What Ever Happened to Self-Government?
FEBRUARY 01, 1977 by JOAN MARIE LEONARD
Miss Leonard is a free-lance writer.
The prevailing view seems to be that everything in life must be perfect with everyone perfectly employed, perfectly healthy, perfectly happy, perfectly prosperous, perfectly carefree—free from the necessity of planning, providing or thinking. and only the imperfection of government officials keeps the world from being perfect for us. Shades of Mother Goose!
The search for the perfect purveyors of prosperity and political purity would seem to be elusive. Not so. Many are they who loudly proclaim their willingness and ability to perform these mighty deeds. But meeting the demands of perfection can be as difficult as spinning thread into gold or feeling the bulge of a pea under a pile of mattresses.
When a mistake is made, it has to be denied. Perfect politicians don’t make mistakes. The use of common language could lose an election. Repeating an unsavory joke can cost your job. Mispronouncing the name of an ethnic group is politically fatal. Referring to billions of dollars in aid and equipment to
Those in political office are expected to be all-wise, all-good, all-graceful, all-truthful—all-everything but human.
A candidate is not allowed to be offensive, but of course, everyone is offensive to some in some ways. How could it be otherwise? So, after an exercise in dramatics and subterfuge, we end up with those who aren’t caught offending the common denominator in society. And since press and publicists control notoriety, it is they who wield extensive control over political offices by deciding who they will blow the whistle on. This power is handed to them by our demands for perfection.
We have unreal expectations of politicians because we have unreal ideas of government, and matching these unreal expectations are the unreal amounts of dollars and energy we expend in trying to achieve them.
Presidential candidates of 1976 spent almost $44 million in tax money in addition to all the dollars and man-hours in contributions. The cost of travel and security alone could run many companies for a year. All this, even though today’s communications have the candidates and their views before the whole nation daily on the news and on television.
When you add and multiply political costs by all candidates running in all national, state, city and county offices in primaries and then general elections every one, two and four years, the costs mushroom to astronomical proportions.
Consider the time and space, printing and production, travel and lodging, protection and precautions, words and thoughts, machines and skills all devoted just to political campaigns and related activities.
Consider the amount of time, space and energy that goes into condemning suspected incidents of political bribery. Then consider the fact that the vast bulk of all political expenditures is used for bribery! It is used to obtain favored positions and financial benefits for unions, selected farmers, privileged industries, special professional groups, racial interests and the like. Politics has succeeded economics as the means for deciding who gets what, how and how much. We are in the ridiculous position of condemning political bribery at the same time we condone and perpetuate it as our very system of government.
We are supposed to worry when a politician golfs with some businessmen or spends a weekend with nonpolitical friends. But we accept it as natural and normal when he appears before a farm, labor or businessmen’s group and brazenly propounds the favors he will grant them!
Victims of Bribery
A candidate speaks before a cattlemen’s group and says he going to reduce import quotas to keep the price of beef up. There’s the bribe. He then asks for their vote. There’s the payoff. And consumers will pay high prices because competition is disallowed. There are the victims. It’s all presented right before our eyes in the news with never a hint of crime or scandal about the whole performance, which is repeated again and again before every group the candidate speaks to.
We are told to worry about $200 in tax-paid salaries for the FBI men who helped hang up draperies in the home of the FBI chief, although it eliminated the need for tax-paid agents to check for any implanteddevices. But we are expected to overlook all the tax-paid time spent to tack up wages for union members, making moguls out of union chiefs and raising costs throughout the market.
Every wage law, import control, tariff and subsidy—every license granted—every control enacted outside of maintaining peace and order is an abuse of power through privilege. How do we condone favors at the same time we condemn them?
Someone might argue that favors to a particular company are more personal and privileged because the company is in competition with other companies in its industry, whereas favors to groups are industry-wide and therefore uniformly fair. It is somehow all right if consumers suffer uniformly. We hail equality even when it is equality of abuse.
But there is no fair way to be unfair or harmless way to be harmful. And there is no equality in circumstances.
Industries receiving favors are only segments of other industries. Price supports for cotton growers are naturally felt throughout many industries, affecting each differently in relation to its particular competition and the importance of cotton to its production.
An across-the-board wage raise for a labor group may be just a cost-raising waste and inconvenience to one company, but it can put another out of business. Where one laborer’s employment is unaffected, another is left unemployed. Always, the effect is person by person, company by company—not "overall" or equal—and never ever fair.
Our whole political system has disintegrated into one of economic tampering through favors—a cheating system. The only way to remove the risk of government cheating is to remove the possibility for favors and stay within the Constitutional bounds of preserving peace.
Instead, we have devised a way to justify all this waste, cheating and inconsistency. We call it "democracy in action." It seems almost anything is acceptable as long as we can exercise our right to go to the polls.
We are continually urged, through the expenditure of more millions, to "Be sure to vote." Doesn’t matter for whom or what. Just vote.
Voting is urged on us as an obligation, a privilege, an opportunity, a responsibility, a necessity for the survival of our system and as a way to be glad—as in "be glad you can vote, some people can’t"—sort of like "eat your spinach, other people are starving."
