Us. vs. Them

2009-04-18

It saddens me to say this, but there is indeed an "us" vs. "them" in America today: the predatory class (that's "them") vs. the productive class (that's "us"). It's really quite simple: there are those who live by voluntary interactions with other people via peaceful trade, chosen associations (clubs, churches, what have you), personal responsibility, and hard work -- and then there are those who live off the honest labor of productive people through predation, theft, fraud, plunder, and pillage. Some of the predators are common criminals (identity thieves, ponzi scheme operators, and their ilk). But the big operators in the realm of predation are those who feed off the substance of this country through government force. Theirs is a very "democratic" form of plunder, mind you. Either they are duly "elected" (standard politicians) or they gain advantage through their influence on those who are so "elected" (via corporate welfare, individual welfare, government grants, government loans, special favors, easy access to loose credit and fiat money, and all the rest).

I was thinking as I walked over to the Denver Tea Party that in some ways our current and future struggles are more difficult than those of the original American revolutionaries. Yes, I know that the American revolution was just as much a civil war as a war of independence. But it could be framed as separation from a foreign power. It is much harder to reform a nation from within than it is to separate from another nation.

Personally I doubt the prospects of reform in America. A constitutional arrangement that made sense for a country of 3 million people in 13 states (only 3 or 4 of which were of significant size) no longer makes sense for a country of 300 million people in 50 states. It's a simple scalability problem, connected (I think) with the fact that human beings can't keep more than ~5 entities in mind at any one time: this leads to the phenomenon of centralization when there are more than 5 states or powers involved in any interaction. Thus in America most political power now resides in the District of Columbia.

No matter how many people rail against the problems in D.C. and no matter how many politicians claim that they are the ones to "clean up Washington", it simply will not happen. The problem is not tied to the current President or the party that is currently in power. No, the problem is deeply systemic -- and systemic problems require systemic solutions. I happen to think the solution is radical decentralization. It is my settled opinion that America needs to dump D.C.. Break up the Yankees (or Yanquis)!

The concentration of power in D.C. has so many ill effects that I can't count them all, but to distill their essence when it comes to foreign policy, I ask: do you think Colorado or Maine or Kentucky would, on its own, invade Iraq, meddle in Colombia, spy on people in Europe, or have military bases all over the world? Hell, no. As I have said many times, America is in danger of becoming an empire. But I don't think that each state on its own (or even regional groupings of states) would have imperial ambitions or an interest in perpetual war and foreign occupation (thus removing the need for a standing army and the great expansion of central power that occurs each time the Federal Government wages war, since war is the health of the state).

So yes, sadly I think that it is us vs. them: those of us who are peaceful, productive, hard-working, live-and-let-live, responsible, honest, and independent -- and those who live directly or indirectly through force, fraud, theft, politics, and other forms of predation. Our current situation is made more complex by the fact that many people in America are mostly independent but here and there dependent on government largess. Because the debts that the U.S. government (and its local subsidiaries) are incurring are simply unsustainable, I think the time is coming when people will need to choose whether they are in the productive class or the predatory class. It won't necessarily be easy.

May you live in interesting times!


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal