Public Service Is a Noble Calling, Some Say

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Recently by Robert Higgs: Freedom
Is Not Compatible with Government's Initiation of Force Against
Innocent People

Texas A&M
University, which is a more or less legitimate institution of higher
education, harbors something called The Bush School of Government
and Public Service. Don’t laugh; it’s true. Today, one
of my Facebook friends posted a publicity photo, which I take to
be part of the school’s efforts either to attract students
or to entice donors. Whatever the photo’s specific purpose
may be, it had a profound effect on me. In fact, ever since I saw
it, I have had a feeling of absolute emptiness at the very core
of my being.

I confess that
all such pictures disturb me. The carefully calibrated assortment
of bright-eyed, sweetly smiling youngsters, selected to exhibit
the officially sanctioned distribution according to race, sex, and
ethnicity – you know, the distribution you’d not expect
to find spontaneously on display if you simply walked into a campus
cafeteria or dormitory unannounced – always stops me in my
tracks, as if a well-intentioned left-liberal had just poked me
in both eyes.

But let us
not indict these naïve young models. Being young, they know
not what they do. (Back in 1961, at age 17, I was similarly clueless
when I was sworn into service in the U.S. Coast Guard.) Let us instead
indict the message that appears in the forefront of the photo in
large, bold, black capital letters: “Public Service Is a Noble
Calling.” A photo and
on the “About” page of the school’s website
suggests that these words were uttered by the selfsame former president
of the United States for whom the school under discussion is named,
George Herbert Walker Bush. Remember him?

A stalwart
fellow he was. At one time the Director of Central Intelligence
(that is to say, the head of the Central Intelligence Agency) in
the Ford administration, his finest public moment found him declaring
to the world in no uncertain terms, “This will not stand, this
aggression against Kuwait.” And what decent U.S. leader would
have let stand the Iraqis’ attempt to lay hands on the oil
that Kuwait’s billionaire sheiks had been stealing from underneath
Iraqi territory by means of diagonal drilling?

Among the Bush
School’s degree programs is a Masters Program in International
Affairs. What training the students in this program must receive,
all in the butt-kicking tradition of George H. W. Bush himself,
a man celebrated for not letting a two-bit dispute between despicable
Arab tyrants pass by, when he could exploit the occasion to launch
a senseless war in which thousands of Iraqi draftees were blown
to smithereens by B-52 bombardments or buried alive in their trenches
by U.S. military bulldozers. It was the most splendid little war
since the Spanish-American War, without a doubt.

Except, perhaps,
for the fact that the U.S. military undertook as part of the fun
and games to destroy the water supply and sewerage systems (and
the electrical supply system needed to operate them) in Iraq, then
to restrict or block for more than a decade the importation of essential
materials for restoring these critical public-health facilities,
with the ultimate result that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the
great majority of them infants and little kids, died from diseases
transmitted by contaminated water. Oh, well, as Ambassador Halfbright
famously intoned, the U.S. government considered these children’s
deaths “worth it.” So no one should be surprised if the
well-scrubbed graduates of the Bush School emerge from their training
prepared to slaughter millions of innocents, in the event that some
future president’s pleasure or caprice requires such service
on their part.

It’s difficult
to say “Bush School of Government and Public Service”
aloud without gagging. When I first espied that publicity photo
earlier today, my immediate reaction was to post a comment: “These
people will be serving the public only in the sense that the bull
will be serving the cow.” That quick comment, however, like
most instant reactions, failed to express the true enormity of what
the Bush School’s graduates may end up doing. Yes, of course,
most of them, if they remain in government “service” at
all, will be mere flunkies for a fifth-level time-server or a third-rate
political appointee. Yet it is not beyond imagination that some
of them ultimately will rise to occupy positions in which they will
have at their disposal the means of wreaking substantial death and
destruction. Having been trained to accept the workaday character
of doing evil deeds, in the reputational shadow of a man renowned
for doing evil deeds at the highest level, they may be expected
to do their “duty.”

from the Independent Institute.

31, 2010

Higgs [send him mail] is
senior fellow in political economy at the Independent
and editor of The
Independent Review
. He
is also a columnist for His
most recent book is Neither
Liberty Nor Safety: Fear, Ideology, and the Growth of Government
He is also the author of Depression,
War, and Cold War: Studies in Political Economy
, Resurgence
of the Warfare State: The Crisis Since 9/11
and Against
Leviathan: Government Power and a Free Society

Best of Robert Higgs

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