No Crisis in the Cheap Seats   Leave a comment

I’m less concerned about Donald Trump’s antics than most of the people I know. It might have something to do with my choosing to “throw my vote away” on a third-party candidate who couldn’t win rather than on either of the two bad choices available this time around.

Image result for image of a fan watching a hockey fightBut listening to the mass media hysteria about Trump’s antics, you could easily get the impression that America is is in the throes of a crisis. Democrats stonewall Congressional legislation and dream of impeaching Trump out of the presidency. The Republicans are in panic mode that they will lose their majorities in the House and the Senate in 2018 because Donald Trump is eating away at their credibility and legitimacy, which they need to get anything done in terms of ObamaCare, and tax and regulatory reform.

The media is in its own frenzy, especially in the left-of-center press. Day-in-and-day-out, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New Yorker and CNN assure the citizenry and readers and viewers around the world that the Trump presidency is in chaotic disarray, trending towards unconstitutional authoritarianism, and threatening the free press in the United State. He’s supposedly pushing the country to the verge of international conflicts in various parts of the world and acting as partner or puppet to Vladimir Putin in Russia.

Judging by this coverage, the people of the United States must be psychologically, socially and economically paralyzed by all the controversies, conflicts, and confusions enveloping all that is happening in Washington, D.C.

But … no … out here in real-world land, people are getting up every morning and going to work. Production goes on the same as before Trump was inaugurated on January 20, 2017. Goods roll out of the manufacturing plants and facilities and onto the retail outlets where the consuming public continues to compare, choose and buy.

Parents are still driving their young sportsmen and -women to recreational facilities to play organized team activities. Summer vacations are being planned. Construction sites are still busy building new residential homes, office buildings, and new or expanded manufacturing units.

Politics comes up in various conversations, and political discussions have become more tense, confrontational and argumentative in some circles in the Age of Trump. There are some people you just avoid, but for the most part, people talk about sports events, family activities, movies and all the other affairs of ordinary, daily life.

The vast majority of Americans are mostly uneffected by the events in Washington, D.C. Government taxes, regulates, intrudes, surveils, and in general makes life more frustrating, costly and less free than it could be and that leaves many of us wishing government would do less or none of these things, leaving people more liberty to go about their individual peaceful, personal and private business.

American society has not been sucked into a vortex of political paralysis because of Donald Trump’s personal antics and verbal rants on Twitter.  We don’t even care about his making up words on Twitter. The country is not frozen like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming car due to the rhetoric from and rancor between the Republicans and Democrats in Congress.  Everyday life is bigger than politics, even in our epoch of the pervasive interventionist-welfare state and national security state.

Yeah, there is danger and damage from the enveloping straight-jacket of growing political paternalism and regulatory cronyism. Those things concern me quite a lot, but “society” generally remains greater than the “state,” though the balance between the two shifts in the state’s favor with every extension of political control and command over people’s personal, market and social interactions.

Outside of politics and the presidency, Donald Trump is a fast-talking, deal-making blowhard, who apparently has learned how to navigate the real estate markets to make millions. He has searched for market opportunities, but has also used government means to achieve his ends when they have been available to include in his “deal making.”

The world went on before Donald Trump became president and will continue after he has left that high political office, though perhaps in a less entertaining way. 

The supposed “crises” of political leadership, the anger and frustration that that  “man” is in the White House rather than “our” experienced, qualified, and forward-looking candidate who should have been the first woman president of the nation, has horrified “progressives,” shocked Congressional Democrats, and driven the left media into attack mode. But for most of us in our homes and workplaces, about our regular activities, it doesn’t matter at all.

Politics and government policies matter only insofar as the political battle lines over who runs various levels of government and what that power is used for have very real influences on the direction, form, and prospects for society. Especially in the 24-hour news cycle, it’s easy to forget that “society” is different from the “state.” What goes on in each is based on two distinct principles of human association: voluntary agreement versus compulsory direction.

In the competitive marketplace, human beings interact on the basis of peaceful and mutually agreeable association. In the political arena, human relationships are based on command and control, with those in governmental office able to impose coercive regulations, restrictions, and redistributions which the people are bound to obey or accept under the threat of force.

It is the private sector, however hampered and constrained by government, that produces the goods and services available to all of us.

