If the corona cold virus calamity teaches us anything it is that, with few exceptions, America’s political class is overwhelmingly dominated by fascists and totalitarians. I speak of course of all the governors, mayors, and city and county council members who have taken it upon themselves to declare that their words are law, and to use the heavily-armed police forces at their disposal to enforce their “laws.” The Morticia Adams-ish governor of Michigan has become the face of today’s fascist totalitarian political class.
Real laws are passed by Congress and state legislatures and are signed by chief executives. NONE of the “stay-at-home” orders are laws; they are the mere words of politicians and bureaucrats. Nor are they based on “science.” In the true spirit of Abraham Lincoln, who arbitrarily redefined “treason” from its Article 3, Section 3 definition of “levying war upon” the free and independent states (which he was guilty of) to criticizing himself and his policies, the political class has not amended but simply redefined the Constitution to mean whatever words come out of either sides of their mouths. This reminds your author of an old movie, “The Island of Doctor Moreau,” in which Burt Lancaster portrays a mad scientist who experiments on animals that he makes part human. To control the beasts he tells them that he is their father and and “The Sayer of the Law.” Whatever he says is “the law” by virtue of his having said it. America has become one big island of Dr. Moreaus hiding behind their titles of “governor” or “mayor.”
The Hamiltonian Constitution.
The Bill of Rights does not say that we have inalienable rights to freedom of speech, assembly, and religion “unless people get sick,” after all. But, alas, the Constitution has essentially been a dead letter for generations. Americans have long lived under the “Hamiltonian constitution,” which is whatever the politicians of the day say it is. Jeffersonian “strict constructionism” was abandoned, essentially, at the end of the “Civil War.”
This fact is why almost all who are attracted to politics as a career today are totalitarian-minded thugs. They get into politics precisely because they want to wield this monopolistic, totalitarian power against their fellow citizens, whom they often despise and hate, publicly labeling them with such words as “deplorable” and much worse. There are a few exceptions, of course, the most magnificent of which is former Congressman Ron Paul, but they are the exceptions that prove the rule.
I also speak of the entire U.S. Congress, the U.S. Department of Justice, and virtually the entire judicial system, every member of whom has remained as silent as a church mouse while the rule of law in America was swept away in a mere six weeks. Think of this the next time a “conservative Republican” in Washington pretends to be devoted to the Constitution.
The American public lost control of the federal government when the rights of secession and nullification were abolished in 1865. John C. Calhoun was right when he explained in his Disquisition on Government that a written constitution would never be enough to control and restrain legal plunder. Some mechanism that could be utilized by the people of the free and independent states, organized in political communities, was necessary if the central government was to be the servant rather than the master of the people, he said. Naturally, Calhoun is one of the most demonized political figures in American history by the American ruling class.
Then came the deification and glorification of the Lincoln dictatorship, which turned into the deification of the presidency in general and of all its “executive powers” (i.e., mostly unconstitutional, dictatorial powers to wage war, enslave citizens through conscription, and everything else). Federalism was destroyed by the “Civil War,” after which the states became mere franchises or appendages of the central government in Washington. The federal government was turned into one giant monopoly of the worst kind: One from which there can be no escape once it acquired the powers of money printing and income taxation.
The Worst Elements Of Society Choose Politics As A Career.
The temptation to be one of the chosen few to yield such totalitarian powers is what causes the worst elements of society to pursue careers in politics, as F.A. Hayek explained in The Road to Serfdom. Long gone are the days when public-spirited citizens would serve in Congress for a few years, their behavior constrained by “the chains of the Constitution,” as Jefferson once said, and then return to their private lives.
Your author used to have a quotation on his office door from Ringo Starr, of all people, that said: “Everything government touches turns to crap.” No truer words were ever spoken. The inevitable failures of government (did the Centers for Disease Control succeed in controlling the coronavirus disease?) elicit a typical response from politicians: ramp up their totalitarian dictates, as so many of today’s governors are doing at the moment, after the original dictates proved to be failures. As Hayek wrote: They “would soon have to choose between disregard of ordinary morals and failure. It is for this reason that the unscrupulous and uninhibited are likely to be more successful in a society tending toward totalitarianism.” That latter phrase is a perfect description of what America has become just in the last few months. Hayek wrote this in his famous chapter 10, “Why the Worst Get on Top.”
