When the people believe that stealing is not stealing if they vote to have others steal for them, and when they believe they have a right to others’ property, they have become corrupt. Changing the word “steal” for “tax,” “penalty”, “mandate,” or “requirement” may sound nicer, but it doesn’t make it something else. When politicians recognize no limits on their power, they have become corrupt, too. Whether they are evil, ignorant, or negligent is largely irrelevant. Politicians simply reflect the state of opinion, and if the people have become corrupt, their politicians will be, too.
The gradual loss of economic and social freedoms isn’t something foisted upon the people, but rather an ongoing exercise in which they have willingly participated. They have voted for their own enslavement, lured by their own avarice and ignorance. The excuse of unintended consequences to explain why domestic and foreign policy has produced the opposite of that claimed for it no longer has any merit, if it ever did. “We mean well” rings hollow. People of character who “mean well,” only to have it all blow up in their faces, would apologize. They would offer to reverse what they have done, right the wrongs, or quit in disgrace. But politicians never apologize for what they’ve done; the wars they’ve started, the violence they’ve launched, the lives they’ve ruined.
It does the cause of liberty no good to give those who do evil, or support evil, the benefit of the doubt, or excuse them because they claim not to know the damage they’ve wrought. We ought to call an evil by what it is—evil. Rendering people destitute through command and control of the economy is evil. Spying on the people, scooping up all their private information without a proper warrant, is evil. Indefinite detention without charge, and torture—even torture that doesn’t leave a physical mark—is evil. We should no longer be willing to say these things are unintended, or unfortunate byproducts of laws supported by otherwise well-meaning people. Their intentions are irrelevant. We can judge them well enough by what they have done.
As to whether the preceding is charitable or productive, it is probably neither. There just doesn’t seem to be much point in trying to reason with the willfully irrational or change the hearts of those who are downright evil. But ignorance can be changed through education, and there are more information channels and outlets than ever before. There may be a substantial number of people who are merely ignorant, those who’ve never cared before but who are reasonably open-minded. Maybe we can persuade these people to start caring. Most people now seem to know a little of what libertarianism is, or at least have heard of it, something that wasn’t true even 10 years ago. It’s encouraging. But maybe they won’t care until they get the midnight-knock-on-the-door, or a friend or family member disappears. In any event, we must keep trying to reach out as best we can, politely and respectfully making the case that human beings ought to live in freedom. It’s the only thing we can do. It’s why I wrote State of Terror.