Socialist Bernie Sanders is beating Hillary Clinton over the head with his figurative Birkenstocks, and The Donald is plowing through the Republican presidential field like a giant, perfectly coiffed, Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. The establishment is freaking out, and it’s about damn time. Their collective panic suggests that entrenched interests finally understand that their world is threatened; that the rules have changed, that insider power is waning, that we are onto their game. We now know what the establishment has been up to behind the cloistered marble walls of our government, and we are royally pissed.
This is an opportunity of a lifetime, if we get it right. But you have to choose. Will you choose liberty, or just a new boss?
Let’s get our terms right first. “The establishment” is the network of special interests—politicians, crony capitalists, lobbyists and career bureaucrats—who feed at the public trough at the expense of the common good. Members of the establishment don’t like rocking the boat, because they have worked so hard to ensure that they are always the ones riding high and dry. “The establishment” is neither Democratic nor Republican, nor is it “liberal” or “conservative.” It’s not even “the rich” versus “the poor.” It is simply the cancer that can consume great nations when government gets too big, too involved, and too powerful.
“The establishment” is the fortress of political inertia that makes it so difficult to reform Washington, or to stop “them” from spending money we don’t have. They are just insiders with a seat at the table redirecting taxpayer resources to their benefit, and always resisting reformers and “outsiders” who might upset their apple cart.
Too much concentrated power in Washington always accrues to the benefit of the establishment, because they will always get to the table first. Too much discretionary power in the presidency does the same thing, because the deals being negotiated will never include your interests. That’s why the establishment values compromise over principle. The streets that crisscross the nation’s capital are lined with buildings filled with people who make a lot of money getting special favors from the political process. A typical meeting with an elected official begins with a question: “What can I do for you?” In reality, the question really being asked is “What can you do for me?” Compromise is the currency, because that’s how everyone gets paid. Everyone wants something from someone. Everyone is looking for a play, wanting to cut a better deal.
We are in the midst of a full-blown political paradigm shift, and no one really knows how exactly this will all play out. Information and power have been steadily shifting away from D.C. insiders back to the end users, The American People.
So now what? Will you simply choose a new boss, same as the old boss? When someone implores: “Believe me, don’t worry, we’re gonna make such great deals,” will you accept his terms? Will you read the fine print? Are you willing to hold your nose this time, cut the best deal you think you can, simply because you want to beat the establishment? If you find yourself tempted, you need to read Jeffrey Tucker’s sobering essay on this point:
“Weimar Germany had an entrenched establishment: banking, government, corporations, bureaucracy all working together. The corruption was obvious. Then it became intolerable with hyperinflation and deep economic retrenchment. People were suffering and looking for answers. Most people regarded Hitler as a non-ideal messenger, but he was fine in a pinch. No one expected the results. The list of failed establishments replaced by still more wicked states is long indeed: Mexico, Spain, Italy, Argentina, Venezuela in the last century, and Iraq, Syria, and Libya in our own times.”
A better deal? Not me. No thanks. Being anti-establishment isn’t good enough anymore. I’m looking for liberty, and liberty is not a compromise-kind-of-thing.
As the great moral philosopher Yogi Berra once advised, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” The real alternative to the tyranny of the D.C. establishment has always been more liberty, not a better, more benevolent despot. America’s genius comes from each of us, working together in voluntary cooperation to solve problems, from the bottom, up. We need a leader who gets it. Someone who respects our Constitution’s essential role in limiting power. Someone who wants to rein in intrusive government, and all of the inside dealers who feed off of it. A president can never give you liberty, but we should all insist on one who respects it.