Their Crisis, Our Leviathan
Mises Daily Article
dailyarticle at mises.org
Tue Sep 28 07:24:25 PDT 2004
Their Crisis, Our Leviathan
by Gregory Bresiger
<http://www.mises.org/fullstory.aspx?Id=1621>[Posted September 28, 2004]
The circus is coming to your town soon. Maybe, Im getting old, but I just
cant get very excited about the clowns anymore.
Yup, its political season again and those bothersome pols, still lusting
for the votes that put or keep themselves and their pals in office, will be
in our faces until the nonsense is over.
Time for the same tired two parties to trot out the same moronic messages
that challenge the credulity of anyone with a healthy three figure IQ.
Time for the same politicos, with "solutions" to every problem under the
sun, to promise endless new programs, the expansion of existing failed
programs, yet also swear that tax cuts will also be on the way once theyre
given more control over our lives.
Time for the professional political classboth the ruling Republicans and
Democratsto go through the idiocy of a so-called competitive campaign and
the pretense of supposedly differing philosophies.
Time for those hopelessly inane tube "debates." Time for the republics
fortunes to turn on such crucial points as how a candidate looks on the
idiot box, which candidate shaved
or which slick candidate can come up with the best crackpot idea, an idea
that later usually proves to be a figment of his imagination (the
nonexistent missile gap flim flam of the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon presidential
campaign is one
Time for a presidential debate commission, stacked with only Republican and
Democrat party hacks, to insist that debates cannot ever include any third
parties anytime because it would be too dangerous for the average American
to hear a different idea or a now radical viewpoint such as less government.
Time for John Kerry to promise to balance the budget, yet not propose one
major cut in a federal program.
Time for George Bush to claim his opposition to big government, yet not
mention how he made tens of millions of dollars in a shady deal that
included government subsidized construction of a new stadium for the Texas
Rangers baseball team, a sleazy transaction in which the powers of eminent
domain were perverted to make Bush, then owner of the team, even
Time again for the polsor least some of the smarter of these shystersto
include a Munich-like promise to "get Washington off our backs." Time for
the weak-minded among the voters to play the role of Neville Chamberlain
("Here it is. Herr Hitler signed it," said Chamberlain of Hitlers signed
promise to leave everyone alone in 1938. That was a promise with all the
credibility of Bill Clintons middle-class tax cut promise or Lying Baines
Johnsons 1964 promise not to send more troops to Vietnam or Ronald
Reagans 1980 campaign promise to close down the departments of Energy and
Education or. . . .).
Time for our masters to duck the question that most economically illiterate
journalists arent inclined to ask: Who pays for government writ large and
its endless expansions in peacetime, wartime, and anytime in the middle?
As one listens to the perpetual seekers of office, with their vows of
delivering utopia on earth provided we give them our votes, remember this
in case you become a bit wobbly and suspect that youre ready to swallow
one or more of their monkeyshinesWashingtons world saving doesnt come
Never has. Never will.
Such is the nature of leviathan government. It is classical liberals such
as Professor Robert Higgs (See his wonderful
and the mid-Victorian radical Richard
remind us that democratic governments follow predictable patterns.
They stumble or run into crisis after crisis. Then the government insists
that this justifies it arrogating more power. That, of course, always must
include a bigger bit of your property. The latter is accomplished through
higher state, federal, or municipal taxes or the use of the stealth tax.
The latter is the insidious inflation dodge, a piece of legerdemain that
governments have been using over centuries to take bigger and bigger bites
of your property.
Then these democratic nationswhich, by the way, increasingly contain more
and more people who want no part of the political processlater concede the
crisis was nonexistent or overstated. One can cite many examples of
bogeymen never materializing.
The Soviets, despite the plaudits of liberal/socialist economists in the
West and the warnings of internationalist conservatives who said that they
were ten feet tall, had a Potemkin Village economy. They were never going
to overtake the United States in nuclear weapons or GDP. The world was not
about to run out of oil in the 1970s. The Sandinistas never had the power
to march into Texas. What ever happened to the global ice age that was
supposed to be coming? Will it happen before or after global warming?
