by David White
Originally posted March 2010
“We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to high office.”– Aesop
TRUTH IS TREASON IN THE EMPIRE OF LIES. Which is why attempting to shoot the messenger – by imprisoning the whistleblower and/or slandering the publisher – makes perfect sense for an arm – indeed, the very arms – of the United States government. So if we are to understand its logic (as all of its actions, however insane, are perfectly logical to it), we must understand the pathology that lies at its core. For unless and until we do, we cannot understand why government per se – i.e., the state, defined as “a monopoly on the use of force within its borders” – does what it does; why its functionaries lie so shamelessly on its behalf; and, most importantly, why its presumed masters – We the People – put up with it.
We begin by amending Friedrich Nietzsche’s blunt statement – “Everything the State says is a lie, and everything it has it has stolen” – with a simple substitution of one word with another – i.e., “Everything the State says is a lie because everything it has it has stolen.” Being no less blunt, let us examine this statement to determine its verity.
First of all, every thief is by definition a liar, since thievery – the dishonest taking of property belonging to another person – is itself a lie. It follows, then, that if one steals for a living, one also lies for a living, the question being why the state is not condemned by the general public for this reason, given that it has nothing beyond that which extracts from society under threat of fines and/or imprisonment. The answer is that a particular lie has been told, so well and for so long, that for all practical purposes the question is not even asked. Yes, the application of the lie is questioned – is such-and-such amount in such-and-such form appropriate – but the fact, the existence, of the lie is not questioned, no further proof needed than that it stands side-by-side with death as one of the two certainties of life.
We are talking, in other words, about a lie so big that it constitutes the biggest lie ever told, finding perhaps its clearest expression in the following statement by former Chief Justice of the United States, Oliver Wendell Holmes:
Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.
That is to say, without the taking of property by a territorial monopoly, civil society is not possible. No matter that humanity long ago established the immorality of it, theft – as long as it is committed by said monopolist – is necessary if human society is to rise out of, and remain out of, barbarism.
But how can this be? How can that which is universally recognized as immoral be necessary? And what does the entrenched belief that it is necessary do to us? To answer these questions, we begin by confronting the fact that the general public interacts with the state in two contradictory ways:
On the one hand, it fully accepts the concept of public service, which is to say, of functionaries charged, in one capacity or another, with the delivery of “public goods” that are by definition presumed to be inappropriate, insufficient, or impossible for the “private sector” – i.e., for the people themselves, via their mutual cooperation – to deliver. Portraying themselves as servants of the public trust, these functionaries ask only to be treated with the same respect with which any servant should be treated, while doing as they are instructed and in turn treating their masters, the general public, with the respect that they deserve.
On the other hand, even as the lower ranks of these functionaries treat the general public with a combination of indifference, disdain, and outright abuse – openly admitting that it’s not about service but about getting this or that title – this same public heaps adoration upon these titleholders to the point of divine worship, building monuments to their supposedly heroic acts; carving their images in mountainsides; engraving their likenesses on our money; naming all manner of roads, bridges, buildings, and towns after them; ensconcing them in magnificent mansions; draping them in regalia; waiting on them hat and glove; and sending them hither and yon in magnificent flying machines accompanied by entourages that would rival the combined excesses of every king, queen, emperor, empress, pharaoh, caesar, czar, kaiser, and sultan in human history.
Not surprisingly, the result has been to turn “public service” on its head, the servants becoming the masters and the masters the servants, the only question being why the adoration, especially since approval ratings are so low that many of these functionaries are utterly despised, their ridicule, at least where our own country is concerned, dating back to its founding?
The answer is that while the individual officeholders are often held in contempt, the offices themselves are not. Why? Because the general public is in thrall to the same mysterious force that the officeholders are: political power. And what is that power? We think we know, of course, but do we really?
Do we know, that is, that the term is derived from the Latin imperium, the dictionary definition of which is (1) “supreme power or absolute dominion” and (2) “the right to command or to employ the force of the state”? And if we do know this, do we seriously believe that We the People are that power and that we accordingly command those who supposedly serve us? Or do we know, however unconsciously, that political power – being not a complement to but the inverse of economic power – is something over which we have no command at all and, on the contrary, are so mesmerized by it that even as we build Corinthian corridors for our “servants” to roam, we then build even more expensive indoctrination centers for the purpose of keeping us away?
