As Gary North has noted, the great 21st century default of the U.S. government has already started, with the raiding of federal pension funds to stay solvent a few months ago. We may recall the 2000 presidential election, when Al Gore spoke favorably about creating a social security "lockbox," even as Social Security "taxes" had been treated for years as a core part of the federal budget, simple annual "income" for the state.
Terms like "lockbox," as with the words "freedom" and "patriotism" and "progress" have been used by the state for a long time to confirm and communicate the false idea that the federal government is, and has ever been, on solid ground. Gore helped many millions of us create in our minds a vision of a social security lockbox that simply never existed, and one that could never exist, in the context of what George Ayittey described, in several of his books, "the vampire state."
Dr. Ayittey gave an impassioned and entertaining talk at TED a few years ago, entitled "Cheetahs vs. Hippos." In it, he mentions vampire states, and describes a begging bowl that leaks. While these metaphors refer to governments on the African continent, both are well-suited to 20th and early 21st Century American federalism. Ayittey speaks of unleashing the "Cheetah generation," and as a metaphor for what comes next, it is both lovely and powerful.
As we watch the Washington D.C. megalith begin to crumble, and make no mistake, we are watching this today — with its frantic decades-long construction of government facilities and monuments, combined with an even more frantic last ditch effort to control what individuals do, earn, say, and where and how they travel. And, might I remind you, all of this construction, of monuments, prisons, bases and office space (2.2 billion square feet for the U.S. military alone) and all these rules and regulations cost lots of money to be eternally loaned by we the people and from interested investors. Funny, I don't recall signing a contract or even being asked. Perhaps that what they mean by patriotism: my country's spending, right or wrong.
Is it to be a Cheetah's generation, or as The Daily Bell has it, the playing out of the Internet "reformation?" Will we see the ascension of an anti-individual hivemind? Will we become Borg drones or even, as the Federal Government’s medical outreach program has it, zombies in a zombie apocalypse? Will the future belong to those who recognize the acronym TEOTWAWKI and lost to those who do not? Has American been zombified?
From my perspective, while the great futurists and science fiction masters have great metaphors, I believe it will be the metaphors that speak most simply to people in their own lives that will prove the most useful. Along those lines, here are some of my favorites:
For describing the future of the U.S. federal system and its devotees, I can say no more than a single word. Idiocracy. Several Lew Rockwell writers have marveled at this hilarious movie, its only flaw a miscalculation of how far into the future the script purports to be. Rather than 500 years away, we see that Idiocracy is alive and expanding now in America. Idiocracy responds to professional political, social and economic system explainers — the elected politician, his and her corporate sponsors and financiers, the media "experts, and the free-lunch Keynesians – with a dull, uncomprehending stare. The movie celebrates both the rule of the hivemind as well as the degradation of everything government touches, and has a multiplicity of memorable images and quotes, any of which are applicable and helpful today.
To understand how the state functions, in a visceral and fundamental way, I love the concept of Americans not as sheep, or pigs, or even cattle or bees — but as "livestock" farmed by the state. This metaphor captures the human tendency to follow the herd, and promotes the popular and often religion-friendly idea that we are here for some unified and agreed-upon purpose, waiting only to be pointed in the "right" direction. The term "livestock" is powerful because unlike the pejorative "sheep," it allows for subgroups and variation — a form of individuality Americans cherish even as they exist as "citizens" with a productive potential defined by solely by their owner, the state. We look to the state as all-knowing and protective shepherd, as evidenced in both Republican and Democratic circles, and as broadcasted every waking minute by all mainstream media. That we often consider livestock stupid is also a worthwhile aspect of this metaphor. Of course, farmers understand, like Gump, that stupid is as stupid does. On the other hand, livestock define the farmer, as we the people define the state. We should all reflect on what it means to be farmed by the state.
To know the state, the popular emergence of the phrase "political class" is very useful. When we articulate this term, we immediately separate ourselves from the political class, we become critics of the rulers, we recognize the unitary nature of the political system, and we begin to understand how and why it is that we are "farmed" by the state. Even Rasmussen Reports polls with this term, and the citizenry responds predictably well in blaming our rulers for many of our systemic ailments. Of course, it is both herdlike and human to blame others — but when we recognize a political class, we are also recognizing that our conception of electoral politics among a mass of over 300 million people cannot possibly be just and righteous. Surely we did not ask to be farmed like cattle, ruled like serfs, raised and routinely sheared like sheep, trained like obedient dogs and sent forth to die on command by a remote federal state that enriches itself and grows while we wait and wither. Talking about the political class, as in kings and princes, works well as an educational metaphor. And while speaking contemptuously of other powerful classes is often used successfully by politicians, it is invariably transparent and revealing when they do so.
I don't know if Eric Peters invented it, but I love the term "clovers." It describes the anti-freedom and pro-state mentality, the nanny-state mindset, and applies to Americans of all eras who embraced progressivism and state-as-moral-agent since the late 1800s. It doesn't sound exceptionally pejorative, at first glance. It's not an ugly phrase, so it is possible one might actually speak to clovers about their cloverism, in a helpful and constructive way. Cloverism is something we can see in small and routine ways — as Peters waxes eloquently, on the highways. Yet it captures an entire battlefront in the ongoing fight for liberty in America. It's elegant — useful, purposeful, and valuable. To be a clover is to imply government is to be trusted, and obeyed — and yet 99% of clovers probably do not always trust, obey or believe government pronouncements. Accordingly, many clovers are libertarians in waiting, and deserve our care and attention. If a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged (safely philosophically within the confines of state-slavery), a libertarian might be a clover who wakes up to find the state's been lying to them.
Will we be cheetahs, nimble and swift, or livestock confined by, dependent upon, and serving the state until we are no longer useful? Are we passionate about our liberty, or fearful unimaginative clovers? Do we embrace the present idiocracy, or fight it, openly laugh at it, and work hard to live beyond and outside of it? Do we own ourselves, or are we serfs who cannot imagine real change? Is it not possible that the real battle has long been analyzed and defined by our betters, and that this decade marks not a battle between human liberty and the state, but a battle already won by libertarian ideas, and now roughly struggling to make the transition to peace and real human prosperity and liberty?
I'll offer another metaphor for this decade — a decade that will pave the way for peaceful secession of American states, regions, counties, and communities from the central state's debt, its political class, its empire, and its arbitrary rules and false ethics. For cheetahs, and for recovering clovers, I can see a faithful unwavering light — an unprecedented era of libertarian reconstruction in North America, conducted person to person, quietly, often underground, and in the language of metaphor.
LRC columnist Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D. [send her mail], a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, blogs occasionally at Liberty and Power and The Beacon. To receive automatic announcements of new articles, click here or join her Facebook page. She is currently running for Congress in Virginia’s 6th district.