Statism as Disease

On August 1, the Imperial capital’s conservative daily, the Washington Times, carried an interesting opinion piece. Paul Belien, author of A Throne in Brussels, warned against the peril of "liberal politicians, like Hillary Clinton" seeking to transform the U.S. into a more Europe-like welfare state. Welfare statism, warned Belien, is a "dreaded affliction" that has destroyed Europe. Secularism and liberalism alike seek to "replace God by the state."

It is a bit disingenuous to blame "liberals" alone for the worship of State as god, when "conservatives" have been as guilty of it since 1945. To Belien, America must look like a land of true liberty. But when you compare it to the tyranny in Brussels, that’s not hard.

A Dreaded Affliction

Belien argues, convincingly, that the American revolution was about liberty, while the European revolutions that followed were about replacing absolute monarchies with totalitarian republics. (Hans-Hermann Hoppe has done a superb analysis of just how "tyrannical" those old monarchies were, in Democracy: The God That Failed.) From Jacobins to Bolsheviks, with each "revolution" Europe became less free.

Now, however, Belien sees the same hankering for an omnipotent State among American politicians as exists among their European counterparts. More welfare, more planning, more control, more taxes, more laws… if that were truly a solution, wouldn’t Europeans have felt it by now?

In fact, they have – only nowhere near the way American admirers of European welfare-statism would want people to think:

"Contemporary Europe is in crisis. Its welfare systems are running out of money. Its moral and legal order is breaking down, while the influence of radical Islam is growing. Its nation-states are being undermined by the European Union. Most Europeans look on passively. After three generations of welfare dependency, they have lost the ability to take their fate into their own hands." […]

"Europe does not particularly care about the future: It is only interested in enjoying the present. This attitude also explains why Europe’s demographics have collapsed. People who are not prepared to make sacrifices for the future do not invest in children."

Swapping Totalitarianisms

What about Eastern Europe, and all the countries that were under Soviet domination for decades? Haven’t they all been the most enthusiastic proponents of joining the EU?

Far from being freedom-loving and principally opposed to tyranny, nations of Eastern Europe rose up against Communism because it failed to deliver on its promises of prosperity. Very few dissidents from Lithuania to Bulgaria actually believed in individual liberty, and the general populace not at all. After decades of indoctrination in public schools, the notion that individuals existed to serve the State had become as ingrained as the need to breathe. Eastern Europeans embrace the EU precisely because it resembles the USSR: a promise of a welfare paradise. Having only been the subjects of Brussels for a few years, they have not yet felt the effects of the system failing. They will soon enough.

"EUrosis: A Critic of New Eurocentrism" (Evroza: kritika novog evrocentrizma), a study by Slovenian culturologist Mitja Velikonja, was recently published in Belgrade. Velikonja notes the uncanny similarity between the Slovenians’ worship of Europe and the worship of socialism in Yugoslavia; the yellow stars of EU have replaced the Communist red, but it’s the same single-mindedness that has completely taken over society, a new totalitarianism in place of the old. Once State has been accepted as god, it doesn’t matter which state one serves, after all.

Suppressed Voices

Many American thinkers have warned of the dangers of statism. Randolph Bourne wrote about war and the "the health of the State" in 1918. In the 1940s, F.A. Hayek illustrated the process in his Road to Serfdom, and Albert Jay Nock wrote of "Our Enemy, the State."

Just as human beings breathe, eat and drink to survive, the State draws on conflict to not just maintain its existence, but to grow in size and scope. This is very well illustrated by Robert Higgs in Crisis and Leviathan, a study of government expansion in times of crisis. Few Americans know of these works today – courtesy, not surprisingly, of the state-monopolized education. Instead of Mises and Rothbard, they are taught Keynes. Instead of Jefferson, their idols are Lincoln, Wilson and FDR.

How soon before America goes the way of Europe?

Will to Power

Part of the reason the Washington Times published Paul Belien’s op-ed was surely to caution Americans from voting for "liberals." Yet no one in their right mind can argue that the past seven years of Emperor Bush have seen anything but an explosion of government power, scope and size. All the "mainstream" candidates we incessantly hear about are squabbling over how to use Leviathan’s power, not whether that power should exist in the first place. Only one candidate opposes the welfare-warfare state on principle, and he is deliberately and systematically ignored in the official discourse.

Meanwhile, the Emperor and his entourage are completely insouciant about the outcome of the 2008 presidential elections. Perhaps – and this is going out on a limb – because they have no intention whatsoever of giving up power? After all, they have not built a massive apparatus of coercion over the past six years just to hand it over to Hillary Clinton!

Far-fetched? So was the notion of Iraqi WMDs. Those who follow Bush in the corridors of power boast that their will shapes reality. Imagining itself as God, the State accepts no limitations to its power. It could happen here. Maybe it already has.

Author: Nebojsa Malic

Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia, and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for debuted in November 2000.