"Successes" of intervention; the emotional challenge of looking at the truth

I found today's LRC podcast with Naomi Wolf, entitled America's Slow-Motion Fascist Coup, quite an important and insightful one. Besides the left-right crossover material and the quality and openness of the dialogue, two insights stood out.

First was the point by Lew Rockwell that government programs are actually generally successful from the point of view of the people who benefit from them: politicians, state employees, and their favored corporate and other special interests. This suggests a reformulation of Mises' perhaps too-generous doctrine that government interventions do not accomplish the objectives aimed at by their advocates. Such measures may not accomplish the stated objectives—the cover story of benefitting the public, the poor, etc.—but they do tend to accomplish the actual objectives—benefitting special interests, the power elite, corporate cronies, and the political and bureaucratic classes themselves.

The second point I found important was one that Ms. Wolf made several times: understanding what is really happening with the state can be emotionally challenging. I think this factor is key in explaining why so many people have a hard time really accepting deep insights about the nature of the state. Doing so can be emotionally unsettling. It can disrupt our basic sense of security to realize that figures who were supposed to be our childhood heroes cannot really be viewed so unambiguously. Our war heroes are revealed to have been fighting the wrong battles. Our police are enforcing unjust laws. Our judges are operating within bogus legal frameworks. Our schoolteachers are pushing state propaganda (knowingly or unknowingly) and only secondarily hopefully also teaching bits of real knowledge.

I came face to face with such an emotional challenge in a particularly difficult way a few months ago when my ongoing reading program took me through Professor Thomas J. DiLorenzo's two Lincoln books. The sheer vision of so much suffering, death, and destruction, accomplished by so much deceit, all to pull off a gigantic mercantilist rip-off, was certainly difficult to take in. All those "universal soldiers"—they believed; they killed; they died. But how many of them knew what it was really about? Now, to top it all off, generation after generation are still taught mountains of lies about what it was for.

If one really looks straight on at the reality of such things, it takes some emotional courage to just see—to realize that these are not nightmare images, but real pictures. Denial is a powerful force in the human psyche, and it works against people recognizing the sheer horrors that the state inflicts and the startling magnitude of the accumulated lies on which it is based. It takes time and effort to work through such realizations bit by bit; to pass through the initial reaction that "no, that couldn't be true."

From there, though, one has to switch back to the positive—what can we do?—and push forward with a contribution.