Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pro-Life v. the Nation-State System

Fans of Evelyn Waugh are sometimes surprised — pleasantly or otherwise — to discover that one of their favorite authors actually indulged in science fiction, both writing and reading it. Waugh's favorite sci-fi author seems to have been Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson.

We say "seems" because 1) we haven't asked Waugh — he's not returning our calls — and 2) we don't have any explicit statement to that effect from Waugh in his writings or anywhere else. All we have is the knowledge that Waugh thought very highly of Benson's work, and a number of Waugh's stories seem to be inspired by Benson's science fiction satires.

("Does that cover us, Lawyer Pettifogger?"
("Well, let me give that a qualified maybe . . ."
("We'll take that as a 'yes'.")

Thus we have Waugh's novella Love Among the Ruins: A Romance of the Near Future (1953), probably inspired by Benson's Lord of the World (1907). Today's versions of Love Among the Ruins usually omit Waugh's unsubtly humorous illustrations ("in the classical style"), which takes away some of the satire, but that bit of editorial silliness is not the reason for bringing all this up.

In the Socialist Welfare State that Waugh saw springing up in England following the Second World War, the State is seen as the bestower of all good, and the source of everything. "Lord (or God) save us!" has been replaced by "State save us!" as a common exclamation — and that's a mild example of Waugh's black humor.

The fact is that, with the rise of the Nation-State system over the past 500 years or so (and the Welfare State is simply the logical extension of the Nation-State's ever-growing intrusion into and control over the lives of the citizens), the natural law has been abandoned as the foundation of the social order. Instead of the State recognizing, protecting, and defining the proper exercise of humanity's God-given rights, the State itself becomes viewed as the source of those rights.

If the State is the source of all rights, including life, then it can grant or revoke them at will, and define the exercise thereof in any way it chooses, regardless whether the essence of the right is maintained or abolished — it's all one to the State, which thereby attains absolute power . . . just as Keynes supposed in his Treatise on Money (1930), with his claim that the State has total power over money, liberty, and nature itself with its (alleged) power to (in Keynes's words) "re-edit the dictionary."

Those who willingly surrender themselves and their natural rights of life, liberty, and property to the State in order to secure wage and welfare benefits thereby gain only slavery. They may be well-paid and well-cared-for slaves for a time (at least until the State goes bankrupt trying to fund social welfare programs and other forms of redistribution), but in the end, they are slaves. As William Cobbett reminded us nearly two centuries ago,

Freedom is not an empty sound; it is not an abstract idea; it is not a thing that nobody can feel. It means, — and it means nothing else, — the full and quiet enjoyment of your own property. If you have not this, if this be not well secured to you, you may call yourself what you will, but you are a slave. (William Cobbett, A History of the Protestant Reformation in England and Ireland, 1827, §456.)

Obviously, anyone who thinks that giving the State such power as a means of securing his or her own safety is deluded. The State never stops where you hope or think it will, but always goes a little bit beyond . . . and then only temporarily until people have become accustomed. At that point, the boundaries can be shifted even further out as the "zone of indifference" expands. As we have seen, neither the State with its welfare system, nor the private sector with its wage system has either the potential or the capacity to provide a stable foundation for the social order.

And this, of course, rules out the chance that a job can ever be a satisfactory substitute for property as a means of security. A dynamic capitalism and a static job situation simply do not go together. Nor can there be a high wage level for the marginal worker and at the same time sufficient enterprises to absorb the available supply of labor on the market. These things are obviously incompatible. (Goetz Briefs, The Proletariat, op. cit., 250-251.)

Can anything be done? Yes. Adopt Capital Homesteading now. If you want a little "positive reinforcement," attend next Friday's rally at the Fed — or at least buy copies of Capital Homesteading for Every Citizen, The Formation of Capital, and Supporting Life . . . or at least a tee shirt.

Own or be Owned.


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