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The Perks of Power

February 2nd, 2010 by Myrhaf · 4 Comments · Uncategorized

Free market supporters love to use the hypocrisy argument against statists. It’s been around a long time. To name a few examples of actions that are called hypocrisy:

  • The health care of Senators and Congressmen is better than what Americans would get in the plans of those politicians.
  • Al Gore’s house leaves a huge carbon footprint. Political leaders from around the world flew carbon-spewing jets to Copenhagen.
  • Nancy Pelosi’s relatives flew military jets instead of commercial airlines.
  • A Canadian politician goes to America for his heart surgery.

You can probably think of more examples. None of these is actually hypocrisy. The politicians involved all believe they are in a special class to which the rules do not apply. It’s not hypocrisy, it’s the prerogative of power.

In socialism there  are two classes: the rulers and the ruled. The rulers, a small elite, were called nomenklatura in the USSR. The rest of the people functioned as the elite’s slaves.

Robert Tracinski explained the phenomenon at TIA Daily:

The left is Platonist at its root. It does not begin by observing the actual requirements of human life or the means by which much of the world has risen from mass poverty to opulent wealth in the past two centuries. Instead, it begins with a whole series of moral and philosophical preconceptions—that self-interest is evil, that money-making is corrupt, that achievement in the material world is morally suspect, that the independent individual is dangerous—and then tries to bend the real world to fit these preconceptions.

Or to put it in more philosophical terms, instead of starting with observation and moving up to concepts, the method of Aristotle, the left starts with concepts and projects them onto the world, the method of Plato.

In keeping with this approach, the left is also Platonist in its attitude toward the minds of others. Like Plato’s philosopher-kings, the leftists like to imagine themselves as endowed with a superior mental faculty which entitles them to look down on the fact-bound reasoning of the unenlightened masses.

Fundamentally, there is no hypocrisy. The rules they dictate to the masses were never intended to apply to the rulers. They’re special people, motivated by altruism and uncorrupted by greed like the rest of us blinded by capitalism.

Taken to its logical end, the rulers are above the rule of law. In socialism there is no rule of law, only the rule of men. The rulers dictate to the ruled, and they call whatever whims of rule they establish law.

The only hypocrisy involved is that because of America’s tradition of liberty, the rulers must pretend they are “public servants.” They must pretend they serve the constitution, which they regard as a meaningless document. This pretense is convenient because it mollifies those who are ruled and keeps them from rebelling against the ruling class.

Instead of calling it hypocrisy, I think it would be better to point out that our rulers’ actions are perfectly moral by their premises. They get to live by their own special rules. That’s the way statism works, and that’s the way it will be until we restore freedom in America. If you put it this way instead of using the hypocrisy argument — as if the norm were that politicians were humble “public servants,” a bunch of Mr. Smiths gone to Washington — then you stand a better chance of educating the people. A man won’t lose his chains until he sees them.

UPDATE: Slight revision for clarity.

4 Comments so far ↓

  • Beth Haynes

    Thank you for this elaboration. I particularly liked the following two points:

    In socialism there is no rule of law, only the rule of men.

    A man won’t lose his chains until he sees them.

    Each of them speaks volumes.

  • Roger Theriault

    Well said. And it explains why the elites are so bewildered when the unenlightened object by, say, electing a Scott Brown or voicing objections at a town hall meeting. “How can they object? Can’t they see that we do it all for them?”

  • L-C

    Even here, people are surprised every time a politician is exposed as “corrupted” or when their favorite special interest is denied its share of loot.

    People advocate massive amounts of government force only to respond with confusion and anger when that force doesn’t behave the way they want it to.

  • Joseph Kellard


    Thank you for this insightful post. I sometimes go mad (anger, not insanity) listening to the likes of Hannity, Beck, O’Reilly and their conservative ilk who love to point out “liberal hypocrisy.” How far has this really gotten them? In the grand scheme of things, not far at all. You can point out the many times that Obama on the campaign trail called for the so-called health care debates aired on C-SPAN, and that may help you to gain a temporary victory (e.g. Scott Brown), but what does it matter when and if Brown comes up with his own socialized health care bill somewhere down the line?

    Anyway, you — and Rob Tracinski — make a great point that the Left is only living up to their fundamental outlook on of the rulers (them) and the ruled (us).