Is it perhaps, returning to the aforementioned lie, that the real power of political power is simply that it’s a license to steal, said license deriving its power from the assumption, so long ingrained in us as not to questioned, that if we don’t grant it, we can’t be civilized? That despite our unique ability to “truck and barter and exchange” to our mutual benefit, we cannot do so without ever larger portions of the wealth that we create in this manner being taken from us against our will?[i]
But if true – if taxes are indeed the price we pay for a civilized society – then does it not follow that the more we are taxed, the more civilized we will be? And does it not then follow that if we are taxed 100%, we will be civilized 100%, never mind that we’ve already tried this, not just over there but right here?
Moreover, isn’t the grip that a license to steal has at the highest levels precisely what one of its foremost practitioners famously said it is – the ultimate aphrodisiac – which, translated into action, it is nothing less than the power to screw, with both abandon and impunity, those who granted it? For every time We the Licensors elect the next round of licensees – and even more when we reelect them, over and over again – are we not quite literally “asking for it”? And should we not be surprised, then, when those most inclined to “give it to us” do so? Is legalized theft,[ii] after all, not only a power that few humans can bear but a power that the barest humans – those with the fewest moral scruples – lust after the most? And therefore isn’t offering it at all – much less with an aura of selfless devotion to the “public good” – to offer to the worst among us that to which they are least suited, while the best merely give testimony to the fact that “Sending good people in to reform the state is like sending virgins in to reform the whorehouse”? Is it not the nature of the state, in other words, that good people do not change it but that it changes them, their high ideals sundered by that which is inherently immoral and therefore incapable of reform? And is it not true, therefore, that the giving of oneself over to that immorality is to inevitably succumb to it?
Of course it is. And thus is a license to steal not only an all-too-prevalent gateway to licentiousness but the means, more importantly, by which the coercive power of politics trumps the cooperative power of economics:
There are two fundamentally opposed means whereby man, requiring sustenance, is impelled to obtain the necessary means for satisfying his desires. These are work and robbery, one’s own labor and the forcible appropriation of the labor of others… [such that we] call one’s own labor and the equivalent exchange of one’s own labor for the labor of others, the “economic means” for the satisfaction of needs, while the unrequited appropriation of the labor of others [we call] the “political means”…
The state is an organization of the political means. No state, therefore, can come into being until the economic means has created a definite number of objects for the satisfaction of needs, which objects may be taken away or appropriated by warlike robbery.
Thus, via its collectivity in the state, does the psychopathology that either attracts the worst or infects the best result in a sociopathology that is by definition inimical to the best interests of society and therefore to the human enterprise as a whole. For the cognitive dissonance that arises from the concept of “public service,” on the one hand, and from the perversion of the master-servant relationship, on the other, divides the public mind to the point of defenselessness against those to whom it has granted the license to steal. Being literally of two minds, the licensing public is bipolar vis-à-vis its licensees, at once delighted when its preferred ones are elected and despondent when they are not – or, as is increasingly the case, despondent after its delight, the failure of its licensees to live up to their promises resulting in the desire to “throw the bums out,” never mind that they will only be replaced with a new batch of bums. It never occurs to the general public, in other words, that licenses to steal are ipso fact the cause of the problem and that until it stops granting them, it will continue to effectively put a gun to its own head.
Moreover, having forgotten (if it ever knew) the profound wisdom that Jefferson articulated – “It is sometime said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others?” – the general public is oblivious of the fact that its granting of licenses to steal is the source and sustenance of elitism. For while, in his willingness to “let history answer this question,” Jefferson was asking what was obviously a rhetorical question, the elitist’s answer to it is as follows:
While the vast majority of men cannot be trusted with the government of themselves, a tiny few not only can; they can also be trusted with the government of others. And, conveniently, we are that tiny few.
The result is that the licensees are not content to use their stolen property within its constitutional confines – almost exclusively for the protection of the lives, liberty, and property of the licensors. Rather, with the gun still pointed at the licensors’ head, the licensees cock the hammer and command that they do this, that, and the other, ad infinitum, on the presumption that the licensors are no better than the grandmother in Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” about whom The Misfit (after gunning her down) said: “She would have been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.” Which is to say that, all pretensions to the contrary, the licensees have nothing but contempt for their licensors.
And why shouldn’t they? What are the We the Licensors, after all, but sheep waiting to be sheared – over and over and over again – having been conditioned by the licensing process to externalize our locus of control, foolishly believing that by giving up our powers, we magically increase them?
And just as importantly, lest we delude ourselves into believing that the licensees are the ones doing the shearing, let us also be clear in understanding that it is not them, but their overlords – the monetary fascists of centralized, fractional-reserve banking and the financial fascists of the Washington-Wall Street nexus – who actually wield the shears, this Happy Conspiracy “spreading a contagious pathological mutation of capitalism” that is nothing less than “a war to totally control” the essentials of the American way of life. That is to say, those with licenses to steal are themselves bought and sold, as the nexus’s revolving door sends the most pathological among them shuttling between Washington and Wall Street in a veritable relay race to fleece the American people – i.e., to privatize gains and socialize losses as fully as possible and as fast as possible.