Saddam Hussein, apparently, didnt have weapons of mass destruction that he
was about to fire at the United States. And if the corrupt House of Saud,
an invention of the British Empire, is about to fall, how, exactly, does
this square with sacrificing the lives of young Americans, whose Western
values are hated by our Saudi allies?
Kerry and Bush are unlikely to address these "Crisis and Leviathan"
scenarios. Thats because they both essentially believe that the United
States government must continue to be a warfare/welfare state with its
fingers in every domestic and foreign pie. Although they may disagree on
some of the tactics of this America as a great interventionist power model,
neither is ready to junk it and return to the traditional foreign policy of
Washington advocated not "isolationism," but trade and good relations with
all nations and no permanent military alliances. These enlightened policies
of Washington, a man so unlike the career politicians who dominate our
nation today, were once the bedrock of American policy and were also the
bible of the radical little Englander movement of Richard Cobden of the
Now these ideas seem like relics. They are ridiculed as outdated by the
dominant media and their allies in government and the academy. That is,
until the next Vietnam or Iraq or Somalia blows up in our faces.
How far we have come. Washington hated political parties and couldnt wait
to return to private life. He also kept the U.S. clear of major wars that
would have likely wrecked our young republic. Our leaders today seem like a
modern day Palmerston. He was the mid-Victorian British foreign minister
and prime minister ever ready to plunge his nation into endless wars. Our
Palmerstonian foreign policy today seems to generate "endless
The rejection of Washingtons pacific, noninterventionist foreign policy is
the tragedy of our nation. Thats because the mistakes are neither
understood nor are the consequences appreciated. War is more than the
health of the military industry complex. A huge welfare state usually goes
along with an imperial foreign policy. Theodore Roosevelt and his
Progressive allies of the early 20th century advocated both. They reversed
the classical liberal/Jeffersonian foundations of our original
Even Roosevelts opponent in the presidential election of 1912, Woodrow
Wilson, ended up adopting many of these nationalist ideas. The New
Nationalism of Roosevelt ended up transforming Wilsons New Freedom, which
originally was supposed to be an attempt to restate Jeffersonian ideas.
Despite the enmity between Roosevelt, the man who gloried in war, and
Wilson, the differences between the men, in the end, were reduced to almost
nothing. It was Wilson who gloried in American interventions around the
globe, vowing to make the people of Latin America elect good men and who
promised "to make the world safe for democracy."
How different is that from what FDR, Kennedy, and Johnson did and Nixon
did? How different is that from what both Kerry and Bush now promise,
although they might disagree on some of the methods of how to achieve these
common goals? So our bipartisan policy now for over a century has been the
policy of the so-called continual crisis of the leviathan, regardless of
whether Democrats or Republicans ruled.
The rationale of this imperial republic justifies the expenditure of
billions of dollars, the constant waging of misguided or tragic wars and
the right to snoop further into the lives of average Americans. Wilson set
up a special intelligence unit to spy on blacks during World War I, a war
in which he tried to ride roughshod over
jailed thousands of loyal Japanese-Americans. Thousands of Americans were
blacklisted during the Cold War. The National Security State, created after
World War II, sanctioned illegal spying conducted by the Central
Intelligence Agency, which was not supposed to conduct domestic spying,
according to its charter.
What do Kerry and Bush have to say about this? What will they do to prevent
a repeat of these injustices and tragedies? Their answers come with the
incongruities of their actions. Kerry voted for the war resolution
authorizing war against Iraq. Then he turned around and voted against
funding. Bush, in the presidential election in 2000, said he feared that
U.S. troops were engaged into too much nation building. Over the last four
years, he has sent troops to many countries, not just to battle terrorism,
but to "bring democracy" to various parts of the world that have never
known democracy. Does Bush, never a student of history, realize how much he
is aping Wilson?
I doubt it.
