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Serfs on the Plantation, Part 2

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In ancient Rome, the political authorities used three primary means to discourage or quell rebellions among the citizenry. First, they would give more welfare to the people, thereby making them more docile and content. Second, they would create foreign crises by which they could rally the people to the defense of the nation. And, third, they would smash certain rebels as an example to the rest of the populace.

Public officials in the United States have learned the Roman lessons well, for they are using the exact same techniques on the American people.

In 1913, the income-tax amendment was enacted under the false and deceptive promise that only the rich would have to pay income taxes. In that same year, the Federal Reserve System was established, which promised to bring stability to the monetary sphere. Twenty years later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt used these powers to begin America’s welfare state and managed economy. Since then, every administration has used its taxing and spending powers to extend governmental control over people’s lives and fortunes.

The experiment has proven to be a failure. The welfare state and the managed economy are cracking at the seams. Taxes at all levels of government total about fifty percent of incomes, meaning that Americans are having to work half their days to sustain the political bureaucracy. The dollar has been regularly debased for the last sixty years, resulting in tremendous financial losses in the savings and pensions of millions of Americans.

The Social Security System is bankrupt — there is no fund. The FDIC is bankrupt — there are only a few cents on reserve for each $100 of deposits; and the government must periodically raise the “insurance” limit on deposits to discourage runs on the entire banking system. Public schooling is a disaster, with people paying ever-increasing taxes for ever-decreasing educational results.

Moreover, the government’s three primary wars against the American people have failed. After thirty years, the war on poverty has resulted only in more poverty. After thirty years, the war on bigotry has resulted only in more racism and racial conflict. After seventy years, the war on drugs has resulted only in more drugs, along with all of the death and destruction and loss of liberties resulting from the war.

The failed results of the welfare state and managed economy are the same throughout the thousands of agencies and bureaucracies of the national government.

Twentieth-century Americans believed that they could abandon the principles of freedom and limited government of their ancestors. If they just surrendered their freedom, they believed, the results would be prosperity and security. The secret, they felt, was simply to continue believing they were free, even if deep down inside them, they knew that the belief was false. More important, they believed that if the political authorities in the public schools would indoctrinate their children with the false belief that they were free, succeeding generations of Americans would never doubt that freedom meant ever-expanding governmental control over their lives and fortunes.

Thus, we have the tragic and pathetic spectacle of Americans supporting more and more political power over their lives and fortunes in order that the people can become “more free.”

The American Revolution

One of the most amusing times of the year occurs on the Fourth of July. Americans have their picnics and attend their ballgames in celebration of the American Revolution. Yet, what they don’t realize — or want to realize — is that they hate every principle on which the Revolution was based! In fact, there is no doubt that present-day Americans would never have sided with the rebelling colonists; instead, they would have sided with King George. How do we know this? Because Americans today love and embrace the political and economic ideology of the King and hate that of Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, and the other rebels.

In other words, if Americans of today had lived in 1776, they would have been asked, “Will you join us in revolting against an evil and immoral system? The King believes that he should have the power to take our money against our will and to regulate our economic activity. In fact, the King is already taking one percent (!) of our incomes through such devices as the Stamp Act and Tea Act. And he is regulating our economic activity through such devices as the navigation acts and the Sugar Act. We want a political and economic system in which public officials have no such power over our lives and fortunes. We are going to fight for our right to be free.”

How would present-day America have responded? “You’re crazy. We’re not about to join you. We believe in welfare, Social Security, the unlimited power to tax, the power to regulate economic activity, trade restrictions, immigration controls, and subsidies. Government has to have omnipotent power over our lives and fortunes in order for us to be free. We’re patriots and, therefore, we intend to support our government. We not only are not going to join you, we’re going to turn you in to the authorities.”

Thus, there is somewhat of a civil war occurring in American society. The war has on one side the ideas on liberty of our ancestors, who rejected such things as the Internal Revenue Service, income taxation, welfare, Social Security, a central bank, immigration controls, coercive redistribution of wealth, and public schooling. On the other side is aligned the philosophy of omnipotent government of our fellow Americans.

The question is: whose ideas will win out as we advance toward the third century of this nation’s existence — the ideas of those who loved freedom or those who love enslavement in the name of freedom?

The Stirring of the Serfs

On the bright side, there is evidence that American serfs are beginning to stir. They are asking some uncomfortable questions about the American political and economic systems. They see the economic system cracking, and they recognize the governmental attempts to make the serfs work longer and harder to maintain it. They are beginning to sense that there might be a fundamental conflict between individual freedom and omnipotent government. Unfortunately, because they still falsely believe that they live in a free society, their solutions aim toward reforming, rather than ending, the tyranny under which they suffer.

But even though the American people have yet to discover the reason for their woes, those in political power don’t like the stirrings among the citizenry. They will tolerate such things as letters to editor, new politicians, and political reforms. But they will never permit the foundations of their control to be shaken. They will do whatever is necessary to quell any such possibility.

The first thing they do is what the Roman authorities did — dole out more bread to the masses. People who are on the dole — and the Americans are clearly a people on the dole — can easily be pacified with more dole. The situation is similar to that of a heroin addict. He needs a bigger and bigger fix to satisfy his habit, but once he gets it, he is docile and content. The American dole recipients — corporations, universities, businessmen, welfare receivers, and the like — react the same way as the heroin addict. If their dole is increased, they are happy. Any thought of rebelling against the welfare state is eliminated, at least until the next time the dole recipient needs a fix.

But more and more people are discovering that the United States government is not a fountain of wealth. Every single dime which government gives out is first taken from someone else. That may seem like a self-evident proposition, but it isn’t. Until fairly recently, most Americans honestly believed that government was a god — and that it could create an infinite bounty that could be given to the people whenever necessary.

But government is not a god. It must first steal from some in order to give a dole to others. And after sixty years of failure, the dole system is reaching the end of its road. People are having to work half their days to maintain it. And now people are being told that they will have to work longer and harder through the payment of higher taxes to the state.

Thus, the distribution of the dole is becoming much less effective as a means to quell the stirrings of rebellion among the citizenry. The vampire state is finding it harder and harder to find blood among the citizenry who are toiling longer and harder than ever. And the state is discovering that the dole recipients are demanding an ever-increasing amount of blood to satisfy their desires.

What will those who control — and who benefit from the control — do if the serfs can no longer be pacified through the distribution of the dole? They will take the same steps that the Roman authorities took. They will find “barbarians at the gate,” i.e., foreign dictators thousands of miles of away who are threatening our nation and the world; thus, the serfs will be expected to “rally ’round the flag” and temporarily abandon their resistance to the tyranny of their own government. And the other step, of course, will be the most effective one of all: smash any inklings of rebellion among certain serfs, especially unpopular ones, to serve as a powerful message to the rest of the serfs.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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    Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.