There’s a new buzzphrase being bandied about, Gentle Reader. If you’re as news-obsessive as I, you’ve surely heard it. Perhaps you even reflected on its mendacity. But as not everyone is as attentive as you and I, let’s put it right out there in front of God and everybody.
The ominous phrase is “the people’s business.”
If you’ve read or heard it, how did you react? Did you let it pass without further reflection? Did you note the context, which is the minimum required for unpacking it? Did you ponder the intent of the speaker? Were you able to discern from his statements:
- His conception of “the people,”
- What he deems to be their “business,”
- What ought to be done about it,
- And by whom?
“The people,” you see, is itself a political buzzphrase. Some would call it a term of art. “The people’s” identity and dimensions are unknown. Among its other lacks are a unitary consciousness, a coherent set of needs and desires, and any sort of plan. In other words, by any imaginable standard it is unreal.
Yet we hear about it all the time.
The most recent invocation of “the people’s business” has been in connection with the fight over the Speakership of the House of Representatives. That chamber of Congress has been called “the people’s house.” Historically, that was because its members were elected by popular vote, whereas until the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913, United States Senators were chosen by the state legislatures. Today the designation has less meaning.
The two-hundred-plus Republican Congressmen who’ve lined up to make Kevin McCarthy the Speaker expressed their irritation with the twenty hold-outs in varying ways. However, one constant among them has been the insistence that the squabble is delaying “the people’s business.”
Hold hard there. If you consider yourself one of “the people,” then your business, whatever it may be, would surely be subsumed under “the people’s business.” That leads us to an overwhelming question:
If you feel that way – I do – wouldn’t you assume that every other self-respecting individual so casually subsumed under that phrase “the people” would feel the same?
You’re on notice that the Establishmentarians in the Republican Caucus in the House of Representatives don’t agree.
No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session. – Judge Gideon Tucker, 1866.
Government Systems, acting in accordance with the laws of growth, Tend to Expand and Encroach. In encroaching upon their own citizens, they produce Tyranny, and encroaching upon other Government Systems, they engage in Warfare. – John Gall, Systemantics
Few observations about the behavior of human institutions have been confirmed as repeatedly and reliably as those above. The chief implication is fairly obvious – governments, no matter how constituted, are a threat to those they rule – yet men persist in trying to fence them in with protections for individuals’ rights and latitude of action.
The great majority of men resist the notion that we’d all be better off without the State. Some resist it out of a sincere conviction that without governments, things would be worse, though seldom is that conviction tested analytically. Others resist it because they’re “in on the action,” or hope some day to be so. And still others resist it out of a fear of the unknown. Even as the State grows, constricting their lives ever more straitly and swallowing ever more of their property, they strain to rationalize this indefensible idea that some should be permitted to wield coercive power over others.
I’m done with it, myself. I don’t regard my business, such as it is, as something that others, however selected, have any right to interfere in. If I have the right to say “Mind your own business” to other individuals and make it stick, why shouldn’t I have the right to tell political busybodies the same? And if I have that right, don’t you have it as well?
The illusion of choice provided by elections, by which the power-mongers of the world hope to distract and delude us, doesn’t deceive me. Power-mongers want power above all other things. They’ll do anything and everything to get it, keep it, and increase it. What letter comes after their names makes no significant difference to their pretensions or intentions. That’s been displayed ever more openly these past seven years.
By my lights, governments are fundamentally morally indefensible. From what I see around me, the number of those who agree with me increases daily. Yet things remain the same year after year and century after century.
I was delighted by the fight over who would wield the Speaker’s gavel. It didn’t just offer a clear glimpse of what really matters to the political Establishment; it also delayed “the people’s business.” While the fight went on, Congress could not act. And so, for a little while, even though “the legislature” was “in session,” we were safe from further predations.
Now that the Speakership has been decided, we’re in danger once more. The few procedural changes and concessions the twenty hold-outs managed to wring from Kevin McCarthy will likely prove illusory. Politicians make promises all the time. They seldom keep them. McCarthy and his Establishmentarian fellows will find rationales under which to dismiss his promises to the hold-outs. I’d be pleased to be proved wrong, but I know which way to bet.
I’m sure my Gentle Readers are all familiar with the secular parable of the tortoise and the scorpion. By now, anyone who’s been paying attention to the gaucherie of American politics should be aware of the nature of the professional power-monger. Isn’t it time to act on what we know all too well – what has been demonstrated to us repeatedly throughout the annals of history?
Isn’t it time to declare that “the people’s business” is a canard – that an individual’s business is his own to do?
See also this excellent piece by Sundance at The Last Refuge. Keep your business to yourself, as far as possible. And keep your pantry full and your powder dry.