Why Politics Is Not the Answer

by: James Ostrowski

From Chapter 3 of Direct Citizen Action: How We Can Win the Second American Revolution Without Firing a Shot

“He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.”
~ Sun Tzu

There are three basic approaches to changing public policy: politics (elections and lobbying), direct citizen action and violence. We can quickly rule out violence as morally repugnant, inefficient and unpredictable.

Political action has rarely in human history caused government to shrink in size and power. The natural tendency of government is to grow and expand its powers. The events of 2008–2010 illustrate that. Over time, it will tend to tax and spend more, hire more people and assume more power over our lives, liberty and property. Government policies change continually but if you look closely, it is almost always in the direction of bigger government. If you favor bigger government, you really don’t have to do anything. Just sit back and enjoy the show. By the natural laws of politics, governments will tend to grow. If you check back in five years, it is highly likely that the government will be bigger and more powerful. Government in America has grown enormously since about 1917, the start of American involvement in World War I. No coincidence there; war grows the state.

By its nature, the state is the means by which some people can impose the costs of achieving their goals onto unwilling others. As Frédéric Bastiat put it, “Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.” The desire to impose costs on others is virtually limitless. Thus, governments tend to grow over time.

There are five main reasons for this which are, unfortunately, structural features of political life:

  1. rational apathy – the incentive some people have to increase the size of the state outweighs the incentive the rest of us have to fight them;
  2. government control over political ideas – the state uses its control over schools and other idea-disseminating institutions to propagate support for further government growth;
  3. government creates its own demand – because the state’s various interventions into the market economy always fail (e.g., health care), ironically, they increase the demand of the uninformed majority for even further interventions to fix the problems caused by the prior interventions;
  4. the productivity of the mixed economy – given the inherent tendency of the state to grow, only extreme dissatisfaction among the populace will rouse them to act; however, even a partially free market produces enough wealth to mollify the people;
  5. government has a monopoly on the use of legal force – government grows because it can. Given the universal human desire to accomplish goals with the least possible exertion, politicians have an irresistible urge to use the state’s powers to continually expand the amount of wealth they control. Anyone who objects can always appeal to the politicians’ judges and can expect to be told, “Get lost!”

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