Ask a silly question.
If they could, they’d be illegal.
It’s coming up in a fortnight. For many people, all their hopes rest on the outcome. I get it because these seem like very dark times. We cannot live without hope. But we also need realism. The problems are deep, pervasive, scandalously entrenched.
Many people won financially and in terms of power from lockdowns and have no intention either to apologize or give up their gains. What’s more, for that to have happened to this great country – and many great counties – indicates something far more pernicious than a policy error or an ideological mistake.
The fix is going to require vast change. Tragically, the elected politicians may be the least likely to push for such a change. This is due to what we call the “Deep State” but there ought to be another name. It is rather obvious now that we are dealing with a beast that includes media, technology, nonprofits, and multinational and international government agencies and all the groups they represent.
That said, let’s deal here with the most obvious problem: the administrative state.
The plot of every episode of Yes, Minister – a British sitcom that aired in the early 1980s – is pretty much the same. The appointed Minister of the Department of Administrative Affairs waltzes in with a grand and idealistic statement left over from his political campaigns. The permanent secretary who serves him responds affirmatively and then cautions that there might be other considerations to take into account.
The rest follows like clockwork. The other considerations unfold as inevitable or manufactured behind the scenes. For reasons mostly having to do with career concerns – staying out of trouble, advancing through the ranks or avoiding fall down them, pleasing some special interest, obeying the Prime Minister whom we never see, or coming across well in the media – he backs down and reverses his view. It ends as it begins: the permanent secretary gets his way.
The lesson one gains from this hilarious series is that the elected politicians are outnumbered and outwitted on all sides, only pretending to be in charge when in fact the actual affairs of state are managed by experienced professionals with permanent positions. They all know each other. They have mastered the game. They have all the institutional knowledge.
The politicians, on the other hand, are skilled at what they actually do, which is win elections and advance their careers. Their supposed principles are just the veneer put on to please the public.
What makes the series especially painful is that viewers can’t help but put themselves in the position of the Minister of the Department of Administrative Affairs. How would we have done things differently? And if we had, would we have survived? Those are hard questions because the answer is not obvious at all. It seems like the fix is in.
Now, to be sure, in this series all of the players have elements of charm. We laugh at the bureaucracy and their ways. We are delighted by the oddly emerging lack of scruples by the politician. In the end, however, the system seems to work more or less. Maybe this is just how things are supposed to be. It was ever thus and must always be.
Anyone can be forgiven for believing that just a few years ago. But then the last three years happened. The rule by the administrative bureaucracy in every country became highly personal when our churches were closed, the businesses were shut down, we could not travel, we could not go to gyms or theaters, and then they came after every arm insisting that we accept a shot we did not want and most people did not need.
The laughter of the sort Yes, Minister inspired is over. There is far more at stake. But just as the stakes are high, so too the problem of implementing a solution – representative democracy as a means to reobtain liberty itself – is also exceedingly difficult.
Not difficult, utterly impossible. Can there ever be a wrong or inappropriate time to remind ourselves once more of the deathless words of Patrick Henry? I think not.
Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it. I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging the future but by the past.
And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free– if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending–if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained–we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!
They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable–and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace– but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
Indeed. American liberty was won at the muzzle of the gun and the point of the sword. T’was ever thus; I can recall offhand not a single instance when corrupt and fraudulent “elections” such as ours have ever been sufficient to the task. The miserable curs of Our Side’s chattering class who preemptively abjure any resort to the very dear coin with which our Founding Fathers bought freedom for their posterity disgrace themselves by their pusillanimous break with true American history. They insult the bloody sacrifice made by our Founders even as they cheapen the very idea of liberty itself with their puling, girlish squee, squee, squee-ing. When Henry asks of them “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?” they can but answer in the affirmative, if they have a shred of integrity left about them.
Not that I’m recommending anybody should rush to this last, most desperate resort, mind. But those who would rule it out forever—as if reclaiming our unique American heritage of freedom and individual self-determination could ever be accomplished as cheaply, easily, and painlessly as merely casting a ballot in yet another sham “election”—have effectively demonstrated for all to see just how little they really value those priceless things, whether they know it or not.