[In the essay below, Tom Waldenfels, aka “fallingman,” a regular contributor to the Rick’s Picks forum, explains how an America steeped in the ideals of freedom lost its way. A political perversity of the day, he notes, is that one earns the label “progressive” by arguing for more government control over our lives. Is the system too far gone to save? Read on for Tom’s answer. RA]
What constitutes progress for us as a species? Is it defined by advancements in science and technology? Can we point to the rise in living standards these advances have made possible and say that’s what progress is all about? Sure, that’s a big part of it, but I’d like to suggest that this kind of visible and easily measurable progress is actually an artifact of an advancement that’s more fundamental and far less appreciated. I’m alluding to the spotty but impressive progress we’ve made over the centuries in relating to each other on a non-violent, consensual basis.
Lord knows, it wasn’t easy. Those who enjoy dominion over others don’t readily give up their control, and much of the world’s population still suffers under the thumb of the some ruler or another who uses brute force or threats of violence to keep the people in line. Subjugation by force is still the norm, unfortunately. But a radically different arrangement has been pioneered in the last few hundred years where the power of the state and its thuggish rulers is minimized. People are far more free to do what they want, with whomever they’d like, and that has changed the world, unleashing an incredible surge of creative energy. The result? A level of material prosperity no one could have dreamed of, for one, and the priceless ability to control one’s destiny.
In this country, we chose to have no ruler and no suffocating “swarms of officers to harass the people,” just a strictly limited government charged with what amounted to keeping the peace … defending the population from attack, policing crime, and adjudicating disputes in the courts. The use of force as a means of exerting control was kept to a minimum. Now, that was progress, the progress that flows from liberation.
So, what the hell happened?
Today, financial institutions who effectively control the government can engage in serial fraud with absolute impunity while I can’t legally buy a quart of raw milk. The things our government was originally designed to do, it isn’t doing or doing very well, and the things it has no business doing, it’s into in spades. The government has been taken over and is being used as an agent of the rich and powerful.
How did it happen? Here’s my take.
Elites Are Back
The “elites” who used to rule the roost before the American and French revolutions are back and increasing their power once again. And they’re doing it by selling the idea, through the publick skools and the enemedia that the coercive power of the state can be used effectively to solve problems. It’s an easy sell. Lord knows we have plenty of problems and most people are perfectly willing to order other people, at the point of a gun — literally or figuratively — to comply with whatever assorted diktats and mandates they come up with. “There oughtta be a law!”
In complete contrast, I believe the society that has to resort to force to solve problems is a failure, by definition, simply because the use of violence for anything besides self-defense is wrong. We should be resisting the increasing use of the coercive power of the state at every turn, but only a relative handful do, and they are marginalized as kooks. In a perverse twist, nowadays, the way you earn the label “progressive” is to rally for ever greater government control and ever more coercive behavior. Phooey on that.
Look, this is no slam on the motivations of those who are trying to solve real problems through government regulations and programs. I don’t question their good intentions, for the most part. But what they don’t seem to get is that government = force, whether they’re holding the gun or a USDA raw milk swat team agent is, and violence is never the answer. It must be rejected, period, because it’s WRONG.
On a more practical level, the empowerment of government is almost always counterproductive, as well as damned dangerous. When you create a government powerful enough to give you everything you want, you also create a goon squad powerful enough to take everything you have. You’re playing with fire. As George Washington said, “Government is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” AND, you play right into the hands of the elite, who will use that power to protect and enrich themselves…and milk you, which is exactly what’s happened.
Fed as Instrument of the Powerful
Look at how they got the Federal Reserve. The Powerz, working behind the scenes, orchestrated the propaganda campaign, selling the Fed to the populists/progressives and the largely clueless Congress as a way to rein in the “money power.” Hahahaha. It did just the opposite. They played the reformers for the fools they were. And variations on the same con are being played out today.
Progressives, my fanny. Progress toward what? The gulag? The new serfdom?
The temptation is great to try to control the behavior of others. To a certain, limited extent, it’s undeniably necessary. We have laws against murder, theft, fraud, etc., and a police force and courts to enforce the laws. But the job of the true progressives – i.e., those who reject the use of force and the threat of force to achieve social, economic, or political goals — is to say no to the expanded use of violence and to demand a rollback of the coercive power of the state.
I, personally, suspect it’s too late. I’m afraid the “silent coup” is complete, and there’s not much we can do to prevent the rule of the few, but I keep trying.
Editor's Note: Rick Ackerman is the publisher of Rick's Picks, a trading newsletter which publishes stock, commodity, and mini-index trading forecasts based on the Hidden Pivot Method of technical analysis. His professional background includes 12 years as a market maker on the floor of the Pacific Coast Exchange, three as an investigator with renowned San Francisco private eye Hal Lipset, seven as a reporter and newspaper editor, three as a columnist for the Sunday San Francisco Examiner, and two decades as a contributor to publications ranging from Barron’s to The Antiquarian Bookman to Fleet Street Letter and Utne Reader. His detailed strategies for stocks, options, and indexes have appeared since the early 1990s in Black Box Forecasts, a newsletter he founded that originally was geared to professional option traders.
Is Ignorance Bliss? A Look at U.S. Income Inequality by Elliott Morss
Without Measured Benefits We Fail by Dan Flemming
Inequality, Leverage and Crises by Michael Kumhof and Romain Ranciere
America: It’s the Political System, Stupid! by Frank Li
The Great Bank Robbery by Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Mark Spitnagel