Will both Bush or Kerry be allowed to escape history? Will they even be
asked to address the potential dangers of a huge state with almost
unlimited powers, a state that is no less dangerous than any tyranny just
because elections are held from time to time with pre-determined outcomes
(We know either a Democrat or a Republican is going to win every
significant office in this country. It has been set up that way and people
who object are usually ostracized or ridiculed as
But, as these two bands of ruling parties do their best to avoid difficult
issues. The average American asks very little even as he is mulcted every
day of the week. Americans merely want to go about their business without
the prying eyes of bureaucrats who can ruin their lives with one or more
administrative rulings (See Joe Louis, various Indian nations, Abbott and
Costello, Muhammad Ali, etc. . . .). The pattern is predictable. When were
speaking of money and power, the crisis never ends as far as our rulers are
concerned. Thats because they need the leviathan; it serves their
For example, despite the end of the Soviet Union or the end of the Great
Depression and similar crises, never ever does any government go back to
the levels of spending and authority that preceded the mess. The costs of
all this Perils of Pauline polity are incredible. They should cause outrage
because we pay the piper, as will many generations unborn. The costs of
government by world savers, human and economic, are always staggering once
a Gibbon or a Mises or Robert Conquest or a Rothbard has totted up the bill.
Regardless of whether were speaking in terms of debased dollars or, more
importantly, the loss of lives from perpetual Wilsonian military
interventions, the tragic errors have been, and will continue to be, signed
off on by both major parties. Thats the price of power that these folks,
who think of power as the ultimate aphrodisiac, are more than willing to
pay. After all, their children usually go to private schools and are
unlikely to end up on the firing line in some place like Iraq.
Unfortunately, it is the average American who has been and will continue to
be hurt in so many ways. This is thanks to the chicanery of a government he
or she probably doesnt support or votes for with a finger firmly held on
>From Iraq to prescription drug plans to sad sack Amtrak (the Acela is an
expensive joke, which is anything but a high-speed train, yet charges
premium fares for a railroad that continues to run in the red), to state
so bad that it would have surprised even socialists Bertrand Russell or
the accumulation of power by our central government and the money it spends
are mind boggling.
Shouldnt some hardy soul, with an understanding that the original
constitution was designed to give Americans limited government, ask Jorge
II or the homeless Senator from
for an accounting of all this? And shouldnt one of our rulers at least
issue a perfunctionary promise that there will be limitations on
Washington? Not that many people would actually believe such a promise of
limitations. But we have traveled so far down "The Road to
it is unlikely our would-be Caesars will even be going through the motions
of pretending to be Jeffersonians?
Heres the sorry truth that you will never hear over the next few months
from most of the network nitwits and the other members of the elite Eastern
media, who are a willing part of the charade of the election circus. The
political carnival, which once entertained us when we were children the
same as all clowns can win the favor of delighted little children, is now a
tired, overpriced show. It should have been cancelled decades ago.
The circus does nothing but take our money and lots of it. It doesnt even
provide good entertainment. Political conventions decide nothing. The
biggest decision is usually when to unleash the balloons. Even the tv
networks, notorious for playing to the lowest common denominator, weary
of the Big Top tonterias. Less frequently do they send their human blanks
to gape at the spectacle of pols and their relatives baying for the
cameras. Under our fraudulent two party system, two bands of pirates offer
big or bigger government with no mention of how much this will cost us. We
will pay, among other ways, through the hidden tax called inflation.
It is an insidious system. It gives us more by actually giving us less.
That means we seem to have more money, the nominal amount of the money in
our pockets or in the bank is larger. The economy seems to humming along.
Stock prices and earnings seem to grow by huge amounts over the long term.
But it is a
Our judgment has been distorted by the long-term effects of inflation and
the destructive policies of the central
These devalued dollars actually can buy fewer things. And this cycle of
spending and inflating will worsen unless there is a signal change among
tens of millions of Americans who are disgusted, but feel compelled to vote
for one of these two windjammers. They just want to go about their
business, work harder and be left alone. This kind of person is the
He has increasingly been pushed into the background by special interests
and those forever demanding more of the welfare state.
