Why We Are Where We Are
I am reading a book at the moment called ‘Fatherless America’, which is, like most sociology texts, strong on effects and hopeless on causes.
The stunning rise of fatherlessness in North America over the past 30 or so years is perhaps the most obvious symptom of escalating State power – and yet I can think of no prominent academic who has made the obvious connection between effects and cause.
My own particular ‘big picture’ theory about social causes is deep, far-reaching – and unproven. However, I think it’s a useful framework for discussion. Here is, in my view, how we got to where we are.
The beginning of the end of liberty took place throughout Western society in the mid-late 1880’s, when the State engineered a violent coup and gained a coercive monopoly over the education of children. From that moment, the destruction of freedom was utterly inevitable – and it will continue to be inevitable until parents wrest back the education of their children from the State.
It is no accident that the First World War – as well as the introduction of the income tax and the centralization of monetary policy in the hands of the State – occurred within a single generation of the introduction of State education. Children who are taught by the State will inevitably become tools of the State, since they will never be taught the truth about the State. Also, the children logically reason, if only the State is allowed to teach us, it must be the most noble social institution.
After the First World War, State power was further extended because so many soldiers had been murdered that millions of families and individuals were dependent on State benefits. The manipulation of currencies and interest rates produced the boom of the 1920s and then created and extended the Great Depression – which in turn produced the Second World War.
After the Second World War, millions of ex-soldiers went to colleges and universities through government programs. Before, State education only turned children into State slaves –subsequently, State-run or State-controlled universities produced an entire new cohort of relativists and philosophical cripples through the corrosive anti-rationality of university courses. In lower schools, rationality was merely ignored – in higher education, rationality was directly attacked and undermined. Instead of being merely starved, students at State schools were now being actively poisoned.
The children of these new State-slaves became the hippies of the Sixties. Hippies hated and feared both rationality and naked power – and thus opposed science and war simultaneously. They supported State power in the form of social programs, but opposed the Vietnam war, because they might actually get drafted. Of course, many of them escaped the draft by going into University – a neat reversal of the Second World War. Instead of war causing people to become further mis-educated, people submitted to mis-education in order to escape war.
The result of this mis-education was that the massive expansion of State power throughout the Sixties and Seventies went virtually unopposed. Taxation went through the roof – largely because the computer revolution facilitated a massive expansion of both State and personal credit, so that individuals and governments could escape the natural limits of earned income. The productivity gains of the information revolution went straight into the coffers of the State – the result being that, starting from the early 1990s, real incomes began to decline.
The State was wise enough to refrain from regulating the software field – and also ensured continual innovation through generous tax breaks for start-ups and R&D. The State desperately needs improvements in information technology in order to suck up the extra income provided by improved processes – also, improved computers help the State further tax, regulate and spy on its own citizenry.
From the 1980s, the massive expansion in credit made possible through information technology provoked an orgy of State borrowing and spending. Citizens could temporarily escape the effects of higher taxation through borrowing, increased real-estate prices, and inheritance. However, for those at the bottom, unable to take advantage of these middle/upper class benefits, the losses began to mount.
Now, of course, we are waiting for the inevitable crash, which is not more than 10-20 years off. As the day of reckoning gets closer and closer, States will attempt to tax their citizens more and more. This will drive citizens into the grey market, or into low-income jobs, or welfare, or into early retirement, or communal arrangements. This will cause real estate prices to crash. The State will also raise inheritance taxes, which will wipe out the final source of supplementary income for the middle classes.
This kind of massive financial convulsion represents the strenuous attempts of an economy to shake off an excess of parasitic coercion – much as a fever must peak before breaking. Citizens will reduce their spending, expectations and circumstances, hunkering down as the State convulses and collapses all around them. State parasites – from unions to teachers to tax collectors – will have to change and evolve, casting aside their lust for power and violence. What will emerge will be far healthier – and, hopefully, with the memory of such a catastrophe – especially the effects on the aged – society will finally have a built-in set of anti-bodies against the accumulation of State power. (With a great deal of luck, society will emerge from this convulsion without a State of any kind, which would be the start of a real golden age for mankind!)
