Notes Book

Statists Can't Talk

The "logical basis" of Statism is full of contradictions and inequities, especially for a society whose founding document is famously built on the premise that "All men are created equal". Are we really supposed to believe that some people have the right to tax, regulate, imprison, torture, and kill others who are equal?

Most pronouncements of statists don't parse consistently. For a recent example of this, we can use the US government's reluctance to turn over power to the Iraqi governing council because it was not elected. One has to wonder what Iraqi it was that elected the current ruler of Iraq, Paul Bremmer. The excuse given is not based on logic, or morality, but is an exercise in dressing up the naked exercise of terrorist power in the garb of morality and reason.

Because of the logical inconsistencies in their worldview, statists have a great deal of difficulty communicating with one another. Statist arguments are decided by force and fraud, but they are often dressed up to seem as if the argument were settled on the basis of morality.

Statist decision-making has a peculiar pattern. There is a closed-door meeting during which various threats and bribes are exchanged. A decision is reached. Then there is a public meeting at which the trappings of rationality are presented. These public meetings can be school board meetings, sessions of congress, court proceedings, or press conferences resulting from the talks of heads of states, etc. Even the most secretive of Statists seems to feel the need to provide the masses with reassurances that there is some form of logic and morality at work.

Dick Cheney caused a grand uproar by refusing to conform to this pattern with his "energy task force" in the beginning of the Bush Administration. No one expected to find out what really went on behind those closed doors, but they were outraged by the lack of the usual token rationalizations.

The public appearances of politicians are usually quite boring. But if we could watch them while they are actually making deals, it would probably be fully as entertaining as an episode of the Sopranos.

But sometimes the political magma bubbles close to the surface as in the recent Clinton impeachment hearings. Then we got some actual entertainment on the floor of the house. But when C-span is showing the ordinary proceedings of Congress, it is absolutely soporific. If cameras could be installed in the bars around Washington where deals are actually being made, the ratings would be terrific.

There is another ritual of Statist communication that has a boring part followed by a somewhat interesting part. You see this constantly on cable TV. Some important politician(s) will appear on a new program and give an interview or a statement. Then some journalists will try to figure out what the political message was and translate it into terms that might interest the public. One example is a Presidential address and the analysis that follows. The analysis is nearly always a lot more entertaining than the speech itself, especially with the current president. I don't think anyone expects either the speech or the analysis to be especially logical or truthful. The entertaining part is trying to figure out which journalists are secretly aligned with which political factions.

When I was young, I was greatly puzzled by most political discourse. It was only when I began to understand that the object was not to clarify, but to obfuscate that I began to feel that I had some sense of what was actually going on. How much I really understand is a moot point, of course, since I have very little means of checking up.

Fortunately, most people are statists in name only. They profess the faith. They claim to be democrats or republicans, and they may even participate in some of the rituals like voting or contributing to a political party. But they run their personal lives on libertarian principles. The avoid initiating force because they realize it is usually counterproductive. They try to give their children an example of integrity, and they try to be fair to their friends. They unconsciously assume "their politicians" are like them.

Politicians will go to some lengths to avoid shattering this illusion. That is why honesty, openness, and logic may be severely punished if they begin to have a political impact. Any time the public fully understands what the government is really doing, the government will fall.

The problem for statists is that the public is rapidly growing wiser. The price of information is falling rapidly. Computers are giving average people access to better information processing tools than even the elites had a few years ago. Google is smarter and more helpful than any individual scholar of previous decades, and is accessible to even small children. Cell phones are allowing families and casual social groupings to engage in tightly coordinated activities that were formerly restricted to police and military units. Cheap, high-bandwidth, international communications are making it increasingly difficult to demonize foreigners for domestic political purposes. The average American has much more sympathy and understanding of Iraqis and Arabs than they did of the Vietnamese and Chinese during the Vietnam War. When we look at another culture today, we do so using the immense bandwidth of cable TV, Satellite video transmission, and the Internet.

And computers are training millions of children to reason logically and consistently. These kids will not be as tolerant of propaganda, lies, and liars as previous generations have been. The politicians are always saying, "Our children and grandchildren will pay." Actually our children and grandchildren may be smarter than we are. What the statists should really be worried about is that our children and grandchildren will refuse to pay.

Humor is an especially effective means of spreading truth. Lies are funny only when exposed. It is the truth that gets the biggest laughs. Politicians try to use humor to further their ends, but humor has its own agenda, and that agenda is truth. The jokes politicians tell in their private meetings would be way to funny for comfort in public, and they usually keep that in mind. That's why they are boring in public.

It is very hard to tell someone she must pay taxes, fill out forms, wait in line, and obey the rules, and say it in an entertaining manner. Most people would rather not listen to someone who is threatening them with prison, torture, or death. Unfortunately, far too many people are willing to believe they can get someone else do the shakedown and give them the money.

Statist can't talk, but libertarians can. When statists try to talk, they are boring and confusing. If the truth entertains, then an entertainer can't be successful unless he tells the truth. A lot of communications presented as entertainment is more truthful than messages presented by states as official documents. Despite disclaimers that there is no relation to reality, entertainment is often based on truth. Despite protestations of accuracy, statist documents are often purest fantasy.