Home To Roost
Equality actually works sometimes
WELCOME TO THE WORLD, BILL
Re. The current antics of the Official
State Soap Opera, somebody recently sent me the following article by Lew Rockwell,
described as one of the 20th Century's greatest champions of liberty. It seemed
too much of a gem to keep to myself. So . . . [Begin Rockwell article]
August 19, 1998
By Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
Clinton wants his private life back. His
personal behavior is his business alone, and his family's. It's a moral outrage
that a prosecutor wants to turn a private matter into a public one. Ken Starr's
power is wholly illegitimate.
Welcome to the early 19th century, when
people actually did have private lives because the government dared not intrude.
Family was autonomous and so too were extended families. Homes were sacred spaces.
Businesses were private property. Neighborhoods managed their own affairs without
There were no spooks listening in on phone
calls, reading our mail, investigating our politics, monitoring our income and
stealing up to half of it for "public policy." There was no army of
social workers telling people how to raise their kids. There was no war on tobacco
or drugs. These were all private matters.
Heads of households, pastors, and community
leaders were the social authorities, not politicians. The president had no agencies
to regulate business, tell property owners whom to hire and fire, much less
pretend to manage the national and world economy.
There was no "sexual-harassment"
law. People who didn't like their jobs didn't sue. Instead, they sought out
a new job. Discrimination on any basis whatsoever was not a crime but a sacred
right. There were no laws that punished people for their choices and associations
so long as they didn't harm anyone.
It was a system called freedom, and it made
possible the most prosperous and humane society in human history. We owe our
current prosperity to the remnants of the old system.
But Bill Clinton represents something different,
an ideology whose primary tenet is that private life shouldn't exist. All behavior
is public behavior.
The State has an interest in managing all
aspects of it. What choices and freedoms we have are ours because the State
grants them. Children don't belong to the family but to society. Businesses
are public property. Our thoughts and motivations -- even our jokes -- are the
business of courts and prosecutors.
But now Clinton, in high-flown libertarian
rhetoric, attempts to tap into the seething resentment the public has for big
government and demands that the Administrative State he heads and loves leave
him alone. In his new-found worldview, he alone enjoys the right to conduct
his affairs as he sees fit. He says no one has a right to know what he is doing
with his subordinates. His friends cannot be subpoenaed and forced to rat on
him to the feds. "Even presidents have private lives," he says. He
means ONLY presidents should have private lives.
Can someone please welcome Bill to the late
20th century? The power and intrusions of the government now frying him are
the same power and intrusions the rest of America is forced to endure every
Every penny we spend is subject to investigation
by the tax police. No business owner can take a step on his own property without
consulting federal agencies. Even in our own homes, we are not free to decide
what kind of paint to put on the walls or the size of our toilet tanks.
Recall that Bill would not be in this fix
were it not for the preposterous advent of sexual-harassment law. On the day
of his speech, thousands of cases are roiling through the courts that will result
in million-dollar fines against bosses accused of far less. Managers' lives
will be ruined by a subordinate's lewd remark or provocative picture displayed
on a desk.
This is a law that Bill defends and champions.
His own wife, now bitter that her personal space is invaded by government power,
is the icon of the feminist movement that has long claimed that the personal
is the political.
Bill is inviting all of us to reject the
authority that Starr is exercising. Bill didn't like the questions Starr was
asking and reportedly even refused to answer them. Why should he? Hey, he's
thinking, it's a free country.
It might be possible to be more sympathetic
to Bill's predicament. Let him repeal the sexual harassment laws in which he
is now entangled. Let him strip the CIA, the IRS, the FBI, the ATF, and the
NSA of their power to spy on our private lives.
Let Bill light a bonfire on the White House
lawn made of the federal code and a hundred years of the Federal Register. Let
him grant to every American the broad rights to private life that he demands
for himself. Until then, we are entitled to regard his speech as the plea of
a tyrant caught in his own web.
Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., is president
of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama. [End Rockwell article]