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Four Types of Government Operatives  
Posted by ALP on January 8 2008, 10:39 » Uploaded 08/01/08 11:49  

Four Types of Government Operatives: Bullies, Muggers, Sneak Thieves, and Con Men

The Independent Institute
December 20, 2007
Robert Higgs

[A few excerpts...]

Sometimes government functionaries and their private-sector supporters want simply to bully you, to dictate what you must do and what you must not do, regardless of whether anybody benefits from your compliance with these senseless, malicious directives. The drug laws are the best current example, among many others, of the government as bully. Our rulers presently enforce a host of laws that combine the worst aspects of puritanical priggishness and the invasive, pseudo-scientific, therapeutic state. They tolerate our pursuit of happiness only so long as we pursue it exclusively in officially approved ways: gin, yes; weed, no.


Government sneak thieves, in contrast, fear that they may occupy more vulnerable positions than the agribusiness gang and similarly impudent special-interest groups cum legislators, so they dare not taunt the little kids so flagrantly. Instead, they specialize in legislative riders, budgetary add-ons and earmarks, logrolling, omnibus “Christmas tree” bills, and other gimmicks designed to conceal the size, the beneficiaries, and sometimes even the existence of their theft. At the end of the day, the taxpayers find there’s nothing left in the till, but they have little or no idea where all of their money went. Finding out by reading an appropriations act is next to impossible, inasmuch as these statutes are almost incomprehensible to everyone but the legislative insiders and their staff members who devise them and write them down in a combination of Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit.


Unlike the government sneak thieves, the government con men openly advertise—indeed, expect to receive great credit for—certain uses of the taxpayers’ money that are represented as bringing great benefits to the general public or a substantial segment of it. Surely the best example of the con man’s art is so-called national defense, a bottomless pit into which the government now dumps, in various forms (many of them not officially classified as “defense”), approximately a trillion dollars of the taxpayers’ money each year. The government stoutly maintains, of course, that all ordinary Americans are constantly in grave danger of attack by foreigners—nowadays, by Islamic terrorists, in particular—and that these voracious wolves can be kept from the door only by the maintenance and active deployment of large armed forces equipped with ultra-sophisticated (and correspondingly expensive) equipment and stationed at bases in more than a hundred countries and on ships at sea around the globe.

Without dismissing the alleged dangers entirely, a sensible person quickly appreciates that the threat is slight—just do the math, using reasonable probability coefficients—whereas the cost of (purportedly) dealing with it is colossal. In short, as General Smedley Butler informed us more than seventy years ago, the modern military establishment, along with most of its blessed wars, is for the most part nothing but a racket. Worse, because of the way it engages and co-opts powerful elements of the private sector, it gives rise to a costly and dangerous form of military-economic fascism. Lately, the classic military-industrial-congressional complex has been supplemented by an even more menacing (to our liberties) security-industrial-congressional complex, whose aim is to enrich its participants by equipping the government for more effectively spying on us and invading our privacy in ways great and small.

COMMENTS Post comment


Comment 01 – Brian D January 08 2007, 12:17

Thanks for that, ALP. I once suggested in a magazine article that the main function of TV bank ads (the warm, friendly ones - "Abbey - because life's complicated enough") is not to sell specific products or services, but is damage limitation. They know they need damage limitation continually because they see the research which shows that a large proportion of people regard banking as a racket, and that the dawning realisation that banks belong to the gangster class cannot be allowed to, er, dawn. (The recent mass challenges to illegal "punitive" bank fees show that it's dawning anyway, mainly due to the web).

I suppose you could say the same of the BBC and its function of presenting the establishment (state and economic) as respectable. Okay, they may lie and steal our money, and kill for oil and power, but they're gentlemen. They have good manners, they talk nice, they're polite and well-dressed.

Unlike the criminal class. And what is the criminal class? They're the poor, dumb people you see in all those Rail Cops, Clampers, A Life of Grime, Bailiffs -type BBC prime-time documentaries (longer list here) - being chased by the authorities for some minor transgression. The criminals are us. They don't get to afford damage limitation.


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