Rebirth of Reason


My Pleasures, My Vices
by Tibor R. Machan

I am not in the habit of airing my dirty laundry, so this will be a rare case.  I feel the urge to confess that I have some guilty pleasures, ones that actually have political implications.

As someone who wants strict adherence to the ideas expressed in the Declaration of Independence – namely, that “to secure these rights [to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness], Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….” It is offensive to me that governments engage in innumerable activities, pursue endless policies that have absolutely nothing to do with securing our basic rights.

When one is consistently championing this approach to governance, the type characteristic of a bona fide free country, one must do whatever one can to avoid becoming complicit in the abridgement of the limits on government authority spelled out in a statement that clearly restricts government to exercise very limited powers over the citizenry it is elected to serve. Thus taking subsidies from government, accepting special treatment, enjoying benefits that are only possible for governments to provide by abridging the limits on its power.

I have in mind, for example, when citizens gain perks from resources that governments obtain through the extortionist practice of taxation, grants, subsidies, etc.  I am a citizen who has indeed gained such perks, not unlike most others who receive government handouts in forms such as entertainment, research support, etc., etc. 

Mine may be a minimal case, as when I go to a government funded museum or art gallery or forest or beach.  Perhaps the most clear cut example in my case is how readily I accept the offerings of PBS, which funds and helps broadcast television fare I admittedly enjoy – for instance, programs obtained from Europe, such as one of my favorites, the television rendition of Georges Simenon’s Maigre crime novels. Yes, and there is all the entertainment I like that’s offered on PBS, such as “American Masters” (which recently produced a wonderful program on Mel Brooks, a truly brilliant comic, and Woody Allen, the funny but also rather pathetic movie director and actor). But that is not all.

I am also a fan of imports from the BBC, such as “MI5” or the reruns of some of the very pleasant sitcoms such as “As Time Goes By” with Judith Dench.  And there is a lot more, including detective programs from Sweden, Italy and France, mostly featured with subtitles.

You get the point, I am sure.  Guilty pleasures all, produced with stolen funds that the victims of the theft might have used for their own purposes (which could have included at least some of the productions I find so entertaining).

How can I justify all this, given my strict opposition to government meddling in entertainment, science, culture, etc., etc.?  Well, that is a long story but let me just say that I have been opposed to the ripoffs that make all this possible and have advocated shutting down PBS and NPR, which I consider on par with the Soviet Union’s Pravda and Izvestia. Indeed, one of my earliest contributions to The Freeman, then perhaps the only publication with a libertarian editorial stance, was a critique of government funding of the Olympic games!

One way to think of this is as fighting the system from within, such as government run and funded schools of all kinds. Given that the progress of liberty can often be slow, two steps forward and one back, I know not too many other ways than these to fight mighty Leviathan. In time it may bear fruit.
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