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Science Fiction and the Coming Civil War

Voting ourselves into bondage.

By Will Offensicht  |  May 4, 2011

The Weekly Standard reported that Nancy Pelosi has pointed out that our nation seems to have lost its sense of shared values:

But when it comes to a place where there doesn't seem to be shared values then that can be problematic for the country, as I think you can see right now.

She's stating what's been dawning on Americans for years - we aren't one nation any more.  Instead, just as in the decades leading up to the Civil War, we've split into two radically different nations with diametrically opposed belief structures.

Mrs. Pelosi is concerned that lack of shared values can be "problematic for the country" - and indeed it is.  She isn't the only prominent leftist to state the obvious.  In a recent New York Times editorial, Paul Krugman said:

One side of American politics considers the modern welfare state — a private-enterprise economy, but one in which society’s winners are taxed to pay for a social safety net — morally superior to the capitalism red in tooth and claw we had before the New Deal. It’s only right, this side believes, for the affluent to help the less fortunate.

The other side believes that people have a right to keep what they earn, and that taxing them to support others, no matter how needy, amounts to theft. That’s what lies behind the modern right’s fondness for violent rhetoric: many activists on the right really do see taxes and regulation as tyrannical impositions on their liberty.

There’s no middle ground between these views.  One side saw health reform, with its subsidized extension of coverage to the uninsured, as fulfilling a moral imperative: wealthy nations, it believed, have an obligation to provide all their citizens with essential care. The other side saw the same reform as a moral outrage, an assault on the right of Americans to spend their money as they choose.  [emphasis added]

Mr. Krugman won a Nobel prize for economics and tends to see the conflict in economic terms.  He describes two opposing views of economics that can't meet in the middle.

Either the state owns everything or it doesn’t.  Either you have a right to the fruits of your own labor or you don’t.  Either tax cuts count as government spending because the government is graciously giving you back what rightly belongs to the government, or tax cuts count as government taking its greedy paws out of your wallet.

Mr. Krugman and most leftists overlook the seldom-mentioned fact that conservatives give far more money to charity than liberals do.  Conservatives agree with liberals that people shouldn't starve in the streets, but they disagree profoundly on what to do about it.  Liberals believe that government should spend tax money buying people food; conservatives believe that individuals should help the poor of their own volition.

Any number of studies have shown that liberals give next to nothing to charity; so little, in fact, that they can't imagine how the poor would survive without government aid.  Liberals ignore the fact that almost no Americans have ever starved to death in the streets, even in the centuries before the New Deal.

Conflict Over the Nature of Government

If it were only a matter of money, it's possible that compromise could be found, but the conflict goes to the very nature of government and to what being human is all about.  Conservatives believe that rights such as life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness are inherent to humanity - as our Founders put it people are "endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights."

These rights are not granted by government; on the contrary, conservatives believe that intrusive government is the worst threat to these rights.  The more resources the government has, the more it tramples our freedoms.  The purpose of law is to keep government from taking away our rights.

The leftists who elevated Mrs. Pelosi to the speakership believe that rights are given by government.  They believe that everyone has a right to anything our elites think is good.  Everyone has a right to health care or same-sex marriage, for example.

Liberals see adding to the list of government-sponsored rights as increasing overall liberty.  Liberals won't admit that demanding that everyone accept ideas such as gay marriage or abortion which are abhorrent to many people denies them liberty - the liberty not to associate with or pay for activities they believe are abominations. 

We fought the American Civil War the last time a major political faction forced the rest of the country to participate in an activity they abhorred.  When the South forced through laws which required Northern states to return escaped slaves, Northerners who loathed slavery not only had to support slavery, their taxes had to pay the salaries of policemen who arrested escaped slaves and returned them to bondage.  The South denied the Northern states' right to ignore slavery and brought about a war.

Our Constitution requires the government to recognize rights that are inherent in humanity; the liberal mantra is that only government is able to force everyone to recognize whatever rights they define.  This conflict cannot be compromised.

Science Fiction Fulfilled

This conflict over rights is illustrated in Robert Heinlein's novel, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.  In this version of the future, earth governments have all become totalitarian.  Dissidents are exiled to the moon which became an indifferently-policed prison camp.  Abundant solar energy helps grow grain which is shipped back to earth to feed the teeming welfare masses.

Transportees have no rights, not even the right to oxygen.  Each one has to scrape up enough credits to pay for air and water.  Everyone tries to grow plants to create oxygen to beat the system, but plants need water, too.

The fact that everything has a price is summed up in, "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch," shortened to TANSTAAFL.  The moon has so few resources that in fact, nothing can be free.  Miners search for ice which provides water, some of which is broken down to provide oxygen.  Solar energy isn't free - collectors require constant maintenance and the control systems require spare parts from earth.

Most education of new arrivals consists of beating TANSTAAFL into his or her head.  Why aren't there public schools?  TANSTAAFL, but anyone who knows anything will tutor you for a fee and some wealthy people will fund your education in return for a percentage of your earnings.

The liberal mantra since the New Deal can be summed up, Vote for Me, Free Lunch! or VMFL.  This has been the Democrats' theme song for generations with the occasional complaint that they haven't given the promised lunch because of obstruction from selfish Republicans.

Harry Golden grew up on the Lower East Side of New York City and experienced free-lunch government first-hand.  His book Only in America explained that the Democratic political machine, which was named "Tammany Hall," seldom made speeches because they prospered via vote fraud, but he recorded one speech:

Tim's only speech was: "There is two bills before the country - one is the Mills bill and the other is the McKinley bill.  The Mills bill is for free trade and everything free, the McKinley bill is for protection with nothing free.  Do you want everything free, or do you want to pay for everything?"

This century-old Tammany speech is a perfect summary of Mr. Obama's "tax the rich" mantra.  Do Obama's supporters want everything free or do they want to let Republicans force them to pay for what they want?  The problem with Democratic socialism, as Mrs. Thatcher pointed out, is that you eventually run out of other people's money.  At that point, there's nothing available at any price.

In Mr. Heinlein's story, the Loonies rebelled, won independence, and started writing a constitution.  The book ended with battles between those who believed that society should stick to TANSTAFFL and liberals who sought to gain power through VMFL.

Having fought for independence, the Loonies immediately began ignoring the lessons of earthly tyranny and went about setting up a government which would supply "necessary services" by taxing "the rich."  The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Alas, we have all too many leftist loonies in government today; too bad we can't send them to the far side of the moon.