• CXXXV – Power Is What They Want

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    The
    headline blared out at me: u201COmaha Schools
    Split Along Race Lines.u201D The Nebraska legislature
    had enacted a statute subdividing the Omaha
    public schools into three independent geographic
    districts: one populated primarily by whites,
    one by blacks, and one by Hispanics. This
    throwback to earlier u201Cseparate-but-equalu201D
    thinking should not be surprising in a culture
    that has seen individual liberty supplanted
    by politically-defined categories of group
    rights. If groups — not persons
    — have u201Crights,u201D then dividing political
    power and benefits among the u201Cchosenu201D collectives
    seems inevitable.

    What
    called my attention to this story was the
    fact that, prior to moving to California
    nearly three decades ago, my family lived
    in Omaha. At that time, the government schools
    were embroiled in another controversy: school
    busing. The statists used governmental power
    to forcibly move students from one school
    to another in order to achieve a racially-balanced
    distribution throughout the city. Today,
    just the opposite seems to be the underlying
    policy, with separate districts dominated
    by separate racial/ethnic constituencies.

    On
    the surface, this appears to be but another
    example of the inconstancies associated
    with political programs. For the same reason
    that orthodontists need overbites, and lawyers
    need disputes, statists need an endless
    supply of social u201Cproblemsu201D for which to
    offer their violent remedies.

    All
    that is essential to the politically-minded
    is that the threats they perceive, and the
    solutions they propose, have a sufficiently
    plausible basis that will allow the boobeoisie
    to embrace their programs. There is no need
    for consistency in purpose or outcome in
    their policies. If unintended consequences
    should arise, they can be dismissed as evidence
    of just how complicated the u201Cproblemsu201D are
    for which only the foresight and skills
    of state planners are capable of resolving.
    Contradiction, in other words, is taken
    as a confirmation of our personal inadequacies
    for functioning in a complex world!

    In
    such ways have we learned to accept the
    contrary promises of politicians who promise
    us both tax cuts and increased defense spending;
    free trade and the protection of American
    industries; and the virtues of personal
    liberty along with increased police powers.
    So heated is the debate over abortion, that
    we fail to grasp the antithetical positions
    of the contestants. Most of those who preach
    the importance of u201Cchoiceu201D nevertheless
    seek to mandate human conduct in other matters;
    while many of the u201Cpro-lifeu201D advocates tend
    to be supporters of wars and capital punishment.
    Likewise, the advocate of urban renewal
    — resulting in the destruction of older
    buildings — can equally endorse historic
    conservancy. In either case, it is the power
    to make decisions over the property of others
    that underlies both programs.

    We
    do not pay sufficient attention to the fact
    that statists are less interested in either
    the substance of their specific u201Cproblems,u201D
    or the merits of their proposed solutions,
    than in retaining and aggrandizing control
    over the lives of others. We spend far too
    much of our time giving credence to statists'
    issues by making reasoned or empirical responses
    to their proposals, and too little time
    addressing the underlying power ambitions.
    Though some of their fellow travelers doubtless
    care about the merits of the policies, the
    statists' principal concern is to advance
    a tenable case for extended state control.
    I am not suggesting that their proposals
    go unchallenged, but that we understand
    them as fungible expressions of a deeper
    need for power.

    The
    self-styled cause of u201Cenvironmentalismu201D
    is a case in point. The idea of centralized,
    state economic planning met its death following
    decades of failed efforts. Such planning
    was organized around the premise that the
    lives and resources of people should be
    subject to the collective decision-making
    of the state. When such thinking proved
    destructive to material needs, a different
    rationale for such systems had to be discovered.
    The regulation of the u201Cenvironmentu201D provided
    just such an alternative. After all, what
    is the environment except u201Ceverything that
    is not me?u201D

    Threats
    to humanity, to other life systems, and
    to the planet itself were quickly forthcoming
    as a justification for the state regulating
    property interests and human activity. No
    more did control over the lives of people
    have to depend upon failed examples of state
    planning for the production and distribution
    of goods and services. It was now the salvation
    of life, itself, that provided statists
    the raison d'tre for their ambitions for
    power. They were unable to deny the superiority
    of the marketplace for the production of
    food, television sets, houses, and even
    toilet paper. But protecting the entire
    planet from the alleged ravages of self-seeking
    humans was a u201Cproblemu201D that could only be
    undertaken by, . . . yes, you guessed it,
    a new form of state planning!

