In Bastiat’s attacks upon subsidies for some at the expense of everyone else, he was beginning to perceive that free trade was one tiny isolated corner of a much larger question: the necessity for freedom in all human activity. The young gentleman farmer had always been a man alone in the developing pattern of his life, but what truly set him apart from his times was his growing realization that government, no matter who ran it, no matter in whose interests it was run, could only be a harmful force let loose in human society whenever it exceeded its negative obligations to protect life and property.Bastiat is one of the great libertarian thinkers in history. Roche's book, available as a free download from the good people at mises.org, is both a biography of Bastiat and an introduction to his thinking. I recommend it.
Those of us coming of age prior to 1994 could have easily believed, once upon a time, that the problems with government originated largely with the Democrat Party and could be solved by a conservative approach to government, both in terms of reforms favoring the private sector and in the terms of social policies. After six years of Bush and a Republican-controlled Congress, we should be free of any such illusions. Yes, the Democrat reign of terror that assaulted our freedoms from the 1930's to the 1990's was indeed devastating, but Republican control did not solve the problem, and, in fact, exacerbated it. Republican sympathizers such as myself argued, I still believe correctly, that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were necessary. What was not necessary was the ridiculous increase in debt that those conflicts appeared to excuse. If we needed to fight terrorists, it would have been understandable that we, meaning the nation as a whole, make sacrifices to do so, and I believe we would have done so happily and patriotically. I cannot excuse the way those conflicts were conducted or presented to the American people. Neither can I excuse Bush's creation of additional bureaucracy with the fascist-sounding Department of Homeland Security and its disgusting offspring, the TSA, nor the onerous extension of the government school monopoly nor the further entrenching, as well as bankrupting, of Medicare.
Being a decent man, as Bush is, does not give one the right to enslave ones fellow citizens. Obama might be a decent man -- I have my doubts, but he is even more of a tyrant than Bush or anyone else who went before him, at least as far back as Lyndon Johnson and likely all the way back to the King George III.
Government is the problem. The idea of "positive rights" is a problem. The concept of "social conservatism" has no more of a place in the federal government's policies than "social liberalism". We will only lose rights and individual liberty when the state chooses to intervene to any degree in any direction in our private lives.
The sole righteous duty of government is negative, to protect against the violation of an individual's God-given rights to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the possession of private property. When the state oversteps those bounds and begins to create "rights" either legislatively or judicially, the individual suffers.
The government has no business picking winners and losers in the marketplace. This is only made worse when the government is in collusion with a central bank that controls monetary policy and maintains a monopoly on financial transactions and the issuance of fiat currency. We are, at this point and for the most part, slaves to the system -- deluded, distracted, and over-fed, but no less slaves.
Violent revolution is not the answer, as the French and others since have discovered. Most revolution ends only in death, destruction, and more tyranny. We can, by our votes at every level, but especially locally, begin to change direction. We can stand up to the advance of government by electing county sheriffs, judges, commissioners, school board members, etc, who understand and support liberty. Support state legislators who -- instead of getting more money for their district, vote in favor of individual freedom, less government intervention, and the strengthening of private property rights. Many times these local elections can be decided by a relatively small number of people. Find the like-minded and help to motivate them to act. Refuse to cooperate with the government by supporting private education and home-schooling.
Again, government is the problem, and the bigger and more powerful it gets in any direction, the worse the problems are. Do not get fooled again.