A Political Rant
For this post we are going to take a brief detour from the beer and beverage worlds to enter that most daunting of all arenas… politics. I realize in polite company this is one of the few topics which should be avoided at all costs… and I probably should heed that advice. But sometimes you need to scream I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore… so damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead. If it costs me a client or two, so be it.
And please don’t think I’m cheerleading for either major political party… they both have more than enough faults. Both political parties use raw partisanship to play us as saps… to blind us to what is really happening.
What has brought this rant to a head? Well last week was the annual NBWA Legislative Conference in DC, our annual suck-up to lesser men and women who have far too much power over all of us. This is not a knock on Craig and NBWA, I think they do a pretty dang good job and sadly, ANY industry in this country had better be in DC (and every state capital)… if you are not you are a fool. That’s just the way it is today. In a regulated industry like ours, the imperative is even greater.
But I also spoke to MANY distributors who had to bite their tongues and not tell their esteemed Representatives and Senators how they really felt about what is going on in DC right now… DC currently being the most dangerous place in the world for the well being of the entire planet. Once again, not a knock on Craig, the purpose of these visits are to accomplish the industry’s goals and Lobbying 101 says stay on target and only on target… but it sure is tough.
The entire episode has me disheartened and distressed... and yes, mad as hell. The weather was beautiful so I walked about and visited many of the awe inspiring memorials. The words of Lincoln, Jefferson, and Kennedy echoed in my mind. The horrors of the Holocaust museum brought more than a few tears to my eyes. The honor, courage, and sacrifice of those represented at Arlington, the Vietnam Wall, Korea, WWI and II memorials brought even more tears… and a questioning of my own worth and gratitude for these others. That these individuals gave their all for this country, in most cases for the freedom of others shook me to my core. It is one thing to fight for your own freedom; it is a damned sight different thing to fight and die for another’s freedom.
Yet today we hear from many elected representatives that we must change the very foundation of this country… that we voted for “change” and the old rules don’t apply. I have yet to understand how going from having 95% of the country employed to having 91.5% of the country employed (the national rate as of 04/03/09), a difference of 3.5%!!, is cause for a remaking of the very fabric of our society. That we can spend our way to prosperity. Churchill famously said
I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.
Seems fairly obvious to me. Has any society ever taxed its way to prosperity? Or regulated its way to prosperity? Or borrowed its way to prosperity? If it were possible would there ever be a country which wasn’t prosperous? Look around. Look at history. Is this the case? Why doesn’t government just send us all a check for a million dollars and then we’d all be rich? There are realities we confront, whether we like it or not. Just as science is a constant search for the truth, the focus of our political system should also be the search for the truth, not raw political power. But politics and government today operate with a truth be damned-type of mindset. Our very lives are put at risk by this arrogance. The entire planet is put at risk by this arrogance. If you spend the time and effort you will find that every economic problem we are currently facing has government’s fingerprints all over it. Let us never forget Tolstoy’s statement:
Government is an association of men who do violence to the rest of us.
Or that font of wisdom, P.J. O’Rourke...
Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys
The old Soviet Union failed because its economic system failed. It simply didn’t work because it contradicted reality… and reality is a pesky little thing which bends for no person… regardless of how much one might hope and dream. China is successful because it has embraced free (er) markets. Some have suggested that the US is heading towards European-style socialism (with some looking forward to it and some dreading it). Both miss the mark. Without the US being the US, European socialism isn’t possible in Europe, let alone the US!
Let us take a little stroll down memory lane. At the end of World War II, the US had a tremendous transfer of wealth to Western Europe. They have used this to luxury to build social systems which are forecast to be unsustainable in only a number of years… from handouts of hundreds of millions of dollars to unsustainable social welfare in a little over 60 years! They have allowed this social system to become a wealth consuming beast… Western Europe doesn’t even have money (or desire) to even defend themselves! They basically have given up having any type of effective military, instead being happy to hide under the protective cover of our military might. Defense of the country is one of the primary reasons to even have a federal government. Instead they fund an unsustainable social system as they race towards the abyss.
In the 1970’s began another huge transfer of wealth to the oil producing nations, generally in the Middle East. A lot of these dollars were recycled back to Europe, thus helping them sustain their socialist life style. Around the same time the Detroit automakers (and the wonderful UAW) were in the process of committing industrial suicide by their construction of some of the worst cars ever produced in this country (along with completely unsustainable union contracts). Thus began another tremendous transfer of wealth to Japan and later to the Asian Tigers. At least these countries used this wealth transfer to create successful, modern, and wealthy economies. And again, a lot of this wealth was recycled back to Europe. And this oil related transfer continues to this day… again feeding the European social disaster.
Take the US economy out of this equation and NONE of this is possible. If we become European socialists, the whole world-wide equation changes… and not for the better anywhere on the freaking planet. You probably often hear about how the US consumes a great deal of the world’s energy… what you don’t hear is how much of the world’s wealth is created here. Medicine, technology… things that make the entire world a better, wealthier, healthier, and more peaceful place.
