Discover more from bad cattitude
trading liberty for safety
the domestication of man to the yoke of legal plunder
the gravest danger of trading liberty for safety is not that you will get neither. (though this is true)
it’s not even that you’ll wind up thoroughly subjugated. (though you will)
it’s that, over time, that subjugation will change you to the point where you are no longer capable (or even desirous) of freedom.
you will forget what freedom is and become unable to even imagine self sufficiency instead of permission.
"It is incredible how as soon as a people become subject, it promptly falls into such complete forgetfulness of its freedom that it can hardly be roused to the point of regaining it, obeying so easily and willingly that one is led to say that this people has not so much lost its liberty as won its enslavement.”
La Boetie, 1576, Discourse of Voluntary Servitude
endless parades of hobgoblins and night terrors will be enacted for your consumption to separate you from your wits and your agency alike as they mesmerize you into the desolate comfort of dependence until one day you can conceptualize nothing else.
and worst of all is that one that on that day, you’ll feel genuine gratitude to the people who did this to you, who took your self-determination and independence and swapped them for a life in fear of them that you have been conditioned to mistake for indulgence.
(if you doubt me, look around and watch people get excited by their tax refunds as though they are being given something as opposed to merely having a mandatory interest free loan they were forced to make to the state paid back with their own money, now worth less than when it was lent.)
when you live under threat for long enough, it’s easy to mistake the non-imposition of punishment for beneficence. but it’s not. a bully who leaves you in fear but did not beat you up today is neither your friend nor the agent of your liberty. any fool can see this.
yet call that bully “the state” and dress up his predation in the form of codified regulation, restriction, and requirement, and just how is this any different?
there is nothing magical about government that transforms the use of force and the threat of consequence for non-compliance into something other than bullying, robbery, and extortion.
legal plunder and oppression have become a way of life; you’ve just grown so used to it that you fail to see it for what it is anymore.
as is so often the case, no one frames the issue better better than bastiat.
But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime. Then abolish this law without delay, for it is not only an evil itself, but also it is a fertile source for further evils because it invites reprisals. If such a law--which may be an isolated case--is not abolished immediately, it will spread, multiply, and develop into a system.
the perniciousness of this system is that once is begins to spread, it ensnares each and all in some facet of its function rendering them dependent upon some largess it dispenses or predicating their license to engage in commerce (or even free association) upon the dispensation of the state. one may not sell food or liquor or even lemonade without a license. one may not practice medicine nor law nor accounting. one may not even cut hair, apply makeup, or decorate a home. even marriage requires a license.
every one of these things was sold as safety, but not a single one of them was really for “we the people.” it is merely the tentacles of leviathan penetrating and enveloping everything until you cannot imagine a world unconstricted by their strangle holds.
“who would be sure that hot dog stands were safe if not the city?” this is the question that mires you in subjugation because, to any free person, the answer is obvious: “we would.”
who would build the roads? “we would.”
i find the whole “we need government to provide basic infrastructure” argument to be one of the most stunningly disingenuous of all the fables told to generate a sense of the inevitability of the state. it’s history comprises a hilarity of terrible outcomes.
infrastructure has been the money grubber and crony corporatist hobbyhorse since before the civil war (and it and not slavery was the primary precipitating factor of that conflict.) the federal highway system is not some shining beacon of success, it’s a failure. much of it was hijacked from private projects already underway. and now it’s falling apart, has been chronically under-invested in, and remains stupid, low function, and unsafe. had this been privately owned since the 50’s imagine what it might be like. the motive to get more and safer travel would have led to actual smart highway innovation and optimized route planning. we’d likely have higher speeds and fewer accidents and who knows how much more throughput and how many life years of traffic time saved. free market competition with private subways, busses, trains, and who knows what else would have rationalized whole networks into something of stunning scope and reach. instead we got amtrack and san francisco muni.
i point this out because this is the vast overarching fallacy on which this whole dependency system is based: you need us to do this. this goes beyond absurdist claims of “you didn’t build that” to notions of “you couldn’t build that” to prevent people from even trying.
and it’s all false.
we would have.
and we would have done a better job.
again, bastiat (writing in 1850) describes with piquant prescience what we see today:
Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all.
