The Arrow Is Plugging the Wound: An Updated Blast from the Past.

In other places I’ve made it pretty clear that I lean sharply libertarian and that the role of government should be sharply limited. “To preserve these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”  That’s it.  Going beyond what’s necessary to “secure these rights” is to go beyond “just powers.”

As I point out in earlier blog posts, a certain level of government actually helps to secure the basic rights of Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness (Part 1Part 2Part 3)

Obviously, we are far, far beyond that point.  To get there we need to cut government back, way back.

Here’s where I part company with many Libertarians.  They want to do it in one fell swoop.  Every part of government that is not part of the minimum necessary “to secure these rights” (which some consider to be “all of it”) must go.  Now.

That, however, may not be a good idea.  Oh, the end goal of getting rid of most of what government does may be a laudable one but the question is how.

Consider this analogy.  A man has been shot with a number of arrows and is lying there like a meat pincushion.  The wounds, if properly treated, are such that he can survive and heal.  If left as his he’ll bleed to death.

Some folk have the instinct to jerk out all the arrows since they’re what caused his wounding.

Very foolish that.  Those arrows are also plugging the holes so he doesn’t quickly bleed out.

This is where we are with government.  It’s bleeding free society to death, slow or fast depending on your perspective but it’s also “plugging the holes”.

Consider what President Dwight Eisenhower said about Social Security and other programs: “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group of course that believes you can do these things. Among them are a few other Texas oil millionaires and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

Eisenhower was not endorsing Social Security and those other programs.  No, he was pointing out the reality that so many people had grown dependent on them that people would rise in such outrage that the “offending” party would be voted out of every office they hold, from President all the way down to dog catcher, and never be heard from again. [Ed. Note also what I had to say in Yesterday’s post, The Dismal Science.]

And the plain fact is that many more people are dependent on many more government programs than ever before.  Cut the program and people will suffer, in the short term at least.  Maybe, probably, they would if given time adjust to the new situation and the economic growth that comes from the increased freedom and less tying up of the economy caused by the government passing money back and forth from hand to hand with no new products and services to show for it would improve their lot.  But there’s the problem “given time”.  Most people will only see their immediate hardship.  As the line says from the movie Annie (the 1982 version; I haven’t seen the 2014 version and don’t intend to) “People don’t eat in the long run.”

There’s another factor as well. Even if you remove the arrows and stop the bleeding, infection brought in by the arrows through the open wounds they created can still kill the body.

What is the infection in this metaphor? Infection is the beliefs and ideas that are only government can solve problems or, perhaps more pernicious, government can solve them best. And so, even if you reduce the size and scope of government (or, miracle of miracles, get rid of it entirely) the moment problems arise (and they will, this being far from a perfect world) people will immediately turn to government to “solve” those problems. And how do you stop them, short of force, which would make you a government?

It’s a strange infection that causes people to stab themselves with the very arrows you just pulled out of them, but, well, it’s not a perfect metaphor.

The other problem is that the arrows are barbed. The organs of government, in the end, are made up of people and they are going to “softly and silently vanish away” because you are no boojum. They’re going to resist. Remember the Iron Law of Bureaucracy? The people in charge of most of the bureaucracies are “type 2” bureaucrats, those dedicated not to the goals for which the bureaucracy was formed, but to the organization itself. They aren’t going to quietly see it go down, and they’re perfectly willing to do untold damage in their fight for institutional survival.

We saw exactly that under Trump. The irony was that people claimed Trump was paranoid for claiming that the “Deep State” was working against him to undermine his Presidency (starting with putting surveillance on his campaign). And time and again during various hearings we saw witnesses describing how they had worked against Trump to undermine his Presidency, starting with surveillance on his campaign.

Thus, while reducing the size of government is a good thing–indeed, it’s something that must happen if we’re to remain anything resembling a free and prosperous country–great care must be taken in how its done.  It needs to be done gradually–we didn’t get where we are in an instant and we won’t get back in one either.  We must be prepared to deal with the “bleeding” that will come from removing each “arrow”, with the infection that it’s let into the system, and with the hidden barbs it contains, lest instead of a healthy, prosperous nation we end up with an exsanguinated corpse.

Recognizing this, of course, makes me a horrible “statist” who doesn’t care about freedom.  Or so I’ve been told.


So there was this guy:

Could he possibly be any more ivory tower?

What he’s saying is that he defines an intellectual as someone who is so immersed in his inbred little group that he’s totally and completely out of touch with larger American culture.

You know, it’s entirely possible to recognize the William Tell Overture as part of a larger musical work of some significance about a legendary figure and recognize how it has entered the public consciousness through the tales of another fictional (as Tell appears to have been) popular hero. Likewise, it’s also possible to grasp the works of Wagner and recognize that a lot of people’s exposure to the music was through “Kill the wabbit!” And, of course, there was Beethoven’s symphonies and the Disco beat version “A Fifth of Beethoven.”

