Mulholland: Extremism, part 2
In a previous column, I suggested a different understanding of the political spectrum. I defined extremists by how far they departed from our Constitution. I believe most Americans want the same things, but most of them make choices based on little or no information, or based on misinformation provided by people with an agenda of greed. I would like to believe that, if sufficiently informed, most people would actually be conservatives. What, then, creates extremism? Wealth. Wealth gives power, and lack of it causes envy.
What do we all want? We want productive work that pays us sufficiently to support a family, that is, to supply it with the basic survival needs of shelter, food, and water, as well as time for rest and a sense of purpose. We want sufficient additional income to provide for the enjoyment of pastimes, including vacations, sports, and hobbies.
Basic natural rights are those things every person is born with: the right to live and the right to obtain the means to continue living, which necessarily includes the right to liberty. Contentment will be the end result. These rights necessarily require subsidiary rights, among which are the right to own and keep personal property, and the right to protection from those who would steal it.
The defining condition of life is that the means to sustain it are scarce. Scarcity drives all economic activity and therefore all competition. Perhaps of all the things required to sustain life, only air is not scarce. Food, water, fuel, and shelter are all scarce; that is, they are not free for the taking, and usually there is not enough for every person to have all he wants. This scarcity sets up competition to obtain them and provides some people the motive to control them. Control creates artificial scarcity and/or abundance that leads to conflict, giving rise to greed, envy, class distinction, anger, riots and warfare; in a word, discontent.
There are two means to obtain the requirements of life: to find or create them yourself, or to forcibly take them from someone else. The first is called self-sufficiency, or entrepreneurship; the second has many names, including, theft, robbery, plunder, taxation, and inflation.
The only government ever founded to protect natural rights is the U.S. constitutional government. Over the centuries, greed and envy have altered that government from one that protects, to one that plunders. It is no longer the servant of the people it was created to serve, but has become their master. It has done this by granting itself the sole legal authority to use physical force to enforce its dictates. It gained this control almost imperceptibly, and it has used the apparatus of free education and media to convince its subjects that it is in their best interest.
In summary, people want prosperity and happiness. Such things are scarce and made more so by government controls. Scarcity breeds discontent, especially if some people are rich and flaunt it. Not knowing what else to do, they always vote for a government solution, unaware it is that very same government that most likely is the cause of their economic woes.
So, in this election season voters contend over who gets to control that government. Few of them understand that it does not make much difference, because the government controls them, not vice versa. It is a vicious circle: more government creates more discontent. More discontent creates extremist views, and voters then choose more extremist government hoping to make life better.
James W. Mulholland
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