Sunday, June 01, 2008

Lysander Spooner on the 2008 election

If, like me, you have had your fill of non-stop election coverage, partisan peans to would-be kings (and queens), heated discussions over whether McCain or Obama's pastor hates America and apple pie more, and the every-four-years talk about the "Most. Important. Election. Ever.", then you may enjoy this letter from 19th century radical Lysander Spooner which shows that things really haven't changed a whole heck of a lot over the years.

Sent to President Glover Cleveland in 1886, Spooner's letter could just as easily be describing modern day America. In the excerpt below he gives the U.S. political system a much needed reality check, and in the process, as Karl Rove might note, he sounds an awful lot like one of those angry left-wing bloggers:
Sir, nothing of all this "din," and "strife," and "animosity," and "bitterness," is caused by any attempt, on the part of the government, to simply "do equal and exact justice to all men," --- to simply protect every man impartially in all his natural rights to life, liberty, and property. It is all caused simply and solely by the government's violation of some men's "rights," to promote other men's "interests." If you do not know this, you are mentally an object of pity.

Sir, men's "rights" are always harmonious. That is to say, each man's "rights" are always consistent and harmonious with each and every other man's "rights." But their "interests," as you estimate them, constantly clash; especially such "interests" as depend on government grants of monopolies, privileges, loans, and bounties. And these "interests," like the interests of other gamblers, clash with a fury proportioned to the amounts at stake. It is these clashing "interests," and not any clashing "rights," that give rise to all the strife you have here depicted, and to all this necessity for "that spirit of amity and mutual concession, "which you hold to be indispensable to the accomplishment of such legislation as you say is necessary to the welfare of the country.

Each and every man's "rights" being consistent and harmonious with each and every other man's "rights"; and all men's rights being immutably fixed, and easily ascertained, by a science that is open to be learned and known by all; a government that does nothing but "equal and exact justice to all men" --- that simply gives to every man his own, and nothing more to any --- has no cause and no occasion for any "political parties." What are these "political parties" but standing armies of robbers, each trying to rob the other, and to prevent being itself robbed by the other? A government that seeks only to "do equal and exact justice to all men," has no cause and no occasion to enlist all the fighting men in the nation in two hostile ranks; to keep them always in battle array, and burning with hatred towards each other. It has no cause and no occasion for any "political warfare," any "political hostility," any "political campaigns," any "political contests," any "political fights," any "political defeats," or any "political triumphs." It has no cause and no occasion for any of those "political leaders," so called, whose whole business is to invent new schemes of robbery, and organize the people into opposing bands of robbers; all for their own aggrandizement alone. It has no cause and no occasion for the toleration, or the existence, of that vile horde of political bullies, and swindlers, and blackguards, who enlist on one side or the other, and fight for pay; who, year in and year out, employ their lungs and their ink in spreading lies among ignorant people, to excite their hopes of gain, or their fears of loss, and thus obtain their votes. In short, it has no cause and no occasion for all this "din of party strife," for all this "purely partisan zeal," for all "the bitterness of partisan defeat," for all "the exultation of partisan triumph," nor, worst of all, for any of "that spirit of amity and mutual concession [by which you evidently mean that readiness, "in the halls of national legislation," to sacrifice some men's "rights" to promote other men's "interests"] in which [you say] the constitution had its birth."

Enjoy the rest.

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