Maybe Napoleon Was Right…
by Eric Peters
Napoleon believed in liberty – just not for most people.
Most people, he reportedly said, are herd-cattle not capable of living as individuals in society without the external restraint of authority to keep them from abusing one another. Most men, in other words, are only kept at bay – kept from committing acts of violence and fraud – by the threat of violence in return.
Not by self-restraint; not because they are morally enlightened.
The prod – and only the prod.
In his own way, the dapper dictator was a Libertarian. A cynical one, perhaps – but also probably accurate in his estimation of the masses of humanity.
I’d go further. I doubt most people even desire liberty.
Most people, no matter where they fall on the political continuum, are quite happily habituated to the omnipresence of government – to omnipresent control in exchange (supposedly) for “safety.”
How many people out there would be willing to forgo any claim to a government check for anything – “retirement,” “health care,” “unemployment compensation” – in return for the liberty to provide for themselves, successfully or not? No, wait, let’s go deeper. To agree with the statement that no one is entitled to take money from anyone else for any purpose, without their consent?
I doubt the answer is one out of 100. Maybe not even that.
Clear majorities support the emerging police state – the universal monitoring, the mass frisks.
Democrats – that is, left-leaning statists – are of course a lost cause. There’s no point even trying to speak with the “we needs” and “society oughts.” Even in the abstract, they’re not for liberty; they’ve embraced communal responsibility. “We” are all in this together – even though some of us might prefer to go our own way, make our decisions – and just be left alone.
Which of course, we won’t be.
It is interesting to note in this connection the odd fact that left-liberal statists are deemed – and deem themselves – “caring” (that is, humanistic) people while anyone who objects to their schemes of violent control – to their talk of “helping” some people with other people’s money, taken at the point of a gun – is regarded as “selfish” and “mean-spirited.”
But it is conservatives – Republicans – who are the most depressing. Because they claim to love liberty – the abstract conception of it, at least. But down in the mud, they’re as or even more statist than the left-liberal Democrats they claim to oppose.
For example: Try and find a Republican who will support the elimination of taxes on real estate – so that people can really own their homes and land. Instead he will talk about “our children’s future” and the importance of having “good schools” – paid for with the liberty of home and land “owners” who are in fact feudal serfs permitted temporary and conditional use of the county’s property so long as the annual property tax is paid. It is as hard to find a Republican who will say that it is the responsibility of parents to provide for the education of their children – not the parents’ neighbors – as it is to find a purple Brontosaurus in Central Park. The Republican conception of property rights – and thus, of human rights – is as crippled from the get-go as the left-liberal Democrat conception of them.
It has been observed – correctly – that every major point of the Communist Manifesto is now a given – an accepted part of our everyday lives – from a “heavy progressive or graduated income tax” to the “centralization of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.”
But it’s worse than that; we’ve also got all the major elements of Mussolini-style fascism – which really ought to be called corporatism – firmly in place, too. The racial-nationalism stuff most people associate with the term (fascism) is a bogey. The part that matters – and the part we have – is the marriage of state with corporate power; the creation of de facto (and even de jure) industrial combines that use government power to suck vast riches into the clutches of (for example) the “defense” industry, big finance – and so on – with the government enjoying vast regulatory power (in practice, control and micromanagement of individuals) as its payoff in return.
Most Republicans and conservatives are – at best – limited statists. They want government, too. Just directed in the way they think proper. Which means they are just as eager to put a gun to your head or otherwise threaten you with violence to provide funds for “x” or obey “y.” Which makes them fundamentally no different than the Democrats.
Which is why we find government – Cloverism – everywhere.
There is no escape, either. No way out.
But even then, I am not optimistic. The dormant seeds of Cloverism will probably accompany the intrepid travelers, ready to sprout to life once more in fresh, momentarily virgin soil. Just as happened here in North America. Liberty – not perfect, but not too far from it – survived on this continent only very briefly before Cloverism came alive once more, re-establishing itself with even greater vigor.
This is the real tragedy of the human condition; not just the lust to control but the desire – the need – to be controlled.
Napoleon understood this – and he acted accordingly.
Eric Peters is a longtime car/bikes/Libertarian-minded journalist. His book, “Road Hogs,” came out June 2011.
Peters has been writing a weekly column about cars for almost 20 years now. He is the author of “Automotive Atrocities” and “Road Hogs” (MBI). He lives in rural SW Virginia with his wife and a polyglot crew of animals.