    We
    were initially warned of a coming u201Cice age,u201D
    with mankind facing a refrigerative fate
    unless a collective solution was found.
    Not long thereafter, the source of the threat
    was not in global cooling, but warming,
    with many of the advocates of the incipient
    u201Cice ageu201D now warning us of a slow death
    in a u201Cgreenhouse.u201D It mattered less whether
    cold or heat was to do us in. Indeed, the
    u201Cproblemu201D has more recently been described
    as u201Cglobal change,u201D a prognosis that
    allows for any deviation to be regarded
    as an environmental u201Cthreatu201D around which
    the statists can offer their collective,
    coercive responses.

    Is
    the planet getting warmer? The answer is
    clearly u201Cyes,u201D although — as polar shifts
    from u201Ccoolingu201D to u201Cwarmingu201D illustrate —
    the causal factors may be too complex to
    permit of simple reasons. The politically-correct
    explanation has been that increasing levels
    of carbon dioxide are to blame. But the
    production of carbon dioxide is an unavoidable
    byproduct of the life process. Plant and
    animal life have long been engaged in a
    symbiotic exchange of carbon dioxide and
    oxygen for their mutual survival.

    Many
    of those who profess affection for the environment
    forget this essential fact: nature pulsates.
    Birth and death; periods of global cooling
    and warming; seasonal and climatological
    variations; tectonic processes of growth
    and disintegration; polar reversals; and
    the creation and destruction of star systems,
    are just a few of the more apparent examples
    of nature as a great synthetic dance between
    seemingly opposite but symbiotic forces.

    I
    admit to an ignorance of all the forces
    at work upon the world at any point in time
    and, for this reason, am unwilling to employ
    the powers of the state to enforce my momentary
    visions upon the rest of you. I embrace
    the sentiment so well expressed by H.L.
    Mencken: u201CThe fact that I have no remedy
    for all the sorrows of the world is no reason
    for my accepting yours. It simply supports
    the strong probability that yours is a fake.u201D
    I do, however, believe that most of our
    personal and social difficulties arise from
    our insistence upon superficial answers
    to problems generated by complexities we
    are unwilling to examine. This is why politicians
    — and their statist camp-followers — are
    so eager to translate every undesirable
    condition into a u201Cproblemu201D to be resolved
    by the transfer of power to themselves.

    The
    dumping of our entropic byproducts into
    the air, water, and ground, are nothing
    more than trespasses upon the property interests
    of others. They are ways in which we have
    been taught, largely by the state, to socialize
    our costs by imposing them upon others.
    How different, in kind, is the man who throws
    an empty beer can from his car from an Air
    Force pilot who drops bombs from his plane?
    Is there not a parallel between a government
    that imposes corporate research and development
    costs upon taxpayers, and businesses that
    loose dust, chemicals, and other pollutants
    upon their neighbors? Responsible behavior
    consists in the internalization of
    all the costs of our activities. By its
    very nature, the state never has been and
    never can be a model for responsible, non-trespassing
    behavior.

    As
    one who shares with Carl Jung the view that
    the world will become better only as I address
    and deal with my contributions to social
    turmoil, I have my own solutions to the
    problems of environmental pollution. Unlike
    the state — which can function only as a
    socializer of costs — I am able to confine
    my decision-making to what is mine (i.e.,
    my property interests). While recognizing
    the inevitability of my actions producing
    entropic byproducts (e.g., I have no intention
    to cease breathing in order to reduce my
    contributions to carbon dioxide levels!)
    I will use reasonable means to internalize
    the costs of my conduct.

    Life
    is an endless process of autonomous change.
    Those who call upon the state to regulate
    this process, and to bring it within restricted
    boundaries that they imagine themselves
    fit to design and control, are in stark
    opposition to living systems. I am unwilling
    to entrust anyone with such power over my
    life or yours, particularly to those who
    are uncertain as to whether we shall collectively
    expire in a refrigerator or a sauna. In
    words whose source I do not recall, u201Csuch
    power would nowhere be so dangerous as in
    the hands of those who fancied themselves
    fit to exercise it.u201D

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