But as obscene – as utterly barbaric – as this state of affairs is, the Big Lie doesn’t stop there. For as history has gone out of its way to prove, a license to steal is also a license to kill – a permission slip, if you will, to commit that which in any other context is murder – mass murder being the inevitable result, not just of the enemy combatants and innocent civilians of opposing states but of the state’s own civilians, this democide accounting for nearly 170 million deaths in the last century alone. And simply put, given that psychopathology and sociopathology both manifest “a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others,” it is the warfare state that renders the pattern all-pervasive, war being the very health of the state. And as every state is founded on the injustice of legalized theft, all of its wars, no less than its other actions, are unjust. Which is to say that insofar as they are fought between and among states, there is no such thing as a just war; there is just war, its cumulative losses in blood and treasure – over 15 billion battlefield deaths “since the beginning of authentic history,”[iii] at a cost of over a thousand trillion dollars[iv] – being beyond comprehension. Yet on and on it goes.
Let us conclude, then, by confronting the people of the lie with who and what they are: perpetrators, in the name of service to humanity, of virtually every known evil against it. And as the title of this essay is taken from a book of the same name by the late M. Scott Peck, we do well to quote from it:
I have spent a good deal of time working in prisons with designated criminals. Almost never have I experienced them as evil people. Obviously they are destructive, and usually repetitively so. But there is a kind of randomness to their destructiveness. Moreover, although to the authorities they generally deny responsibility for their evil deeds, there is still a quality of openness to their wickedness. They themselves are quick to point this out, claiming that they have been caught precisely because they are the “honest criminals.” The truly evil, they will tell you, always reside outside of jail. Clearly these proclamations are self-justifying. They are also, I believe, generally accurate.
Indeed they are. For to bear witness, not only as we are to the present Pentagon scandal (which of course is as much a White House and Congress scandal as it is of the Department of “Defense”) but to the fact that not a single perpetrator of the housing debacle, or of the socioeconomic catastrophe it will soon loose upon the land,[v] has been indicted (much less arrested, tried, convicted, sentenced, and incarcerated) is to confront the ugly truth of Dr. Peck’s words: The truly evil do reside outside of jail, primarily in the conspiratorial embrace of the political means, its perpetrators only too happy to imprison the rest of us in their collective self-deceit[vi] – a deceit that is all the more evil for its ability to deceive us, whether as wards of the welfare state, as cannon fodder for the warfare state, or as victims of the political rape that perpetuates them.
While it remains to be seen how long We the People will lie there and take it, be assured that we don’t need to and that whenever we decide that we’ve had enough, all we have to do is stand up and say so. For while truth is indeed treason in the empire of lies, the naked fact is that it is the emperor who has no clothes on. Let us then work for the day when, shriveled to the point of impotence, he scurries off and, cloaked in the fine cloth of freedom, we are at long last able to get on with the business of civilization the only way we ever have: through the free and voluntary exchange of goods, services, and ideas that ceaselessly works to our mutual benefit.
[i] Notwithstanding those who insist otherwise, taxes most assuredly are taken against our will. How easy is it, after all, to say that one does voluntarily what one can only refuse to do in the face of a prison sentence?
[ii] Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) must be counted among the most honest of modern-day politicians for defending the pork-barrel spending of a colleague with these immortal words: “We legally steal.”
[iii] See a photocopy, just as the horror of World War I was beginning to unfold, of the research published in a September 1914 issue of the New York Times.
[iv] Inflation-adjusted as follows: 15 billion deaths x $3,677 per death x 21 to correct for inflation = $1,158,255,000,000,000. And again, these are battlefield deaths, which accordingly does not account for “collateral damage,” a term for unintended death and destruction that only the state could come up with.
[v] In truth, the crisis has been in the making since the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913, during which time the dollar has lost over 96% of its value and is doomed, due to the debt-based nature of the Fed’s literal monopoly money, to lose the rest of its value in far less time, quite possibly before it reaches its hundredth birthday.
[vi] As laden as the word is with theological content, the following quote replaces sin with wrongdoing as it relates to the hyperlinked reference to Madeleine Albright and to government functionaries in general. Thus, in Dr. Peck’s definition of evil, “It is not their wrongdoing that characterizes evil people; rather, it is the subtlety and persistence and consistency of their wrongdoing. This is because the central defect of the evil is not the wrongdoing but the refusal to acknowledge it” [emphasis added].