Theft, Violence, and Propaganda

Thanks to LRC, I just had the pleasure (?) of watching this American tax propaganda video from the World War II era:

We hear the usual claptrap in this clip, words like “duty” and “sacrifice.”  The interesting thing about “sacrifice,” however, is that it is a lie:  When a thief breaks into your home and takes your most treasured possessions, that is not a sacrifice.  The divestment of your materials was not voluntary, so how could there be any giving or sacrifice?  In the Jewish and Christian traditions, sacrifice is voluntary.  I suppose that this means that the State is more like primordial religions, in which even human sacrifice was conducted without the consent of those whom it, well, impacted the most, if you catch my drift.

Another interesting feature of this excrement is that it glorifies violence and serving the State in the military.  What else are all those salutes and “Yes Sirs” meant to convey?  Couple this with the surprise when the talking radio reveals he’s actually discussing the income tax.  This seems to re-enforce the idea that military service is assumed to be good.  

Interestingly, however, one does wonder why the government, through its shills at Disney, felt the need to make this cartoon.  At the time the federal income tax was not a very old thing; many would have remembered much more peaceful times when they kept much more of their money.  Was there some resistance still?  How did the government prevail?  Were people as gullible then as they are now?  It would seem that tyranny benefits, if you’ll pardon my constantly bringing up this idea, from fragmentation and obsession, as Weaver called it.  This is the myopic fetish with detail that humanity has developed after it has lost sight of civilization’s founding principles.  The most obvious symptom of this is naked hostility to philosophy, most often seen in the neo-conservatives.  But the salient point here is that fragmentation and obsession keeps us from seeing the essential characteristics of a thing.  Indeed, to point out the relationship between theft and taxation is to waste one’s breath even in conversations with the “fiscally conservative.”  The government benefits from this because of the consequent stupidity which makes people more pliable to the idea that paying taxes is “different” from being robbed at gunpoint.

There is one tiny, tiny redeeming piece of this video, however.  It would seem that it shows how the tax system worked before the withholding racket got its start.  Would that each of us, every April 15, had to write a check for every cent in tax that we “owe” for the previous year.  That is to say, abolish the withholding system.  It is a nice trick the government uses, and it keeps most people, who are asleep in general as it is, from realizing just how much tax they pay every year.  It was sold to the gullible as a “convenience” but it is really a weapon:  Employers are required to withhold the money, and there is no chance for people to say to the government, “You’re not getting it.”  It makes any kind of tax revolt well impossible, doesn’t it?

For my part, I continue to pay my taxes honestly, if only out of a sense of prudence.  I value my ability to live freely over my natural right to keep the fruits of my labor.  I am like the coward who, when confronted with a gun-wielding mugger, hands over his wallet without even thinking.  Perhaps, however, the point should not be my cowardice, but rather that the government—that evil, parasitical pile of excrement in Washington—relies on such conundrums for its survival.

Remember that the next time some sports announcer asks you to stand up for the State Song.  “Deutschland ueber Alles…”  Ooops.  Wrong soundtrack.  Well, they’re all the same, though, aren’t they?

A few words for Richard M. Weaver

Richard Weaver, as regular readers of these pages know, is one of my favorite authors.  It really is too bad that he does not enjoy a wider awareness, but then again Weaver was entirely too thoughtful gain much popularity.  It’s also a shame that there is a neo-con Richard Weaver who was friendly with the Bush Administration.  Maybe we should have a system of retiring certain names the way sports teams retire jerseys.  

I wanted to see last night if there were some kind of Richard Weaver Society, or something like that.  Nothing turned up, but I did find a really fantastic article on Weaver dating back to 2001 on mises.org.  Read the whole thing.

Not unrelated to Weaver (as you’ll see for yourself once you’ve read the aforementioned piece) is a courageous—and not for the historically faint of heart—blurb on the illogical hatred of the South, written by Paul Gottfried.  I myself used to think of the South as nothing but slave owners and NASCAR drivers, but sooner or later I grew up and realized, in no small part due to Weaver, that there is a great tradition of thinking and culture in the South.  I also had a teacher from North Carolina, and he was one of the most insightful people I’ve ever dealt with.  We used to have conversations about the lies told in public school text books about the civil war.  (For now, we need only say that if Lincoln cared about the slaves, he would have bought them and freed them. Basta.)  At any rate, here it is.

