When I moved to Chandler, Arizona, 16 years ago, I was informed that, not only would I be expected to participate in the community’s curbside recycling program, but that enforcement officers would come around at random to inspect the special blue trash barrels to make sure they were not being used to dispose of yard waste or other forbidden items.
This seemed funny to me at the time — so outrageously offensive as to be comical. I thought about updating Homer with a tale about Ulysses versus the Recyclops.
It’s not so funny to me now. For one thing, the idea of a government functionary trespassing on private property to pass judgement on one’s trash is the kind of intrusion that should drive any American to thoughts of armed rebellion. And for another, things have gotten quite a bit worse since then.
By now there is no outrage too comically absurd for some government functionary — as humorless a specimen of humanity as has ever existed — to attempt to ram down your throat.
Consider these as examples:
- The State of Michigan is attempting to forbid a mom from hosting neighborhood kids at her home before school. Why? Because she is providing day-care without a license.
- In Saratoga Springs, New York, children are forbidden to walk or to ride their bikes to school.
- To build a new home in Los Angeles, California — a place where virtually no one is building new homes just now — you will be required to add an anti-graffiti coating to the finish at your own expense.
- Worst of all, the federal government is straining mightily to pass legislation that will put the entire health-care industry under state control. Opposed to abortion? You’ll be paying for them anyway. Don’t want to participate? You’ll be fined or sent to prison.
How tough a job was it to come up with those four examples? Well, I found them all on the Drudge Report, an internet news portal. All of them today. All of them from the first column of the page.
When we hear about some humorless jackass ticketing a five-year-old at a lemonade stand for operating without a food service license, we are apt to think, “Why doesn’t someone fire that stupid son-of-a-bitch?” But the actual reality of our lives is that we are encysted at every pore with humorless jackasses, each one of them looking for more and more bizarre ways to inflict government upon us.
Think of it. There was a time in our lives when we all thought that the purpose of government was to fight crimes, which were committed by a very small number of people. But then we got the notion that government should supervise commerce, an activity engaged in by a far larger number of people. But by now the government clearly believes that its function is to police all of us, all the time, over the smallest minutiae of our lives. We are all criminals now.
The question to ask is not, “What the hell is wrong with those stupid sons-of-bitches?”
The question that we desperately need to ask is this one: “What the hell is wrong with us?”
We are Americans — or we were at one time. A proud and free people who defied the armed might of Britannia to win our independence, who conquered and tamed a wild and unforgiving continent, who created vast riches for even the poorest of the poor, who stood fast for the idea of human liberty at home and abroad, who proudly upheld an idea of freedom for the common man never before known anywhere on the earth at any time in human history.
Can you imagine what our grandfathers would have done if someone had tried to tell them how to dispose of their trash? Tried to tell them who they could or could not have as guests in their homes? Actually tried to forbid their children to stand up on their own two feet and walk to school?
If our grandfathers were alive today, they would be denounced on the six o’clock news as militia-mad gun nuts — but they would not have gone down without a fight.
But the state of human liberty in modern-day America is much worse than any of that.
- We all know that we have a permanent underclass of welfare clients, perpetually impoverished people who have become addicted to the free milk flowing from Big Mother’s teats, robbed thereby of any incentive to act in their own behalf.
- And we have a not-so-obvious permanent overclass of welfare clients — alleged businessmen who cannot seem to get by without subsidies or legislation relieving them of the burdens of competition.
- And, of course, we have vast hordes of humorless jackasses on the payroll at every level of government, each one doing his damnedest to destroy at least as much wealth as he consumes.
- And while those humorless jackasses will fawn and preen about how much they love you and want to help you, what they actually love in you is squalid — your poverty, your addictions, your diseases. And in order to express that love for the negative, they must tax and penalize everything that is positive in human life — your sense of purpose, your productivity, your pride in your accomplishments. Can you think of better exemplars of the idea that to get ahead you must work and study hard than doctors? And yet it is the doctors that the state’s functionaries are most avid to enslave.
- And to make everything worse, we have taken an entire generation of ordinary Americans — the Greatest Generation, we call them — and turned them into another huge cadre of sniveling welfare clients, wailing, like the paupers of ancient Rome, “Increase the dole!”
- And to top it all off, we have managed to spawn an elite class of humorless jackasses — extra-humorless, but almost-implausibly clueless — who by now presume to poke their noses into every aspect of your life — public, private, intimate or embarrassingly indelicate.
Face facts: If they can snoop in your trash, what’s to keep them from snooping in your bathroom? If they can confiscate your money to pay for someone else’s abortion, why can’t they confiscate one of your kidneys and give it to someone suffering renal failure? Can’t happen here? That’s what your grandfather would have said about the Recyclops.
O, my people! What have we done to America?
That’s the bad news, and it is really bad news.
Here’s the good news: I’m not the only person asking that question.
I’m writing this text on October 1, 2009, nine months into the administration of President Barrack Hussein Obama. Mr. Obama has proved himself to be so much a socialist — and so frighteningly brash a socialist — that people all over America are thinking seriously about politics, perhaps for the first time in their lives. They have come together at town halls and organized themselves into tea parties modeled on the historic Boston Tea Party. They’re buying books and watching populist demagogues on television. They know something is very wrong with America, and they want to do whatever it takes to fix it.
That much really is good news. The American people, in large measure, can too often be complacent and anti-intellectual. Work matters. Family and church matter. Sports matters. But the life of the mind? Not so much. It’s hard to fault them for regarding intellectual pursuits as being boring, since the people charged with guarding the work of the mind are so often such colossal bores. So when the sleeping giant that is the American public stirs itself to try to figure out what it is getting wrong, this is a cause for celebration.
But there is quite a lot of bad news among the good. For one thing, there is essentially only one political party in the United States right now. The Democrats are camouflaged Marxist socialists who are committed to the stealthy confiscation of all private wealth in the country. And the Republicans are camouflaged national socialists who are committed to the steady surrender of all control over all private wealth in the country. We lurch from one to the other looking for remedies, but all we get is the same socialist poison in superficially-different bottles.
By now, both parties are exponents of an oligarchic kind of cronyism: When their friends and allies win, they win. And when they lose, the taxpayer — that would be you, known in the corridors of power as John Q. Sucker — foots the bill. Each political party uses the taxing and regulatory power of the state to buy votes, to reward its friends and to penalize its enemies. When George Washington spoke to us of “a government of laws and not of men” — he was talking about the exact opposite of what we have now.
What’s worse, even though the American people are looking for intellectual guidance to explain to them what happened to the great American dream of individual human liberty, there is no one to whom they can turn for that leadership. The left proposes more socialism for the poor, the right more socialism for the rich, and the clowns at court rage on about random nonsense.
Take note: We are where we are as the unavoidable consequence of our errors — of one error, really, that we have made over and over again throughout all of human history. And yet even now, as we plan to enslave twenty percent or more of our economy, we as Americans are better off than most of the people now alive on earth. And we are far better off than most of the human beings who have preceded us in death.
We are as alarmed as we are right now — to our credit — because we can recall having it better, we ourselves and our parents and grandparents. We have never been so rich as we are now, but we have been far more free in the past, in the not-at-all-distant past. It is our awareness of our loss of personal freedom that goads us to try to figure out what we are getting wrong.
So: The bad news is really bad.
And the good news is very far from being wholly good.
But here is the best news of all: The error we are making, the error we have always made, is very simple to correct. All we have to do is come to understand humanity for what it really is…