The PJ Tatler

As We Go Marching

The long-dead libertarian writer John T. Flynn once wrote a regular column for The New Republic called “Other People’s Money,” a phrase borrowed from Louis Brandeis. The election results brought these three words to my lips last night, as I watched the re-election of a man who has presided over one of the most significant debasements of a national economy since the sclerotic years of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan in the U.K. The essential point to make is that a large chunk of the American public has been bought. I mean this in a non-conspiratorial sense, inasmuch as they have been quite openly and publicly bribed by one of our political parties. Politics has long been a protection racket, but after last night it remains so in an even more obvious way: the Democratic Party promises that in exchange for votes and money it will protect its subjects from the whims of everyday life via, well, other people’s money. “Live free or die” has become “live for free or die.”

Thus we are fast becoming a nation of juvenile beggars, of sated, jaded, cynical, greedy teet-suckers: tax-feeding, food-stamp-using, unemployment-check-cashing, free-abortion-demanding, snarky-Facebook-posting, race-card-playing, individual-responsibility-shirking panhandlers. The winner of this game is always the guy who offers the most “free” goods, even if–and here’s the real kicker–he doesn’t deliver them. It’s one thing to vote for the guy who robs Peter to pay Paul, provided you’re Paul; it’s quite another to re-elect someone who has robbed both Peter and Paul and has paid no one. The first choice is rational, if immoral; the second is both irrational and immoral, and a sign not of a slippery slope but a vertical drop.

This point was confirmed to me by another of last night’s developments: the legalization, for recreational use, of marijuana in Colorado and Washington. In and of itself, this doesn’t bother me. As a classical liberal, I have always supported the legalization of marijuana. An important part of the classical liberal ethos, however, has been the belief that individual freedom and individual responsibility are necessary complements. Reading the reactions to the cannabis development has reminded me that these two virtues remain sharply divorced. A typical response to the legalization, whether read on Facebook or in the comments of an online news story, ran something to the effect that the writer couldn’t wait to move to those states to get stoned. The priorities of millions of American citizens are, therefore, to remove themselves from reality in both the psychological and economic senses. It will only be a matter of time before THC-induced euphoria is declared a “right” in those states, with this moral injunction spreading to the rest of the nation under the guise of a “public health” issue. The voters approved high unemployment, and we scratch our heads. But has it ever occurred to you that unemployment, along with the illusion of state-provided comforts, is now the preferred lifestyle choice of the worst generation?