One telltale sign of encroaching tyranny is the manipulation of language. When the powerful of the early twentieth century learned how difficult it was to market a central bank in the United States, they renamed their efforts a federal reserve and began printing money all the same. When the actions of that central bank resulted in depression after depression, those same people changed the meaning of the word, reclassifying depressions out of existence. When progressivism was discovered as the stepping stone to socialism that it is, progressives in the United States renamed themselves liberals. Finally, when people grew tired of sending their children off to die in war, the U.S. government simply erased the term from their vocabulary.
The U.S. Constitution designates the power to officially declare war to the legislative branch. Since its ratification, Congress has declared a total of five wars, the last being World War II. Shortly thereafter, in 1949, what remained of the Department of War was renamed the Department of Defense, thereby erasing war from the official lexicon.
The U.S. government is currently engaged in the longest war of its history, declared or otherwise. In fact, since erasing war from official discourse, the U.S. government has engaged in its most controversial wars, Vietnam and Iraq, as well as its most extensive efforts of interventionism. With excursions in Korea, Lebanon, Libya, Kuwait, and The Balkans as well as the more recent drone bombing campaigns in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, and Syria, the U.S. has been at war nearly every year since renaming its efforts from war to defense. We can only hope that the surviving members of families killed by U.S. adventurism can find some solace in the fact that their loved ones didn’t actually die in war.
Since before the days of Woodrow Wilson, progressives of all political stripes have claimed the goal of making the world “safe for democracy.” Recent elections in the U.S. have again inspired champions of democracy, particularly on the left, largely because popular voting ran counter to electoral college results. To be clear, democracy is antithetical to private property so, from the libertarian perspective, democracy is problematic at best. However, since progressives are only rhetorically concerned with private property or individual rights, this presents no obstacle to them.
This is true unless progressives have identified a cause with which they see no reason to allow democracy to tamper. Such was the case when President Obama signed into law what is now known as Dodd-Frank. One of the components of this legislation was creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or CFPB. Under the guise of keeping this agency politically independent, the legislation shielded the CFPB from congressional oversight, including the Constitutionally mandated budgeting responsibility of the House of Representatives. Even more troubling is the fact that the appointed head of this agency was placed beyond oversight of any elected official. When Director Richard Cordray recently stepped down, his Deputy Director believed herself heir apparent to the agency.
Had this agency been the creation of conservatives, there would be no limit to the progressive onslaught of opposition. Whether one agrees with the goals of this particular agency or not, few can argue that it was specifically designed to retain control for those first appointed to it and, as a result, directly in opposition to democracy.
A persistent fantasy of progressives and conservatives alike is the belief that government will work just fine if we put the right people in power. Try as they might, their efforts and assurances have resulted in failure after failure. This week, another progressive icon has surrendered to social and political pressure resulting from revelations of misconduct. One of the most important elements of these revelations is the process through which allegations of congressional misconduct are handled. It should be no surprise to those keeping score that elected officials consider their own conduct worthy of obfuscation to the point of non-disclosure. Of course, when compensation is agreed upon in such cases, it comes from the public till rather than from the pockets of those accused.
The reason for such abuses is obvious: human beings given power over other human beings will inevitably seek to retain, expand, and abuse that power. This is not an ideological issue, nor is it an issue of human weakness or depravity. It is instead an issue of praxeology (i.e. human action).
Humans act to achieve ends based on the means available. When people are social equals, they are limited in the means they can employ to achieve their goals: one cannot simply violate the property rights of an equal without repercussions. When one or more people are in positions of power, however, some or all of those limitations are removed either explicitly or implicitly. This is often justified by asserting that these actions are for the benefit of others. While actions may benefit others, they are always undertaken to achieve selfish goals. There are no humans existing outside of this reality and, therefore, there can never be “the right people” to be given power over others.