Still, the apolitical forgotten man only wants to be left alone, much to
the joy of the political junkies who really dont care how illegitimate the
system becomes or how few voters go to the polls. Thats provided that
their boy and their party wins. And they get to carve up the biggest slice
of the jobs, power and authority. Unfortunately, much as many of us would
wish it, most of this Black Horse Cavalry will not go away.
We, and our children and their children, will pay through higher federal
income tax rates and state taxes will rise too. Thats regardless of
whether we end up with a "fiscal conservative" or a liberal Democrat in
November. In fact, given the wild-eyed spending of the Republican
administration of the last four years, the socialists of the Bubba
administration actually now look relatively less inimical to liberty than
George IIs crew of neocons. The more bookish of this Bush crowdwhose
predecessors banished the so-called "isolationist" wing of the GOP in
imbibed too much of the bible of the Archangel Woodrow Wilson.
Here was the prototype for almost every modern president celebrated by
mainstream historians as "great." Historians love Wilson, as do most modern
presidents. But his legacy, as he left office in 1921, was a nation
overtaxed, disappointed, in the middle of a depression and with civil
liberties under attack by an attorney general run
Sound familiar? Wilson left office as one of the more unpopular presidents
in the republics
the same fate awaiting a Bush or a Kerry in 2008?
Despite widespread suspicion of the men and women who lord over us today,
all of our political ruling class obviously make a very good living from
picking the pockets of average people who pay for the federal governments
endless failed experiments in foreign and domestic social engineering. But
they couldnt do it without help. Large elements of the major media are on
board. And the hired help during this election season will have plenty of
slaves in the media to remind us how lucky we are to be living under this
regime or how lucky we will be if Kerry and his cutthroats replace Bush and
his cutthroats. These trained seals of the media will implore us "to vote."
They will also ridicule third parties.
Some of the slick ones on the network will goose step to the socialist line
of government on top of government with more government to follow. They
will point out that the United States, even with higher taxes, still has
tax rates that are much lower than France, Canada and
course, these nations are closer to a socialist model than we are and are
also nations that have much higher unemployment rates and lower growth
rates. But those are facts that are usually not mentioned or get sparse
attention when the subject of taxes is discussed in most major media. And
besides which, many of our taxes are now on the fast track. With a few more
years of the leviathan, we can certainly catch up with our Western European
and Canadian counterparts.
For example, let us not forget the ubiquitous social insurance tax. It is a
wretched impost, especially for the lower-middle class, working poor and
those who are self-employed (The latter have no employer to pay the
employers half of FICA. So they get a double dose of payroll taxes).
Thanks to the Kerrys and the Bushes, the next generation of
Americansbarring a miraclewill also pay higher payroll tax rates. These
rates will go up and up as they have over the last 32 years at an
accelerated pace. Republicans and Democrats have both signed off on a venal
system in which the "trust fund" is used for anything and everything. But
due to our flawed system of politics, the major candidates surely will not
be forced to answer any substantial questions on this issue other than to
say, "I support Social Security."
Neither will be required to explain why there have been dozens of payroll
tax increases over the years or why the system runs into trouble every
decade or so. Neither will have to field a question over how anyone in the
private sector could legally run a trust fund the way the government
pillages the Social Security trust fund and not end up in the slammer. And
heres another one that Teresa Heinzs consort and George Herbert Walker
Bushs hijo should have to answer. How the hell did this payroll tax get so
high? Let history answer.
It is because President Nixon and the Democratic Congress of 1972both
exhibiting the notorious trait of almost all politicos, the overwhelming
desire to get re-elected no matter the long term consequencesapproved big
Social Security benefits increases along with ill-considered automatic cost
of living adjustments (colas) back in the disco era. They sent out the
notices of the benefits increasesyou guessed itjust before the elections,
which most incumbents won (Nixon was re-elected. Congress remained under
the control of Democrats). The pols "gave us" (sic) these benefits hikes
with little thought of how they would hurt Americans who had to pay for
them in the 1980s and
This was the kind of Pavlovian action of all career politicos who subscribe
to economist John Maynard Keynes. ("In the long run, were all dead.,"
Keynes was famously quoted as saying. Yes, and also much poorer, Mr.
