HITLER WON, AFTER ALL
Suppose, for the moment, that you live in an imaginary land in which your right to life and liberty is not an absolute, no longer inalienable, that you are no longer totally free to live your life by your own judgment, to live your life as you see fit, but increasingly you are regulated and forbidden by the state from doing more and more things—that you live in a country in which you no longer have the right to control the use and disposal of your property, that the state dictates to you what you may and may not do with your property, that your property may be unjustly seized for crimes you did not commit—that you live in a nation in which the state dictates to you how much of your money you will be allowed to keep for your own needs, with the state forcibly taking the rest anytime it wants—that your freedom of speech is restricted, with the state dictating to you what you may and may not say about certain things.
And because your rights are no longer absolute, in the eyes of the law, your freedom has been steadily shrinking with each passing year. In such an imaginary situation, just exactly what does the future hold for you? If your freedom continues to wither away, it will eventually evaporate altogether. And when it does finally disappear, as it surely will if the shrinkage continues, then what will you be living under? A totalitarian regime of some sort.
This is not some fanciful speculation about your future in such a situation, it is a certain, proven result that will descend upon you at some point in the days and years to come—the logic of this happening is unassailable: if your freedom continues to shrink, it will eventually disappear entirely. This is as certain as the fact that you will bleed to death if the blood gushing from an open wound in your body is not stopped. There is no other possible outcome unless, of course, the decline in your freedom is halted and then reversed, taking you in a new direction, in the direction of growing and expanding freedom.
Students of the past will recognize that our imaginary nation isn’t imaginary at all: it is a description of the state of freedom in pre-Nazi Germany, freedom which, as almost everyone knows, collapsed into the hellish darkness of tyranny. Chillingly, it is also a description of the state of freedom in America today.
Just how in the world did Hitler pull it off? How did he manage to gain dictatorial powers over an entire nation, a nation populated by some of the most educated individuals in the world at the time? How could such a nation fall to such a calamitous end? The answer to all of these questions is: Hitler simply capitalized on the ideas held by a majority of pre-Nazi Germans, carrying those ideas to their deadly, logical conclusion.
Surely most of the citizens of pre-Nazi Germany never dreamed their country would fall to the kind of terrifying wretchedness which eventually came to it at the hands of Hitler. Most surely thought it could never happen to them. How could anyone, in his right mind, ever support and vote for such a future if they clearly saw it coming—a future which brought death to millions? Virtually no one, except the masochistic or the suicidal or those who expected to be the rulers, not the victims, would ever support such a future, but support it they did. They voted for it, they vigorously defended it and they did so, in large part, because they could not see the future consequences of the ideas they supported. Most of them never saw it coming, but come it did with a lethal vengeance unexpected by almost all. A whirlwind of death, terror and destruction descended upon what had been a civilized nation. If a majority of pre-Nazi Germans had been made to clearly see what was coming, Hitler would never have been voted into power and our war with Germany would never have occurred.
Now just what were the ideas held by a majority of pre-Nazi Germans, ideas that propelled Germany into a bloody dictatorship? The ideas of statism: the idea that your life is not your own, that you may be controlled, regulated and regimented by the state—the idea that your right to liberty is not inalienable, but may be regulated out of existence—the idea that your property is not yours to control and use as you see fit—the idea that your money is not yours, but ultimately the property of the state, to be taken from you for some purpose deemed noble and worthy by the state—and, above all, the idea that some part, if not all, of your life may be forcibly sacrificed by the state to provide some benefit to your neighbors. Students of the present will recognize that these are the very ideas that are driving America’s political machinery today, machinery that is grinding away and consuming individual liberty on a daily basis. While it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the ultimate consequences of these ideas for America, most in this country, just like those in pre-Nazi Germany, remain blind to where these ideas are taking this country.
