Thursday, April 17, 2014

Programs, Motivations, And Popular Acceptance

    "Of all the musts and must-nots of warfare, this one is paramount: you must conceal your motives. Unless he is insignificant in comparison to you, once your opponent knows your motives, he'll be able to defeat you. He'll probably even have a choice of ways to do it.
    "You must move heaven and earth, if necessary, to discover your opponent's motives. His tactics will be determined by them. If his motives change, his tactics will follow. There lies your opportunity, if you can get him to adopt tactics unsuitable to the conflict. Of course, he could try to do the same to you."
    "What's the countermeasure?"
    "Constancy. Refusal to let yourself be diverted. Of course, that can be a trap, too. Motive is partly determined by objectives. If your adversary's situation changes but his objectives remain the same, he could find himself committed to paying an exorbitant price for something that's become worthless."
    "And that's the time to stop playing with his head?"
    His grin was ice-cold. "You have a gift."

[From On Broken Wings]

The piece immediately below emphasizes the power of gradualism to achieve the sort of absolute tyranny to which the Communists and Nazis aspired but which they were unable to cement in place. The parable of "The Wild Pigs of the Okefenokee Swamp" underlines the importance, in pursuing such a strategy, of keeping the intended subjects' eyes fixed upon something positive and desirable while their freedom is being pared away. The combination, and the efficacy it has demonstrated in these United States since the New Deal, compels us to address certain associated questions:

  1. Are all "social benefit" programs evilly motivated?
  2. If the answer to #1 is no, what accounts for their "unintended consequences?"
  3. How can Americans be weaned off the State's teat?

There are no more vital questions in our national discourse.

In order to obtain and hold power, a man must love it. Thus the effort to get it is not likely to be coupled with goodness, but with the opposite qualities of pride, cunning, and cruelty. -- Leo Tolstoy

It chafes me, but I must reluctantly concede that not all proposed "social programs" are motivated by a desire to use them to advance totalitarian tyranny. At least, that appears to be the case when such programs are first proposed. Indeed, good intentions seem to be the rule rather than the exception.

But good intentions are far less potent than the laws of Nature.

The dynamic of politics is ruthless in selecting for ruthlessness. He who wants power most, and is willing to set aside all moral and ethical constraints to get and keep it, is most likely to hold it. Therefore, no politician should be assumed ab initio to be motivated by good intentions. Exceptions to this pattern are rare.

More, and critically more important, political acumen -- i.e., the body of expertise relevant to obtaining and keeping power -- increases from generation to generation. Each wave of aspirants to power learns from the experiences of the previous ones. In particular, politician Smith learns from the achievements of his predecessors what will win the populace's acceptance, and what price we're willing to pay for it.

Though the New Deal first federalized welfare -- what was then called "relief" -- FDR and his lieutenants were not unaware of what it would buy them. They had the effects of state and local relief programs to study, plus the remarkable success Bismarckian social programs had achieved in persuading the German people to accept essentially totalitarian rule. In every case, the disbursement of a valuable benefit by a government purchased the political allegiance of its beneficiaries for those identified with the program. Here's how Garet Garrett put it in "The Revolution Was:"


This was not a specific problem. It was rather a line of principle to which the solution of every other problem was referred. As was said before, in no problem to be acted upon by the New Deal was it true that one solution and one only was imperative. In every case there was some alternative. But it was as if in every case the question was, "Which course of action will tend more to increase the dependence of the individual upon the Federal government?"—and as if invariably the action resolved upon was that which would appeal rather to the weakness than to the strength of the individual.

And yet the people to be acted upon were deeply imbued with the traditions and maxims of individual resourcefulness—a people who grimly treasured in their anthology of political wisdom the words of Grover Cleveland, who vetoed a Federal loan of only ten thousand dollars for drought relief in Texas, saying: "I do not believe that the power and duty of the general Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering. . . . A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power should, I think, be steadfastly resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that though the people support the Government the Government should not support the people....Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our National character."

Which was only one more way of saying a hard truth that was implicit in the American way of thinking, namely, that when people support the government they control government, but when the government supports the people it will control them.

Well, what could be done with a people like that? The answer was propaganda. The unique American tradition of individualism was systematically attacked by propaganda in three ways, as follows:

Firstly, by attack that was direct, save only for the fact that the word individualism was qualified by the uncouth adjective rugged; and rugged individualism was made the symbol of such hateful human qualities as greed, utter selfishness, and ruthless disregard of the sufferings and hardships of one's neighbors;

Secondly, by suggestion that in the modern environment the individual, through no fault or. weakness of his own, had become helpless and was no longer able to cope with the adversities of circumstances. In one of his Fireside Chats, after the first six months, the President said: "Long before Inauguration Day I became convinced that individual effort and local effort and even disjointed Federal effort had failed and of necessity would fail, and, therefore, that a rounded leadership by the Federal Government had become a necessity both of theory and of fact." And,

Thirdly, true to the technic of revolutionary propaganda, which is to offer positive substitute symbols, there was held out to the people in place of all the old symbols of individualism the one great new symbol of security.

