Baffled by why statists think the way they do, and why they still brush off libertarianism? It’s all about psychology, and how people view government. In this three-part series, I explain the three central arguments libertarians need to make to win over progressives and other statists.
Most non-libertarians, especially progressives, make three inherent assumptions about the United States government. They assume that our government has our best interests at heart, is inherently transparent, and is fundamentally representative. Those core beliefs explain why they can see government behaving badly, see the NSA and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and a thousand other messes, and still vote for more government.
They see those actions as the exception, occasional mistakes by our otherwise benevolent elected officials.
Want to convert a statist? Tackle these three assumptions. My first two blogs argued that government is selfish and non-transparent. On to assumption three: government represents us.
This is often the anchor of the statist belief in government: the idea that our government works for us. That we vote officials into office in order to serve our needs, and if and when they stop doing so, we can replace them. However, the majority of those wielding power in Washington are unelected and often unknown. We as citizens don’t get to vote for the head of the FBI or the EPA. We have no control over which lobbyists help write which laws or entertain which Congressmen. Any list of the top 10 most powerful officials in Washington would have to include the president’s chief of staff, but most Americans have no idea who Denis McDonough even is.
In 2010, there were 2.65 million federal employees. We elected 537 of them. 100 Senators, 435 Congressmen, the President, and the Vice President. That’s 0.02% of federal employees. Nor are elected men and women the most powerful in Washington. The heads of various administrative agencies — the FBI, the NSA, the EPA — and the head of the Federal Reserve, to name only a few, both have more power than the average Congressmen. Yet Americans have no control over them.
The nature of a republic is that we elect leaders who make the decisions. That’s a fine model. But it breaks down when the nexus of power shifts from elected officials to unelected department heads. In the 21st century, the vast majority of decision-makers are unelected, not voted for, and usually unknown. That’s not a democratic government.
And that’s part 3 of the 3-part series on defeating assumptions about government in order to build libertarianism.
Addendum: These points is not intended as the final word. Rather, they a starting point. Too many Americans make basic assumptions about our government that, while sometimes true (government has, believe it or not, done some good), are often false. If libertarians want to become a force in politics, we need to recognize these assumptions. And then, using clear logic, powerful arguments, and honest facts, we need to rebut them (if you subscribe to this blog, by the way, my weekly articles will help you do that).
If we can combat the mindset of statism, the future of libertarianism looks very bright indeed.
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