I dreamt last night of an occupied land. Nestled in a crevice in my mind between the need for security and the yearning for freedom, the place was a holiday destination for my betters. At each toss and turn of my slumber they came again; descending in limousine convoys from the mists above escorted by their guards and always looking, always searching. They preyed on my land to appease their appetite for permanent pleasure, and left with our children; they romped around the mysteries and withdrew with the ranks of our youth decimated as if by an epidemic.
I tried in vain to infiltrate their world – slowly moving upward, hiding amongst the trinkets and baubles stacked from floor to ceiling that have come to define our old noble land; the most visible sign of the occupation. They have at least preserved my land for their enjoyment; they need it for some reason I cannot fathom. But they have turned it instead into a curiosity, draining it of its power. I push upward but I cannot get past the mist – a containing wall between my sorrow and their position.
I sipped my coffee this morning as I tried to understand what the dream could mean. My conclusion is that it’s not really a great mystery. In a world dominated by disease, beheadings, abductions and torture juxtaposed against frolicking frivolity of our ruling classes – a world where some work so hard and die so brutally while others appear in luxurious oblivion to the world around them – I suppose it is those who are not tossing and turning who should worry.
But I can’t help thinking there is more.
In this world of dramatically different life experiences, it is easy to become disillusioned. For those of us who work on issues of freedom and prosperity, it even disturbs our dreams. We scream “inequality”. It is a knee jerk reaction, perfectly justifiable, but also one we must get beyond – or at least better understand. We must learn to see that in a world created by the men of the mind, the captains of industry or the superstars we see strutting around the society pages of our newspapers are there because we put them there. If we stop watching a particular actor’s movies or buying a specific designer’s cloths or no longer bank at a given establishment – those faces would be very quickly replaced. They serve at my discretion. To be sure, this is something they should be more sensitive to lest their fall from grace be spectacular – as it has been so often in the past for so many. ‘Pride goeth before the fall’ as the Bible says.
We should nevertheless learn to look at the world around us to identify the real danger. When positions in a free world are seen for what they are not – as unearned – they become the lightning rod for those would seek to use political power (violence) to pull these people from their posts. Not accepting that a free market economic system allows us not only the chance to change our superstars at the click of a button (or the swipe of a card), and even maybe accede to great position ourselves, some people propose the co-mingling of economic and political power to attempt to force the changes. This leads directly to new overlords who hold their position not through ability but by the influence they have over the men with the guns. The economic and political conditions – and the new overlords – created by this new system cannot be changed by choice. If you believe I am wrong, go to Venezuela or North Korea or the Islamic State and you’ll see. And a new inequality is cemented in place – one policed by violence.
Of course none of this is new – the great minds foresaw all of this and warned us. Jefferson, Madison, Hayek, Adam Smith, and John Locke all wrote about this and designed a system that would free those of us not born with loud last names or deep pockets to advance.
I think again of my dream last night, and the violence that prompted it. The violence all around sold as a solution – and that leads to only another generation of oppression. And I wonder how much would be different if the ideas of liberty were instead the ideas sold to the world, replacing the tired old prejudices of retaliation, of retribution – of revolution: “the politics and economics of hate.” Imagine what a world we could build together.