Keynes). Watch for a repeat of this Keynesian electioneering when the
circus comes to your town.
This increase benefits you as much as it can in an election year, and
forget about the bills has been a disastrous policy that has hurt
generations and generations of Americans. Still, many Americans have no
idea what a FICA is. But they understand that, whatever the hell a FICA is,
it eats up a hell of a lot of their hard-earned dinero. This irresponsible
philosophy has also meant that tens of millions of workersmany with rather
modest incomesare paying more in payroll taxes than they do in income
The payroll tax has become the de facto second income tax of millions of
Americans. Thats unless, of course, one lives here in the Peoples Republic
de Nueva York. In this "enlightened" place, we have both a city and state
income tax. Here one can pay four income taxes! And neither of the major
parties here in the Rancid Apple ever suggests that maybe four income taxes
on top of everything else that one must pay to his masters are too much of
a burden. Just as it ridiculous to expect Republicans to dismantle the
leviathan on the Potomachavent they been running things for the last four
years?so, too, it is silly to think that their counterparts in big cities
are generally the enemies of paternal government.
So once again, the fraud of a two-party runaway democracy is about to be
perpetuated with the connivance of most major media outlets. And who knows
how much it will cost us and generations to come? Whatever it is, it will
be a lot more than the estimates we get. The government, which often fudges
numbers, doesnt want you to know the truth, just as your parents shielded
you from many of lifes unpleasantries.
But youre not a child anymore, even though your government apparently
treats you as though you are perpetually one.
Time to put away childish things. Its time to stop going to the circus.
Gregory Bresiger is an editor in New
York. <mailto:gbresiger at hotmail.com>gbresiger at hotmail.com. See his
on the <http://www.mises.org/blog>blog.
This is not an exaggeration. It is widely conceded that Richard Nixon lost
the televised presidential debate of 1960 because he had five oclock
Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the great liberal historian and Kennedy aide,
concedes that the campaign issue of the U.S falling behind the Russians in
missile production was a canard. Once in office, "the issue finally
withered away," Schlesinger writes in his book, "A Thousand Days," p. 499
(Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1965). Yet Kennedy, ever the big
government advocate, still went ahead with a nuclear arms buildup that was
The whole slimy story is available in "The Buying of the President 2004,"
by Charles Lewis, pp. 15055 and pp. 16869. (Harper Collins, New York,
See "Crisis and Leviathan," by Robert Higgs, (New York, Oxford University
See "The Three Panics," a pamphlet from "The Political Writings of Richard
Cobden," (New York: Garland Publishing, 1973).
"We ought to have commercial intercourse with all, but political ties with
none," said Washington, a piece of advice that would have him branded "an
isolationist" today. Washington also cautioned against almost all foreign
alliances. "American has no motive for forming such connections and very
powerful motives for avoiding them." See "John Marshall, Definer of a
Nation," by Jean Edward Smith, p. 243, (New York, Henry Holt & Co., 1996)
It all sounds radical now, but for a century America adhered to many of
these common sense ideas.
See Jonathan Kwitnys book, "Endless Enemies: The Making of an Unfriendly
World." (New York: Congdon and Weed, 1984).
See "Free Speech in the United States," by Zechariah Chafee, Jr., p. 273,
(Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1967).
9) As I write this, word comes that Ralph Nader was denied credentials to
attend the Democratic convention. Some democrats just cant stop blaming
him for Gore losing the 2000 presidential election. I doubt any of them
were angry that Perot helped elect Clinton in 1992 or ask why Gore couldnt
carry his own state or West Virginia, traditional Democratic states that
went for Bush.
"The truth is that schools dont really teach anything except how to obey
orders." So wrote John Taylor Gotto, who has been an award winning public
school teacher. See his "Dumbing Us Down. The Hidden Curriculum of
Compulsory School," p. 25, (New Society Publishers, Philadelphia, 1991).
