Throughout most of human history, over the course of many millennia, some few tricked the many into thinking that government was the solution to all problems. The arguments, if one can call them that, went something like this:
- Worried that souls won’t be saved? That’s why we need a king!
- Worried about being poor? That’s why we need a king!
- Worried about your own safety? That’s why we need a king!
- Worried about education? That’s why we need a king!
- Worried about sickness? That’s why we need a king!
- Worried that people don’t know what to do with their lives? That’s why we need a king!
The premise of these claims (and more) was that government, usually in the form of a king in the ancient and medieval worlds, could solve all problems, or at least mitigate the harm associated with them.
A SOLUTION OR A CAUSE OF PROBLEMS?
Then there was a brief moment in human history, from the late Enlightenment through and including and stretching beyond the American Founding, when at least some people came to think that perhaps the old premise was flawed and the old ways were mistaken, incorrect.
Not all human beings, to be sure, only some—and mostly in the West—began thinking that perhaps 10,000 years of human poverty, misery, sickness and short life spans, unending war, and total government control over the lives of others were perhaps connected in ways no one before had understood.
They started to question: Perhaps total government control was not the solution to human suffering, but the cause of it?
This led to the one of the greatest discoveries within the entire history of political philosophy: individual freedom and the realm of privacy.
Individual freedom and the realm of privacy are inseparable, indistinguishable one from the other. They’re synonymous.
Individual freedom and privacy result naturally from limiting the power of government. Individual freedom and the realm of privacy do not require that anything be taken from anyone or given to anyone else. Individual freedom and the realm of privacy simply require the power of government to be limited, and whatever lies beyond those limits is the realm of privacy where people are free to live as they please.
Consider: Whether the designers of a government choose to grant more or less power to those who occupy government offices, the mere fact of drawing some line, some demarcation, some constitutional barrier that government has no authority to cross, enshrines the realm of privacy.
THE REALM OF PRIVACY
The realm of privacy is simply those areas of human life in which government is not authorized to meddle. Under the original United States Constitution, for example, the realm of privacy included: education, health care, how to run one’s own business, the economy as a whole, family life, religion, free speech, freedom of the press, freedom to be armed and defend one’s self and family.
These and others were areas out of which government was instructed to stay because We The People granted to government no authority to meddle in these areas.
Citizens were then free to pursue within their own private lives how productive they wanted to be and make their own choices about matters such as shelter, food, the education of their children, health care for their families, how to run their own business, with whom they wanted to trade, how they wanted to raise their kids, how or whether to worship God, etc. If they needed temporary assistance, they turned to each other and voluntarily offered helped to those they thought most needed it until they once again were productive and self-reliant.
These kinds of citizens could choose freely what they valued and how much, what they valued not at all, what they wanted to focus on or not, and they could spend their own resources and trade their own property however they pleased with whomever they pleased, taking full responsibility for their own choices.
The results were impressive. Beyond impressive, actually. Unprecedented.
The American Founding experiment of exercising great individual freedom within a large realm of privacy, for the most part free from government regulation or interference, sparked:
- The greatest anti-poverty program in all prior human history!
- The greatest anti-slavery movement in all prior human history!
- The greatest anti-persecution, pro-religious liberty movement in all prior human history!
- The greatest education movement in all prior human history!
- The greatest women’s liberation movement in all prior human history!
- The greatest innovations in health care and medicine in all prior human history!
During this brief historical spot of time, many people in the Western world came to believe, with good reason and much evidence, that it’s wise to attach the cart of any important and good cause to the horse of individual freedom:
- Worried that souls won’t be saved? That’s why we need freedom!
- Worried about the poor? That’s why we need freedom!
- Worried about the safety of yourself and your family? That’s why we need freedom!
- Worried about education? That’s why we need freedom!
- Worried about sickness? That’s why we need freedom!
- Worried that people live in squalor and surrounded by misery and suffering? That’s why we need freedom!
THE BIG SWINDLE
Enter The Big Swindle.
The Big Swindle is simply a re-marketing of the old ways. 10,000 years of history proved the old ways don’t work well, sure. Yet many still find them seductive.
In fact, most who have bought into The Big Swindle don’t even know the ways they support are old. They see the label “progressive” and assume they must be new. Well, they’re not. The only difference is that we no longer call those in government, “kings,” though some think they’re deserving of that title.
A small number of people over the last century have persuaded large numbers of Americans and others in the Western world that our biggest problems today are too much freedom, too much production, too much consumption, too much human activity that goes on without government oversight or regulation or management.
They’d have us believe it’s anarchy out there in the private realm of freedom. Yikes!
A small number of people over the last century have persuaded large numbers of Americans and others in the Western world that we should attach the cart of any cause we think important not to the horsepower of freedom, but rather to the horses of government:
- Poverty? More government control is the solution!
- Education? More government control is the solution!
- Health care? More government control is the solution!
- Don’t like your boss, your job, or your current salary? More government control is the solution!
- Changes in global climate? More government control is the solution!
- Changes in the galaxy or the entire universe? More government control is the solution!
- Don’t like what preachers preach from the pulpit or how citizens spend their own money on elections? More government control is the solution!
- Worried about child abuse, spousal abuse, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, neglect, homelessness, hunger, depression, violence, bullying, or bad manners? More government control is the solution!
The Big Swindle is seductive because it offers what appears to be free stuff coupled with the illusion of control and scientific management of the problems about which we care. And the Big Swindle is possible only by concealing the fact that growing government power—which means a shrinking realm of privacy!—causes many of these pathologies and problems to get worse, not better.
The Big Swindle is like an inescapable vortex for many people:
- They want improvement in some area of life so they vote for more government power and control.
- That area of life then gets worse.
- Those in government say: “If only we had even more power and control!”
- The people who want improvement in that area of life then vote for even more government power and control.
Round and round it goes, swirling down the drain of history. Back to the time when some few tricked the many into thinking that government was the solution to all problems.
Meanwhile, The Big Swindle turns the moral landscape of our politics upside down as many Americans and other Westerners come to assume that increasing government power and the moral high ground are the same thing. That anyone who even questions the attempt to solve some problem through more government must immoral, ignorant, incorrigible.
But they’re not immoral, ignorant, incorrigible. They are the few who see The Big Swindle for what it is.