The great risk, of course, is that this convulsion will lead to totalitarianism. This has been the pattern throughout human history, but for various reasons I remain optimistic that this will not be the case. The current and growing cynicism about politicians may be strong enough to resist the final expansion of State power.
As can be seen from the above, these problems all begin with State education. Why is that?
The most obvious problem with State education is that State teachers will never teach children about the violent nature of the State. How could they? Imagine a teacher telling her students: I am paid with money taken from people by violent means – your parents must pay me or they will be thrown in jail – this entire system of instruction is based on violence – the State uses coercion to achieve its ends. Can you picture any violent system – other than organized crime – being honest about coercion? Of course not. No parent says to a child: I am beating you because I am frustrated, or because I am a drunk, or because I was beaten when I was a child. Instead, they say: I am beating you because you are bad – and it is for your own good.
On a recent trip to Florida, my wife and I attended a time-share presentation. I asked the presenter – a woman who had gone to college – whether she knew that America was founded on a tax revolt? No. I asked her if she knew that the Founding Fathers had specifically banned the income tax in the Constitution? No. Did she know that it took about forty years to bring the income tax about? No. Did she know which three powers the Constitution granted the Federal government? No. (Anti-piracy, anti-counterfeiting, and the postal service, in case you were wondering.) Did she know that the President had to ask Congress to declare war, and that the war in Iraq was unconstitutional? Nope.
This woman had gone to public schools, of course, and knew nothing about the genesis of her own freedoms. This is entirely natural. Throughout history, the State has employed legions of well-paid intellectuals (and priests) whose sole job is to obscure the brutal reality of State power. The sequence of fall-back arguments of these ‘State-sluts’ is, generally:
the State does not use coercion
the State does use a small amount of coercion, but the use of that coercion is approved of by the vast majority
the State uses some coercion which is not approved of by the vast majority, but that is because they don’t know their own interests
the State uses extensive coercion, the only alternative to that coercion would be civil war, mass murder and/or invasion by a malignant foreign power
Prior to all these arguments, of course, is an enormous cloud of murk obscuring the simple question what effect does State coercion have on the choices of individuals?
The first – and most obvious – fact is that State coercion destroys the choices of individuals. Adapting to violence is not the same as having choices. However, academics fell entire forests obscuring this simple fact – for the simple reason that they themselves have robbed those who pay them.
What does this mean? I was watching a show about whales the other night, and heard the story of a man who had spent the last twenty years studying humpback whales. How is this possible? I assume that he is not the recipient of voluntary checks mailed directly from whale enthusiasts. He is either an academic – paid by tax dollars – or paid by a charity, which can take advantage of tax-deductible donations. This really irritated me. I would love to write books for a living – but I would never assume that others must be forced to support my desires. This man wants to study whales, and will take blood money from the State to support his preferences. How abysmally selfish is that? Why must I be forced at gunpoint to support his whale fetish? Don’t get me wrong – I like whales. I’d be happy to rent another whale documentary. If he can support himself from my rental fees, great. More power to him. But I resent being held hostage so that he can sail around the Caribbean playing with whales. I have less chance to pursue my dream because my money is being taken so he can fund his.
Sociologists are in the same boat. They are funded by the State, and so they cannot hope to be objective about State power. This is for many reasons, not least of which is laying themselves open to the charge of hypocrisy for taking State money and then correctly identifying the State as a violent institution. Also, the State is their only source of funding. We can expect more objectivity from an advertising company. If the CEO of an ad company finds out that one of his client’s products is harmful, he can drop that client without closing his company. But an academic cannot really criticize the State – i.e. the institution, not specific policies – without putting his entire livelihood and career at risk.
The closest analogy would be to imagine a group of intellectuals paid by slave-owners to write articles and teach children. You can write any articles you want, say the slave-owners, but we can fire you or cut your funding at any time. Oh, and by the way, if we cut you off, you will never be able to find another job again. Now off you go – and be free to be as intellectually independent as you like!
