“I am a Scot,” wrote Sir Walter Scott, “and therefore had to fight my way into the world.” I am, by way of background and outlook, a member of a threatened species – what was once the “future-oriented middle class.” Many Americans (and, by implication, Australians, Britons, Canadians and others), Gary North wrote in To Save the Dollar, Save a Dollar (LewRockwell.com, 15 January 2005),
are today in the process of moving from the middle class to the lower class. Here, I use the brilliant insight of Edward Banfield. [In his 1970 book, The Unheavenly City, revised as The Unheavenly City Revisited], he argued that class position is tied more to a person’s time preference than to the size of his bank account. A future-oriented person is upper class. A present-oriented person is lower class. Nothing better reveals the class position of a person or a society than the commitment to thrift.
Given my background and outlook, I reject aristocrats’ – which these days means politicians’ and bureaucrats’ and academics’ – grasping and harebrained schemes; I also fear workers’ mobs (particularly when, as now often occurs, aristocrats organise and direct the gang). Conversely, I admire self-made and future-oriented people who boldly yet peacefully take calculated risks. The partners and factors of the North West Company were exemplars; so too were Sir George Stephen (later 1st Baron Mount Stephen), Sir Donald Smith (later 1st Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal), John Stewart Kennedy, James Jerome Hill and John W. McConnell.
The “future-oriented middle class” know that politics isn’t salvation and politicians aren’t saviours (see also What on Earth Has Happened to Canada? Le Quèbècois Libre, 25 October 2003). Canada’s politics is multi-party. A few are stupid parties; others are evil parties; and regularly they conspire to do things that are both stupid and evil. They call these actions “bipartisanship,” and denounce anybody who opposes them.
I also respect history and doubt experts’ abstract models and theories. “In history,” reflected Edmund Burke in Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), “a great volume is unrolled for our instruction, drawing the materials of future wisdom from the past errors and infirmities of mankind.” Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, added in private correspondence on 15 June 1877:
No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.
The “future-oriented middle class” recognise three hypocrisies that today’s aristocrats sneeringly deny. The first is that if the anointed agents of the state do it then it’s allegedly right (and called “taxation” or, euphemistically, “fiscal policy”). If, however, benighted individuals try it, it’s not just wrong – it’s a criminal offence that the state calls larceny (or racketeering). The second aspect is that if the employees of the Bank of Canada and other central banks do it, it’s unremarkable (albeit poorly understood) and called “monetary policy.” But if you and I attempt it, it’s clearly counterfeiting. Finally, if members of (say) Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, RCAF, etc., undertake it, it’s “foreign policy” and “national security.” But if you or I mimic them, we commit a criminal offence called attempted murder (and, if “successful,” murder). I therefore ask: given that a benighted individual acting at his own behest cannot justifiably rob, deceive or kill, then on what possible basis can the anointed, who wears the state’s badge or costume?
A major influence upon my (and many others’) thinking, St Augustine of Hippo, answered this question. Secular rulers, their agents and mascots, as he famously described them in The City of God, are “gangs of criminals on a grand scale.” Augustine saw that the state originated not through some fictitious “social contract” or other voluntary arrangement, but rather through brute force, brazen robbery and outright murder:
A gang is a group of men under the command of a leader, bound by a compact of association, in which the plunder is divided according to an agreed convention. If this villainy wins so many recruits from the ranks of the demoralised that it acquires territory, establishes a base, captures cities and subdues peoples, it then openly arrogates to itself the title of kingdom, which is conferred on it in the eyes of the world, not by the renunciation of aggression, but by the attainment of impunity. For it was a witty and truthful rejoinder which was given by a captured pirate to Alexander the Great. The king asked the fellow, “What is your idea, in infesting the sea?” And the pirate answered, with uninhibited insolence, “the same as yours, in infesting the earth! But because I do it with a tiny craft, I’m called a pirate: because you have a mighty navy, you’re called an emperor.”
Hence I confess the ancient, unassailable and to today’s aristocrats unspeakable truth that the most significant threat to life, liberty and property has never been the common criminal: it has always been the Leviathan state. My arrival at philosophical anarchism thus parallels Joe Sobran’s (see The Reluctant Anarchist, Sobran’s, December 2002). This end
has disturbed some of my conservative and Christian friends. “But what would you replace the state with?” The question reveals an inability to imagine human society without the state. Yet it would seem that an institution that can take 200,000,000 lives within a century hardly needs to be “replaced.” … For me this is anything but a happy conclusion. I miss the [comforting delusion] of believing I lived under a good government, wisely designed and benevolent in its operation. But, as St Paul says, there comes a time to put away childish things (see also Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., Can Anarcho-Capitalism Work? LewRockwell.com, 10 November 2014).
Above all, and despite the many and growing short- and medium-term problems which the state, statists and their mascots have created, I’m optimistic about the long-term future. “The true utopians,” Jeff Deist observed in The Case for Optimism, “are the central planners who believe they can overcome human nature and steer [people] like cattle.” Precisely because statism is logically untenable, and precisely because the state is economically and morally bankrupt, I – and you – possess realistic grounds to conclude that far better days lie ahead (see also Martin Masse, There Are Good Reasons to Be Optimistic About the Future, Le Quèbècois Libre, 15 March 2008).