Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Corrupt Profession

Tibor R. Machan

There are those who believe that business is inherently corrupt--communists would be among those, and socialists. The very idea of striving to make a profit is treated by these people as morally objectionable. Of course, some even think medicine fits the bill, or military service. And there are animal rights advocates who believe the entire meat industry is morally base.

For my money the one profession that has indeed become completely, utterly morally irredeemable is politics. Not that even this is necessarily the case--politics could be an upstanding profession in a genuinely free country where those practicing it did what the American Founders believed should be their task: to secure our rights, period. But that has never been the way most people in government viewed their job. Instead these days politicians are hired extortionists. They run for office by promising voters that they will successfully expropriate resources from others and hand it to voters if they only manage to be elected.

Voters, of course, are fully complicit in this--kind of like people who hire killers to do the murder they want done for them. Voters are mostly bent on sending those people to state and national capitols who promise them to use the power of the police to take the wealth of some and hand it to them. For this they will be paid and be able to wield power. Never mind that in the end the only winners are the politicians and bureaucrats because nearly all voters get their comeuppance by being at the losing end of the extortion process. But, just like all those folks who flock to Las Vegas, Monte Carlo, or other gambling centers, voters keep hoping that they will end up winners instead of the house!

In a free society politicians would be like the sheriff in those fictional Westerns who want the job so they can maintain peace and fight crime. They earn themselves a good resume or CV when they achieve this goal and not by being year-round Santa Clauses to the citizens of their towns. For this they receive payment which is collected from something like user fees, funds the citizens contribute by some sort of peaceful, voluntary fashion. That is how freedom works, namely, by systematically precluding all kinds of aggression--brutality, theft, extortion, coercion--from how society works. Taxation, a relic of feudal times, would be banned just as serfdom is, or slavery, however difficult it may be for a while to live without it. But such are the meaning and implication of taking individual rights seriously, seeing them as genuinely unalienable.

But that conception of politics is admittedly the best that's possible and doesn't resemble at all what politics has been throughout human history. Things have gotten a bit better, here and there, by the restraint outright thuggery on the part of rulers--the king or queen, Pharaohs, tsar, Caesar, Sheik or whatnot--and making it a matter, mostly, of the rule of the majority. Yet, of course, majorities can be just as ruthless as dictators. And in such democratic countries, ones in which the rule of law and individual rights haven't gained serious respect, representatives of majorities take what they want from disarmed minorities.

The usual excuse given is that, well, the wealthy or lucky need to help the rest but this is completely misguided because political largess isn't help but loot! When you extort other people's resource--which may have come from luck but more often from a life productively lived--and hand this over to others, that is the farthest thing from generosity or compassion. It is the using of some people, against their will, for the sake of others. And that is exactly what must not be done in a free and just human community. That's because people's lives belong to them, they and not others have a right to it unless they themselves chose to share it.

America's greatest holiday, the Fourth of July, will perhaps some day be celebrated with full understanding of what it stands for. Unfortunately it isn't now. All the pomp and noise surrounding the Fourth seems by now to have lost its point, which was to celebrate the revolutionary insight that politicians are supposed to protect the rights of the citizenry. Instead politicians work in a completely corrupted profession by hiring themselves out as thugs in nice garb. In comparison, people in the business world, even in a messy one which is infected with a lot of politics, are heroes.

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