Bill of Rights Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 394, November 19, 2006

"The continued existence of this culture
is incompatible with the continued
existence of the Republicans and Democrats."


by Chris Claypoole

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

I've been reading The Noblest Triumph (TNT) by Tom Bethell. It's subtitled, Property and Prosperity Through the Ages, and is a successful (IMO) attempt to show the importance of private property rights to creating and maintaining a prosperous society. One historical quirk he noted in Chapter One intrigued me.

He cited John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689), in which Locke "argued that all our knowledge and understanding was derived from sensory experience. The initial state of mind was simply 'white paper, void of all characters, without any ideas.'" In Bethell's opinion, this idea began the concept that humans can be molded by controlled education into whatever the molder desires.

Bethell then noted that Claude Helvetius picked up on Locke's assertion and expanded on it in De l'esprit, translated as Essays on the Mind, published in 1758. Helvetius proclaimed, "it is not on religion, nor on what is called morality, . . . but on legislation alone, that the vices, the virtues, the power and the felicity of a people depend." This frightening idea inspired the "founder of Russian Marxism, G. V. Plekhanov, [who] included an admiring essay on Helvetius in his Essays in the History of Materialism." This particular essay was written in 1895, in Geneva, which was where and when Plekhanov "met and befriended a like-minded revolutionary—Vladimir Ilyich Lenin."

The Soviet experiment in molding—transforming—people into what their rulers desire them to be was one of the most terrifying eras in human history. Two of the other socialist attempts at human transformation were the National Socialists in Germany and the Communist Party in China. (Yes, the French Revolution also thought to transform mankind, but they were pikers compared to the 20th century practitioners.) The Nazis were overwhelmed by the other socialist nations. The Soviets, burdened by a near-complete lack of either private property or rule of law, collapsed from lack of financial resources. The Chinese Communists are attempting to continue their rule as benevolent oligarchs (or gerontocracy) by allowing some private property and limited rule of law. The lack of reasonable certainty as to the application of either of those principles will eventually need to be resolved before China can become the economic powerhouse it has the capability of becoming, IMO.

The Soviets are still having troubles with creating a successful economic model, as their culture does not seem to be friendly to a rule of law. What private property there is in Russia is always in danger from the kleptocrats in the Kremlin or the various organized crime gangs (some of which have connections to the government). Obviously, Russians were not transformed into Soviet Man: selfless, cooperative, hard-working, etc. The Chinese are attempting to channel their newly vibrant economy to conform to the interests of the rulers and their families, with more success in the rural areas than in the cities (it is easier to control dispersed populations). But even in the rural areas there is scattered resistance to the dictates of the central government's attempts to mold their lives; despite the difficulty in bypassing the censors, news of confrontations occasionally leaks out. Thus, even in very repressive societies, attempts at transforming people who want to remain as they are is not a productive endeavor.

So why do so many in the self-described elites in America still think that the transformation of human nature into the mold they desire can succeed here when it has failed in countries that had far more of a stranglehold on the populace than is possible in these United States?

Because it is working.

The state-run schools have been indoctrinating their captive students for decades. The media have, in general, followed in lock-step with the tenets of the cult of obedience to the many governments that prey on us. But since the rule of law and the sanctity of private property remain mostly intact even today (although they both have been seriously eroded, especially since September 11, 2001), the economy is still strong and most people do not feel the kind of pinch that might impel them to think about events around them. The Soviets and Chinese eventually found out that people in the so-called capitalist countries were far better off economically, and that prompted dissatisfaction with their respective rulers. But Americans can, and do, imagine that all is well since we are "the most prosperous and free nation on earth." (That may or may not be an actual quote, but I've heard it in so many variations that I put quotation marks around it. Also to note my sarcasm attached to the bald assertion made by Americans who are largely ignorant of anything outside the radius of their commute between work and home.)

As a man in his mid-fifties, I have seen a gradual decline in the willingness of people where I live (Maryland—yes, I know that is somewhat aberrant, but I'm talking trends here) to work things out for themselves rather than beg for the government to help them. Or to sue. Or, in some cases, to escalate immediately to homicide for what might have been a shouting match in my youth. The former behaviors are those of well-trained and domesticated animals; the latter are the wild animals who cannot be trained and are confused to the point of random insanity by attempts to fit them into the circus-clown hat and tutu like some Chihuahua in the side show.

And there are many, like most of the readers here, who have rejected the attempt at transformation and take measures ranging from covert to overt to resist those who would turn us into H. G. Wells' Eloi, preyed upon not only by the Morlocks described above, but by those same elites that have been in charge of the transformation project.

Now, let me be clear that I think that most of those elites are not pursuing this chimera of transforming people out of evil motives. Most of them seem to honestly believe that their ministrations are for our own good. But I do not evaluate something by the intent behind the action, but by the results. And the intent is not even a mitigating factor if the results are easily foreseeable to someone not intoxicated by the power of "doing something."

These transformers come from both wings of the Boot On Your Neck Party, both liberals and conservative, both the religious right and the pagan left. What they all have in common is the desire to control the state school system in order to ensure that their vision of the ideal citizen—compliant, unable or unwilling to engage in critical thought, and dependent on the elites for guidance—is the end result of the transforming power of controlled education.

What gives me hope is that I do not believe that some things can be "educated out" of people's nature. Or, at least, a significant minority of them. Some such people are like the wildings mentioned previously; others are, like me, content to go along with the appearance of conformity in public while biding their time for an opportunity to make a difference should (okay, when) events come to a head. What we want to do is not to transform people, but to change the way they view their relationships between each other, to make the NAP/ZAP the new ethical standard.

Stick to your principles and keep your powder dry.


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