I finally finished my final exams today. Part of the silver lining of law school exams is that, because I’m sitting in front of my computer from the time I wake until the time I go to sleep, I end up finding a lot of new music to listen to while I study. As a fan of folksy country music, I was especially pleased to discover two new (to me) bands this exam season: American Aquarium and Hiss Golden Messenger (the latter thanks to this post at The American Conservative). (For two emblematic songs, click “read more,” below.)
I have no idea what political beliefs (if any) these two bands hold, and I certainly don’t presume that they would agree with me. However, I do think their music does a great job of capturing the sense of life of millions of people living in 2012, under the administrative state. As layoffs continue, factories close down, taxes and regulations increase, and the “mess that Obama inherited” never seems to go away, their music captures the melancholy feeling of continuous decline that future generations might well associate with the early twenty-first century.
The Democratic position is always that our problems will be solved if only the rich learn more patriotism and accept higher taxes and lower profits. But the realities of the twenty-first century are different. As Sheldon Richman argued in a recent piece, modern political problems are not about the rich laissez-faire capitalists on one side versus the government-craving working man on the other. Nor can they be solved by redistribution.
Rather, our present problems stem in large part from an excess of government redistribution—but of a kind where money is redistributed from the poor to the rich, and not the other way around. Indeed, the modern state is best understood as a means by which the rich can continue to enrich themselves, while the middle and working classes stagnate and decline. Increased taxes and regulations raise barriers for small companies to compete with their large corporate competitors, while the whole structure of the Federal Reserve system relies on a steady infusion of cash into well-connected banks and bond dealers who then use it to bid up prices for everyday goods, to the detriment of people on more fixed incomes, who see prices rise but their paychecks remain the same. The “too big to fail” mentality essentially works as socialism for the rich, where well-connected businessmen are protected from their own bad decisions—and was incorporated into the Democrat’s beloved Dodd-Frank Act, through increased oversight and protective regulation of so-called “systemically important financial institutions.”
Accordingly, to be libertarian is actually to promote the interests of the poorer members of society. I think the Republican Party would rather go down in flames than to actually start talking about benefitting the poor, even when the means proposed are through deregulation. The Party’s recent treatment of fiscally conservative congressmen and copyright dissenters show just how averse to introspection it actually is. But for the rest of us on the Right, the issue should not be to simply dismiss the poor or unemployed as lazy welfare queens, or whatever. We should realize that millions of people really are victims of circumstance and that they will continue to be so until we can start repealing the administrative state. “A working man can’t make it, no way.”