by Tibor Machan
After finally seeing “Fahrenheit 9/11,” I am convinced those on the Left should all become libertarians. That is the only consistent position for them, given their view of government, namely as a gang of easily bought and paid off thugs.
Moore’s movie — and it isn’t a documentary but an unabashed propaganda film — assumes, throughout, that government must succumb to the machinations of the big, powerful and conspiratorial business interests of a country. Libertarians have taught throughout history that unless the law is legally restricted in its scope, the powerful will take it over for their own purposes. Unless a country’s legal authority is confined, as the Declaration of Independence put it, to securing our rights, it will grow into a Leviathan that serves the most powerful special interests in society.
Libertarians do not believe, in the main, that any particular group in society is predisposed to use government more than any other — although Adam Smith did warn about the collusion of business interests. But, in justice, are not scientists, artists, doctors, nurses, farmers, educators or athletes perfectly willing to go to the government so as to get special privileges? Of course.
Those on the political Left, however, believe that people in the business world are especially bent on bringing government officials to favor them. Moore’s movie swears by this doctrine, claiming, for example, that profit is the prime motive for all of the pre and post Iraqi foreign political machinations of Bush & Co. Indeed, the entire film is devoted to pleading this case, with no effort to offer even a scintilla of contrary evidence or testimony — the mark of true propaganda.
If this analysis of the dynamics of politics is seriously believed by someone, there is no other feasible alternative but to disengage society — especially business — from government, not unlike religion is separated from the state. But is there evidence of this approach to statecraft within the ranks of the Left?
Not really. Instead of following the logic of their political science — which isn’t all that different from what the public choice school of economic analysis of politics proposes — the Left in the main sticks to the hopeless dream of finding angels to occupy the corridors of power, angels that will, in the purity of their motives, totally resist the appeal of the powerful for their support.
The best example of this hope in our time is Saint Ralph. Ralph Nader, that is. His campaigns have consisted mainly of railing against big business, corporate interests, pledging that should he get elected to office, government will transform itself into what might be called a heavenly body. Instead of being motivated as the Left believes we all are — namely to seek more special favors, whether in or out of government — with the ascent of the folks like Saint Ralph, the hope is that this temptation will be purged particularly from government.
Wrong. As long as government meddles in the affairs of society, be these economic, religious, athletic, educational, artistic, scientific or what not, government is going to be appealed to for its special sort of support, namely selective coercion. And those with the greatest clout will prevail. No Saint Ralph is going to prevent this.
The only reasonable hope is the kind of limited government, limited by law and administrative structure (a la the American Founders), that the classical liberals and libertarians introduced into political theory. But that means freedom for the rest of us, freedom to live diverse, unequal yet peaceful lives.
But the Left loves the utopian, unreasonable ideal of total equality more than a realistic prospect of limited government. So, while railing against a government captive of big business, it will continue to risk such captivity in the hope that in time its gang will take over and make us all the same.
Tibor Machan advises Freedom Communications, parent company of this newspaper. E-mail him at: