Standing on the back of a wagon filled with jars of oil that gleam a golden green in the hot sun, a man cries out to unwary passers-by. He promises an “all natural” relief to those suffering from the aches and pains of arthritis, dry skin, baldness, wrinkles, fever, fatigue, and even lost virility. As natural doubts rise, he quickly offers dubious studies by official sounding and often completely fictitious government agencies and even claims that no less than four out of every five doctors that has used his genuine snake oil remedy has reported tremendous results for their patients.
Thus playing on the desperation, fear, and anxiety of those within earshot, he soon has a group of people, who, ignoring the cynical murmurs of more sensible citizens among them, put aside their fears and move closer to listen to him. They even repeat his claims, to silence those who would try to save them from themselves. He once again reassures the crowd with guarantees of authenticity. Taking one last look over the heads of the crowd, the scoundrel closes the deal with these poor folk, so desperate and deluded for anything to that they take him at his word.
With far too little hesitation, they begin handing over their hard earned coins in exchange for his glistening bottles of false hopes and empty promises. He tells each and every customer what a great bargain they’ve gotten, and graciously accepts their praise and thanks for trying to make the world a better place. Not even half an hour later, not even bothering to count the coins in his pocket, he’s already on the road to find the next batch of gullible fools to peddle his wares to, never to be seen again.
“All that glitters is not gold.”
Snake oil salesmen are as much a part of American frontier folklore as the covered wagon and the cowboy. The archetype of a fast talking and amoral confidence man has served as a practical warning that the world was brimming with such swindlers that lived by the motto “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Over a century and a half later, such scoundrels have become more numerous and more sophisticated, and, while rarely peddling snake oil these days, they take the form of herbal supplements hucksters, Nigerian princes, and, worst of all, politicians.
In the face of such liars and thieves, often dressing themselves in false authority, rational skepticism has become even more of a necessity than ever before. When a wealthy man rides down a gilded escalator accompanied by his trophy wife, then climbs up before a nation’s flag and proceeds to spew a ranting political speech announcing his intention to run for office, in front of a crowd of paid supporters, the natural reaction of Americans should not have been instant adoration and unquestioning support, but it was.
When this man promised to be himself the elixir to solve all of the problems that vex America, from illegal immigration and Islamic extremism to manufacturing expatriation and government over regulation, red flags should have been flowing in the wind from horizon to horizon. Though he may understand them and earnestly seek to remedy them through the careful application of limited government power, no man is alone a solution to these complex problems. Americans should not have believe anything that he said, but they did.
“All governments lie.”
-Isidor Feinstein Stone-
The fundamental deceit of government is that it alone has the political authority and, more sinisterly, the political power to solve problems. Why do we as Americans accept these assertions without question? How many Americans accept without question that government not only has political authority over their lives and choices but should have that political authority over their lives and choices? How many Americans accept without question that government possesses the political power to solve problems at all, let alone intractable problems such as poverty, criminality, and hatred?
Has government power made murder nonexistent by making it illegal? Have the dozens of government agencies and their armies of bureaucrats been able to eliminate poverty anywhere in the world? Has injustice, inequality, and suffering been to the least bit remedied by a politician empowered by gullible people to vote away the confiscated wealth of his or her countrymen? Has this government “power” achieved anything lasting other than increase itself a thousandfold from the founding?
Yet people cheer for such men as they promise more and more, while achieving less and less. When Obama promised that his solution would decrease premiums and save Americans millions in health care costs, even if he believed what he was saying, he was lying. When Trump promised that he would repeal and replace ObamaCare, replacing it so that everyone would “be beautifully covered” and have “insurance for everybody“, even if he believed what he was saying, he was lying.
“Nothing is an absolute reality; all is permitted.”
Ultimately, the failure was not that these men lied to America, because there have always been and will always be such liars. The failure was that Americans believed them. There is a serious question whether we, as Americans, yet retain the fundamental skepticism necessary to self rule. The great tragedy is that the only alternative is tyranny, and it can do no better, because men with great power unchecked by the people are no more honest than men who must lie to achieve power.
It is this last truth that fueled the American Revolution and was, itself, a product of the Age of Reason that gave birth to thinkers like John Locke, Thomas Paine, and our own Thomas Jefferson. It was skepticism, not trust, of the status quo, that informed the men that would establish a Republic without a dictator, whether in the form of a monarch or otherwise. Skepticism, not trust, of our political class is the American tradition, and those who demand political fealty to their political leader betray that tradition. Leaders that allow such personal fealty to fester are loathsomely un-American.
“But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good…”
-1 Thessalonians 5:21-
For the sake of Liberty, question everything.
Liberty is For The Win!