One of the most dangerous lunacies of our era is the apparent readiness of so many to believe almost anything for which there is little, if any, evidence, but who are unwilling to believe something for which the evidence is overwhelming. Today, for instance, we have a large part of America’s population believing in the existence of alien-piloted UFO’s (for which there is absolutely no evidence), in psychic phenomena (which doesn’t exist at all), in dubious conspiracy theories of all sorts, in spurious medical cures, in global warming and all kinds of other goofy things, yet we have few who believe the end of the road America has been traveling is totalitarianism, even though the evidence is screaming from the headlines in the news media for everyone to see and hear, evidence which is all around us, in the speeches of our politicians, in the legislation and regulatory edicts which wipe out more and more individual freedom every year. And this lunacy becomes even more bizarre when you consider the fact that most Americans would likely acknowledge that freedom has been declining for decades, that it continues to decline today, that the powers of the state over individual life grow almost daily, yet they do not see what is looming ahead of us if this trend continues.
Most Americans continue to think it impossible for a dictatorship to ever come to America, but why? Why is it impossible? Is this country somehow immune to a fate that has struck so many great nations in the past? Is there some sort of guarantee that such a thing could not happen in America? Is there some reason to believe that the ideas that created Nazi Germany, the very ideas that dominate American culture today, will not eventually create the same result in America? The answer is: no, we are not immune to the arrival of some future tyranny. In fact, the widespread belief that it can never happen here only encourages its eventual arrival. Blindness to the future helps bring about the ultimate conclusion: with a majority clueless about the future consequences of past and current political trends, no action will be taken to avert a future which is believed to be impossible.
There are many misconceptions about totalitarianism and how dictators come to acquire their power. Contrary to what so many believe, dictators do not normally seize power against the will of the majority, except in the case of a dictator’s military subjugation of another nation. Even in the event of the seizure of power through a military coup or through victory in a civil war, they gain power through the willing support of a strong minority, if not a majority, of the people in a nation so afflicted. And some are voted into power. Hitler, for instance, was voted into power with a strong plurality (44% of the vote).
It is impossible for a dictator, such as Hitler, to single-handedly impose his will on a nation, such as Germany. To impose his will, he needs the support of a very large segment of the population. And, today, in America, we see such a growing segment of the population that will support some future dictator, driven to do so by the ideas they have been taught and by the political precedents they have sanctioned. Already, we have in this country: millions of government employees, virtually all of them statists—millions of citizens who are receiving financial handouts and/or special privileges from statists in charge of our governments—and, several million others who support statist causes of all sorts. Virtually all of these individuals vote to support the advance of statism in America. How many more will have to be added to their numbers to finally tip the scale in favor of some future statist who will finally be able to consolidate his power? No one knows precisely, but I know their numbers increase yearly—and with each increase, we move a step closer to totalitarianism.
There can be no honest disagreement about the fact that individual freedom in America has been in a gradual, steady decline for more than a century. When viewed on a daily basis, freedom’s downward spiral is so slight as to be almost imperceptible, but when viewed over a span of years the trend is unmistakably clear. Do we have more regulations and less freedom than we did four years ago, even just one year ago? The answer is: yes. Do we have less individual freedom and more regulations than 10 years ago? 20 years ago? 30 years ago? 40 years ago? The answer on all counts: yes—and virtually every educated adult in this country knows this, yet most seem unable to see what this is gradually adding up to, unable to see the final destination of this road we have been traveling. However, there is some evidence to suggest that a majority, or large minority, of Americans vaguely sense that something is wrong about the direction of this country. In recent years, polls about the American public’s attitudes have shown many, if not most, think the country is heading in the "wrong direction" and feel they have increasingly less control over their lives, even though the economy might be fairly good.
Many pundits appear puzzled by these attitudes. But there is little wonder so many feel this way. We have tax agencies with the power to seize bank accounts and property and destroy lives. In one tragic case, this was literally true: the IRS drove an innocent man to suicide after months of harassment and threats (the IRS later admitted it had all been a mistake: the man never owed the taxes they were trying to collect). We have more than a half-dozen individuals who have been imprisoned for disturbing wetlands. We have the farmer whose property was seized because he inadvertently killed some rats. We have timber industry businesses shut down by regulations, destroying hundreds of jobs. We have geese, rats and owls being protected, but not man, not you.
State agencies have terrorized innocent parents with charges of sex or child abuse, putting them through gut-wrenching investigations, threatening them with imprisonment or having their children taken away. Parents have been effectively stripped of their ability to discipline their children for fear of being accused of abuse, but if they don’t control their children they may be accused of neglect and, in some cases, may be jailed.
