[Such is the title of my article in the October issue of the Lara-Murphy Report (sample issues and subscription info here). This month we interview Dr. Murray Sabrin, who--among other things--is Professor of Finance at Ramapo College of New Jersey, is producing a documentary on the 100th anniversary of the Fed, ran for governor of NJ, and is co-founder of Conger LH, the world's first lubrihibitor.]
The System Is Rigged:
The Futility of Politics
Robert P. Murphy
As this October issue will be published just before the presidential election, and especially because our interview this month with Murray Sabrin touches on the subject, I thought it appropriate to share my general thoughts on the so-called “political process.” To cut to the chase: I think it can be entertaining, but that people who revere liberty should focus their energies elsewhere.
What About Ron Paul?
The first thing that many self-described Austrians and libertarians will say in response to my claim is, “What about Ron Paul? Are you saying we just wasted our time and money spreading his message of Constitutional government, which necessarily includes his stress on genuine national defense and sound money?”
No, I’m not saying that the “Ron Paul Revolution” was a waste. But the purpose of the Ron Paul movement wasn’t to put him in the White House.
For one thing, that objective was impossible in the present climate. Look, if Ron Paul is right in his diagnosis of what ails the Republic, then the Federal Reserve and what Eisenhower famously called the “military-industrial complex” literally makes hundreds of billions of dollars annually by keeping the American public in a constant state of fear: Fear about collapsing banks, fear about terrorist attackers, fear about “paranoid” militia groups, fear about superflu viruses, you name it. Many of Ron Paul’s most ardent supporters—and I’ve talked with literally thousands of them over the years—think it’s clear as day that a small ruling clique manufactured bogus “evidence” to justify the invasion of Iraq. Yet if the Ron Paul supporters thought these shadowy figures are capable of starting wars to keep the money flowing, did they really think these nefarious characters were going to let somebody waltz in and end the gravy train?
For those who followed the Ron Paul campaign this last time, it was an amazing sight to behold. His insistence that, say, the Constitution said a formal declaration of war was necessary before U.S. forces occupied another country for a decade, was treated like the ravings of some lunatic. Yet when Newt Gingrich talked of building a moon colony by 2020, this was all taken in stride—at least among the Fox News crowd—as an interesting position from the “intellectual” in the pack.
It wasn’t just the media treatment, either. I talked with many people—and not just “angry guys in their 20s” but adults with careers—who had become Ron Paul delegates in their state’s primary or caucus process and told me astonishing stories of how their local GOP bosses either skewed things or outright violated the rules to try to minimize Paul’s impact. (For those who never heard of the story, go to YouTube and search for “Ben Swann Maine Ron Paul” and see how a local pastor explained that Ron Paul clearly had votes stolen in the Maine caucus.)
The purpose of the Ron Paul Movement was education. His campaigns for both 2008 and 2012 were exciting, wonderful vehicles for getting out his message of smaller government, individual responsibility, and honest (sound) money. But there was no way in the present environment—not until we reach the 10%—that he would be elected and could singlehandedly roll back this monstrous system.
No Genuine Conservatives in the Field, Either
I realize some LMR readers may not share my enthusiasm for Ron Paul’s foreign policy views. I understand that perspective; I used to be a military hawk myself. But our difference of opinion here isn’t central to my argument. It’s not just the libertarian Ron Paul who has been excluded: There are no genuine conservatives either.
Stop for a moment and think about this: Barack Obama was rated one of the most liberal members of the Senate, and yet he managed to get elected in 2008 when the very word “liberal” is supposed to be the kiss of death in recent American politics. Now, four years into it, Obama may very well be re-elected even though “on paper” with the economy this awful, he shouldn’t stand a chance. How is this possible?
The answer is that in both 2008 and 2012, the Republican nominee was just about the least conservative candidate imaginable. John McCain was famously a “cross the aisle” kind of Republican, who introduced signature bills on immigration, campaign finance reform, and cap-and-trade legislation to arrest global warming. Regardless of what one thinks of these moves, they were generally anathema to right-wing fans of, say, Rush Limbaugh. And this was the guy the Republican establishment put up against Obama in 2008.
In this cycle, there was actually a chance to roll back “ObamaCare.” A large segment of the American people were outraged by it; in addition to the bank bailouts it was one of the rallying cries of the new Tea Party movement. When I spoke at the Cincinnati Tea Party event at Fifth Third arena on April 15, 2010, I told them that if they managed to clean house (literally!) in November, and then those “conservative” freshmen Republicans didn’t actually do anything, that the Tea Party needed to drop those guys. Well, the Republicans did enjoy major gains in 2010. So if they could just get their guy in the White House in 2012, we might actually turn back the move toward medical socialism…
But nope, instead what happened is the nominee is the single least credible Republican politician on planet Earth to roll back ObamaCare. That is because Mitt Romney introduced his own version of the plan while governor of Massachusetts. When the issue came up during one of the debates against Obama, Romney made sure to clarify that he wasn’t opposed to government intervention in health insurance per se. No, he is just going to give us more cost-effective medical central planning (though he didn’t use that latter term, of course).
