Sunday, July 12, 2009

All government is basically the same

"Not only does magisterial power exist because of evil, but it exists by evil. Violence is employed to maintain it, and all violence involves criminality. Soldiers, policemen, and jailers; swords, batons, and fetters are instruments for inflicting pain; and all inflection of pain is in the abstract wrong. The state employs evil weapons to subjugate evil and is alike contaminated by the objects with which it deals and the means by which it works. Morality cannot recognize it, for morality, being simply a statement of the perfect law, can give no countenance to anything growing out of, and living by, breaches of that law. Wherefore, legislative authority can never be ethical - must always be conventional merely."

Herbert Spencer, "The Right to Ignore the State", taken from Social Statistics, Chapter XIX
Wow, I love that Spencer quotation. Politics is violence, all the way down. It has no special authority. It is nothing more than a clenched fist, always directed at someone. Over time, only the targets of that fist have changed, but never the nature of the threat itself.

"Do this, or perish." That is politics, seen clearly. Politicians compete to see which of their favored groups will benefit from the violent apparatus of the state. When a politician defeats another in an election, this just indicates that a new portion of society will be sacrificed for the benefit of others.

And nothing more. Nothing more. There is no mythology that can disguise the terror of law, the smacking of the fist on flesh, the blood and slaughter promised to those who resist further.

As I've argued in the past, modernity has managed to economize the violence, so that more can be done with less. But this process has nothing to do with morality; rather, violence is expensive, and outright violence threatens to expose government for the gang of brigands that it is.

The frown of the police officer. The hint of a tax audit. People fall into line. They are terrorized into submission. They have seen what happens to those who resist, if only dimly, in dreams. Or they have been convinced that those who disobey the law are bad men.

I do not encourage people to obey the law. I have no argument, certainly none based in morality, that concludes "And that is why you should obey the law." But, for their continued health, I cannot encourage people to disobey it. That in itself reveals the truth of politics: obey or perish.

On the other hand, I laud Marc Emery for selling illegal seeds to Americans. I laud the tax cheats for depriving their masters of income. I laud the man who hordes ammunition. Who refuses to register his guns. I laud the Canadian who still speaks freely, who ignores Jennifer Lynch and her squad of censors. I laud the pornographers who skirt obscenity laws. The smokers who ignore the signs.

The Iranian students who fight, even now, against a tyranny that is at bottom only more blatant in its need to use violence to gain obedience than ours.

I praise contempt for the law. I praise the small number of people who refuse the census takers, who skip jury duty, who don't bother to vote. Who smoke pot on the steps of city hall.

And I laugh at the people who are satisfied with the revealed truth of democracy. The people who would die of malnutrition if the mob got to vote on something as simple as what they should eat each day. The people who take politics seriously, as if voting were a sacrament and Joe Biden a priest.

Finally, I give credit to the lobbyists and bureaucrats, who have figured out how to make a living without doing anything productive themselves. Who work the levers of the machinery to their own benefit, squeezing blood from their competitors and the innocent with equal fervor.

May you all hang someday.

Sarah Palin is an idiot

You know, I predicted that Palin would be McCain's VP pick on my radio show, before anyone else was talking about her.

At the time, I was even a little excited about the pick. She seemed different, interesting, a game-changer.

Then she opened her mouth.

She reads all newspapers and magazines! She doesn't know enough to even bluff about the Bush Doctrine. The only Supreme Court case she could name was Roe v. Wade (at least Bush Jr. mentioned Dred Scott once or twice.) I probably know about foreign policy than she does. Her resignation speech was a rambling mess.

Most of the people commenting on Peggy Noonan's excellent column about Palin only point out Joe Biden also says stupid things. Fair enough. You don't need to convince me that there's a double standard out there that works against conservatives and people on the right more generally.

Sure, the media was mean to her. It's almost always mean to conservatives, or anyone perceived to be on the "right." You deal with that by being smarter than everyone else. By having the truth on your side. By never, ever making a mistake.

When I was on my internship in Washington, D.C., I published an op-ed in the Washington Times. Not very prestigious, but I was pleased. In preparation for submission, I gave it to one of the women I worked for so she could edit it. As a wannabe academic, popular writing is still difficult for me.

The woman (we'll call her L) liked the op-ed. But she also asked: did you triple check everything in this piece? Are all your ducks in a row? Check again!

After extensive experience in Washington, L gave me some advice: conservatives (and libertarians, by implication) have to be better. If a liberal makes a mistake, other liberals are likely to make excuses for him or her. If a conservative makes a mistake, it will be given the worst possible interpretation. Errors of fact get turned into outright lies. Poor phrasing becomes evidence of malign intent. And so on.

The solution is not to whine about the media or the left-wing establishment, as Palin has done. The solution is not to make mistakes in the first place. Make your arguments, make them clear, with accurate premises and impeccable logic, and you reduce the risk of misinterpretation.

I kind of wish someone had given Palin that advice.

But, personally, I don't think Palin's only problem is the media. I think she's genuinely stupid, and too stupid to even know how to feign intelligence when the situation calls for it. Too stupid to know how ignorant she is. Too stupid see the benefit of cracking a textbook.

I've met the type before. People like Palin are usually between 17-22 years old. When they arrive at college, they think they know everything, or at least more than they need to know. When it comes to studying, they avoid it, and rely on charm to placate their instructors and their parents. This rarely works over the long run.

I have no idea how Palin made it this far without growing up, like Peter Pan in a pair of stiletto heels. The Republicans need to ditch her and find an adult to lead their party out of Nevernever land.