We have businessmen hamstrung by regulations, undercutting their ability to make their businesses successful, even though a successful business is the only way to protect jobs. Agencies, like some Gestapo, pounce upon businesses and individuals with the power to search without warrant (OSHA, EPA, IRS and others), seize property without due process (DEA, IRS and many other local agencies) and impose arbitrary fines (too many to name). We have freedom of speech abridged by laws on employment, advertising and other areas, forbidding you to say or ask certain things. Most ominously, there are no public voices sounding alarms over these violations of freedom of speech, as if no one recognizes what has happened or is coming next as a result of these dangerous precedents being established. Ordinary citizens buckle under oppressive taxes that take as much as 40%, or more, of their earnings. These are only a few of the more horrific examples of freedom’s decline in America.
These nightmares are the product of the surgical destruction, in area after area, of individual freedom, replaced by edicts issued not by a single Hitler-like dictator, but by thousands of little dictators scattered throughout all levels of government and in our legislatures.
America, once the citadel of freedom, born in its dedication to the proposition that your right to life and liberty is inalienable, has now reached the point where these rights are violated routinely by the very government originally conceived to protect those rights.
There are many reasons why America has reached its current state, but of singular importance is the fact that most Americans cannot define the exact meaning of their right to life and liberty.
Do you possess the right to life and liberty? If you are an American, you will undoubtedly say you have this right. But do you know what this right really means? Can you, in a single sentence, define the meaning of this right? Can you define the principle entailed in this right? If you are like most, you cannot—and therein lies the story of American politics for the past few decades.
Since you cannot defend what you cannot define, statist politicians, mostly the liberal variety, have won repeated political battles, shrinking individual freedom with each victory and bringing us the steady decline in freedom America has witnessed for more than 100 years. Over these years, statism’s advance has been briefly stalled by occasional conservative successes, such as Republicans gaining control of Congress in 1994 and retaining control in 1996 and 1998, yet it has continued to grow with each passing decade—and it continues to grow today, even with Republicans in control of Congress. Why? Apart from the fact that you cannot defend your right to life and liberty if you do not clearly know what it is, you will come to understand the conservative defense of freedom contains a fatal flaw, one which leads many conservatives to unwittingly support the ideas of their opponents (liberal statists) and, therefore, ensures the continued, incremental growth of statism.
Either of the foregoing chinks in freedom’s defensive armor is sufficient to ensure the eventual demise of liberty in America, but there is yet another, more serious cause of the decline of freedom: the failure of most to think in principles—and this failure is the principal reason why most in America are unable to see what is coming in the future. As you will come to see, this failure manifests itself in the minds of most in every issue in politics, making them blind to the future consequences of past and present regulations issued by the state.
Consider, for instance, the area of freedom of speech. If you accept as valid the enactment of some piece of legislation which restricts your freedom of speech in some small, seemingly insignificant, part of your life, you have endorsed the notion that you do not have the right to freedom of speech, that your freedom of speech is not an absolute, that it may be abridged by the state—in principle, this is the idea you have accepted. Yet those who do not think in principles never understand the deadly nature of the idea they have accepted: these dim-sighted folks simply think they have sanctioned the restriction of freedom of speech "a little bit," that their doing so has no wider significance and will never bring additional restrictions in the future. A brief glance at history shows just how horribly wrong they are.
I do not know the first law enacted in this country that restricted freedom of speech, but that law served as the precedent for the next law, then the next and the next, until we finally reached our current, dismal situation. Today, in America, we have freedom of speech curtailed by numerous laws passed by Congress on employment, advertising and other areas, forbidding you to say or ask certain things. These laws have stood the First Amendment on its head and have established the following precedent: Congress shall make laws abridging freedom of speech.
The precedent of these laws is now being used by statists who are clamoring for passage of legislation to restrict freedom of speech even more, specifically in their efforts to further restrict and control the advertisement of tobacco products and in their efforts to restrict free expression on the Internet. If statists are successful in delivering this blow to freedom, they will move on to another area in which they will seek to further limit freedom of speech. The logic of their doing so is irresistible: if it is right to outlaw some speech (cigarette advertisements or free expression on the Internet) which they deem harmful (in this case, to kids), then it is right to forbid any kind of speech which they consider to be harmful to children or anyone else.