But no, you define “intellectuals” as a tiny little circle jerk that allows nothing of the larger world to enter the confines of their naval gazing.

And I agree with you. But that’s not a good thing.

Some Flash Fiction

Lord Tenet laughed as his fool gamboled between the tables, his own voice nearly lost among the raucous laughter filling the hall. Servants swirled about the tables, bearing pitchers of wine to the guests at Tenet’s feast. Other servants carried away the plates and trenchers of the first course of food, beef in gravy seasoned with enough cinnamon and cloves to leave the spicebox bare. Tenet’s extravagance meant that meals in the coming winter months would be bland, with little more than onions and leeks to season them, but it would be worth it to…

Tenet let his eyes slide to the side to where Baron Zelquon, his rival at court, gulped at his own wine cup. Yes, to impress, no, to intimidate, Zelquon, was worth near impoverishing the keep.

“You set a hardy table,” Zelquon raised his cup in salute.

Zelquon’s words were polite, but his voice tone was grudging.

Tenet returned Zelquon’s salute with one of his own. “I have but begun.”

Tenet stood and raised his cup. Silence fell over the hall.

“Bring in…the beast.”

The doors to the kitchens opened and six servants entered, carrying between them an enormous platter on which lay the roast carcass of a mighty aurochs.

“My huntsman has done well,” Tenet said. “Rise, Edoran, and accept the thanks of these who feast.”

From one of the lower tables a slim man stood. He bowed. “My Lord is kind, but it is My Lord who slew the beast with his own spear.”

Tenet laughed. “Ah, but it is my loyal huntsman who led me to the point where I could use my spear. How shall I reward–“

Before Tenet could complete his question, the main doors to the hall burst inward limned in blue flame. A man in dark robes strode through the remains of the shattered doors.

Several things happened at once. The hush in the hall, if anything, deepened, followed a moment later by a repeated murmur, the single name, “Delros.” Guards appeared from behind tapestries, their swords drawn and ready. At Tenet’s side, Zelquon sprang to his feet, his hand grasping for a sword that was not there. Against this foe, they were not rivals, but allies.

An icy hand of fear clutched at Tenet’s heart but long practice schooled his face into resolve.

“You dare?”

The robed man, Delros, lifted his hands and pushed the hood back from his face. “I come in peace.”

“Peace? With the prophesied conqueror?”

Delros sighed. “I cannot speak to any prophesies. But, the truth is, I mean you no harm.”

Tenet opened his mouth to speak but Delros raised a hand, blue flames licked about his fingers.

“I had not finished.” Delros took several steps forward, to the center of the hall. “All I ever wanted to do was pursue my studies in my keep. No more. And yet, people keep coming attempting to kill me.

Delros’ eyes narrowed. “Well, I am alive and the assassins are dead. But that they keep coming is…annoying. I want them to stop. Just…leave me alone and I will be able to stop killing the people you send to kill me.”

“You expect us to believe…”

“Believe what you want. I don’t want to kill your people. It takes time from my studies. Leave. Me. Alone.”

With that Delros turned and strode from the hall. Once he’d passed through the doorway, he gestured and the pieces of the door gathered themselves up from the floor and reassembled themselves.

Tenet looked at Zelquon and shrugged.

“We must stop him,” Zelquon said.

Tenet shrugged again. “How? You saw his power.”


Outside, Delros sighed and pulled his hood back up.

“Did they believe you?” A young woman, dressed in a buff leather tunic and pants, her hair pulled into a knot at the nape of her neck lounged against the wall opposite the great hall’s door.

“Probably not,” Delros said. He turned and strode toward the exit of the keep weaving among the magically slumbering guards.

“Why didn’t you tell them about the prophesy?” The young woman fell in at his side.

“They don’t believe I mean them no harm. Do you think they’ll believe that their fool astrologer got the prophesy wrong?”

When Delros had first heard of the so-called prophesy, he had investigated. The astrologer had miscalculated the position of the lesser moon. While the prophesy was true, he’d missed the time by five hundred years.

The young woman shrugged as they emerged from the keep into the bright sunshine. “You’d think they’d be glad that they had five hundred more years to prepare for this conqueror.”

Delros laughed. “Oh, you misunderstood. It isn’t five hundred years from now It was five hundred years ago.”

Delros waved his hand and his sky-barge descended from where it had lain hidden in a cloud.


“One of the many wars. A wizard king gathered several kingdoms together. They went conquering, built an empire. And in time the empire broke up.”

The gangway on the sky barge unfolded and Delros gestured the young woman to precede him.

“Just on of their interminable wars, like any other. They didn’t even notice. That’s all the prophecy was, just one of their endless wars.”