The PJ Tatler

The Password is "Access"

If there are any dedicated etymologists out there, take this as your next assignment: trace the semantic shift of the noun “access” from neutrality to demagoguery. When I was young, which wasn’t long ago, “access” meant the absence of physical barriers. One had access to the playground if the gate wasn’t locked. Similarly, one had access to candy at the candy store–that is, if one could scrape together enough money from one’s piggy bank.

Now it seems impossible to come across a news story on any scarce resource (contraception being the latest example) that isn’t framed in terms of “access.” How did this happen? One looks up at the sky and screams in alienated frustration. The thought process has become: “I don’t have something; therefore, I don’t have access to it.”

By this logic, I don’t have access to a 1964 Shelby Cobra, a villa on the French Riviera, an advanced degree in particle physics, or a lifetime supply of Johnny Walker Blue. I want these things now and, to be sure, I don’t have them. Some nefarious force–Republicans, white people, the Bilderberg Group, the Koch brothers, followers of Meir Kahane, etc.–must be preventing me from having them! I am therefore entitled to be given them right bloody now.

But pointing out this absurdity to most people means nothing. They simply will state that physical barriers aren’t the only barriers to “access”; money itself is a barrier. Because if you don’t have money, you can’t get something, and if you can’t get something, you don’t have access to it, right? So it stands to reason that poor people/women/minorities don’t have “access” to contraception/healthcare/housing/loans/food.

It would take many hours to unravel all the gross assumptions and creepy implications of that statement. Suffice it now to say that the thesis of Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom is, with every passing minute, being realized in more terrifying ways. What can the government not force us to pay for with the magic word “access”? First, contraception; tomorrow, universal food. Harvard degrees and lap dances for all! To assume that we are being primed for government encroachment in every area of our lives is a mistake. The priming stage is over.

There is nothing outside the State.