You don’t think it will happen? Well, it has already happened. The Congressional leaders of the Democratic Party, Tom Daschle and Richard Gephardt, are now pushing for an amendment to the Constitution, under the ruse of "campaign spending reform," to further limit freedom of speech. Gephardt states, in the February 18, 1997 issue of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "I know it is a serious step to amend the First Amendment." And he further declares: "What we have is two important values in conflict: freedom of speech and our desire for healthy campaigns in a healthy democracy. You can’t have both." If we can’t have both, then which one do you think you are going to be forced to surrender? Your freedom of speech. And statists, such as Gephardt, will use the legal restrictions already established on your freedom of speech as the precedent and justification for their proposed amendment to the Constitution.
Now, ask yourself this: would you ever endorse a position on an issue which declares, if only implicitly, that you do not possess the right to life and liberty? Your likely answer is: no, you would not.
But let’s further consider the proposal by some statists to place further limitations on tobacco advertisements (limitations that have now been imposed in the so-called tobacco "settlement"). Let’s suppose you support legal restrictions on what tobacco companies may say about their products. In supporting such restrictions, you have, in principle, invalidated your right to life and liberty.
The meaning of your right to life and liberty is this: you may live your life as you see fit, without seeking the permission of others, free from the forcible interference of others (as long as you do not violate the same right of another). Speech is a particular action taken by an individual. To regulate individual speech is to restrict individual freedom of action through the government’s initiation of force. If it is right to regulate, by the initiation of force, some individual action, then, statists will reason, it is right to regulate any kind of individual action.
Once you have accepted this much, in principle, nothing in your life is immune from regulation—and it is in this manner you have invalidated your right to life and liberty by sanctioning the restrictions placed upon the owners of tobacco companies, restrictions on what they may say about their products. You have supported an idea which declares, by implication, that you may not live your life as you see fit, you must seek permission from others before acting, others may forcibly interfere in your life—in other words, you have surrendered, in principle, your right to life and liberty—and this is precisely what a majority in this country have already done.
Most Americans have long since surrendered, in principle, their right to life and liberty: they have surrendered it intellectually without ever knowing that they have done so. And what we have seen, and continue to see, in America is simply the process of statists, step by step, gradually implementing, in practice, that surrender.
It is truly frightening to consider the state of mind of so many Americans. Most Americans are so compartmentalized in their thinking, only narrowly focusing on the practical events of their daily lives, that when some practical event occurs in someone else’s life in some distant city, they never grasp the principle of that event, never understanding that if it can happen to someone else that it can and, given enough time, will eventually happen to them. So, when statists forcibly impose the banishment of ads for cigarettes and thereby restrict the freedom of speech of the owners of tobacco companies, most will dismiss this as insignificant because statists haven’t gotten around to restricting their freedom of speech in the practical events of their daily lives. Most never grasp the principle involved in such a situation, never understand the threat it represents and will be surprised when those restrictions on speech are finally applied to them in practical terms. Once that occurs, then they just might—and I stress "might"—be alarmed, but many, if not most, will not be alarmed even then.
Even when their own ox is gored by statists, when new regulations are enacted which restrict freedom, in practice, in their own lives, most still don’t get it: most never grasp the principle involved, never understand that their right to life and liberty has been violated and simply shrug off the new regulations as a mere annoyance, a personal inconvenience to be tolerated.
Finally, as you will see in the coming pages, one of the greatest threats to your freedom comes from the fact that most in this country are intellectually defenseless against what is, perhaps, the single most important tactical weapon statists utilize in their ceaseless efforts to destroy your freedom: the corruption of the meaning of words and the concepts for which they stand. Consider the concept of freedom. In the case of the term freedom, statists have succeeded in erasing the real meaning of the term from the minds of most and substituting in its stead another meaning: "having a choice." "Having a choice" is not the definition of freedom; it is part of the concept of freedom but it is not its definition.
Now weigh very carefully the manner in which this statist definition, if you accept it, will lead you astray, drawing you into statism’s snare. Statists, under this definition of "freedom," will claim, for instance, that children of poor parents do not have the "freedom" to attend the college of their choice or the "freedom" to receive the very best medical care because of a lack of funds or that struggling artists do not have "freedom" of expression because they lack money—all of which will lead to your eventual support of statist programs to provide funds for these individuals through money forcibly plucked from your checking account.
