This is a must read. Click the link at the end to read the entire article. It is definitely worth the time.
I’m finding it ever more difficult to describe to people the kind of world that the Mises Institute would like to see, with the type of political order that Mises and the entire classical-liberal tradition believed would be most beneficial for mankind.
It would appear that the more liberty we lose, the less people are able to imagine how liberty might work. It is a fascinating thing to behold.
* People can no longer imagine a world in which we could be secure without massive invasions of our privacy at every step, and even being strip-searched before boarding airplanes, even though private institutions manage much greater security without any invasions of human rights;
* People can no longer remember how a true free market in medical care would work, even though all the problems of the current system were created by government interventions in the first place;
* People imagine that we need 700 military bases around the world, and endless wars in the Middle East, for “security,” though safe Switzerland doesn’t;
* People think it is insane to think of life without central banks, even though they are modern inventions that have destroyed currency after currency;
* Even meddlesome agencies like the Consumer Products Safety Commission or the Federal Trade Commission strike most people as absolutely essential, even though it is not they who catch the thieves and frauds, but private institutions;
* The idea of privatizing roads or water supplies sounds outlandish, even though we have a long history of both;
* People even wonder how anyone would be educated in the absence of public schools, as if markets themselves didn’t create in America the world’s most literate society in the 18th and 19th centuries.
This list could go on and on. But the problem is that the capacity to imagine freedom – the very source of life for civilization and humanity itself – is being eroded in our society and culture. The less freedom we have, the less people are able to imagine what freedom feels like, and therefore the less they are willing to fight for its restoration.
This has profoundly affected the political culture. We’ve lived through regime after regime, since at least the 1930s, in which the word freedom has been a rhetorical principle only, even as each new regime has taken away ever more freedom.
Now we have a president who doesn’t even bother to pay lip service to the idea of freedom. In fact, I don’t think that the idea has occurred to Obama at all. If the idea of freedom has occurred to him, he must have rejected it as dangerous, or unfair, or unequal, or irresponsible, or something along those lines.
To him, and to many Americans, the goal of government is to be an extension of the personal values of those in charge. I saw a speech in which Obama was making a pitch for national service, the ghastly idea that government should steal 2 years of every young person's life for slave labor and to inculcate loyalty to leviathan, with no concerns about setting back a young person’s professional and personal life.
How did Obama justify his support of this idea? He said that when he was a young man, he learned important values from his period of community service. It helped form him and shape him. It helped him understand the troubles of others and think outside his own narrow experience.
Well, I’m happy for him. But he chose this path voluntarily. It is a gigantic leap to go from personal experience to forcing a vicious national plan on the entire country. His presumption here is really taken from the playbook of the totalitarian state: the father-leader will guide his children-citizens in the paths of righteousness, so that they all will become god like the leader himself.
To me, this comment illustrates one of two things. It could show that Obama is a potential dictator in the mold of Stalin, Hitler, and Mao, for the presumptions he puts on exhibit here are just as frightening as any imagined by the worst tyrants in human history. Or, more plausibly, it may be an illustration of Hannah Arendt’s view that totalitarianism is merely an application of the principle of the “banality of evil.”
With this phrase, Arendt meant to draw attention to how people misunderstand the origin and nature of evil regimes. Evil regimes are not always the product of fanatics, paranoids, and sociopaths, though, of course, power breeds fanaticism, paranoia, and sociopathology. Instead, the total state can be built by ordinary people who accept a wrong premise concerning the role of the state in society.
If the role of the state is to ferret out evil thoughts and bad ideas, it must necessarily become totalitarian. If the goal of the state is that all citizens must come to hold the same values as the great leader, whether economic, moral, or cultural, the state must necessarily become totalitarian. If the people are led to believe that scarce resources are best channeled in a direction that producers and consumers would not choose on their own, the result must necessarily be central planning.
via The Misesian Vision by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr..