While most people are concerned with the upcoming election, we should probably spare a thought or two about what to do afterwards. After all, whether Clinump or Trumton wins, We, the People, are going to get what is euphemistically termed the “short” end of the stick. Or maybe the whole stick, a.k.a., “the shaft.”
|The Hon. Trumton Clinup. (Oy.)
Why? Because no matter who wins, ordinary people are still going to be at the mercy of whoever has property, and thus power. After all, as Daniel Webster pointed out nearly two hundred years ago, “Power naturally and necessarily follows property.” If you lack direct ownership of capital, you take orders from people who do; “Own or be owned.”
Frankly, that is the key issue of today, as it has been for, well, the past two hundred years . . . okay, from the dawn of human society. We’d say “civilization,” but private property has been important ever since human beings began using tools to carry on the business of living. What is a stick or a rock you pick up to whack a rabbit for dinner? And what is “the State” but a tool for running the political unit, whether it’s a tribal village or multinational empire?
What so many today have forgotten is that man was not made for the State. No, the State was made for man. And woman. And child.
|What are some of these things?
The State is, after all, only a tool. A very powerful tool, yes, but still only a tool. If a tool no longer does the job for which it was intended, or it starts telling you what you want or need instead of letting you run your own life, it might be time to get a new one.
For example, if a screwdriver has become so loaded down with other functions that it can no longer function as a screwdriver, is it really worth keeping? Wouldn’t it be better to get a screwdriver that actually drives screws? Can you say “Swiss Army Knife”? Did you ever see one used just as a knife?
Frankly, the more specialized a tool is — and nothing is more specialized than the State — the simpler it should be, or you’re asking for trouble. Expecting one tool to do everything is just plain silly, anyway, and all the more so when that tool has the power to start forcing you to do what it wants, rather than the other way around.
|When our tools take over. . . .
Nor is this a particularly new idea — or warning. Pope Leo XIII gave his two cents on the subject more than a century ago. As he said regarding the tendency to have the State take care of every want and need, “There is no need to bring in the State. Man precedes the State, and possesses, prior to the formation of any State, the right of providing for the substance of his body.” (Rerum Novarum, § 7.) And Pius XI?
When we speak of the reform of institutions, the State comes chiefly to mind, not as if universal well-being were to be expected from its activity, but because things have come to such a pass through the evil of what we have termed “individualism” that, following upon the overthrow and near extinction of that rich social life which was once highly developed through associations of various kinds, there remain virtually only individuals and the State. This is to the great harm of the State itself; for, with a structure of social governance lost, and with the taking over of all the burdens which the wrecked associations once bore, the State has been overwhelmed and crushed by almost infinite tasks and duties. (Quadragesimo Anno, § 78.)
Is the State there to take care of everything? Or do ordinary people have some responsibility for their own lives”