Hat tip to Serge.

Where does an anarchist find order?

We have spent only a little time on this blog discussing the virtues of anarchy and the ways that it would play out in real life. In a previous post, I mentioned that anarchists, far from advocating chaos, promote a system of order that does not make use of the State or of the government.

It would seem prudent, before this conversation goes too far, to distinguish between order and planning. It is truly fitting that “plan” is a four-letter word. Central Planning has become second nature to most people. Barack Obama and John McCain talk about their plans to make America better–as if it is they rather than the hard working citizens who make America what it is. Indeed, to many, “order” cannot exist without a central plan, without someone to boss around and steal from the various entities in a given society.

Order, however, need not–and in many ways cannot–come from above, but rather comes from within. As an analogy, I recall Charles Rosen’s insight that the symmetrical form of Classical era music (Mozart and Haydn in particular) was not imposed from without, like a mold, but rather grew organically from within, as each little detail, each contingency, built upon the work. So it is with, for instance, the free market: the mutual exchange of goods and ideas contributes greatly to a harmonious order in society. What might seem chaotic on the microscopic level turns out to be well-crafted on the macroscopic level. The disorganization is only apparent.

There is more, however. Surely one must grant that a society without a grand discourse will fall into shambles. Grand discourses are not exactly in vogue in these the days of rampant horizontalism. Many, perceiving the ensuing chaos from this, call for more government, or even a theocratic monarchy (Those who don’t know the mistakes of history are destined to repeat them), and few of them ever give serious thought to the idea that maybe the best form of government is none at all. Why, that would be chaos!

I find all this to be strange, not to mention self-contradictory. If government were able to prevent societal collapse, then the cities and towns of the 21st century would be in much better shape than they are. What is missing is the metaphysical. Please don’t misunderstand me: I’m not in any way calling for some kind of Christianist State, such as Mike Huckabee might. I’m only saying that a society that is stuck in the sensible world is doomed. Really, the metaphysical is what is needed to maintain society, not governments. An appreciation for the metaphysical, however, comes from private initiative, not from legislative fiat.

F.A. Hayek in his book The Road to Serfdom remarked that the more intrusive a government becomes, the less virtuous the citizenry becomes. Similarly, Richard Weaver warned in Ideas Have Consequences of the encroachments of the State on men who have failed to exhibit virtue. If these two insights are synthesized, the remedy becomes apparent: men must become more virtuous, so that the futility (not to mention the evil) of the State becomes more obvious.

All of this, of course, is up to us. It has nothing to do with electing the right congressman or president, or with gaining a tenuous 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court. Rather, it has everything to do with how we view life (Do we even start from the ancient philosophical idea that life is to be loved and cherished?), how we live, and how we interact with each other.

Richard M. Weaver

I seem to have begun a trend of reading books about language.  Right now I’m delving into H.L. Mencken’s The American Language, Fourth Edition.  In addition, however, while browsing around the library website I happened upon Richard M. Weaver’s Language is Sermonic, and I can’t wait to get started on it.  I’ve placed a hold, and I’ll head up there as soon as traffic dies down.

Weaver is an interesting character.  Raised in rural North Carolina, he had the sagacity of an octogenarian, even at a relatively young age.  His writing style reminds me of a wonderful teacher I had in college who was raised not far from Weaver’s hometown.  When I finished Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences, I felt as if my whole brain had been rearranged, and in a good way.  It’s one of the most important books I’ve ever read.

The careless or biased reader of Weaver might try to pigeonhole him as a Tory, or, worse, a theocrat, but based on what I’ve read of him so far, I’d be very cautious about assigning exact labels to his political thinking.  He was too smart for that, for one thing.  The closest one might get is by calling him some kind of old school conservative–of the John T. Flynn or Albert Jay Nock variety rather than of the Buckley or Goldwater asylum.   For what it’s worth, the final chapters of Ideas Have Consequences, written already in 1948, spell out possible cures to our ailing culture:  the protection of property rights (which at this point would be more like the recovery of property rights), the restoration of language, and piety and justice–which can probably be summed up as tradition, that is, respect for our fathers and our history.  Notice that only one of these cures–property rights–relates even remotely to the State, and that it involves the negative role rather than the positive.

Take some time to get to know the work of this Southern aristocrat.

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