“So things aren't quite adding up the way they used to, huh? Some of your myths are a little shaky these days.”
“My myths? They're not—“
He held a hand up. “Don't take it personally. You wanted straight talk, so let me talk.” To me, 'Will' looked like any number of motorcycle mechanics I had known. Lanky, hair in a ponytail, jeans with knee ventilation, and a T-shirt with a lewd graphic or saying. His shirt, though, bore the inscription 'Publik Skul Graduwit.' Except for the Ray-Ban Aviators, there was little to suggest he was actually a government spook.
“I feel like I'm describing the color of fresh snow,” he said, looking everywhere except at me, “but here it is. We do whatever you let us get away with. That's all there is to it. And each day you let us get away with more. Any questions so far?
“We knew you'd be lousy guardians, and you didn't let us down. We've created and milked crises throughout our history so that we now have the imperial executive every State needs to go along with an overarching bureaucracy meddling in your affairs. But you call this political arrangement the fruits of democracy, as if you'd decided you needed more war and less freedom in your life, then voted to make it happen. What's better, we've still got you believing democracy is a good idea. Every Fourth of July, you wave your sparklers in our honor, as if we were intellectual descendants of the revolutionaries of 1776, rather than the counter-revolutionaries of 1787. Who says public education is failing us? It may be failing you, but not us.”
He grinned and shook his head. “We impose gun control to reduce the crime rate. The thugs cheer and the crime rate goes up. And the rate excludes crimes committed by government thugs. Some of you try to stick the Bill of Rights in our face. The Bill of Rights is a tourist attraction. We should sweat a document sequestered in the National Archives? Elected stiffs from Woodrow Wilson onward, as well as a few appointed ones, have been telling you the Constitution is alive. In other words, your rights are dead. No guns for you, pal.
“You know, it really scares me when people say government serves their interests. How many politicians have the demeanor of servants? Politicians respect money and votes. And both have to be in large amounts and concentrated to become a threat or an advantage to them. Since most voters aren't organized, it's the politicians' rich supporters who help pull the levers of power.
“Sometime during your school years, you were told the State's basic function is to protect you from domestic and foreign aggression. Therefore, it was only logical that we needed complete control of the military, police, and courts. What saints do you know personally who could be trusted with such power? And how do you think the people who have this power are going to fund these policing functions? Through voluntary trade on the market? Why should they mess with production and exchange when all they have to do is nudge you with a gun? We're a monopoly of crime."
“Almost no one believes that,” I said.
“Don't I know. If enough people did, we'd be in trouble.”
“Look, maybe people will admit it isn't ethical, but we at least get some benefit from taxation.”
“Only if you don’t look at the alternatives. Some of you make a killing from taxes, others are literally killed. Let me read you something Randolph Bourne wrote in 1918:
“The modern State is not the rational and intelligent product of modern men desiring to live harmoniously together with security of life, property, and opinion. It is not an organization which has been devised as pragmatic means to a desired social end. All the idealism with which we have been instructed to endow the State is the fruit of our retrospective imaginations. What it does for us in the way of security and benefit of life, it does incidentally as a by-product and development of its original functions.”
“What does that prove?” I said. “It's a series of assertions. You haven't proved a thing.”
“Nor can I. You have to look for yourself. Have you noticed it's impossible to vote away the State? You might find a candidate now and then who speaks out boldly against government growth. But that's mere election rhetoric, in most cases. So far, nothing has stopped us.
“Did the Gipper, your sole purported savior in recent memory, get government off your backs, as he said he would? He pledged to abolish the departments of Energy and Education, but last I heard they were still around. Rather than ditch the bankrupt Ponzi scheme we call Social Security, he followed Alan Greenspan's advice and increased taxes to postpone the bankruptcy. During the Gipper's eight-year reign, the federal debt tripled and civil liberties diminished. How does your back feel?
“Maybe you think the State's done a good job defending you against foreign aggression. Let's touch on a few low points of history.
