by Carl Watner
The International Society for Individual Liberty (1800 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102) published a three-fold brochure entitled: “Red Alert: The Rising American Police State.” The author, Jarret Wollstein, argued that “a tidal wave of authoritarian legislation has been battering America.” While I highly recommend this article to readers of THE VOLUNTARYIST, my two initial reactions to the piece were 1) “the rising American police state”?—The American police state has already risen. The fact is simply that no one calls it that. 2) “authoritarian legislation”?—What other kind of legislation is there?
What is in store for us in the 21st Century? The political scene—even before the last presidential election—looks worse and worse every year. It is my contention that we are living in a dictatorship in all but name. Living in a republic, where people “rule” themselves, and participate in electoral politics, is no guarantee that we cannot lose (or have not lost) our liberties.
The big picture is that time has already run out on America. The government of the United States has spent itself into bankruptcy in every way but name. The national debt increases every year, and ever larger portions of the federal budget are required just to service the interest on this borrowing. We have a rotten currency, which buys less and less. Historically this has been an invitation for a political strong man to take power. Napoleon followed the assignats of the French Revolution; Hitler followed the inflation of the German mark after World War I. While history seldom repeats itself in exactly the same way, America is following the footsteps of other world empires whose demise has been recorded by historians. America is so close to the edge of disaster that it hardly matters what emergency strikes us next—a currency crisis threatening the U.S. dollar or any major world monetary unit, a financial apocalypse or meltdown of international stock markets, or a nuclear threat from one of the former communist states. Any or all of these could be the catalyst for the formal declaration of martial law in America, and the abrogation of more of our economic and civil liberties.
Barring such potential catastrophes and measures, what proof can I offer to substantiate my claim that a police state already exists? Mo matter how conscientiously a person strives to avoid involvement with the State, every American finds him or her self entangled and ensnared with the statist beast to some degree. The result?—A loss of precious liberty, and encounters with a propaganda machine of enormous proportions and finely honed techniques. Every major area of life is regulated, controlled, or touched by some level of American government. For example—
- Children are:
- registered at birth by their state governments.
- assigned social security numbers by the Federal government.
- required to attend school, with proper immunizations and records, and even “home schools” are legislatively supervised by the states or counties.
- State and county governments collect real estate and personal property taxes in their respective jurisdictions.
- State governments collect income taxes and sales taxes on nearly all purchases, even out-of-state ones.
- The Federal government collects not only income and social security taxes on all world-wide earnings of individual Americans, but taxes capital gains, gifts, gasoline, and levies on their estates when they die.
- County, state, and federal licensure laws affect every area of human activity, from driving a car to running a business, from practicing a profession to building a house, from receiving medical treatment to the food you eat.
- Americans are required to use their social security “identifier” in hospitals, schools, banks, in real estate transactions, passport and employment applications, drivers license, etc., etc.
- The Federal government mandates that you have an American passport in order to enter the country upon return from travel abroad.
- The American monetary system is based on fiat. Money is what the federal government says it is. Who else but the Federal government could create a piece of paper with the denomination “$100 dollars” printed upon it (costing about 4 cents to produce) and exchange it for real goods and services to the tune of $100?
- The existence of local, state, and federal civil asset forfeiture and seizure laws, as well as money-laundering statutes, enables government agencies to confiscate any property—including your cash money—without any indictment, trial, or conviction.
- Restrictions on the ownership and use of private property have become widespread—whether it be real estate or personal property (from the banning of firearm ownership and drugs to the prohibitions on the development of designated wetlands).
This was written in 1993. Twenty years later, the entire article still applies, though some of its predictions have come true already…
“With millions of laws now on the books, there isn’t a single person in America who hasn’t broken some of them.” The real purpose of all these laws? There is no way that each and every one of them can foster the “general welfare,” for at least one or more persons are always worse off than if there had been no such law(s). The real purpose of government legislation is to create a nation of lawbreakers, who can be alternately cajoled into line with feelings of guilt or slapped into shape by the threat of guns, jails, and confiscation. Government law enforcers want a populace which they can easily manipulate and control, whether it be by the carrot or the stick. Where else but in America can you find a formerly “free” people with such a plethora of government as they or their “elected” representatives have appointed? Americans are now experiencing what they asked for. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon described this process of “governing” over a century ago:
And of course, all this is done in the name of the people, by the people, for the people!
