Politics or Principle


"Politics or Principle" was the theme of Congressman Ron Paul's farewell speech in 1984 and of his two presidential campaigns. Advocating the principle of Liberty is the theme of those in the libertarian school of thought, including the American Revolutionaries and Founders, who advocated individual freedom, private property rights, and freedom of association and voluntary contract. Throughout history, the State has been Liberty's most egregious violator.

As sociologist and economist Franz Oppenheimer noted in his book, The State, there are two forms of sustenance: first, through one's honest productive activity and voluntary exchange with others, or the economic means; and second, through theft and violence, the force and coercion of the State, or the political means. For that is what politics is: the aggression of the State, which is why the State's actions can never be principled.

The Founders' Declaration of Independence is probably one of the most succinct documents declaring that the rights to life, liberty and property are inherent among all individuals. The Constitution, however, assigned to a federal government one monopolistic power after another, and gave to centralized bureaucrats in Washington the power of compulsion over their fellow Americans. Such a restrictive monopoly and that power of compulsion contradicted the very rights recognized by the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration declares the principles of Liberty, but the Constitution is the politics and power of the aggressive, parasitic State.

One thing I don't understand is how the Tea Party movement, which supposedly supports limited government and moral values, nevertheless supports the U.S. government's Leviathan bureaucratic military socialism, its foreign interventionism, and wars with indiscriminate murder of innocent human beings and destruction of whole societies abroad. Unfortunately, the Tea Party movement includes those military interventionist conservatives who partake in the mysticism of the State as a god, and cannot see that State interventionism into foreign lands is just as immoral as domestic State interventionism.

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But any form of theft, trespass and murder, is immoral, period.

The Constitutionally mandated dependence of Americans on the socialist planning of centralized federal bureaucracy with a monopoly of territorial protection has turned the principle of self-defense into a parasitic political phenomenon. Such a monopoly has enabled politicians and bureaucrats to further a career in bureaucracy and power at the expense of Liberty, and has caused deterioration in quality of territorial protection.

But there is something about human nature that causes so many people to abandon principle when given a position of State power. The State is the only institution with the power to be above the Rule of Law. Agents of the State may commit theft and robbery through taxation, and may trespass and there is nothing any individual can do about it. It's not what the Founding Fathers had in mind for America.

Two examples of how people who may have had potential in advancing Liberty and helping their fellow Americans through voluntary means, but instead have chosen the path of politics and the coercive apparatus of the State, are former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

During the earlier part of his pre-political career as a capital investment executive, Romney was extremely frugal with funds and careful not to take big risks "with other people's money," to such an extent that his firm Bain Capital hardly made any investments. He would seem to be the ideal candidate for many Americans, particularly conservatives, to help solve the nation's financial crises. But not unlike most politicians, former business executives and otherwise, Romney seemed to change as shown by his decisions as governor of Massachusetts.

Perhaps Romney's worst deed was RomneyCare, the health care bureaucracy and mandates he installed in his last year as governor. Given his expertise as an entrepreneur and capital investor, and his knowledge of how markets work, one would think that Romney would instinctively know that more government intrusions are the cause of our medical system's dysfunction and not the cure.

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Or perhaps he did know. Politicians oftentimes compromise principle for the sake of political strategy. At the time of his signing RomneyCare into law, mid-2006, it was widely speculated that then-U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton would be running for president in 2008, as well as Romney. Clinton's own 1993 proposals for nationalized health care would be quite useful to compare to a Republican's own proposals or policies.

For perhaps a better explanation of his record of government expansion and apparent attraction to the power of the State, it needs to be noted that Mitt Romney grew up in a very political family. His mother Lenore Romney had been a candidate for public office, and his father George Romney was a lobbyist in Washington for the aluminum industry and the automobile industry, and, as governor of Michigan for 8 years, George was credited (or blamed) for his instituting the state's first state income tax, and greatly expanding state government. George Romney bitterly opposed Barry Goldwater for the Republican nomination for president in 1964. Mitt Romney seemed to follow in his father's footsteps in advocating more government interventions and intrusions, not fewer, into private economic affairs.

During his last 365 days as governor until January 2007, Romney spent over 200 of those days traveling outside of Massachusetts, "testing the waters" for a 2008 presidential bid. During that last year of Romney's gubernatorial tenure, many of the duties of governor were taken up by Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, who was running her own failed campaign for governor. You would think that Romney would resign as governor to run his presidential campaign, but this is politics, after all. The political "public sector" inherently discourages its employees from maintaining a consistent job attendance.