“No Union lives were lost during the Confederacy's 36-hour shelling of Fort Sumter, an incident provoked by Lincoln 's ordering the fort reprovisioned instead of abandoned. A month earlier, he had ignored a Confederate peace commission that had traveled to Washington , D.C. to negotiate a peaceful secession. But Lincoln had his 'incident,' got his war, and 800,000 young men died, plus an estimated 50,000 civilians and a few thousand slaves.
“The end of slavery was never Lincoln 's objective, as he repeatedly stated, but rather one of the byproducts Bourne refers to. By 1840, the British Empire had ended slavery peacefully through compensated emancipation. During the 19th Century, dozens of other countries ended slavery without war. If manumission was Lincoln 's goal, why did the master statesman need a long, bloody war to achieve it? Lincoln invaded the South to regain lost tariff revenue when the southern states seceded. Lincoln, in other words, murdered and imprisoned people to carry on his policy of predation.
“By the way, since Lincoln invaded a sovereign country — the Confederate States of America — I consider the war of 1861-1865 a foreign war.
“Moving ahead a half-century, why do you suppose Wilson imposed a maximum 20-year prison sentence for anyone criticizing the government during World War I? Why did he conscript a million men who were packed like sardines into ships and sent overseas to join a war that had already killed five million men? Was it because Americans were convinced the State was acting in their defense?
“Okay, but what about the 'good war,’ you ask. World War II was different. The so-called 'good war' was the costliest conflict in human history. Civilian deaths outnumbered military deaths by over 16 million and total deaths on both sides exceeded 72 million. The 'good war' saw the guys in white hats set the precedent for dropping nuclear weapons on mostly civilian populations. Who was being defended when we incinerated two hundred thousand people whose leaders had earlier asked to negotiate a conditional surrender, a condition we ultimately agreed to?
“Was the State defending its citizens during the build-up to war when we neglected to tell Pearl Harbor commanders Short and Kimmel an attack was imminent? Twenty-four hundred troops lost their lives in that attack to join a war the president promised we would never join. The man who made the promise had an eight-point provocation plan to get Japan to attack us.
“Did the war in Vietnam stop communism in its tracks and keep other dominoes from falling? The only thing it stopped were the lives of 58,209 American soldiers and several million Vietnamese civilians. And these figures don't include countless others who suffered and perished from Agent Orange exposure.
“Were your trillions of dollars in taxes at work on 9-11 defending Americans from terrorist hijackers? And did you get your money's worth later, when the president invaded a country posing no threat to our security and having no connection to the attacks?
“I don't have time to talk about inflation and its role in the State's growth and wars, other than to say most people buy our claim that the Federal Reserve is our number one inflation fighter. Ironically, it's true but only because the Fed is the sole source of inflation. It's a little like saying Al Capone was Chicago 's number one crime fighter. To lower the incidence of crime, all Capone had to do was let up on it.
“The State makes its most significant inroads on liberty during major crises — wars and depressions, and more recently pandemics. The State is primarily responsible for bringing about, intensifying, and prolonging these crises. You still think the State exists for your benefit?
“Change won't be easy because so many people feed at the federal trough. Ask them if they think we're plunderers or parasites or warmongers. To them we're compassionate visionaries and 'partners' in their success. Some of them are opinion-molders, and one way or another we take care of them. Is it any surprise they stand up for us?
“So there you have it. The only way you can beat us is with ideology, but we've got the majority of ideologists, both left and right, eagerly defending us. You'll have to educate yourselves and enough others to pose a threat. You’ve been trying since 1576 if not earlier. How’s that going?”
“If you understand all this,” I said, “why do you work for the State? Why aren't you fighting it?”
“Because my family and I have a nasty habit. We like to eat. See ya ‘round.”
George Ford Smith is the author of eight books and welcomes speaking engagements. Contact: gfs543@iCloud.com