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The dullest mid-term elections in memory await. The result will be a
slightly different configuration of the ruling regime, which will
continue to fleece the public and lie while doing it. And yet media
commentators will assure us the morning after that we should all be
proud. For all its foibles, the system works.
But for those of us not in a stupor, it is obvious that the system does
not work. What we don’t understand is why politics and political
institutions are so utterly dreadful as compared with the rest of our
lives. Why is it so easy to obtain the car, software, shoes, or food we
want, but impossible to get the kind of government we want (one that
generally leaves us alone)?
Here at last, in 640 remaining words, the answer is revealed.
The logic of the market is based on the pervasive and glorious
inequality of man. No two people have the same values, talents, or
ambitions. It is this radical inequality, and the freedom to chose our
own lot in life, which makes possible the division of labor and
exchange, and the economy itself.
Through money and contracts, markets allow us to settle differences to
our mutual advantage. The result — and this is why people call the
market miraculous — is a vast, productive system of international
cooperation that meets an unimaginably huge range of human needs, and
finds a special role for everyone in building prosperity.
Now, to politics. Voting is designed to replicate the market’s
participatory features. In fact, it is a perverse distortion of the
market system. In markets, you get the goods you pay for. If you don’t
and there’s been a violation of contract, you have legal recourse. In
voting, people are not actually purchasing anything but the politician’s
word, which is not only legally worthless. He has every incentive to lie
to produce the desired result.
Politics takes no account of individuals. You and I are tiny specks on
the vast blob called “the American people,” and what this blob “thinks”
is only relevant insofar as it accords with a political agenda
advantageous to the State and its friends.
You think you are voting for tax cuts. Instead you get secret tax
increases and perpetual increases in spending. You think you are voting
for smaller government. Instead you get ever-more government intrusion.
But it is not the voters who manage the system. Well-organized interest
groups feed at the trough managed and owned by the State. Thus there is
a vast gulf which separates the average voter from the politician’s real
The spectacle of elections grows more absurd every year. We are asked to
cast ballots for people we do not know because they make promises they
are under no obligation to keep. What’s even worse, the gesture of
voting is pointless on the margin. The chance that any one vote (meaning
your vote) will actually have an impact are so infinitesimally small as
to be meaningless.
In markets, entrepreneurial talent means the ability to anticipate and
serve the needs of the buying public. In politics, success means the
ability to manipulate public opinion so that enough fools (so regarded
by politicians) reaffirm the politician’s power and glory. It takes
special talents to do this, none of which are cultivated in good
If American politics were characterized solely by voting and the
products of voting, the system would be loathsome enough. And yet the
corruption runs deeper. The real power behind Leviathan is wielded by a
vast, unelected army of bureaucrats who fancy themselves specialists in
the pseudoscience of public policy. In their minds, the only role for
the citizenry, treated as a homogenous blob, is to conform … or suffer
the consequences. Gone are the cooperation, peace, and genuine diversity
of markets. Instead, we experience brute force.
Intellectuals specialize in dreaming up grandiose tasks for government,
all of which would be doomed to fail even if perfectly implemented. And
yet the most obvious criticism of all government schemes is that they
must be mediated by this corrupt system called politics.
How different is this system from the one envisioned by men like Patrick
Henry and George Mason? They hoped to erect a wall of separation between
society and government to protect the people from manipulation by
cunning political forces. Indeed, the best of the American
revolutionaries hoped for a society free of politics, a society free of
any visible signs of government. Albert Jay Nock was right to
characterize the State, democratic or not, as a parasite on society.
Like a plague bacillus, its only successes are from its own point of