Monday, February 02, 2009

Power Politics

American history, thankfully, does not provide for us many instances to ruminate on the characteristics of dictatorial government. Aside from the era of the New Deal, an intellectual import of collectivist (Fascist, to be more precise) Europe, America’s history is one of personal freedom and responsibility. As such, it would be somewhat surprising if Joe or Jane Public were to recognize tyranny when it struts onto the political stage only thinly disguised. Yet open a history book, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar or Hamlet, or the Communist Manifesto and suddenly the observer becomes acutely aware that decisions already made in this young administration are not about economics, liberty, or security, but the plain advancement of government authority. No, money is not the root of all evil; however, if abused it becomes a convenient conduit for the true seed: power.

To that end, taxes and regulation are a form of control. They build steadily over the years with virtually no respite. The unfortunate consequence is complacency and relegation on behalf of the citizenry. While citizens inclined towards the ideals of liberty should always keep their ears perked for serpentine encroachment, rarely do we hear a hiss the grass as loudly as we do today.

President Obama’s thematic response to our current economic crisis has been in the traditionally conservative rhetoric of personal responsibility. We are lectured (really, lectured) about our greed, about our wastefulness, about our civic duty demanded of us for the benefit of our neighbors in words that sound more appropriate coming from a Commander-in-Chief than a Chief Executive. Personal responsibility has indeed made this country great, but Obama’s actions, in particular, his stimulus package and pick of certain Cabinet officials, suggest that this responsibility won’t be so personal, unless one considers state coercion intrinsically component to that American civic tenet.

No, the responsibility Obama speaks about is your responsibility to government. Your duty to bail out banks with your tax dollars; your right to tell automakers what cars to make; your stewardship of the environment, including classifying carbon dioxide as a pollutant worthy of regulation; your responsibility to reduce your carbon footprint and to fund the healthcare of illegal immigrants; and finally, your right to government healthcare, subject to the changing standards of a whimsical bureau. Do not be fooled. This is autocracy, not liberty.

Observe: When governments play for power, the financial health of the nation no longer matters. That’s why a dangerous federal deficit is not only disregarded, but favored. Deficit spending leads not to recovery, but lays the groundwork for additional calamity; conditions richly suited for additional government control, all in the name, of course, of benevolence.

Such talk is often derided as paranoia, overstatement, or extremism by critics. But can they name even one hero in classic literature that is an autocrat? Not in the Greek or Shakespearean tradition. Nor in the Bible, where that role is reserved (sparingly) for God alone, and where Adam and Eve suffer dearly for their hubris. No, these classics, overwhelmingly tragic in nature, exist to remind us that a lust for power is real and will only die with mankind.

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