by Benjamin Marks, Economics.org.au editor-in-chief

Do you believe that individuals have rights, that limited or representative government is good and that absolute or despotic government is bad? Nowadays, nearly everyone claims to; but they are pretentious and insincere, half-assed and half-hearted; believing only out of convenience, courtesy, cowardice, hearsay, error and ignorance; and proclaiming only out of embarrassment, habit, nostalgia, remorse and self-advancement.

Such words as consent, democracy, election, equality, justice, law, inflation, money, liberty and representation are used as sweet nothings for fraudulent purposes. The word “consent” is used without permission, the word “democracy” undermined, the word “election” rigged, the word “equality” biassed, the word “justice” abused, the word “law” violated, the word “inflation” debased, the word “money” redefined, the word “liberty” forced, liberties are taken with the word “freedom” and the word “represent” is misrepresented. The corruption of language and corruption of what it depicts go hand in hand, dancing down the street, singing.

Homer said: “A man’s tongue is a glib and twisty thing … plenty of words there are, all kinds at its command — with all the room in the world for talk to range and stray.”1 Albert Jay Nock said: “[L]aw, even fundamental law expressed in the Constitution, is merely something that succeeds in getting itself measurably well obeyed … a Constitution must therefore be, in the last analysis, a device by which anything can be made to mean anything.”2 Robert South said: “[T]ake any passion of the soul of man, while it is predominant and afloat, and, just in the critical height of it, nick it with some lucky or unlucky word, and you may as certainly overrule it to your own purpose, as a spark of fire, falling upon gunpowder, will infallibly blow it up.”3 The expression of these words scupper scrutiny, eclipse experience and override observation. They do not portray a concept; they betray it. Their role is to hijack the positive connotations associated with an idea to mislead enthusiasm. They are deceitful. Jeremy Bentham called them “impostor terms.”4 Richard Weaver called them “god terms” or “charismatic terms,” because the appeal of the use of the terms is separate from their meaning.5 As Thomas Paine said positively, “[The] Attraction [of such terms] acts so powerfully, that Men give it their Approbation even without reasoning on the Cause.”6 Through them, said Bertrand de Jouvenel, “it is not reason which has found a guide but passion which has found a flag.”7 They are, as de Jouvenel said elsewhere, “ideas which reign but do not rule.”8

These ideas are necessary and even defining decoys for government, because, as we shall see, it is logically indefensible and reliant on the passive acquiescence of the masses. Government only exists, to again quote de Jouvenel, “under cover of the beliefs entertained about it.” He continues, “every single [attempt to limit government via rules, processes or appeals to reason] has, sooner or later, lost its original purpose, and come to act merely as a springboard to Power, by providing it with the powerful aid of an invisible sovereign with whom it could in time successfully identify itself.”9 Similarly, Lord Action said that the result of the emotional rather than critical use of such concepts is, “It serves where it ought to reign [and rule]; and it serves the worst better than the purest.”10

Obscurantism relies on using recognisable terms, sounds, rhythms, appearances and structures to lend sufficient plausibility to attract respect, sympathy and agreement. Although the underlying principles of statists are simple, and wrong, they are dressed up in such smart-sounding, reason-resembling, conscience-pleasing and urgency-raising fashionable clothes, that to mention the underlying simplicity of the arguments is enough to be widely dismissed, like you are airing dirty linen in public, and being vulgar, unreasonable and impractical.

This is precisely what we will do in the coming weeks, uncovering the impossibility and meaninglessness of limited government, absolute government, representative government, lawful government, any government. (By not releasing all this material at once, we are showing our critics a form of gradualism we are happy to settle for.)

