Column on Like Changing the Course of Aircraft Carriers

Like Changing the Course of Aircraft Carriers

Tibor R. Machan

In the effort to move the world toward human liberty–to induce countries around the globe to implement the regime of individual rights to life, liberty, etc.–the image of turning around an aircraft carrier, redirecting which way it will move in the middle of the ocean, easily comes to mind. Those of use who have focused intensely on the merits of a bona fide, fully free country are often exasperated about how slow the progress goes, indeed, on whether there is much progress at all. Just listen to typical politicians, especially those who champion greater scope of authority for governments to manage people’s lives, and watch for how easily these people make use of the royal “we” as they discuss the affairs of the nation. They treat countries as their fiefdoms, realms they must manage, control, manipulate, direct, reform, clean up, etc. They look upon you and me as figures in a puppet show, to be moved around at their will.

A good case in point is the constant, incessant calls for government regulation whenever some problem arises in society. Such calls assume that (a) governments have the full authority to run everyone’s affairs, (b) governments have the skill to do this, and (c) governments are far more virtuous and decent than the rest of us when it comes to running anything at all. None of these assumptions is true, not a single solitary one, yet the assumptions are very rarely questioned by mainstream politicians, such as Nancy Pelosi, Barrack Obama, Harry Reed, et al. When these folks open their mouths about anything of concern to Americans or indeed people anywhere, they exhibit this tendency of looking upon themselves as supreme commanders, as folks anointed to be in charge of us all, as if we were all still mere subjects in a monarchy, meaning subject to the will of the royal court.

When politicians discuss fiscal policy, they so easily slip into this mode, treating as they do nearly always the wealth of the country as some kind of big pie they are authorized to divvy up in ways they deem proper. This is not done with equal ease when it comes to moving around the productive personnel in society since that is likely to wake people up to how much they are being simply used regardless of their consent. So, for example, national service, including conscription into the military, is rarely brought up now here in America. The idea is too directly an attack on human liberty. But the same reluctance isn’t evident when it comes to considering how governments will order around people on Wall Street, Main Street, on the farms, in factories and plants and office buildings. Citizens in these areas of society can be discussed as if they were mere objects on, say, a board game like Monopoly.

Those who know that this is and has always been wrong, that such pushing around of human beings by other human beings is intolerable, more or less tyrannical, dictatorial, find it very difficult to grasp why so many others live with it all quite placidly, complying with the dictates as if they were children being guided and ordered by parents or nannies. (Hence the idea of the Nanny State!) Are people really best suited for lives of servitude, after all, so that events such as the American Revolution amounted to something quite unnatural, in defiance of human nature?

More likely, it is this matter of the governmental habit that’s implanted itself in the hearts and minds of millions of human beings. To wean them from this habit is akin to trying to turn around the proverbial aircraft carrier and will take time even if it is indeed a very proper, desirable thing to do. So despite the slow speed–sometimes no speed at all–with which a free society is being pursued around the globe and even in the U.S.A. that basically put the idea into circulation over the last several centuries, no permanent pessimism is warranted. Instead that old vigilance must be called up, eternally, which is the price of liberty.

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