How many of these intellectuals would take the position that slave-owning is an unadulterated evil? How many of them would start any lecture by pointing out that all money earned from slave-labour is stolen, blood money?
The answer is: almost none. These intellectuals are just another one of the slaves owned.
These slave-intellectuals, however, are fascinated by social trends. They are very interested in the fact that slave-families seem to be very unstable. One argues that slaves have a ‘culture of irresponsibility’ which contributes to family break-up. Another argues that male slaves feel irrelevant, since the slave-owners are the actual providers. Another argues that male slaves are lazy, or ‘under-socialized’. Another argues that male slaves, since many of them are fatherless, never learned how to be fathers.
Do you see how sad and insane all of this is? The simple fact is that slave families are regularly broken up because they are sold off in parts. The slave-intellectuals are simply describing the effects of slavery, and pretending that they have discovered something about causes.
In a free society, morality and self-interest are one and the same. In a coercive environment, the two split into myriad and contradictory fragments. Everyone studies the effects of the wound, without mentioning the real cause, which is the stabbing knife.
Why has fatherlessness become so prevalent? Simply because woman are rewarded for having children, and punished for getting married. Similarly, men suffer no negative consequences for fathering children – and are punished for being fathers – especially if they have a job. It is really that simple. State violence is at the root of any and all general social trends – because only State violence changes the incentives and punishments throughout the entirety of society.
How are women rewarded for having children? Simply: they are paid welfare by the State to have children. How are they punished for getting married to a man with a good job? Well, their welfare drops according to their husband’s income. In other words, a man with a good job who wants to get married is a net negative for a young woman, since his income – split between two people – is less than the income she gets from the variety of social programs designed to pay her for having children. (It is probably true that if she has children later in life, when the man’s income is greater, she will do better – but we are generally talking about young women here.)
Furthermore, having children on welfare avoids the central problem for women contemplating having children, which is the problem of risk.
In a free society, having children is a very risky venture for a woman – and especially for a poor woman. If she chooses a man who abandons her, then she is stuck raising children for twenty-odd years on her own, which is truly the portrait of a ruined life. Thus she must be very careful about the man she chooses to start a family with. He must be loving, productive and dependable. She must also possess desirable characteristics, since an honourable man cannot love a selfish, needy or demanding woman. She must be hard-working, supportive and affectionate to win and keep his love and commitment.
Thus freedom supports and rewards all that is best in human nature. However, violence corrupts and undermines such luminous morality. The woman does not have to be a good person to get checks from the State. She does not have to develop her own goodness. She does not have to worry about choosing the right man. In fact, if she chooses a good man, who wants to get married and stick around, she will be worse off, since she will have less financial support initially – and will now be dependent on his goodwill. Thus economically – though not morally – she will be far better off choosing an unreliable man who does not want to get married.
That is the simple truth of the interaction – everything else is just static, noise and nonsense. Families are unstable because people are paid to be unstable – and, on the other side, forced to fund instability. The coercive power of the State tears families apart by reversing the natural incentives of freedom.
Suppose the State stopped arresting rapists, and instead started paying them $10,000 per rape. Would it be a great mystery if rape increased? Would the increased rapes result from some foggy ‘change of values’ or ‘sea change in social mores’? Would we examine men’s perceptions of women, or wonder if video games or movies had something to do with it? Would we be surprised if men and women colluded to fabricate rape in order to collect the 10 grand? Of course not. We’d just say: huh, well if you’re going to reward people for doing something they were previously punished for, of course their behaviour will change.
This is not to say that there is no place for sociology. As long as sociologists are funded voluntarily – and confine their studies to areas where human beings are really free, or to studying the effects of admitted coercion, then the profession is an honourable one.
However, we are a long way away from that at present. Currently, since academics are all paid by State to obscure the brutal reality of State power, we shall get no truth from such owned-and-operated State whores.
Stefan Molynuex, is the host of Freedomain Radio (www.freedomainradio.com), the most popular philosophy site on the Internet, and a “Top 10” Finalist in the 2007-2010 Podcast Awards.