And what does it say about someone such as Romney who spends $40 million of his own wealth on a presidential campaign, only to lose to the competition? It is doubtful that he or anyone would spend so much money to be hired as a CEO of even the most prestigious private firm. But that just shows the extent to which some people will go to achieve political power.

Sarah Palin is one of the leaders of the Tea Party movement, but her endorsements in 2010 have not all been for Tea Party conservatives. Palin, who supposedly advocates small, less intrusive government, low taxes and low government spending, and traditional moral values, endorsed for reelection Big Government Republican Senator John McCain, over his opponent, conservative J.D. Hayworth, probably more out of personal loyalty than of loyalty to those conservative principles. Granted, McCain gave Palin a huge advance in her career by choosing her as his 2008 presidential campaign running mate. But McCain is actually one of those inside-the-beltway politicians responsible for the very problems with the federal government that have been the stimulus for rebellion by Sarah Palin's own Tea Party movement.

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Palin also endorsed moderate Republican Terry Branstad over 2 conservatives for governor of Iowa. As conservative pundit Pat Buchanan observed,

The endorsement of Branstad suggests Palin, a politician of principle, has a pragmatic streak. She acts not only out of instinct but cold calculation. How else to explain the Branstad endorsement over a social conservative than a decision to befriend a future GOP governor in the first battleground state of 2012?

And Palin is somewhat similar to Mitt Romney, having grown up in a family with very close ties to the State apparatus.

Palin endorsed Texas Gov. Rick Perry for reelection over Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and the actual Tea Party candidate, Debra Medina. Some Texas Tea Partiers were surprised, but understood that Medina was not well known. But given Sarah Palin's anti-Establishment agenda in Alaska politics, one would think that Palin would not endorse a ten-year governor for reelection, and instead would choose a genuine private citizen and businesswoman such as Medina who was also challenging Establishment politicians. Medina's single-digit polling numbers nevertheless rose following the Palin-Perry endorsement, but Medina's candidacy was derailed by her interview with Glenn Beck. Some people believe that the interview was a set-up, and that Beck was in cahoots with Gov. Rick Perry.

And that brings me to the role of journalists, intellectuals and the news media who, as a group, developed – or devolved – from the principled tellers of truth and exposers of corruption, such as Tom Paine, Lysander Spooner, H.L. Mencken, Murray Rothbard and Daniel Ellsberg, to the current propagandists and stenographers for the State.

Salon.com's Glenn Greenwald has been doing a terrific job covering such a decadence of the journalism guild and their enthusiasm as State propagandists here, here, here, and especially here and here. And Judge Andrew Napolitano has excelled in his exposing of the State's deceit and Orwellian newspeak on his FoxNews TV show Freedom Watch with the Judge, and his recent book, Lies the Government Told You: Myth, Power, and Deception in American History.

Both Greenwald and Napolitano have discussed extensively the principles of civil liberties and due process, especially in the context of the Bush Administration's War on Terrorism, and have thoroughly covered how the left and right propagandists disseminate their evangelism promoting the State and its extended powers.

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And Jacob Hornberger of the Future of Freedom Foundation is another principled and uncompromising modern day advocate of individual liberty, private property and civil rights.

The Bush Administration enacted policies based on political considerations that were favorable to expanding State power, rather than upholding the principles of Liberty and individual rights our American Founders strongly believed in, and the Obama Administration has been expanding such unconstitutional powers, all being cheered on by the left and right mouthpieces for the State. However, now that the Obama Administration is in charge, Sarah Palin and many other conservative Tea Partiers who have supported the Bush-initiated policies may eventually regret such support.

Unfortunately, the modern movement to restore Liberty by dismantling the Leviathan State has been maligned by not only those on both the left and the right whose parasitic livelihoods are dependent on that destructive State, but also by some libertarians, particularly those "regime libertarians," some of whom work with the Cato Institute and write for Reason Magazine. Some organizations, while having done much to promote some aspects of Liberty, have tended to advance the libertarian philosophy more as a "lifestyle" issue rather than the moral principle of freedom from State intrusions. Too many people just seem to be attracted to the addictive power of the State, and tend to join in the popular witch hunts against those who advocate a society of actual independence under the Rule of Law. As Murray Rothbard noted,

We have seen clearly why the State needs the intellectuals; but why do the intellectuals need the State? Put simply, it is because intellectuals, whose services are often not very intensively desired by the mass of consumers, can find a more secure "market" for their abilities in the arms of the State. The State can provide them with a power, status, and wealth which they often cannot obtain in voluntary exchange.

