After a few drinks an American politician took a friend to a window and asked him to look for a brand new bridge nearby. Pointing a finger at his own chest the grinning politician said, “twenty percent.” This of course referred to his cut on the deal.

The same scenario is now transferred to an African gathering. There, after looking through the window, the African fellow could not see any bridge, only a cow pasture. “Where is the bridge?” he asked. With an even wider grin the African politician replied, “One hundred percent.” This tale is apt in showing the depth of corruption that exists in other places of the world where government officials acquire insane fortunes and there is nothing in return for the people. In America, however, the level of corruption is lesser and things get done. Great for us.

After considering the scenarios one might think that the American one is much better as, at least, there are social benefits from political activity, even if corruption is involved. Not so fast.  When tempted to think this way it is good to remember Sir Francis Bacon’s dictum: “Truth emerges more readily from error than from confusion.” Although the African example is pitiful, it allows one to see evil nakedly and the dangers of political power and cronyism are unavoidable.  Their problem is daunting as it requires dethroning those in power but the reality of freedom being better than statist control is clear; freedom has a chance! There might be hope under the skin of  oppression and a seed of liberty might have already been planted and is waiting to burst.

The American scenario, on the other hand, is pitiful. It is the scenario of a nation that experienced the blessings of freedom but is slowly losing them; it is a scenario of decay. When things get done by the state, whether in corrupt ways or not, there is an incentive to believe in the inevitability of government activity and the impossibility of things being any other way. Some might contemplate that trading  a few liberties for the promise of security might not be a faustian bargain after all.  The civic memory of the people shifts toward an acceptance and support for more government intervention as, “we need things to get done.”

The incremental loss of liberty is a sad scenario as it steadily moves in the wrong direction. As the shift is so gradual, people  deny that  it is happening until the final chapter comes swiftly, as if “from nowhere.” That, I might say is the greatest reason not to support government intervention even in areas that may appear so obvious; one of them being the supposed need for “infrastructure.” We must remember that we are crawling just so gently toward statist disaster when tempted to think, “What is so wrong with the Federal government re-building our roads and bridges?!” Unless one can determine that there is some unique wisdom in government activity, so unique to state activity that things cannot be performed otherwise, our attitude ought to be to reject their intervention. To have that attitude, however, we need a painful renewal of the mind. That is why the “twenty percent” analogy is the worst!

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