America is in deep political crisis. Although the signs of it are abundant, the crisis is not widely recognized. When Americans finally do recognize the crisis, that is, if they recognize it and its causes, they will have not only to clean house but tear the house down and rebuild it. They will have to institute a new order. It will be best if it’s the old order of private property.
This crisis is caused by the state’s being taken over by interest groups to such a degree that government is now isolated from the influence and control of ordinary Americans. The electoral system is owned and operated by these interest groups. Candidates are bought and sold routinely. Consequently, policies are enacted that favor the private interests of these groups, not the public interest.
The crisis has a deeper cause which is broad government interventions that are based on a flawed social theory of property.
Signs of the crisis include a rising degree of institutionalized violence against ordinary Americans who are largely uninvolved in political matters. The term “police state” and all it comprises is one example. The “surveillance state” is another example. The bailout of Wall Street is a third instance. The drastic monetary policy of the Federal Reserve is a more subtle example. Further cases are the pharmaceutic state, the foreign policy state, the medical regulatory state, the military-industrial state, the penal state, the education state, the agriculture state, the welfare state, the environmental control state, and now the border-control state. In all these cases and more, Americans find themselves both participating in and subjected to the machinations of interest groups whose goals are feathering their own nests at the expense of everyone else.
The American state not only doesn’t curb this violence, its power is at the heart of the competition to extend this violence. The violence is pervasive and deep. It goes unrecognized because it doesn’t involve roving bands of armed forces or daily killings, except in the case of rising police brutality. Instead the violence shows up in crony capitalism, bailouts, heavy taxation, stagnant incomes, inflation, worsening health care, economic insecurity, worsening education, poorer food, travel restrictions, loss of privacy, unresponsive government, poor economic growth, large numbers of dysfunctional regulations, unresponsive bureaucracies, permanent wars, terror attacks, and a slow, expensive and unjust justice system.
The political crisis is evidenced by an immensely corrupt and powerfully centralized federal government that engages in interventionism at home and abroad.
Entry into the higher levels of this government is exclusionary, based on various qualifications that are designed to filter out people who might wish to clean up the system. The members of this system wish to protect it and themselves. Whistleblowers who have the public interest at heart are treated as criminals and pariahs.
Americans are experiencing profound injustices, without recognizing them for what they are. Their inception has been gradual. The government and media have papered them over with a variety of excuses and propaganda. Americans, being largely loyal and being in possession of a relatively stable system of property rights, have grudgingly accepted their deteriorating property rights situation. There has been no obvious way to change it, since they themselves usually belong to one or more of the interest groups that are seeking advantages over the rest. How does one change such a situation without changes so large that one might end up worse off than at present? Hence, although the country is going through a long and drawn out crisis, nothing is being done about it. Almost no one, with the exception of a minority of liberty-minded people and critics of government, recognizes it and discusses it.
The crisis is unusual in being slow and pervasive, rather than being quick and limited in scope. This is occurring because the heart and soul of the crisis has been institutionalized and legalized.
That heart is the income tax, passed in 1913 by constitutional amendment (although the legal ratification has been disputed). Human wealth embodied in the human being is what generates income, in conjunction with non-human capital. One has property not only in objects but in one’s own person and body. The taxation of this by society, government or state is a taking of one’s property. It is a form of slavery, a degree of slavery, in which the state co-owns the person and body of those subject to the income tax. Regulations that determine how one may generate or use wealth amount to roundabout forms of taxes.
These taxes and regulations could only be enacted as laws under the notion that older ideas of individual property ownership, even in one’s person, were inadequate or unjust, and that they needed to be modified or replaced by the newer ideas of property being a social matter. It is extraordinarily ironic that after a bloody war that ended slavery, a short 48 years later, the country would end up with an income tax that enslaved everyone subject to it.
America seriously modified its property rights regime in 1913 without abandoning it. It now had two contradictory ways of thinking about property. In the 1930s, the social function or social necessity or social welfare way of thinking about property rose in importance. Government intervention into property, by way of both taxation and regulation, became an accepted feature of American politics.
But the contradiction remains. Is property private or not? The extension of government power and violence into a long list of “states” like the welfare state, warfare state, penal state, big pharma state, etc. is a manifestation of interventionism. Even though these interventions serve only private interest groups, they all are rationalized by the idea that the intervention policy is overcoming problems with private property by assuring that property’s social side is tended to. This basic idea, however, crowds out and destroys private property. Every state intervention that transfers wealth to military-industrial businesses, or to banks or to surveillance firms or to large farmers or to prison builders and prison operators, takes that wealth from those who own private property.
Both Left and Right adhere to the idea that property is social. Both support interventions, but each with its own favored recipients of the resulting confiscated wealth.
The long-running crisis in America cannot be ended without resolving the question of property rights. The crisis will continue and deepen as long as government interventionism continues. The latter depends on the theory that the government can legitimately and justly tax and regulate for the sake of society because all property, including all persons and their wealth, lie at the government’s disposal. This theory of property being social and the institutionalization of this theory are the causes of America’s silent and unrecognized crisis.
If a person does not own what he or she produces, then who does? If other people do, which is the social or collective answer, then we get constant crisis as an outcome. If everyone owns everything and everyone’s wealth collectively, then there will be continual conflicts about who gets what. The incentive to produce and preserve wealth will deteriorate. Income production and job opportunities will decline. Economic crisis results from a political determination that property is social, not individual.
The alternative is that each and every person has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, understanding that this comprises each person’s property rights in the wealth and income that he or she generates, recognizing that each person justly owns what he or she produces, not other people, not society, not the government and not the state.