Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Terminal State

It is the worst day of your young life. Your doctor has just told you that you have terminal cancer. You have a few months to live, maybe six. Your skin crawls, your mouth is bone-dry. Lists of everything you have to do scroll by endlessly in your mind’s eye… Finances, my will, a long line of goodbye’s…

“My God,” you stammer, trying to swallow. “Are you sure? Can I get a second opinion?”

“Of course,” nods your doctor sympathetically, gesturing at the brown folder on his desk. “The tests are pretty conclusive, but… Take them across the hall, there’s an oncologist over there. Have a chat with him, see what he thinks.”

You walk out of the office, almost feeling as if you’re floating. Miraculously, you get an immediate appointment with the new doctor. You sit down, and before you can open your mouth, he says: “What are you doing here? You look as healthy as a horse!”

“Well I was sent over here by my doctor. He says I’m sick, really sick…” Yeah, verily, unto the grave¸ you think involuntarily.

“What nonsense!” cries the doctor heartily, snapping his fingers. “Nothing wrong with you at all!”

“But…” Wordlessly, you hand your file over. The doctor glances at it.

“Well sure, there are some problems, naturally. That’s be expected. But you’re sound. Fundamentally sound!” He jabs his finger onto his desk for emphasis.

“But it’s spread to my…”

“Yes, yes,” he says impatiently, glancing at your file from the corner of his eye. “I can see that there are some problems. But you’re going to live to be 90!”


The doctor pauses very briefly, then waves his hand dismissively. “Oh, you’ll pull through. Something will come up…”

Against hope, you ask: “Do you know of a cure?”

The doctor cocks his head and narrows his eyes, obviously confused. “A cure?” he asks slowly. “For what?”

Question: What is your opinion of this oncologist? Would you put your treatment in his hands? Or would you think he was an incompetent lunatic – or worse – and back out of his office slowly?

With all due respect, this is how many anarchists feel when dealing with statists.

You see, the state might look healthy, but there’s this little matter of the national debt. It’s not just a US phenomenon, but let’s look at it from an American perspective.

We’ve all heard the scare statistics. $8 trillion dollars of debt. $110,000 per US adult.
$47 trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities… And picture all the people who are never going to help pay that debt – stay-at-home parents, students, retirees, criminals, soldiers, public employees, mimes and countless others who live hand-to-mouth.

Fiscally, the state is completely terminal. There is no way in God’s green acre that the national debt is ever going to be paid off – we’re going in completely the wrong direction for that! And all debts that escalate end up in bankruptcy.

So when a statist says to me that we need the government, or the government should do ‘X’ or ‘Y’, it could be arguable I guess, but it seems rather… irrelevant. It’s like getting a call from a man who’s jumped naked out of plane telling you he needs a parachute. Sure you do. But you haven’t got one, and it’s far too late to reverse that now, isn’t it?

The facts are clear, the math is clear, the lack of political will is clear, the self-interest of our rulers is clear – the government is dead. Dead, dead, dead. Sure, might look OK from the outside, but it’s already starting to smell.

So when people tell me they want a small government, I just ask them: OK, what programs will you cut to pay off the national debt?

The interest on the national debt alone is over $380 billion a year. Can we cut every single dollar from public education? That’s about $60 billion – barely makes a dent in the interest payments. What else? Defense? Over $400 billion – OK, now we’re getting somewhere, but we’re still not dealing with the principal

You can go on and on – and, as the statist whittles down the functions of government in order to pay off the national debt, you know what happens?

You start to get a society that looks pretty anarchistic!

One of two things can occur. Either the statist won’t support spending cuts, in which case he’s just like the second doctor in the earlier analogy, blindly declaring the health of something that is dying. Or, he does find the money to pay off the national debt – in which case he not only ends up about 3 microns away from anarchism, but he also implicitly admits that the state has been ripping people off horrendously for the past hundred years or so!

If the government can effectively function with, say, 5% of its current budget, then it has stolen trillions upon trillions of dollars from the past few generations. And the state cannot survive on, say 50% of its current budget, because that won’t be enough to pay off the debt.

So the state is either unnecessary, or a vile thief. Or both.

In every medical drama known to mankind, some Type-A surgeon always ends up trying to resuscitate a patient who has clearly shuffled off to join the choir invisible. Some gentle and rational soul always has to touch his shoulder and say: “He’s dead, Jim. He’s dead…” Someone else calls out the time of death.

As anarchists, this is our role. You can argue as frantically as you like about the role of the state, but we will continue to patiently put our hands on your shoulder and say: “Let it go. Stop electrocuting a corpse. Come with us, so we can choose the dance songs for the funeral, and work together to create what comes next.”

No comments: