Life, Risk, and Moralsby James E. Miller
Nov. 08, 2012
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In the wake of the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy, the New York Times saw it fit to declare "A Big Storm Requires a Big Government." The premise was simple: government is the only entity capable of saving the people. When it comes to disaster, it must be up to public servants to swoop in, remedy the situation, and leave things just as pristine as they were before the damage. Massive coordination on the part of private individuals isn't enough. In other words, centralized, bureaucratic planning is needed because the little people aren't fit to take care of situation themselves.
This attitude was embodied perfectly in a woman caught on video begging New York Senator Chuck Schumer for assistance along with President Obama who wasn't at all present. On approach, she shouts "when is the government coming?" followed by begging for food and gasoline fittingly accompanied by shouting "we are going to die!" The frantic look in her eyes showed that she truly believed the state was the only organization capable of assisting her and others. Meanwhile, Sen. Schumer does his best to appear capable of making the ocean waters recede on top of actually giving damn about the people's plight outside of whether the situation will bode well for reelection. He reassures the woman things will be okay because the state's band of armed goons will soon arrive to deliver supplies paid for by stolen money. He tops the whole charade of kindness of by giving her a hug -- thereby making a picture perfect moment for the media whose profession has devolved into desperately searching for any means to paint the state as a charitable institution.
In the view of the press justifiers, the woman's viral freak out was pure gold. She can now be pointed to as justification for government-financed disaster recovery. But in reality, the woman's childlike begging is demonstrative of how much the state has become infused in the nation's conscious as an institution from which to request and receive favors. The more it gets called upon, the more it tends toward accumulation of vast swaths of authority.
In short, America's incremental approach to a full-blown police state is facilitated by the woman's attachment to government aid.
There are a number of lessons to draw from her hysterical reaction to the storm.
First, it's that government is not needed in these disastrous events. Not only does it cause more trouble but government encourages reckless behavior by guaranteeing a kind of insurance for people who live in dangerous areas. As long as Uncle Sam promises to foot the bill, people will continue to live in disaster prone communities. If someone decides to live in an area with a distinct possibility of damaging weather occurring, that is a chance they willingly take.
Second, it isn't cruel to say that the people who live in New Jersey and New York City took a risk in doing so. It's a fact of life that certain parts of the planet are prone to natural disasters.
While she may not admit it when questioned, the lady from the video is requesting that because she was ill-prepared and not ready to deal with severe weather, others must be forced to assist her. In essence, those families struggling to pay rent and feed their children on the other geographical side of the United States are forced to pay for the under preparedness of someone who they don't know and have never spoken to. What the lady from the video lacked in decency, she made up for in utter ignorance to what she is entitled to as a human being. As Albert Jay Nock once wrote,
..when I was still quite young I did see, that in our society the purview of legal, religious, and ethical sanctions was monstrously over-extended. They had usurped control over an area of conduct much larger than right reason would assign them On the other hand, I saw that the area of conduct properly answerable to the sanctions of taste and manners were correspondingly attenuated.Her action was not only unbecoming of someone who values their freedom but was based on the expectation of plundering of others for her gain.
This is the core of collectivism: being compelled to help others whom you have never met by a gun to the back of your head. It is sold to the masses as the compassionate method through which society should function yet it is relies totally on violence. The right to fruits of one's labor is thrown out the window in favor of paying off enough minds so a majority of the citizenry doesn't realize they are being exploited.
Like war, the payoffs from government disaster are a distraction from the state's usually deployed arsenal of direct and indirect taxation, inflation, centralized planning, police aggression, and the granting of special privileges to big business. In this latest incident, the government infrastructure that failed during the storm is hardly given scrutiny by the media. It's just assumed that power lines, sewage systems, roads, electrical grids, et al, are bound to not hold up under unusually destructive weather. If private firms were providing such things as electricity and levees, they would be rightly looked upon as incompetent in the event that their product's failure in a storm. Malfunction would end up giving way to innovation either by the current providers or competitors looking to take away market share by pointing out the fallacies of the current product.
When the public sector is in control of infrastructure (or it maintains authority but grants a private business a monopoly to run it under the guise of efficiency but is really a political payoff) it can let things fall into disarray without having to worry over the loss of consumers. Politicians and bureaucrats then proceed to blame the public for its greed-fueled overconsumption. The thought seldom occurs to state apologists in the media or much of the public that private business owners would never behave this way. It would seem almost sacrilegious for a businessman to complain over too much demand for his product! While the private entrepreneur would relish over his good or service being demanded, government bureaucrats have little incentive to respond outside of keeping their desk phone from ringing off the hook.
These considerations never occur to the lady in the video. Her hysteria reflects her complete dependence on the state to fill the gap of her own irresponsibility. The truth that she was lulled into a false sense of security over the effectiveness of government is ignored. From the view of the ruling class, she is the perfect citizen: incapable of critical thought and as dependent on the state largesse as a dog is to its owner.
As H.L. Mencken wrote,
The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who Is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos.Subservience is the state's ultimate agenda because it means the predation continues unabated.
In the end, it was not shameful for the woman to request assistance. It became a moment of contempt when she asked for help from the very class of people who help themselves to the production of others to distribute for favors without ever actually producing an iota of wealth for society.
James E. Miller holds a BS in public administration with a minor in business from Shippensburg University, PA. He is the Editor in Chief at the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada and a current contributor to his hometown newspaper, the Middletown Press and Journal. He currently works in Washington D.C. as a copywriter.