In a free society with government limited to a few essential functions, primarily the protection of life, liberty and honestly-acquired property, the sphere of political presence and influence on society is limited and non-intrusive in the affairs of the large majority of people. A historian once noted that before the First World War, a British subject could live in London their whole life and never come into contact with the state beyond the constable walking his rounds and the occasionally inconvenience of jury duty.

Today the state is pervasively present in our daily affairs in numerous visible and invisible ways. We notice government when:

  • the cashier rings up the applicable sales taxes at the checkout counter
  • the government dictates the wage a businessman must pay a worker
  • the government dictates how a businesswoman may organize hers production activities and market a product
  • when we need zoning and building permissions from a local regulatory commission to repair or modify our home or other property
  • when we have to apply for a passport to leave the country and declare if we are returning to the United States with more than $10,000.

Less visible to most of us as we go about our daily affairs is the extent to which the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the forms of transportation we use, the design and content of many of the products we buy, or the services we use have all been restricted, commanded or controlled in some way by the vast network of governmental bureaucracies that surround and have power over everything we do.

But nonetheless while the encroaching presence of the state touches all of our lives, the “private sector,” though hampered and constrained by government, produces the goods and services available to all of us, and generates the employment opportunities which enable us to earn the income that allows us to buy all the things we wish to purchase from all the other producers in the marketplace.

The political crises and conflicts that fill the mainstream media concern the attempts of politicians, bureaucrats and special interest groups to interfere with the nature and normal flow of events and peaceful human interaction by introducing regulatory, fiscal and monetary policies that redirect society and the market from the course and patterns they would follow if determined by only all of those private individuals going about their daily market business.

Just think of the headlines of the last several months since Trump assumed the presidency of the United States. Put aside the personal dislike and disgust felt by Trump opponents. Focus just on the rhetoric and some of the policy proposals emanating from the Trump White House.

During the campaign, Trump asserted that he planned to remove the United States from the role of global policeman and restrict American foreign activities to an “America First” agenda. After the election, he brought on advisors who represent the traditional foreign interventionist outlook that has guided U.S. foreign policy since the end of the Second World War. Trump is just as interventionist in his actual policies as George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

The professional diplomats, the network of foreign policy think tank and NGO “experts,” and the bureaucrats in the State Department who saw their role, influence and power threatened based on the statements and promises made by Trump during his campaign are now “leaking” about Trump’s statements and missteps in the arena of international affairs. What better way to undermine an administration that challenges their belief that they know best how the world should work. How dare this upstart threaten their enjoyment of all the benefits that come with being among the elite attempting to re-engineer society and create a global plan for humanity.

On the domestic front, the left-of-center media creates the impression that Donald Trump is about to end the re-distributive state. Libertarians ought to be cheering, but we’re not. Why not? In reality, Trump has no desire or intention of repealing the welfare state. He has made it clear that he wishes to preserve and protect Social Security, Medicare, a “reformed” version of “ObamaCare,” and implement a more school choice-friendly agenda with taxpayers’ dollars at the Department of Education.

Sounds like a mildly incremental approach in the right direction, but politicians, bureaucrats, and special interest groups that live off and control the existing system prefer to more intrusively extend it over society for their own personal and ideological ends and purposes. It’s all a matter who will control the levers of power and the direction the bureaus, agencies, and departments take, along with the hundreds of billions of dollars that come with those regulatory, redistributive and spending powers.

So the “national crisis” in Washington, D.C. is really a crisis between the “refined,” “polished,” and “progressive” political establishment versus a crude, rude, “stream of consciousness” crony capitalist who has the audacity to listen to the people who voted him into office. The “enlightened” can’t allow that because they KNOW how America should be ruled and guided for the good of humanity.

Take these two warring political factions out of the social nexus and America would do just fine. Do away with the interventionist-welfare state and there would be no power, privilege or plunder for these factions to fight over at the domestic level. There would be nothing to regulate, redistribute or manipulate. There would be no levers to pull or dials to turn to make people act and do things in ways they would peacefully chose if left to their own personal, social, and free market choices.

“America” is not paralyzed or in “crisis.” Americans are just going about their business everyday in their agreed-upon associations and exchanges, trying to the best of our ability to ignore and overcome that intricate web of government intervention that restricts, restrains and co-ops many of the choices and relationships we otherwise would freely pursue and undertake if government simply got off our backs and out of our way.  It is the politicians and political plunderers who are apoplectic and in chaos, not the ordinary people.

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