Washington's stationary bandits
The notion of bigger government as the panacea for every ill foils many a call for limited government and personal liberty.
In a lengthy but enlightening essay, linked at National Review as “Suggested reading for President Obama,” Forbes contributor George Leef reviews a recent book that makes the case that “government is the problem and liberty is the solution,” recalling President Reagan’s views on government.
Why Liberty: Your Life, Your Choices, Your Future, by Tom G. Palmer, is itself a collection of essays aimed “especially at convincing younger people that their lives will be much better in a free society and economy.”
Mr. Leef observes that what stands in the way of the progressive drive to “increase the size of government across the board” is “the residual belief among some [of] the populace that liberty is good and should not be sacrificed.” Mr. Leef further observes that the book’s writers have done a “superb job” of focusing on that belief.
The book’s essay titles indicate the range of topics covered on Libertarian thought and the role of government. Mr. Leef notes the relevance to young people in particular of the essay on the connection between “artistic freedom” and “freedom in general,” and the tendency of autocratic rulers to punish artistic expression:
Of the many reasons to fear the expansion of state power is [sic] the way it is used to attack the arts is one of the most compelling.
Describing another of the book’s essays, Mr. Leef refers to “the fairy dust notions about government that most Americans are imbued with in school.” Leef concludes that “the fact that government does far more to succor the well-connected than to aid the poor is the Achilles’ Heel of governmental legitimacy.”
Mr. Palmer’s concluding essay aims to refute the progressive notion that “government is responsible for everything good in society,” and that “the wealth that people manage to accumulate actually belongs to” the government. Mr. Leef’s summary:
First, the state did not originate in some kind of social contract, but rather as a predatory institution. It did not make production and trade possible; instead, it fastened itself in parasitic fashion on peaceful and productive societies through conquest. Originally “roving bandits,” the state gradually transformed itself into “stationary bandits.”
Which certainly brings us back to the “stationary bandits” in Washington D.C. who always need “a little more.”
It remains to be seen whether the younger generation that followed Obama down the garden path will be persuaded by the case for liberty and limited government.