And then, in an effort to get you to drop your guard, there will be statists, probably the academic types, who will claim freedom can never totally disappear, as I maintain it can, that there is some "freedom" of action even under a dictatorship, that individuals still have some choices, that they are "free" to, say, scratch their nose or buy something at a grocery store or go to a movie.
Freedom is the ability to act without force (or its threat) being used against you—and political freedom is the ability to act without the initiation of force (or its threat) being used against you by the state. Under a totalitarian state, every possible act you might take is either forbidden or under the threat of the initiation of force and, therefore, your freedom is totally gone. Thus, while a totalitarian regime might permit an individual a limited range of choices about certain matters, that individual is not free and is a total slave, with any choice the individual might be able to momentarily make subject to banishment by the state at any moment.
Slaves in the antebellum South were usually permitted by their masters a limited range of choices, but these slaves were not living in freedom, in spite of having choices available to them. To accept the statist definition of "freedom" is to conclude even the Holocaust victims in Nazi concentration camps still had some "freedom" while they waited for their extermination: they still had some limited choices, such as emitting a verbal greeting or walking among the other prisoners in these camps.
Those who accept the definition of freedom as "having a choice" will not recognize totalitarianism even when it finally arrives, so it is vitally important to understand not only the correct definition of freedom but also the following: freedom is totally lost when every area of your life is actually controlled by, or vulnerable to, the initiation of force by the state—and this is precisely what statists are attempting to achieve in America. Statists are attempting to eventually arrive at the point where there will be nothing to stop them from doing anything they want with your life, your money and your property—and if they finally reach this goal, you may be allowed, for the moment, by statists to have some choices in your life, but you will not be free and you will be a total slave of a totalitarian state.
The pattern of statism’s successful march throughout this land has been, and still is, the following: statists enact that first law diminishing freedom in some area of your life, such as your ability to speak freely, and, in doing so, smuggle into the minds of the never-see-the-principle crowd the idea the state may pass laws abridging, say, freedom of speech. Once that has been accomplished, the precedent and the justification for future restrictions are firmly established in the minds of those who accepted the first legislative step restricting freedom, thus opening the door for more and more restrictions on your freedom. There is only one way to stop this pattern of liberty’s gradual, incremental destruction: begin to understand the principle at stake in each issue and, in doing so, begin to understand the future consequences of ideas before you lend your support to them. Once you do this, you will then be intellectually enabled to oppose those so-called "small" legislative steps proposed and enacted by statists, steps that result in more of your freedom being annihilated.
If your goal is to protect individual liberty, you must oppose statism totally and consistently, only then will we halt statism’s virulent growth and begin to turn America in the direction of expanding individual freedom. As you will come to understand, to accept any part of statism is to eventually end up accepting it totally.
In the movie Spartacus, the central hero is a slave named Spartacus. He leads other slaves in a revolt against the tyrants of Rome. After crushing the first Roman legion sent against them, Spartacus, in an electrifying moment, declares: "We want nothing from Rome, nothing, except our freedom!" This, in essence, is the proper stance in the fight against statism. It must be the battle cry of those who wish to limit government to its proper purpose: the protection of individual freedom. We need a revolt, at the ballot box, against the legions of little dictators who seek to take as much of your freedom as they can. Our guiding vision must be to restore the original American dream: make this truly the land of the free. Judge the candidates and the issues accordingly.
While the Nazis were defeated militarily in World War II, their ideas survived, ideas that, with each passing decade, have gained ascendancy in America. True enough, Hitler did not originate the ideas of statism: he simply cashed in on the ideas that dominated pre-Nazi Germany. It is also true that the ideas of statism had established a political beachhead in the United States long before Hitler ever gained power. Hitler was simply the most prominent and notorious symbol of statism in the twentieth century and although Hitler died, the venomous, festering legacy of statism did not die with him. In a profound sense, Hitler won, after all—or, at least, he has won so far: once a majority in America understands the nature of the ideas advocated by statists, and rejects those ideas, Hitler will finally be defeated. He has already been defeated in body: we just need to finish the job and kill him in spirit, kill the ideas of statism which are running amuck in this country.