But voting has nothing to do with freedom. Clearly, in this country the vote is being used to destroy our freedoms, not to protect them—just as clearly as those seeking the vote are competing for political privileges for their groups and states, not freedom and opportunity for all.
In general terms, the frequency of elections is often offered as an indicator of freedom. Sometimes it’s the percentage of the electorate voting. Sometimes it’s the per cent of population eligible to vote. But if all the people old enough to walk were to vote in all elections and they were held every day, we wouldn’t be any freer.
Welfare Is King
We’ve had eleven presidential elections since 1932, with both parties represented in power; but we still live under the same reign. Welfare is still king and the elaborateness of our elective process is only a trumpet—sounding excitement to approve the personality who wears the crown. We continue to fete more folderol, favoritism, waste, legalized stealth and impoverishment of the people than did the most abusive king who ever held a lavish court at the people’s expense.
Still, politics is extolled. We are told more people should get more and more involved in it so it will work better. If this is so, we should all avoid drowning by jumping into a whirlpool.
"But," it is said, "this is how we govern ourselves. This is self-government."
This is nonsense.
Self-government is far more basic in nature and essential to freedom than mere participation in the electoral process.
It was established by our founders that we should govern ourselves, and the powers of government therefore should be limited to controlling only those who refused this opportunity to govern themselves—those who imposed on others through acts disruptive of the peaceful social order, such as stealth, fraud and assault.
Ours was not a struggle of English colonists against
Self-governing people were considered in need of protection from government’s tendency to overextend itself into a system of favor/abuse and personal involvement.
Everyone was "involved" in government by virtue of being self-governing—responsible for his or her own acts. Voting wasn’t participation in government so much as self-responsibility was.
No one was seeking to influence government, because government had no influence to peddle and was organized in ways to prohibit such influence from forming, if possible.
It is only as we have departed from freedom and self-government that voting has been so extolled, sought and demanded. The voting booth is now a battleground to see which special interests will gain the most. The vote is used to attain power and privilege, not deny it.
The interests thus served are not in the public interest. They are in conflict with the general welfare.
Had we expanded on freedom instead of abandoning it, elections by now would be an incidental part of our lives. Our newspapers would be filled with new ideas, products, improvements, opportunities, discoveries and advances. Our lives would be filled with things happening instead of the political gamesmanship of things not happening under the weight of political maneuverings.
Our political issues would be concerned only with improving our police and court systems. Crime would be minimal, partly because it would be handled efficiently, with government limited to keeping the peace and judged on that performance alone. But mostly because everything else would be so much more exciting and lucrative.
What greater impetus to crime could there be than an entire system of injustice—what greater deterrent than a just and productive system based on the absence of legalized stealth through political privilege.
Justice is the basis, motivation, method and reward of being self-governing. So it can never be perfect. Perfect justice is realistically recognized as beyond human capabilities to understand, much less codify and enforce. Recognition of this simple reality would spare us all the plans, platitudes and harmful interventions of the political perfectionists.
How far have we departed from self-government?
Children of the State
Consider the nature of one of our most widely discussed "domestic issues." By making abortion as well as education a matter of public policy, we accept the dictatorial notion that children are properly under the authority of the State.
Outside of dictatorships, which are always based on ideas of perfect government, infants and children don’t have civil rights. They don’t vote. They don’t get sued. The police don’t step in to stop their pillow fights. Allowances aren’t legislated along with minimum wages. Children shouldn’t be subject to governmental authority unless they commit an adult crime. They are subject to their own private governors, their parents, who assume responsibility for their actions, pay for their broken windows, and are a buffer between them and society until they fill adult roles of self-responsibility.
A home is a separate government, and no one should be forced into it—or forced to return if he leaves.
An independent, self-governing country depends on these little independent family governments. None are perfect and not all of them are good, but the alternatives are all so much worse and far removed from this human condition, we have had countless reasons to be glad that children are entrusted to the providence of parents and not the government.
If we were self-governing, we would free ourselves of government intrusion into our children’s lives through public education—not extend the abuse to further control of family life, personal responsibility and moral decision.
In addition to the personal nature of virtually all of our domestic policies from employment and market fixing, to education and health, food and housing and the rest, consider our foreign policy.
Are we really responsible for arranging affairs in Africa, Eastern Europe, the
If we were a self-governing country, private citizens and companies would transact business in foreign countries, not politicians. And we would therefore be in no place where we have no business to be.
We wouldn’t be worried about defense, wars or rumors of wars because there is no way to rule self-governing people. And, conversely, a people who are not individually responsible will be ruled to the extent they are not self-governing, whether they call their rulers Republicans, Democrats or Communists and no matter where or how their armies are deployed.
The need for military defense only increases as we become less self-governing. Having missiles and armed forces spread around the world is only an indication of how far we have departed from self-government—weakened ourselves, increased our fears, squandered our resources, expanded our meddling and hastened our disintegration. The defeat occurred when we abandoned self-government. Little remains but for someone to pick up the spoils or for us to turn again to the enlightenment of self-responsibility.
We started with the idea that each of us individually could manage his own affairs without interference. And this is what has become of it—the law projected into arranging everyone’s affairs not only in