liberty enhances the quality of life.
By contrast, the state — which is universally defined as an agency with a monopoly on the use of violence within a given territory — never acts to enhance life. It is inconceivable that it could ever do so, for violence forces life to be what it does not choose to be. The state coercively restrains individuals in their efforts to better their conditions. Through taxation, inflation, eminent domain, etc., it deprives people of the resources upon which they could act to enhance their well-being; and, in the ultimate anti-life act, it kills human beings — more than 200,000,000 in the twentieth century alone — as it pursues its own destructive purposes.
Even when pretending to act for the purported end of protecting individuals from harm (e.g., police and military functions), it first despoils and regulates its alleged beneficiaries (e.g., through taxation and creating crimes out of victimless conduct). In the process, each of us gets turned into perceived threats to be brought under its violent control. Increased police shootings and taserings of harmless people provide evidence that you are more likely to be victimized by these agents of state violence than you are by other criminals.
In whatever subdivision of the state you look, you will find that its functionaries have little respect for members of the public for whom they presume to be "servants." Even members of other species (e.g., polar bears, dolphins, whales, snail-darters) elicit greater concern from these people-pushers, not because of any genuine interest in their well-being, but because they provide a further raison d’tre for coercing their fellow humans. If you doubt the misanthropic nature of government workers, go into a post office, the DMV, or an IRS office; or confront a police officer or customs agent; or pass through the phalanx of TSA employees at an airport, and watch for any — any — signs of joy or love for the humanity with which they must deal. And why should you expect otherwise? Why should those who are able to coerce, threaten, and manipulate you with both impunity and immunity from consequences, be expected to show you more respect than you exhibit on your own behalf in your willingness to put up with their incivility?
If the state was desirous of symbolizing its essence to the general public, I can think of no better monument for such ends than the erection of a giant statue in Washington, D.C., of Madeleine Albright. I envision a monolith — what better image? — taller than the Washington Monument, and more massive than the Pentagon, beneath which might be constructed an expressway to carry bureaucrats to and from their daily routines. Only the best sculptor should be retained for the job, one capable of capturing Ms. Albright’s characteristic expression of chronic malcontent. And in letters not cut into stone, but in the brightest of flashing neon, could be emblazoned her now famous words about the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children occasioned by the economic boycott she helped to create and enforce as Secretary of State. "The price is worth it" could flash on and off to inspire the political functionaries as they go about their assigned tasks of placing barriers in the paths of those who want nothing more than to enhance the quality of their lives.
Butler Shaffer [send him e-mail] teaches at the Southwestern University School of Law. He is the author of the newly-released In Restraint of Trade: The Business Campaign Against Competition, 1918—1938 and of Calculated Chaos: Institutional Threats to Peace and Human Survival. His latest book is Boundaries of Order.