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"The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can’t get and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods." ― H. L. Menken

Americans love a contest. We love the winner of a fair fight. We know that competitive sport builds strength and character. We know that competition in the marketplace improves everything that men compete to produce. The cream floats to the top.

Free markets welcome and reward innovation. New entrants fly or flop on the power of ideas and strength of will. Efficient producers thrive. Obsolete producers disappear. Each accepts responsibility for its actions. Good ideas are rewarded. Mistakes are punished.

Success in business depends on satisfied customers. While some crooks will always get over on the innocent for a while, honesty, fairness, quality and service succeed in the long run. The constant striving for efficiency and profit benefits all of us. Over time quality improves and prices fall.

Recent price patterns illustrate how businesses in the freest, most competitive markets produce better products at lower prices. Those markets in which government meddling is greatest grow proportionally more expensive.

Software, phone service, electronics and clothing are good examples of the former. Regulations are few. Prices have fallen while quality improved. And those prices fell despite inflation.

In industries where regulation is heaviest prices have climbed relentlessly. Medical care is the best example. Before Medicare almost no one bought medical insurance. People didn’t need it. Medical care was affordable. Now doctors, nurses, hospitals and insurance companies waste billions on paperwork and regulatory red tape to satisfy the country’s largest buyer of medical care, the U.S. Government. Uncle Sam provideds “free” medical care for old folks by making its cost explode for everyone else.

Government subsidies to higher education and sponsorship of credit creation outfits like Fannie Mae have driven the costs of college and housing to eye popping levels.

The automobile industry best shows how industrial innovation can at least hold the line against increased regulation. The price of cars has remained stable or fallen despite heavy safety and environmental regulation.

Because there is no real competition for services provided by government, those services become more expensive and less effective over time. Improvements are limited to what we would rather not see improved ― deception, dissembling, manipulation, lying and the creative use of violence.

Thus do public schools deliver an ever-poorer education at ever-higher costs ― not for lack of good intent or sincere effort, but for lack of feedback from competition. Any compulsory monopoly funded by forced contributions would do as poorly.

Similarly police departments become more lethal with SWAT teams and more predatory, creating crime out of thin air with “reverse stings.” Shaking down drug harmless drug users takes manpower away from protecting the public from real thugs, thieves, rapists and robbers, while gun control laws forbid us to defend ourselves.

Lacking competition, the cost of government services rises steadily, either through taxes or bribes ― payoffs of the traditional variety or those known as “campaign contributions.” Microsoft went from being one of the smallest contributors to campaign funds to one of the largest. The Justice Department’s shake down was just as successful for politicians as it was for Microsoft’s competitors.

Political competition has the opposite effect of economic or sports competition. The essential dishonesty, backbiting, recrimination, class warfare, and empty promises of the modern democratic political contest cause the scum rather than the cream to float to the top. By modern politics I mean the unnamed socialism pursued by both major American parties ― the ideology that makes government “a broker in pillage” as Menken put it. Our elections attract and reward the worst among us. Ambition, ruthlessness, dissembling mendacity and a lust for power are the talents that gain success in a political system that sustains itself by looting opponents, bribing supporters and lying to everyone.

It was not always so. Our county’s early political debates focused on the philosophical issues of honest money, political liberty, slavery and tyranny. Candidates had real philosophical and moral differences.  They argued their case to a small, interested electorate as articulately and convincingly as ever they could.

The first legislation that could be compared to The Patriot Act was the Alien and Sedition Act. It forbade criticism of politicians in office. Thomas Jefferson ran for president on a promise to repeal it. He won. He kept his promise.

Lincoln and Douglas debated the morality of slavery. Lincoln won the moral argument and two years later, the presidency. That Lincoln gave the federal government its start toward becoming the behemoth it is today is beside the point. His opponents and he had real differences. William Jennings Bryant and William McKinley fought over honest money. Bryant was an inflationist. McKinley defended the gold standard. Honest money won.

The year 1913 witnessed fundamental changes in the American political system. Those changes have resulted in today’s all too common choice of the lesser of two evils. That was the year the privately owned Federal Reserve began destroying the dollar. We also got the fraudulent income tax and allowed U.S. Senators to be elected by the voters rather than by state legislatures. From then on we’ve sunk ever deeper into a morass of dishonest money, foreign wars and lying politicians who buy our votes with our money.

Wilson promised to keep us out of war in Europe, won the election and promptly sent our troops to fight in Europe. Roosevelt promised to keep us out of war in Europe and balance the budget. He won election and promptly confiscated all the gold in the country, plunged us deeper into debt and got us into the Second World War. It was Roosevelt who taught all who followed how to buy votes wholesale with tax money.

Since then the ante as gone up every year. While the Republicans were once at least nominally the party of smaller government and lower taxes today they are utterly indistinguishable from the big spenders across the aisle. The 2004 election offers the most completely empty choice I’ve seen in years of increasing similarity between party offerings.

Who will get your vote? The Yale graduate, Scull and Bones member, pro-war, pro-big government, anti-civil liberties Republican who served fraudulently in the Texas National Guard, or the Yale graduate, Scull and Bones member, pro-war, pro-big government, anti-civil liberties Democrat who trumped up a war hero myth in four months of service and got three Purple Hearts without ever bleeding.

The important issues of war and peace and the growing police state will not come up in the campaign because the parties and candidates are in complete agreement on expanding the police state and “winning” the war. The sole object for either Bush or Kerry in running for president is to win, to be the one floating alone upon the surface of the great American pond of power.