Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tricking Us Into Conscription

Tibor R. Machan

Most Americans seem to think it is so quaint to be taken to be a member of the huge American family or team or tribe. But it is a trick.

Being a member of some group immediately creates obligations other members may impose. Team members must contribute to the team’s efforts. Club members must pay dues. Family members must do chores. And so on it goes.

In most instances, however, one joins groups on one’s own initiative, without being forced into membership. Apart from the now nearly completely abolished draft, most Americans aren’t familiar with forced labor, with being conscripted. They do not look upon paying taxes, for example, as having their resources confiscated. Most take it as a kind of fee for services. And quite a few actually claim that taxation is voluntary, never mind that it isn’t.

The trick of getting burdened by innumerable obligations that certain self-appointed leaders spell out and enforce has to do with selling millions of people on the idea that their lives belong to the nation or clan or tribe, not to them. Never mind that this goes squarely against the American Founders’ idea that everyone has an unalienable right to his or her life. We are now in the era of a supposed second bill of rights which FDR concocted and which makes us all into conscripts. We are forced to serve and on terms we have but a little bit to do with. Certainly the idea of the consent of the governed, the consent of the taxed and taxed and taxed again and again, has disappeared from public discourse. Instead no one is asked for his or her consent now; just being born makes one part of a team, with all the attendant duties.

The best description of this comes from the French father of sociology, Auguste Comte, who wrote two hundred or so years ago:

"Everything we have belongs then to Humanity…Positivism never admits anything but duties, of all to all. For its social point of view cannot tolerate the notion of right, constantly based on individualism. We are born loaded with obligations of every kind, to our predecessors, to our successors, to our contemporaries. Later they only grow or accumulate before we can return any service. On what human foundation then could rest the idea of right, which in reason should imply some previous efficiency? Whatever may be our efforts, the longest life well employed will never enable us to pay back but an imperceptible part of what we have received. And yet it would only be after a complete return that we should be justly authorized to require reciprocity for the new services. All human rights then are as absurd as they are immoral. This ["to live for others"], the definitive formula of human morality, gives a direct sanction exclusively to our instincts of benevolence, the common source of happiness and duty. [Man must serve] Humanity, whose we are entirely."

This is the public philosophy now in vogue, being propagated by President Obama and Co. And it is a vicious, enslaving thing, this is, certainly foreign to the unique American political tradition.

The reason many are hoodwinked by it all is that of course any self-respecting human being realizes that joining with other people is a fine and dandy thing, indeed, provided those other people are themselves decent folks and fully respect one’s human rights to one’s life, liberty and property. In other words, if these fellows do not kill, kidnap, or rob one, they are usually swell company.

But what we are having foisted upon us now is not the idea of voluntary cooperation but of conscription. And that is a no-no.

I am not sure how these thuggish people will be resisted—there are too many of them these days, sadly. But they must be. They have no authority to bully us around. And I for one will keep agitating against their perverse agenda so long as I have the energy to do so.

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