Thursday, April 08, 2010

Life of an article -- version 2

The editor said that quotes at the beginning are universally skipped. So back to Word for revision two. -- Jim
note: Editors are (almost) universally correct. So I do not mind revising to be read.

Peculiar Groups and Odd-Ball Theories


Igor Shafarevich, the Soviet mathematician and critic of Marxism, made a very important observation in his classic book, The Socialist Phenomenon (1975). He said that peculiar little socialist groups debate for years about the details of their odd-ball social theories, and then, almost overnight, their ideas become widely believed, and societies are restructured in terms of them.“ Gary North, Marx’s Religion of Revolution

“Are you really for free market health care knowing that children will die?” What a tough question, especially since the average questioner will only give you 30 seconds before switching subjects or walking away. But it is a question that serves as a bellwether of our current state of affairs.

When I am feeling down because of the political landscape, I think of the quote above from North. Change one word and you have this bit of encouragement, “He said that peculiar little anarcho-libertarian groups debate for years about the details of their odd-ball social theories, and then, almost overnight, their ideas become widely believed, and societies are restructured in terms of them.”

This is powerful. At the recent
The Birth and Death of the Fed conference, I sat with three other Austrians in the hotel sitting room discussing the details of our supposedly odd-ball social theories -- the theories of free markets and liberty. Around us sat other peculiar little groups proposing various means for these very same theories to become widely believed once again, serving as the guiding lights for a near-overnight restructuring of society. While the theories we debated are still not mainstream, a tipping point of sorts may be near.

It is likely that at some point in the not-too-distant future, we will once again see the ideas of free markets and liberty begin to take hold. And we will watch as societies start to restructure themselves without the burden of the oppressive state. However, a question arises: Will this restructuring occur due to political action?

Politics is about today; tomorrow be damned. The politician wants to get elected and stay elected, and retire well off. He only cares about getting votes from constituents he abhors. He cares nothing of their lives, their struggles, or their successes.

In the politician’s mind, he is of the vaunted political class, and his constituents are nothing more than groundlings to be manipulated and entertained by his double entendres and rhetorical sleights of hand. So it is no wonder that heartless politicians cannot stand the sight of the little folks, those whose votes decide the next coronation – the bestowing of the power and the prestige each politician so desperately desires.

It is obvious that politics is not the answer. And neither is violent force – politics by other means. This is a nation conceived in the ideas of liberty. Given time, ideas would have won the day. But our Forefathers resorted to force. And by doing so, they birthed, so to speak, the desire for a new state – a powerful central authority to guide the several free states.

Then, shortly thereafter, unable to control their fetish for a state, they went behind closed doors in an act of subterfuge and formed the so-called perfect union that secured the blessings of liberty to themselves alone, leaving their posterity to suffer under an ever-growing Leviathan – a Leviathan now larger by magnitudes than the one they had so-recently deposed.

So what is the answer? Ideas, of course. Ideas have consequences, which, in the long-run, trump the politics of the day. Nevertheless, we are currently engaged in the battle over ideas. And as Mises so clearly stated, it is a battle we must all fight.
“Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders; no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way out for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interests, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. None can stand aside with unconcern; the interests of everyone hang on the result. Whether he chooses or not, every man is drawn into the great historical struggle, the decisive battle into which our epoch has plunged us.” Ludwig von Mises, Socialism

Back to the question at the top: “Are you really for free market health care knowing that children will die.” The question is a bellwether – its presence shows that we are still engaged in the great historical struggle which none of us asked for. But a struggle that is ours nonetheless

So what is the correct response to the question? The answer is simple: Say anything that promotes liberty, just be accurate and consistent. Realize you will not win the day with a 30-second response. But you may inspire the occasional questioner to doubt the status quo and seek out the truth, and maybe even join those peculiar groups debating odd-ball theories.

And always remember that each addition brings us that much closer to the tipping point and pending restructuring – and free markets and liberty.

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