By Jeffrey Tucker
“This used to be a hell of a good country, I can’t understand what’s gone wrong with it.” said George Hanson in the movie “Easy Rider.”
My old friend Joe Sobran (1946-2010) loved that line and quoted it often.
Sobran, who worked alongside William Buckley at National Review during its heyday, was one of the smartest people I’ve ever known. After a lifetime of thinking about politics, he eventually decided that there was only one way out of our troubles: the whole of the government has to go.
[Editor’s Note: Joe’s key influence was Hans-Hermann Hoppe. Hoppe’s Book The Theory of Capitalism and Socialism convinced him that nothing that the government does nothing to contribute to the betterment of society as whole. A new edition of this book is now available for download in the Club.]
Sobran was ahead of this time. The latest polls show that 9 in 10 people distrust government to do the right thing. Forget partisanship at this point. The largest political grouping in this country is against government in general. Sure, people are glad to grab benefits as programs allow, believing that they might as well get something back for all the times they have been robbed.
Does public opinion matter? Absolutely. Government an inherently unstable situation becuse they are few and we are many. The real question is not why revolutions happen but why isn’t there a revolution every day? What is it that keeps these guys in power, aside from the threat of violence? There has to be more to it.
David Hume, in his First Principles of Government, argued that it is public opinion that keeps the racket going. That is a more important thing than violence or guns. It is what people believe about themselves and their government that is the key. Without it, government would collapse. And we see this in history. The precondition for every revolution is the lack of belief in the system that governs them.
The government has strong interest in shoring up public opinion.
According to Hoppe, it does this through the control of four institutions:
A government that fully monopolizes these four institutions and prevents any alternatives from forming is secure in its rule for decades if not centuries. But when they begin to fall, the rulers begin to lose their grip on power. For this reason, all governments have made the control of these institutions a priority.
Control of education allows the political class to inculcate a sense of civic obligation and duty, set the parameters of approved thought, and keep revolutionary ideas from entering into the culture. If you can get the kids at a young age and train them, all the better. This is why every state the world over has worked to secure its control over education. The goal is not to make everyone smart but rather to make everyone obedient.