L. Neil Smith's

Number 1, October 1995

Beyond Moving Beyond Devolution

By Robert B. Boardman

Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise

         "Devolution" is a buzzword coming out of the ruling Republicans, and it's turning into a mantra. Here's the theory, as I understand it: Stealing money from sovereign individuals and giving it to state bureaucrats to spend on people who haven't earned it, is better than stealing money from sovereign individuals and giving it to federal bureaucrats to spend on people who haven't earned it. And if we can occasionally reduce the rate at which we allow the stealing to grow, that's even better yet.
         Now I'm not smart enough to see why that's preferable to not stealing it in the first place, but then, I don't live in Washington, the source of all our health, wealth and wisdom. Since the change of parties last November, I have been hoping to hear the voice of reason.
         So when an article showed up in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, September 5, called "Moving Beyond Devolution," I thought, "All riiight, some prominent politicians agree with me." After resting up during the holidays, my mind was uncritical and I only read the headline. But I have been asked to write for two different newsletters in the past month, so gradually my brain took over and I actually READ the article by William J. Bennett and Dan Coats. And this is scary stuff, coming from a conservative Heritage Foundation fellow and a Republican Senator. Sounds like they want to go the liberals one better.
         Some simple sociology: We live in a country where government at all levels sucks up about half of our wealth, prevents inestimable wealth from ever being produced, and exerts a lot of control over how we use the rest of it.
         The good news is, what's left over is enough to give Americans one of the highest standards of living in the history of the world. There's still enough wiggle room in the cracks between the laws and regulations for honest and productive citizens to provide for themselves and their families and give something to charities they consider important. That's because the small part of American life that the government doesn't control, works!
         Enter "The Project for American Renewal" which "is an attempt to take the side of people and institutions that are rebuilding their own communities and often feel isolated and poorly equipped." This includes, ladies and gentlemen, giving 7% of federal welfare spending to private and religious antipoverty charities - because they work better than government programs.
         In the innocent-sounding words of Bennett & Coats, "It is an attempt to tell the compelling success stories of private and religious institutions, encourage private resources [What do they live on now?] to support them, and explore PUBLIC POLICIES THAT PROTECT, ENCOURAGE AND EXPAND THEM."
         Bennett & Coats point to the USS Were (formerly the USS Are) as an example of what happens when socialism is withdrawn: '"anarcho-capitalism," closer to the Mafia than to the invisible hand.' They go on to say, "We should not ignore the potential for suffering, especially in our cities, when government retreats." Like the Russian experience is an inevitable blueprint for us.
         No doubt Bennett & Coats have spent more time in Russia than I have. But in trying to do business with Russians for a year and a half, I became painfully aware that three generations of Russian people, living under an all-pervasive government, have been forced to perfect deception as a way of life. More than one Russian has said, "They pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work." Addicted to government and deception, they have been asked to go cold turkey. And they've done a whole lot better than most people thought they would.
         America has a different history, where we traditionally believe that rights come from the Creator to us. Sure, we delegate some of those rights to the government (defense of our life, liberty and property among them), because it is more efficient to do so; but they are still OUR rights, not the government's. And in America, we think that the individual should make the critical decisions about how to live, where to work, and whose causes we want to support. Until very recently, most Americans' involvement with government has been to vote and pay taxes. But that's only in our private lives. In our public lives, the government controls nearly everything: our businesses, schools, highways, labor unions, political parties, restaurants.
         It usually starts with Federal Aid to a Good Cause. (When I was a teenager, the issue was Federal Aid to Education. Some curmudgeons thought it might lead to federal control, but, of course, those were just paranoids who didn't want to get with the modern age.) And it ends with the government remaking those institutions in their own image (hands on ankles, ready to receive public funds). Thanks, Bennett & Coats, I don't want to see our private charities and churches remade in the government's image.
         Forget the Russian experience; that's not America. I think of America as a fertile field, that 40 years of liberal Democratic rule have paved over. But now the pavement is crumbling, and I see grass, green and healthy, growing up through the cracks.
         Let it grow.

Robert B. Boardman is the author of sf novels Savior of Fire, published by Blue Note Books, and The Trashers, as yet unpublished. He is currently managing director of the Nepenthe Project, a startup center in Houston for making liberty-oriented movies and videos. email: RBBoardman@aol.com.

Pallas, the new sci-fi adventure novel by L. Neil Smith is out in paperback from Tor. Is there room for a socialist utopia on an individualist asteroid?
Now available at good bookstores everywhere!

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