In his book, TOTALITARIANISM (1972), Leonard Schapiro describes “the 6 point syndrome” (originally formulated by Professor Carl Friedrich in 1954) which characterizes political efforts to totally control all human activity in a given society. Judge for yourself how close the United States comes to fitting this description:
- an official ideology to which everyone is supposed to adhere.
- a single mass party (led by one man) organized hierarchically and intertwined with the state bureaucracy
- a near-complete monopoly of all weapons of armed combat
- a near-complete monopoly over all means of mass communication
- a system of physical and/or psychological terroristic police control
- central control and direction of the entire economy.
As the old saying goes, “If the shoe fits, wear it!” In his article, “Propaganda—American Style” (see THE VOLUNTARYIST, Whole No. 37, April 1989), Noam Chomsky observed that “in a state such as the U.S. where the government can t control the people by force, it had better control what they think. The American State accomplishes this largely through the medium of “free public education,” a misnomer if there ever was one. Not only is such schooling not free (somebody always pays the cost), but it is damaging to one’s mental health (and in many places, even dangerous to one’s physical health—because the threat of physical violence is becoming more and more prevalent in the public schools). Public schools, in conjunction with the media, teach people to accept “double think,” to believe that government is as necessary as food, shelter, and clothing. Hence, most people cannot understand the “real” world (natural law) principles upon which the free market is based, and that “private property is a total concept.”
In a similar manner, Schapiro comments that the ruling elite “can, by control over education and over all information entering the country, and by the extensive use of modern technical methods of propaganda, and monopoly of propaganda, indoctrinate or condition the inhabitants in such a way that they voluntarily believe what the ruling elite requires them to believe.” Furthermore, he notes that the mobilization of the nation (for the purpose of fighting an enemy or winning a war) “logically entails the ultimate complete control over private property. And since property is one of the main safeguards of the individual against the encroachments of government, mobilization thereby contributes to the total enslavement of the population.” As property becomes less and less private, and more and more public, the government exercises greater and greater control over the livelihood of every individual in the country. The increasing absence of private property makes it more and more difficult for the individual to emancipate himself from the State by creating material independence. Thus government control over one’s employment becomes “an effective substitute for physical terror.”
Every State, to exist, needs to search for and attain a certain minimum degree of legitimacy. Principles of legitimacy determine who has the right and title to govern—in other words, “who has the right to be obeyed.” The consent and cooperation of a majority of the populace, whether it be active or tacit, is required to establish that legitimacy. While recognizing the importance of State legitimacy, the voluntaryist views all compulsory government as inherently arbitrary and coercive. To the voluntaryist a man is still a slave who is required to submit even to the best of laws or the mildest form of forceful government. Coercion is still coercion no matter how nicely it is administered or no matter how small the dose.
Practically all political regimes, even the most coercive and totalitarian, seek to legitimize themselves through some sort of electoral process, however forced or faked it might be. In his article, “Elections, Liberty, and the Consequences of Consent,” in his book DO ELECTIONS MATTER? (1986), Benjamin Ginsberg points out that “democratic elections are typically introduced where governments are unable to compel popular acquiescence. In a sense, elections are inaugurated in order to persuade a resistant populace to surrender at least some of its freedom and allow itself to be governed. …Participation is offered to citizens as a substitute for freedom.”
Faced with the choice of what appears to be “government or freedom “, government propagandists strive to convince everyone that the choice is not a mutually exclusive one. “Governments are the preservers of our liberties. Governments are needed to protect private property,” they claim. The reality in both cases is just the opposite. This propaganda, usually so successful, increases the certainty of our having some sort of coercive government. The outlook remains just as De Tocqueville painted it: “the citizens will simply continue to take pride in their grips on what, more and more, constitute only the ends of their own chains.”
Addendum: After this article was written, an acquaintance showed me a copy of THE McALVANY INTELLIGENCE ADVISOR of January 1993. This 24-page report is titled “The Fourth Reich: Toward An American Police State.” I recommend this to anyone needing more evidence that the “fourth reich” is already here in America. A photocopy of it may be obtained for $3 postpaid to US addresses, or $5 outside the US, from THE VOLUNTARYIST.
[These excerpts first appeared in Issue 62 of THE VOLUNTARYIST, June 1993.]