You know, this quoting-other-novelists business is fun:
“We’ve waited a long time to get something on you. You honest men are such a problem and such a headache. But we knew you’d slip sooner or later—and this is just what we wanted.”
“You seem to be pleased about it.”
“Don’t I have good reason to be?”
“But, after all, I did break one of your laws.”
“Well, what do you think they’re for?”
Dr. Ferris did not notice the sudden look on Rearden’s face, the look of a man hit by the first vision of that which he had sought to see. Dr. Ferris was past the stage of seeing; he was intent upon delivering the last blows to an animal caught in a trap.
“Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against—then you’ll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We’re after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you’d better get wise to it. There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted—and you create a nation of lawbreakers—and then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system, Mr. Rearden, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”
For all its flaws, Atlas Shrugged is proving to be a monumentally useful book in this time. All right, Rand didn’t anticipate the government’s employment of illegal drug use as a tyrannizing technique. Neither did she give much emphasis to welfarism. She was principally concerned with power-mongers’ desire to subjugate the most productive members of society.
By the way, take note of that word subjugate. I chose it quite deliberately. Etymologically, it means “to put under a yoke.” There are several different yokes being fastened upon us. To name just a few:
- Executives asserting “emergency powers” in the name of “public health;”
- Rule of all commercial enterprises by bureaucracies;
- Massive expansion of the welfare state;
- Tacit encouragement of drug use;
- Destruction of the dollar.
None of those things is Constitutionally licit, of course. Item #4 is particularly pernicious. Federal drug law isn’t Constitutional in any way, but neither is a federal subsidy for crack pipes. A twofer!
The “emergency powers” bit might seem superficially plausible to persons unacquainted with constitutionalism. The word emergency appears nowhere in the Constitution of the United States. It ought not to appear in any state-level constitution or charter, for it is an undefined and undefinable term. Yet the governors of many states have claimed to exercise “emergency powers.” By what right, code, or standard? Who decides what shall qualify as an “emergency?” To what superior authority can we appeal for redress from the oppression that has followed?
Quite some time ago, I noted that governments don’t give refunds:
It is obvious that many a State policy formulated to bring about some well-conceived end has failed to do so. Sometimes the failure was inherent in the policy conception; sometimes it was the result of discontinuity in administration or application. What matters is that the result upon which the policy was founded was not achieved. How, then, shall we defend, morally or practically, the imposition of collective decision-making that overrode individuals’ claims to rightful autonomy, when the very good they were promised in exchange for their rights has failed to materialize? Shall we make restitution to those who were deprived of their lives, liberties, or properties in service to the unachieved goal? If so, what becomes of collective utility’s conceptual superiority to individual rights? If not, why should individuals agree to submit to the usurpation of their rights, however conceived, in the first place?
If we look back at the damage – the carnage — inflicted on this nation by the recent “pandemic” restrictions alone, we are owed restitution that boggles all my arithmetic. Tens of thousands have suicided. Children’s lives and minds have been sacrificed. Trillions of dollars in trade and ruined businesses have fueled the flames. Families have been torn asunder. Nothing imaginable could possibly correct for this…but the blood of the criminals who forced it on us with their “emergency powers” would provide some sense of closure. I doubt we’ll see any of it spilled, my preferences to the contrary notwithstanding.
Men who understand law, justice, and freedom should be apoplectic with rage:
“I want to know what the law is, what it permits, requires, and forbids. I want my clients to know. And the only way to reach that result is to insist that the words of the law have exact meanings, not arbitrary, impermanent interpretations that can be changed by some supercilious cretin who thinks he can prescribe and proscribe for the rest of us.
“The Constitution is the supreme law, the foundation for all other law. If it doesn’t mean exactly what its text says—the public meanings of the words as ordinary people understand them—then no one can possibly know what it means. But if no one can know what the Constitution means, then no one can know whether any other law conforms to it. At that point, all that matters is the will of whoever’s in power. And that’s an exact definition of tyranny.
My character Stephen Graham Sumner speaks for me. What about you?