That’s a fact, Jack. And what of this thing we call government? We seem to forget that words matter. Our emotions, our opinions, our very integration with the world around us are all influenced by words. But words are just that, words. No matter how much one might hope, they have no influence on the real physical world. Yet we often use words as though they represent real, physical things. Government is such a word. Both political parties habitually speak of government doing this or that… often in almost mystical terms; much like God intervening in our puny little lives and magically transforming reality. Government will do this, government will solve that. But this thing we call government is an abstraction.
In this fashion it is just like a corporation, an artificial entity created by other words. Lord Haldane’s classic quote regarding corporations says it all:
"My Lords, a corporation is an abstraction. It has no mind of its own any more than it has a body of its own; its active and directing will must consequently be sought in the person of somebody who is really the directing mind and will of the corporation, the very ego and centre of the personality of the corporation."
This also defines the government. This is not a moral statement but rather a physical fact. Governments don’t do anything since they don’t exist… the people who are either elected or work for governments do these things. Again a fact. These people are held to the same natural laws which exist for the rest of us—and they have no higher wisdom or moral authority. In fact you could make a strong case that far too many of them are moral and intellectual inferiors. William F. Buckley noted…
I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 2,000 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.
Well I know beer distributors and I’d rather entrust the government of the United States to ANY 2,000 owners or employees than to the present band of clowns we both elect and hire to operate the government of this great nation. The next time you read about how government is going to do this or that, replace the word with any company name, like Microsoft and see if you think it still makes sense.
This is not to imply that governments or corporations are static, passive things. Far from it. Although they are artificial entities, once created they behave much like a living entity. They seek to sustain themselves, to protect themselves, and to grow. A for-profit corporation’s existence is limited by profit… how effectively they can convince individuals to freely part with their money. Government knows no such bounds.
Many years ago, H.L. Mencken noted the reality of government (and sadly our current situation… especially the last quote)…
“The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can't get and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods”
The legislature, like the executive, has ceased to be even the creature of the people: it is the creature of pressure groups, and most of them, it must be manifest, are of dubious wisdom and even more dubious honesty. Laws are no longer made by a rational process of public discussion; they are made by a process of blackmail and intimidation, and they are executed in the same manner. The typical lawmaker of today is a man wholly devoid of principle—a mere counter in a grotesque and knavish game…. If the right pressure could be applied to him he would be cheerfully in favor of chiropractic, astrology or cannibalism.”
"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”
Unfortunately for us all, our governments and political processes operate as though they are immune from any reality other than pure political power and the proper spin of the masses. Today we hear how government is going to stimulate the economy. So this abstraction called government is going to stimulate (whatever that means) another abstraction called the economy. The economy is the sum of literally billions and billions of individual decisions and transactions made each and every day. How do a handful of government employees plan to “stimulate” these transactions? How do they know better than the individuals voluntarily making the transactions? Hayek called this “The Fatal Conceit”. It seems government can either:
· Take money from someone and give it to someone else, or
· Borrow money and give it to someone, or
· Print more money and give it to someone
I fail to understand how any of these will “stimulate” these billions of transactions which make up the economy.
We seem to be in the process of voluntarily giving away the freedoms (and the wealth and prosperity these freedoms allow to be created) that our forefathers gave their very lives to create and defend. Will future generations curse us for the damage we did? Will they wonder how we could so casually abandon the freedoms that exist no where else on the entire planet? Is our generation going to be the one which proves the following quote…
A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:
· From bondage to spiritual faith;
· From spiritual faith to great courage;
· From courage to liberty;
· From liberty to abundance;
· From abundance to complacency;
· From complacency to apathy;
· From apathy to dependence;
· From dependence back into bondage
Is our time up? Our going back to bondage will leave the world aflame. May God have mercy on our souls is we allow this to pass. Perhaps some late night, when all the tourists have abandoned the memorials, our political “leaders” of all stripes should sneak down and have a quiet talk with John and Abe and Thomas. Read what they said… what they did. Perhaps they should run their hands over the names on the Wall. Perhaps they should weep at Arlington. The words are right there:
“Let every nation know, whether it
wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price - bear any burden - meet any
hardship - support any friend - oppose any foe to assure the survival and the
success of liberty”
“In the long history of the world,
only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom.
In the hour of maximum danger I do not shrink from this responsibility, I
“… It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain…”
“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men. We...solemnly publish and declare, that these colonies are and of right ought to be free and independent states...And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
Re-read that last quote. The individuals who formed this country really did risk those things. But today, do our political “leaders”, who swear a sacred oath to this country – not to this or that political party – actually believe those words? Or have those words simply become a suckers game? Where the creation of and fight for political power is all that matters? Where sacred honor is laughed at? Where fortunes aren’t to be risked but rather to be made? And where only those who believe such outdated sentiments put their lives and honor on the line? Disheartening indeed.
For those who take the path of handing over their very lives to the lesser men and women whose only claim to greatness is their ability to get elected, I leave you with the words of a famous American patriot (and home brewer!) who did put his life, fortune, and sacred honor on the line, Samuel Adams…
If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsel of arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen
I for one will lick no hands. I will not live in servitude. I will never forget or forgive those who casually attempt to take my God-given rights away. Nor should you.