My point is, this essay isn’t mere griping over Ron Paul. Even if one doesn’t like his “isolationist” views, there are still plenty of law-and-order, tough-on-Iran, fire-breathing, eloquent, principled conservatives in the Republican Party. And yet, for some inexplicable reason, they never make their way to the final ticket. It’s not a matter of “focusing on winning rather than principle,” either: History shows that someone like Ronald Reagan would have crushed Obama in this election. But because Romney is such a flip-flopper and doesn’t actually believe in the free market, Obama may actually win despite his awful first term.
So how can we explain this? The Republican Party keeps putting up extremely weak candidates, which makes no sense in terms of ideology or even smart politics. And the last guy who won, George W. Bush, ran massive deficits, expanded federal drug prescription coverage, and literally nationalized major banks. What the heck is going on here?
The System Is Rigged
These strange outcomes aren’t a coincidence. The establishment leaders of the two major parties don’t want actual anti-Warfare State progressives going head-to-head in elections against actual anti-Welfare State conservatives. Most of our current readers probably come down more on the laissez-faire, “right wing” perspective. But they must realize that Barack Obama as president is not at all the “radical Marxist” depicted by Fox News. No, actual progressives who thought Obama would bring the troops home, repeal the Patriot Act, close Guantanamo Bay, and provide universal health care while sticking it to the pharmaceutical companies are just as disgusted with Obama, as fiscal conservatives were with George W. Bush.
No, we must realize the sickening truth that the “great debate” in our major media outlets is a sham. Here Noam Chomsky’s famous observation is quite apropos: “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.”
This is why our “serious” candidates—not kooks like that wacky Ron Paul—debate things like, “Should we pull our troops out of Afghanistan at a definite date in 2014, or should we give no timetable whatsoever? Regarding Iran, should we say we will use conventional bombers and our flying killer robots only, or are nuclear weapons also on the table? Of course we are going to have the federal government telling insurance companies they must cover pre-existing medical conditions, but how exactly are we going to say it? Of course we are going to have a central bank monopolizing the money and controlling banking, but in what quarter should it begin raising interest rates?” And so on.
The same thing happens every election cycle. The conservative Republican outlets like Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and the Wall Street Journal get their base fired up about what an awful Big Government Candidate the Democrat is. The liberal outlets like CNN and the New York Times (there’s no real analog on the left to Rush) get their base fired up over what a hypocritical deficit-spender and proponent of corporate welfare the Republican nominee is. And you know what? They’re both right!
When is this cycle ever going to end? How many Republicans thought, “It can’t possibly get worse than Bill Clinton,” and now think the same of Obama? If Romney wins, and continues the trend of the warfare state abroad with the police surveillance state at home, many Democrats who thought, “It can’t get worse than George W. Bush” will realize the shortsightedness of that judgment.
What Then Shall We Do?
Am I preaching a counsel of despair? No, I’m not. In his column last month (September 2012), Carlos summarized the viewpoint of Étienne De La Boetie, who pointed out that an oppressive State can only survive if the people support it. The ruling class is but a tiny fraction of the population. If the mass of public opinion withdrew its consent, the regime would collapse of its own weight. This is why totalitarian regimes devote so much effort to controlling schools and newspapers; they know that all of their prisons and firing squads are impotent against ideas.
This is why education is so important. We must teach our fellow Americans the true legacy of the Founding Fathers, and the ideals of liberty upon which this country was built. We need to stop accepting the major media figures who tell us what the relevant “issues” are in today’s campaigns. This is all a smokescreen, to keep the public from seeing how they are getting bilked of trillions of dollars.
Reform of “the system” will not occur by picking the right man (or woman) to ride into Washington and beat back the hordes. That’s like fighting drug addiction by locking up dealers. No, we won’t roll back the welfare state until the American people don’t want handouts from the government, and instead encourage their own family members and neighbors to find private solutions to the genuine problems that occur in life. If we could somehow get to that happy scenario, it wouldn’t matter what elected officials promised or didn’t promise.
This is why Carlos and I chose “Building the 10%” as the motto and mission of the Lara-Murphy Report. We want to play our small role in spreading the ideas of liberty to this generation and the next. We appreciate your support and your active role in spreading this message as well.