We’re All In This Together.
“The worst” do not do it all alone. They have help from a large segment of the population that assists them in making them their own de facto slaves. This takes a large group, wrote Hayek, in order to present the appearance of legitimacy to the state’s totalitarian powers. The perfect kind of large group, moreover, that is large enough to “impose their views on the values of life on all the rest” will be “those who form the ‘mass’ in the derogatory sense of the term, the least original and independent . . .” Thus, the totalitarian fascist will be able to acquire the “support of all the docile and gullible, who have no strong convictions of their own but are prepared to accept a ready-made system of values if it is only drummed into their ears sufficiently and loudly and frequently” (i.e., “We’re all in this together. We’re all in this together. We’re all in this together. We’re all in this together . . .”). It will be “those whose vague and imperfectly formed ideas are easily swayed and whose passions and emotions are readily aroused who will swell the ranks of the totalitarian party,” wrote Hayek.
You see these people every day all over America: The man driving alone in his car wearing a face mask. The couple out walking on a windy day wearing face masks and scurrying off whenever they see another human being; those who answer opinion polls in the affirmative when asked if the lockdown should last “until a vaccine is available;” the people giving you dirty looks at the grocery store, or complaining to the manager, that you are closer to them than six feet. Everyone who Judge Napolitano calls “the sheeple,” in other words.
The “skillful demagogue,” Hayek continued, understands that it is “easier for people to agree on a negative program – on the hatred of an enemy, on the envy of those better off [the essence of Marxism] – than on any positive task.” In the Germany of Hayek’s youth “it was the Jew” who “had come to be regarded as the representative of capitalism . . . . German anti-Semitism and anti-capitalism spring from the same root.
The U.S. government is constantly fabricating “another Hitler,” whether it is Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi, the Sandinistas, Putin, and myriad others. Even slicker, however, and a higher level of demagoguery altogether, is to define “the enemy” as something like “terror” or “the invisible enemy” of a virus that no one seems to understand. Such things can be made to appear to be as common as the air that we breathe (literally, in the case of viruses), so that waging “war” against them, and the never-ending grabbing hold of more government power and the abolition of whatever is left of freedom, can go on forever.
The “docile and gullible” do not arise spontaneously as supporters of the fascist thugs who now rule over most of America. They are cultivated by the political system. The political ruling class of any country is always a tiny numerical minority that can be swept aside by the masses, who number in the millions. Therefore, the state has an imperative to make at least a majority of “the masses” into docile and gullible serfs. It does this by monopolizing all aspects of education. As Murray Rothbard explained in his essay, “The Nature of the State”: “Particularly important . . . is for the State to assume control over education, and thereby to mould the minds of its subjects. In addition to influencing the universities through all manner of financial subventions, and through state-owned universities directly, the State controls education on the lower levels through the universal institutions of the public school, through certification requirements for private schools, and through compulsory attendance laws. Add to this a virtually total control over radio and television – either through outright State ownership . . . or, as in the United States, by nationalization of the airwaves, and by the power of a federal commission to license the right of stations to use those frequencies and channels.”
No one is born with an affinity toward being a slave; they have to be conditioned into thinking that way by the state’s totalitarian control of all aspects of “education.” In return for being an essential part of the state’s relentless propaganda apparatus, the state’s “ideological minions,” by which Rothbard meant primarily university professors, are rewarded with endowed chairs at prestigious universities, government grants, awards, notoriety, fame, and positions as exalted advisors to the government.
All of this is why all of the home schooling spawned by all of the unconstitutional lockdown/stay-at-home orders created a genuine sense of panic among the state’s ideological minions. So much so that they trotted out Harvard University educational “researchers” to proclaim that one insidious and harmful effect of the lockdowns has been the increase in independent-minded educational instruction that is not so directly under control of them and the powers that be for whom they work. Their biggest fear, in other words, is that a widespread realization that homeschooling works could be a Trojan horse, or the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent that could expose the truth that the emperor does not really have a fine set of clothes after all.
Thomas J. DiLorenzo is professor of economics at Loyola University Maryland and the author of The Real Lincoln; How Capitalism Saved America; Lincoln Unmasked; Hamilton’s Curse; Organized Crime: The Unvarnished Truth About Government; and most recently, The Problem With Socialism.