After the acts that were necessary to gain economic power the New Deal created no magnificent new agency that had not the effect of making people dependent upon the Federal government for security, income, livelihood, material satisfactions, or welfare.

If Grover Cleveland's understanding of the matter was that clear, you may be absolutely sure that the New Dealers' grasp of it was no less so. As for those who came after them, can you really doubt it?

Government means politics, and interference by government carries with it always the implication of coercion. We may accept the expanding power of bureaucrats so long as we bask in their friendly smile. But it is a dangerous temptation. Today politics may be our friend, and tomorrow we may be its victims. -- Owen D. Young

Though questions #1 and #2 seem to me to be adequately answered, I have no answer to question #3. Those who see are few; those who cannot or will not see are many. Worse, the latter vote more reliably and more predictably than most others. The State has met their price. They will defend the State, or at least those of its masters they believe to be "on their side," as long as the goodies keep coming, and will assail any contrary voice with the worst epithets they can muster. Freedom? Bah! When has that ever gotten anyone a free cell phone?

The mailed fist of tyranny within the velvet glove of social programs is either invisible or irrelevant to those addicted to State benefits.

If it seems to you, Gentle Reader, being an apostle of freedom and a believer in the right of the individual to do as he damned well pleases, that no sane man would sell his birthright for such compensation, you are to be commended. The reaction confirms your membership in The Remnant: Albert Jay Nock's term for that shrunken segment of the American people who can still see through the veils to discern what is truly and enduringly valuable:

"Ah," the Lord said [to Isaiah], "you do not get the point. There is a Remnant there that you know nothing about. They are obscure, unorganized, inarticulate, each one rubbing along as best he can. They need to be encouraged and braced up because when everything has gone completely to the dogs, they are the ones who will come back and build up a new society; and meanwhile, your preaching will reassure them and keep them hanging on. Your job is to take care of the Remnant, so be off now and set about it."

....In any given society the Remnant are always so largely an unknown quantity. You do not know, and will never know, more than two things about them. You can be sure of those — dead sure, as our phrase is — but you will never be able to make even a respectable guess at anything else. You do not know, and will never know, who the Remnant are, nor what they are doing or will do. Two things you do know, and no more: First, that they exist; second, that they will find you.

It is a terrible thing to know oneself so thinly supplied with confreres. Yet it is our job, as it was Isaiah's, to conserve it, to defend it, and to do what we can to enlarge it. And as Nock learned from his own experiences, it has its rewards as well. High among them is this: you make the right enemies. Enemies to be proud of.

Be not afraid.


Sergio said...

The second step in the Alcoholics Anonymous road to recovery is to believe that a higher power can restore sanity.

In my own walk with Christ, I witnessed, from the very first, liberty from substance abuse as a result of desiring God more than the rewards of the drug.

Many people in our country are addicted to the so-called benefits of state welfare.

The blessed way to get off this socio-political drug is to realize that there is something better awaiting in liberty. Part and parcel of that is recognizing God's providence for us, and seeing how that is given in spiritual liberty through Christ.

(Many worldly people intuitively see this liberty without Christ, just as the Gentiles saw God's law written in the creation without the benefit of his Word, but they too would be exceedingly blessed to partake of it through Christ.)

It's no coincidence that the Soviets and Maoists sought to deny the people a relationship with God, for Yahweh inherently dismantles the chains of bondage by relieving the individual of the need for temporal gratifications from the state by offering something better.

What do you need from the state once you realize that in all things God will provide through the riches in Christ Jesus?

The answer to question #3 is Christ.

But of course the lesser way of getting off this socio-political drug is simply to pull the plug, and let the addict suffer the effects of withdrawal.

Either way they will be better off than if they were to remain in bondage.

WalkingHorse said...

It chafes me, but I must reluctantly concede that not all proposed "social programs" are motivated by a desire to use them to advance t otalitarian tyranny. At least, that appears to be the case when such programs are first proposed. Indeed, good intentions seem to be the rule rather than the exception.

I must take exception. I have arrived at that point where I do not give people a pass on intentions. Anyone who proposes an action that affects others cannot be considered a benign actor if that person fails to seriously consider primary, secondary, and (to the degree possible) tertiary side effects. There is no excuse to imagining that any governmental action fails to have such side effects. The failure to soberly consider consequences is at best negligent, and may well be an indicator of ill intent.

Anonymous said...

I agree I want nothing but freedom. Obamacare sounded nice.but has already grown into a mutant pol tax, we be American. The evil this is.our government at all levels.has figured.out that if it.does.a poor.job it can actually ask!! A good job would actually give.politicians less.leverage to ask for more money. Look at public education. Doing.what Christ says is the only good we can truly do.