Both Russell and Mill, socialists who hoped that society would evolve away
from private property, nevertheless were fearful of state education,
believing its dangers far outweighed any of its potential benefits. For
example, Mill, in "On Liberty, warned that " a general state education is a
mere contrivance for molding people to be exactly like one another; and as
the mold in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power
in the government, whether this be a monarch, a priesthood, an aristocracy,
or the majority of the existing generation; in proportion as it is
efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading
by natural tendency to one over the body." See "The Utilitarians, p. 587,
(Doubleday & Co, Garden City, New York, 1961).
In his "gypsy years," before he married Teresa Heinz, John Kerry had no
permanent address in the Bay State. Senators are supposed to have permanent
addresses in the state they represent. But not John Kerry, who sometimes
stayed rent-free in the condo of his chief fundraiser. See "John Kerry. The
Complete Biography by The Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best," by
Michael Kranish, Brian C. Mooney and Nina J. Easton, p. 238, (Public
Affairs, New York, 2004).
See F.A. Hayeks "The Road to Serfdom." (The University of Chicago Press)..
Here he warned, some 60 years ago, that," We are rapidly abandoning not the
views merely of Cobden and Bright, of Adam Smith and Hume, or even of Locke
and Milton, but one of the salient characteristics of Western civilization
as it has grown from the foundations laid by the Christians and the Greeks
and Romans." P. 17.
"Inflation from 1988 through the end of 2002 was 52%. What cost $100 in
1988 would cost $152.01 in 2002. If earnings only kept up with inflation,
they would grow from $23.75 in 1988 to $36.10 in 2003. That means that
earnings barely kept up with inflation, growing less than $1 ($.92) in
real, inflation adjusted terms in 15 years! That is a total growth of less
than four percent and clearly a compounded growth of less than 0.5%" From
"Bulls Eye Investing. Targeting Real Returns in a Smoke and Mirrors
Market," by John Maudlin, p. 105, (John Wiley & Sons, New York, 2004).
"What makes us rich," writes Murray Rothbard, "is an abundance of goods,
and what limits that abundance is a scarcity of resources: . . .
Multiplying coin will not whisk these resources into being. We may feel
twice as rich for the moment, but clearly all we are doing is diluting the
money supply." P. 33. See Rothbards "<http://www.mises.org/money.asp>What
Has Government Done to Our Money?"
"Here," wrote William Graham Sumner about a century ago, " we have the
Forgotten Man again, and once again we find him worthy of all respect and
consideration, but passed by in favor of the noisy, pushing and
incompetent." From "Social Darwinsim. Selected Essays of William Graham
Sumner," p. 127, (Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1963).
The Republican Party, in 1952, turned away from "isolationism when it
turned its back on Senator Robert Taft. He was "the Reluctant Dragon,
unable to wage permanent war against the Soviet menace." The party,
instead, turned to the "internationalist" Dwight Eisenhower. See "Prophets
on the Right. Profiles of Conservative Critics of American Globalism," by
Ronald Radosh, p. 192, (Simon and Shuster, New York, 1975).
"The Politics of War. The Story of Two Wars which Altered Forever the
Political Life of the American Republic (18901920)" by Walter Karp,
Harper Row, New York, 1979).
Germany has "double" the unemployment rate of the United States. See the
"Wall Street Journal" op-ed page of August 2, 2004,. "Auf Wiedersehen to
the Leisure Economy, " p. A11.
See my "<http://www.mises.org/fullstory.aspx?control=344>The Social
Security Deal of 1972" at mises.org or simply by doing on an on line search
using my name.
Alexis de Tocquevilles "Democracy in America." Here De Tocqueville, over a
century and a half ago, warned of the potential for an administrative
despotism that would be unlike any other tyranny ever experienced in
history. "It would resemble parental authority, if, fatherlike, it tried to
prepare its charges for a mans life, but on the contrary, it only tries to
keep them in perpetual childhood." P. 692, Vol II, (Perrenial Classics, New
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