Larry Barnhart
July 1996

  America needs more political apathy -- not less! This idea might sound un-American, but before we judge it too harshly, let's look at it closer. After all, America was founded on the principles of political apathy. Thomas Jefferson, for instance, declared: "That government is best that governs least."

  That was 200 years ago. Today, virtually everyone agrees that a good citizen is one who is politically aware and politically active. Even those who are not politically involved tend to pay homage to this notion by apologizing and making excuses for their non-involvement. Many self-righteous politicos proclaim that those who don't vote have no right to complain about how others dispose of their lives and property. There is one question that neither side ever brings up, "Why have so many issues become political in the first place?"

  What is the essence of politics? To start with, let's refer to Webster's Dictionary which defines politics as "the science and art of political government." Now that we know that politics is inextricably linked to government, we need to define government. Probably, the best person for this job is George Washington, the first president of the United States. He went straight to the heart of the matter by declaring, "Government is force. It is not reason. It is not eloquence. And like fire,is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." Hence, we have a simple formula: politics = government, government= force; therefore, politics = force. Summed up,politics is the application of force and coercion inhuman relations. When an issue becomes political, force becomes the final argument.

  Is that shocking? Many people are shocked when they realize that force automatically becomes the final argument in matters of politics and law. Ayn Rand summed it up well when she observed, "Under every stack of regulations lies a gun." In other words, once an issue becomes political, people are no longer free to make their own choices based on their personal preferences and their best wisdom. m e decision has already been made for them, and they risk confinement and/or the loss of their property should they resist.

  Once politics is understood in these terms, it becomes truly amazing that political busybodies have succeeded in claiming the moral high ground. Some of these political busybodies presume the right to spend our money on our behalf, and other such busybodies presume the right to run our personal lives for us. In either case, they are convinced that they know best how to dispose of our lives and property. Furthermore, they justify their position by suggesting that if we don't surpass them in the application of political force, we deserve to have them run our lives. This is tantamount to declaring that those who do not surpass criminals in the application of physical force deserve to be plundered and murdered.

  There are two concepts that can help us resolve the confusion we typically experience when pondering political issues. The first concept revolves around discriminating between voluntary relationships and coercive relationships. The second concept involves learning how to discriminate between offensive and defensive force. Once these concepts are understood,many foggy issues will become clear.

  In life, there are two types of transactions to choose from: voluntary or coercive. Many people wince when I make this statement, and my mentioning this concept is a certain way to not get published in the media, but I have yet to be told of a third option. When people make a voluntary trade, they exchange something perceived to be of lesser value for something perceived to be of greater value. In this type of transaction, both sides are better off than before. On the other hand, when coercion is present, one person enjoys an unearned gain while the other person loses. In coercive relationships, force,fraud and guilt are the tools of the trade.

  This brings us to the issue of offensive verses defensive force. It is becoming increasingly popular to equate defensive force as being just as evil as offensive force. However, the difference between the two is as clear as the difference between life and death. Offensive force is employed by people who seek unearned gains at the expense of others. On the other hand, those who use defensive force are not seeking an unearned gain - they merely want to protect what they have already earned. In short, offensive force is a threat to life, while defensive force simply protects life.

  Now we are ready to consider the role of government in society. Thomas Paine, in his book, Common Sense, said"People often make the mistake of confusing government with society, not realizing that society is the product of our wants while government is the result of our vices." Thomas Jefferson followed up this line of thought when he observed, "If men were angels, there would be no need for government." According to these two architects of our great nation, government's only role in society is to have a monopoly on the use of defensive force. Beyond this limit, government becomes an agent of offensive force. (War is politics carried to its logical extreme.) In other words, government should only protect people from each other, not from themselves, nor should it confiscate from one person for the benefit of another.

  William Summer, an American Sociologist, once stated,"All history is only one long story to this effect: Men have struggled for power over their fellow men in order that they might win the joys of earth at the expense of others, and might shift the burdens of life from their own shoulders onto the shoulders of others." As you might have guessed, government has been the tool of choice for accomplishing that goal. Even in America,where government was supposed to be "bound by the chains of the constitution," government has broken those surly bonds, and is now no longer limited to the use of defensive force. Groups of people are now joining together to wage "special interest warfare" over who is going to run everyone elses' lives, and all of our personal and economic freedoms are up for a vote.Supposedly, the majority will determine what is the best way for everyone to go. In reality, a small,self-righteous, mettlesome group of people have muscled their way into political power, and are now exercising the "tyranny of the majority."

  In spite of all the obstacles erected by democratic demagogues, America is still a great nation. Contrary to popular rhetoric, America owes its greatness to those who are too busy, doing the work that makes life possible, to be concerned with political issues. In other words,America owes its greatness to politically apathetic people. Unfortunately, political apathy also has its risks. Edmund Burke is credited with saying, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."

  Of course, the next question that arises is "How do we fight evil without becoming evil?" Changing from political apathy to political activism certainly is not the answer. However, there is another approach. Maybe we should change ourselves from being passively apathetic to being actively apathetic? Why do we need active apathy? Because politicians can squander wealth faster than honest citizens can create it!

  Ultimately, the battle for freedom is a philosophical battle. Its only political agenda is to reduce the need for politics to an absolute minimum. (The application of defensive force against those who initiate the use of force.) The good news is, the enemy is not a monster -- it is a worm. The bad news is, the worm's name is envy.If we want others to stop running our personal and economic lives, we must resist the temptation to run the lives of others. Once we have accomplished that, we will then be ready to withdraw our sanction from those who would employ the force of government in the pursuit of their personal and ideological goals. Active political apathy requires that we see through the con game, and then laugh the organized thugs down from the helm of the ship of state.

  If active political apathy is for you, please feel free to make copies of this article to distribute it to others.

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