In his 2006 Mises Institute article, Natural Elites, Intellectuals and the State, Hans-Hermann Hoppe notes that the "natural elites" of earlier times achieved status and success through their own natural abilities and talents, were characterized by wisdom, bravery and farsightedness, and acted as "judges and peacemakers" out of a genuine sense of duty to others, and often without financial compensation. But their status changed as democracies evolved:

The fortunes of the great families have dissipated through confiscatory taxes, during life and at the time of death. These families' tradition of economic independence, intellectual farsightedness, and moral and spiritual leadership have been lost and forgotten. Rich men exist today, but more frequently than not they owe their fortunes directly or indirectly to the state. Hence, they are often more dependent on the state's continued favors than many people of far-lesser wealth. They are typically no longer the heads of long-established leading families, but "nouveaux riches." Their conduct is not characterized by virtue, wisdom, dignity, or taste, but is a reflection of the same proletarian mass-culture of present-orientation, opportunism, and hedonism that the rich and famous now share with everyone else.

Because of the monopolization of law and justice in modern democracies, Hoppe argues, the role of the "natural elites" was taken over by the State apparatchiks as the expanding power of the State was further encouraged by the intellectuals.

On the other hand, while the natural elites were being destroyed, intellectuals assumed a more prominent and powerful position in society. Indeed, to a large extent they have achieved their goal and have become the ruling class, controlling the state and functioning as monopolistic judge.

This is not to say that democratically elected politicians are all intellectuals (although there are certainly more intellectuals nowadays who become president than there were intellectuals who became king.) After all, it requires somewhat different skills and talents to be an intellectual than it does to have mass-appeal and be a successful fundraiser. But even the non-intellectuals are the products of indoctrination by tax-funded schools, universities, and publicly employed intellectuals, and almost all of their advisors are drawn from this pool.

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Prof. Hoppe recently wrote about the first five years of his Property and Freedom Society, which he and others established to promote Austrian School economics Libertarianism, and the sound moral principles of justly acquired private property, freedom of contract and freedom of association:

…The goal of "limited" – or "constitutional" – government, which Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, James Buchanan and other Mont Pelerin Society grandees had tried to promote and that every "free-market" think-tank today proclaims as its goal, is an impossible goal, much as it is an impossible goal to try squaring the circle. You cannot first establish a territorial monopoly of law and order and then expect that this monopolist will not make use of this awesome privilege of legislating in its own favor. Likewise: You cannot establish a territorial monopoly of paper money production and expect the monopolist not to use its power of printing up ever more money.

Limiting the power of the state, once it has been granted a territorial monopoly of legislation, is impossible, a self-contradictory goal. To believe that it is possible to limit government power – other than by subjecting it to competition, i.e., by not allowing monopoly privileges of any kind to arise in the first place – is to assume that the nature of Man changes as the result of the establishment of government (very much like the miraculous transformation of Man that socialists believe to happen with the onset of socialism)….

… …Thus, I concluded that the property and freedom society not only had to exclude all politicians and government agents and propagandists as objects of ridicule and contempt, as emperors without clothes and the butt of all jokes rather than objects of admiration and emulation, but it also had to exclude all economic ignoramuses.

I couldn't agree more. It is inherent in an institution with the power of compulsion over others and a territorial monopoly of anything to naturally usurp the rights of all the inhabitants within that territory. The Founders' original intent was for the individual states to retain their independence and sovereignty within the framework of the newly organized union of the states, the United States of America. But the skeptical Anti-Federalists knew instinctively that giving any monopolistic powers to a federal government would spell the end of freedom for the territory's inhabitants.

The way for Americans to save our freedom is not through politics, but through principle – being uncompromising advocates of the sanctity of private property, freedom of association and individual rights. In practical terms, it may be necessary to practice secession, nullification and, as Hans-Hermann Hoppe has written, particularly in his book, Democracy: The God That Failed, through mass peaceful "passive non-cooperation."