Politics is one of the most peculiar careers anyone could pursue. For one thing, a politician’s ultimate goal ought to be the same as an educator’s – making oneself increasingly irrelevant until the ones you serve no longer require your services. However, unlike educators, politicians do not receive a fresh batch of customers with each passing generation. Should a perfect political system ever be achieved, “politician” would become as unnecessary and irrelevant a career as “milkman.”*
Naturally, this does not further the personal desires of the men and women that choose to make a living from being needed. After all, a lust for power over others will not easily be satiated from an office in a far-distant capitol over free, independent individuals, nor can a politician expect his salary to be terribly high if his only job is keeping the status quo which, under a moral government, is the only reason politicians should exist at all. So, disregarding the rare examples of honest statesmen in a sea of power-grabbers and altruists, how do politicians act in order to maintain their power, prestige, and position?
As Thomas Sowell, senior fellow of the Hoover Institute at Standford University explains, “People can get the possible on their own. Politicians have to be able to offer the voters something that they cannot get on their own. The impossible fills that bill perfectly.” Only by promising their constituents empirically unfounded notions are politicians able to maintain any level of control over them – the current administration’s claim that everyone can have access to the same healthcare without quality necessarily decreasing or costs necessarily increasing, even with an expansive new bureaucracy that now must also be paid for, serves as a perfect example. In the end, metaphysical reality remains unchanged: you cannot have your cake and eat it too.
Whenever a state-controlled program tries to achieve some impossible end, problems will undoubtedly occur. However, problems are exactly what politicians thrive on. Rather than linking cause and effect, the negative consequences of any anti-rational government program are treated as singular, organic issues completely disconnected from the programs that led to them in the first place. In this way, the politicians are able to step in, claim to have a solution which only evades the facts of reality further, thus creating additional problems to “solve.” The process then repeats and expands – with every new program, new problems manifest themselves, providing further opportunities for politicians to “solve” those problems through successively more expansive programs, creating successively greater problems… so on and so forth. I am not arguing that most politicians are consciously malicious enough to intentionally cause problems in order to garner support for even further government expansion. Quite oppositely, I am arguing that most politicians don a sort of forced unconsciousness, refusing to identify the roots of the problem and dealing only with superficialities. Why? Because the moment they start dealing with the conceptual level of man’s awareness rather than the concrete level is they learn the true cause of today’s political ills: their own irrational philosophies.
Undoubtedly, at least some politicians do not want to solve the difficulties that our nation faces and would rather muddy the facts for their own gain, regardless of whether that gain is ethical or rational, though most simply refuse to address those questions. They compel themselves not to for fear that they will be made aware of their own sins. Many other politicians, however, believe they are doing the right thing and do not force unconsciousness on themselves – they do it naturally. This is even more concerning than those that are consciously evading the existential roots of their problems – such levels of unconsciousness among the men and women that are supposed to be our intellectual elite of our country are only a symptom of the philosophical default of our time.
Nonetheless, examples of this cyclic growth of government are without end. A current popular crusade within the esoteric drum circles of the political left is the war against unhealthy food. Whether banning toys in McDonald’s Happy Meals, restricting soda machines in public places, banning sodium in food, or banning unsaturated fat in general (all of which have been done in at least one city or state in this country), the left proudly asserts that it is acting in the name of public health. Why? “Unhealthy eating habits cost the taxpayers money.” At present, this is true – the American taxpayer picks up the bill for the healthcare of those that do not care for themselves. As it is, the proposed solution – banning unhealthy food – does not address the problem.
Rather than solving the issue of taxpayers funding the healthcare of the chronically unhealthy, the proponents of these expansions of government force into individual liberty are only creating a new issue (besides violating the rights of individuals to their own bodies): economic distortion. When the government mandates what can and cannot be sold, not to mention on what terms, efficiency decreases, prices increase, unemployment increases, and people usually just turn to an alternative good which is unlikely to be better than fatty, prepared foods (fatty, homemade foods, for example, whose preparation does not exactly employ anyone).
Instead, the proper solution is to simply eliminate the legal duty of taxpayers to cover one another’s medical expenses in the first place – then, paying for the healthcare of the obese (or smokers, or alcoholics, or anyone else that participates in self-destructive practices) would be a nonissue to begin with. “But then how will doctors get paid? They are required to provide care for everyone, even if they can’t pay for it.” Yet another simple solution – reverse EMTALA (the bill passed by President Reagan that made the Hippocratic Oath a legal mandate). “But then how are people supposed to get the care they need if they can’t afford it?” At this point, the original metaphysical impossibility can be identified: the idea that something can materialize spontaneously and be used by everyone equally without any sort of tradeoffs whatsoever. (Voluntary funding of the healthcare of others, such as through charity, is axiomatically opposed to statist intervention in healthcare; the latter necessitates force to sustain itself.)
While the metaphysics of production and economic transactions, meaning relying on man’s mind and exchanging shared values respectively, can be discussed at other times, the point here is that one evasion of reality leads almost unfalteringly to another in our current political system. For example, the same premises that applied to the progression of statism in healthcare are equally relevant to the same growth of statism in education. Rather than simply accepting that people must pay for their own education (or their children’s), people claim that everyone should pay for their neighbor’s education… while also controlling what is taught to their neighbors, demanding specific discipline within the school system their neighbors attend, restricting what schools should be attended by whom through arbitrary zoning, and destroying quality in the name of equally arbitrary test scores.
If there is a bright side, statism is not the only cyclically expanding doctrine – liberty is as well. In every way that statist premises move the country toward increased government control and utter ruin, the reversal of those same premises move the country toward individual rights and unparalleled success. Right now, the United States is in the midst of a philosophical war; one side is rooted in reason and metaphysical reality, and the other is rooted in irrationalism and evasions of fact, with mixtures of both caught hopelessly in the middle, still waiting to choose a consistent doctrine to fight for. So long as those on the side of reason are honest about both their positions and those of their opponents, they will undoubtedly win.
In the meantime, the Progressives (the product of altruism in American politics) are unlikely to be deterred. They will continue to promise the impossible to maintain their stranglehold on American liberty, forever attempting to grow the government until reality rears its head and takes vengeance on its own. I suppose that is why the name “Progressive” is so fitting – they have created more progress for the cause of statism in the freest country on earth than any Communist or Fascist could ever hope to achieve.
*I mean this only in the sense that the role of politicians in a capitalist government would be minute compared to their roles today, not that the “perfect political system” implies the abolition of government, which it does not.