Footnotes

  1. Homer, The Iliad, trans. Robert Fagles (New York: Penguin, 1998), bk. 20, lines 287-89, p. 511.
  2. Albert Jay Nock, Jefferson (Auburn, Ala.: Mises Institute, 2007), pp. 199-200.
  3. Robert South, Sermons Preached Upon Several Occasions (London: Tegg, 1843), vol. I, p. 343; the entire sermon XXI on “The Fatal Imposture and Force of Words” is relevant.
  4. Jeremy Bentham, The Book of Fallacies, in vol. II of The Works of Jeremy Bentham (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1843), p. 438.
  5. Richard Weaver, Language is Sermonic, ed. Richard L. Johannsen, Rennard Strickland and Ralph T. Eubanks (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1970), pp. 88, 105.
  6. Thomas Paine, “To the Authors of The Republican,” July 2, 1791, in his Collected Writings (New York: Library of America, 1995), p. 378.
  7. Bertrand de Jouvenel, On Power, trans. J.F. Huntington (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1993), p. 263.
  8. Bertrand de Jouvenel, The Art of Conjecture, trans. Nikita Lary (London: Weidenfield and Nicolson, 1967), p. 266. I have pluralised the quote.
  9. de Jouvenel, On Power, pp. 26, 30.
  10. Lord Action, Essays in the Study and Writing of History, ed. J. Rufus Fears (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1986), p. 384.
(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Acquiescence
  2. Why Sports Fans Should Be Libertarians
  3. Ron Manners’ Heroic Misadventures
  4. Government Schools Teach Fascism Perfectly
  5. Deport Government to Solve Immigration Problem
  6. The Drugs Problem Problem
  7. Self-Defeating Campaigning
  8. Gittinomics: Economics for Gits
  9. Exclusive Ross Gittins Interview on The Happy Economist
  10. Population Puzzle Solved
  11. An Open Letter to the CIS
  12. Principled Foreign Policy Options: Reinvade or Shut Up and Get Out
  13. WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Political Corruption Exposed!
  14. Feedback please: Is this worth doing?
  15. CIS and IPA Defend State Schooling
  16. A Thorough Review Without Spoilers of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
  17. Dead Reckoning and Government: A Proposal for Electoral Reform
  18. Quadrant Defends State Schooling
  19. The MPS 2010 Consensus
  20. Slogans for Property Rights Funeral
  21. Government is Impossible: Introduction
  22. Government is Criminal: Part 1
  23. Exclusive John Howard Interview on Lazarus Rising
  24. Response to Senator Cory Bernardi and the IPA
  25. Earn $$$$$ by Justifying Government Against Anarchocapitalism: Survey
  26. Statism is Secrecy: WikiLeaks vs Economics.org.au
  27. One question the Labor Party, the Liberal Party, the Greens, the CIS, the IPA, Ross Gittins, Ross Garnaut, Ken Henry, Gerard Henderson, John Quiggin, Clive Hamilton, Tim Flannery, Catallaxy Files, Club Troppo, Larvatus Prodeo, Phillip Adams, Robert Manne, Michael Stutchbury, Miranda Devine, Andrew Bolt and Dick Smith are scared to answer
  28. Libertarian Philanthropists Should Exploit Tax Evasion Convictions
  29. Ronald Kitching Obituary
  30. The Minarchist Case for Anarchism
  31. Libertarianism in a 300-word rant
  32. Economics.org.au in the news again
  33. Libertarianism In An Executive Summary
  34. The Banking Bubble Blow-by-Blow
  35. WARNING: Libertarianism Is NOT ...
  36. Would Anything Possibly Convince You that You Are Living Under a Protection Racket?
  37. An Open Letter to Dick Smith
  38. Economics.org.au at 42
  39. "My boyfriend calls himself a Marxist and votes Labor, what should I do?"
  40. "He says if I leave him due to politics, I should leave the country too."
  41. No Booboisie at Gülçin’s Galt’s Gulch
  42. "Hey, Mr Anarchocapitalist, show me a society without government"
  43. The Three Epoch-Making Events of the Modern Libertarian Movement
  44. Government is Criminal: Part 2 - Methodological Individualism
  45. Government is Criminal: Part 3 - Subjective Utility
  46. Government is Criminal: Part 4 - Praxeological Synonyms
  47. Government is in a State of Anarchy
  48. Limited Government is Absolute Government
  49. Why the 2012 double Nobel laureate is coming to Sydney
  50. Exclusive Oliver Marc Hartwich Interview on Hans-Hermann Hoppe
  51. A Critique of the Opening Two Sentences of the "About CIS" Page on The Centre for Independent Studies' Website, www.cis.org.au
  52. An invitation for ANDEV members to the Mises Seminar
  53. Sell the ABC to Rupert Murdoch: Lid Blown on ABC Funding Disgrace!
  54. www.inCISe.org.au, The Centre for Independent Studies new blog
  55. The Unconstitutionality of Government in Australia (demonstrated in under 300 words)
  56. The Best Libertarian Film Is ...
  57. Launch Southeast Asian Military Operations to Free Australian Drug Dealers and Consumers
  58. Workers Party Reunion Intro
  59. Hoppe's Inarticulate Australian Critics: The Hon Dr Peter Phelps, Dr Steven Kates and James Paterson
  60. Vice Magazine Westralian Secession Interview
  61. Sideshow to Dr Steven Kates' criticism of the Mises Seminar: Davidson vs Hoppe on Adam Smith
  62. The Best Australian Think Tank Is ...
  63. Announcing a new magazine to rival Time and The Economist
  64. The exciting new Australian Taxpayers' Alliance
  65. Neville Kennard Obituary
  66. Contrarian Conformism
  67. An invitation for Dick Smith, the IPA and other Walter Block fans to the 2nd Australian Mises Seminar
  68. Westralian mining legend Ron Manners of Mannkal belongs in The Property and Freedom Society
  69. What would Bert Kelly think of the Mises Seminar and Walter Block?
  70. Bad news about the Mises Seminar
  71. Gina Rinehart Fan Club gives big to Australian political education
  72. Sam Kennard wins North Sydney by-election by unanimous consent
Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Government is Impossible: Introduction
  2. Government is in a State of Anarchy
  3. Limited Government is Absolute Government
Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5