We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education.
We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all.
We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality.
And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.
and any who resist this plunder (or increasingly even these notions) as is the natural right of any free person, become, through shoddy legalism, pariah. they are targeted and rendered criminals by the very laws that were supposed to defend them. laws are effected that outlaw the resisting of state sponsored piracy and will respond to peaceful desires for free choice and consensual association, commerce, and property rights with increasing levels of violence up to and including state sanctioned murder if such violence is resisted.
were such tactics employed by tommygun toting mobsters in snazzy suits, these people would be deemed america’s most wanted and hunted down and jailed or killed. (many had this done to them for far less including the provision of illegal liquor to peaceful adults seeking to make their own recreational choices) but because it is “the government”, not only will this be sanctioned, but the state will then demand that you thank them for the right to pay taxes to fund the taking of your rights and property. ask any health inspector, tax collector, or DEA agent about this.
and this is the essence of the veil we must pierce. the mirage that this is the proper and inevitable role of the state leads to a set of behavioral taboos and habituations. but these are fiction and more so today than ever.
some have argued that such regulation and licensure evolved because of larger and more transitory communities. in a small community, everyone knew if the local tavern was serving food that made people sick. in a city full of newcomers and strangers, it is argued, you need a health inspector to tell you the food is OK.
i have serious doubts that any of this was ever true and/or could be validated with quantitative outcomes data once you control for the improvements in overall hygiene and the proliferation of things like refrigeration and high heat commercial dishwashing, but even if it were at some point, there is no way it’s true in the age of yelp and twitterfacegram.
can anyone seriously argue that given the speed and scope of today’s interactive infosphere that concepts like “this restaurant is unsanitary” could not be handled alongside the ability to rarify to micrometer levels the quality of onsite avocado toast? because i’m just not buying it.
does anyone seriously just go to any doctor that the state says is OK or hire any lawyer that has passed the bar? do you trust the mandated bond rating systems to gauge risk or the department of education to ensure school quality?
if ever there was a time when the state was needed for such things (itself a highly dubious proposition) that time has long passed. i struggle to find any regulatory body whatsoever in the US that seems to be doing more good than harm at the moment and that has not descended into late stage political capture in service of legal plunder and fief building.
the idea that they are providing much or any real safety at all has become deeply suspect and the idea that even if they were that such security came at a price that made it remotely net positive for we the people appears all but indefensible.
we’re deep into a set of increasingly unaccountable negative sum outcome games and advantage a select few at the expense of the rest.
we inhabit an age of oppressive technocratic crony corporatism masquerading as a defense of well being.
this is not protection, it’s a protection racket. these agencies all but stand on the corner flipping a nickel in menacing fashion as they suggestively eye a brick and opine on what a “nice window you got there, be a shame if something happened to it” and then ask for bigger budgets and broader scope of power to shower largess upon themselves and their cronies.
if we would retain any hope of lives of liberty and personal agency, it is this safety straitjacket that is most in need of being unraveled and to escape this ensnarement we must first free our minds of the idea that any of it is needed, much less that it stands in service of the public weal.
cultivate the habit of asking “why do we need this?” and “what is having this preventing?”
“who gave you permission to demand that i ask your permission and by what just right could such permission be withheld from me?”
sacrificing your basic rights to engage in life to bureaucrats and central planners is the road to technocratic serfdom.
the safety it promises is illusory and the danger it poses all too real.
waking up from this presumption of not only leviathan’s ability but its right to abridge your agency and and self-determination for your own or some alleged greater good is the only way out of the nightmare.
they have made you afraid of freedom and reliant upon being ruled.
this is not to spare you from predation.
it’s to make sure that they and theirs are the ones who get to eat you.