If you are discouraged by the apparent choices in the general election this November — Donald Trump versus an equally unappealing Joe Biden, Senator Necktie versus some vitriolic challenger who can’t find Peru or Poland on a map, or if a House of Representatives (not to mention a state legislature) full of posturing lawyers horrifies you — then look to yourself as the reason for your dismay.
I did, and I accepted the blame.
Most voters are still registered as Democrats or Republicans. Most don’t realize that a political party is a private club, not an arm of government. Anyone can start a new party. Even the two big ones need members like you in order to survive.
Most people don’t realize that each house of Congress follows rules that it has constructed for itself, designed to inflate the power of the temporarily-dominant party and magnify the influence of someone from a district other than your own. (I recently sent a note to my congressman reminding him that the Speaker of the House is his equal in that body, not his boss. The Speaker is his boss only within the private club that is their party, I wrote. It was a waste of words, but I felt better after mailing it to him.)
As a voter, it is you who must take charge of the miserable choices you have in an election. Term limits is an excellent idea, but forget it. It will never be made law in any legislative body to which it would apply.
You have a couple of choices and, some think, only a short period in which to take charge; a short time remaining before this country is irredeemably demolished.
Here are your choices
Become seriously active in the private club that counts you as a member. Enlist others and overwhelm your state’s convention. Insist that term limits start there. It’s comforting, within the party, to make sure that every good old incumbent senator and representative gets re-nominated term after term. After all, incumbents are virtual shoo-ins for re-election. It’s up to the party members to assure that they don’t become permanent fixtures in a stagnant Congress.
Make the effort to overwhelm the entrenched powers in your state party if you believe that your party is worth sustaining and if you have faith that it deserves your effort. Unless you become an activist within the party that you support and unless you work with others to take charge of the party’s rules that always favor the good-old-boys system, things will not change. You will have the same disgusting choices in every election.
I, for one, cannot vote for the challenger in an election just for the sake of opposing the incumbent. If the challenger’s party promotes policies that I deem abhorrent, then I find myself voting to re-elect the one who should have been replaced in the party’s own convention after two or three terms. I, just as you, am stuck with the lesser of two evils.
Don’t have the time or the energy to work within the party? Remove yourself from the party’s membership rolls instead. This is what I did. Widespread disengagement would be devastating to a party, (although not as effective as loss of its revenue streams, of which I was not one). Become either unenrolled or enroll yourself in a third party.
I did this a few years ago. I left one of the dominant parties and enrolled as a Libertarian. Within a year, the state legislature de-certified the Libertarian Party since, apparently, it was becoming a threat to the Democrats and Republicans, and they paused for some bipartisan cooperation to squelch it.
The Libertarian Party, suppressed for now by the dominant parties, still exists in this state, sacrificing its resources in desperate court proceedings to challenge the legislature’s action.
Where that leaves us
If you take your name off a party’s rolls, that doesn’t make you an “independent.” That term belongs to those candidates who, like Senators Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, are wealthy enough to be independent of party support in order to become elected. They do not evince independent thinking, though; their politics are consistently aligned with the party each would have joined if he needed money. As a voter with no party affiliation you are merely unenrolled.
Those are your options, apart from remaining a silent member — a silent number — in one of the two decrepit, undeserving dominant parties. Those are your options, that is, unless you are committed to becoming violent and contributing to the anarchy that would destroy the country without a care for what might arise in the ensuing vacuum.
Undermining the dominant parties for the purpose either of reforming or replacing them is a process. Wrenching power from those who will not relinquish it gracefully, and restoring a citizen legislature, takes finesse, not fire. It needs many voices and many hands. I am only one. I could be more effective, I suppose, as a destructive rioter. But I want a say in the outcome. I can be more helpful as a peaceful individual rights activist. (This message is a part of my activism.)
The two dominant parties are controlled by abstruse forces that confidently decide whose names you will see on the ballot. Their objective is not to present competent candidates for election but to assure that party loyalists are rewarded with nominations. That’s why we had the Bush dynasty and nearly had the Clinton dynasty. That’s why what seem like the worst possible candidates rise to the top. That’s why the Republicans almost had (I shudder to think it) Mitt Romney on the ballot in 2016, until the party controllers’ choice was steamrolled by Donald Trump. That’s why, to oppose Trump, the Democrats have a candidate who needs to be propped up like wax museum mannequin, but at least, unlike Trump, he can be manipulated by the puppeteers within the Party.
I am convinced that we, who have the power to do it, need to abolish the two big parties, and doing so is as easy as exercising our influence under Option 1 or Option 2. We have no other peaceful way to relieve the them of their stranglehold on our elections. Unenrolling en masse and depriving them of members — compliant peons — is the one productive way I can think of to do it.
An email message from Poland, received February 4, spurred some research on my part. My correspondent, Dr. Olgierd Górecki, a faculty member at the University of Łódź, Departament of Law and Administration, had discovered this site dedicated to A. J. Nock and was writing to ask for help in locating a copy of Nock’s book-length essay, Henry George.
Dr. Górecki wrote that in 2013 he had published a book about Herbert Spencer’s political thought and now he is writing his next book dedicated to Albert Jay Nock.
I don’t own a copy of Henry George, and it took me a few days to begin digging. (I was just completing the publication of my own most recent book, Cold Morning Shadow.) Today I began searching the internet in earnest for Dr. Górecki, and I was able to locate:
- two original copies of the 1939 book on Amazon for $135 each
- an intriguing site, which I will explore more fully, with an essay about Henry George
- a site with a the complete text of Henry George in PDF
I replied to his email with all three of these leads and a copy of the PDF files containing the complete text. I was pleased with this encounter because it is refreshing to know that someone, somewhere (Poland!) is still examining and reporting on the work of Nock.
Monday, July 1, 1968 — reprinted from the Foundation for Economic Education
Mr. Silia, a member of The Nockian Society, is a free-lance writer and poet.
Occasionally the smoke-screen generated by public opinion polls, manipulated news media, and other socio-political forms of gamesmanship tends to daunt even the most ardent proponent of liberty. For we are all human, and yield at times to discouragement.
However, it is during such times that we should try to marshall our inner strength and re-examine our outer goals, for things are not always what they seem. It is, therefore, in our own best interest, as well as the interest of liberty, not to judge by appearances, but in terms of the realities involved.
But how to distinguish one from the other, you ask? Perhaps Albert Jay Nock, founder and editor of the old Freeman, has the best solution.
For example, in his classic essay, “Isaiah’s Job,” Nock made it abundantly clear that his goal was not to convert the masses to any particular philosophy.
“The mass-man,” wrote Nock, “is one who has neither the force of intellect to apprehend the principles issuing in what we know as the humane life, nor the force of character to adhere to these principles steadily and strictly as laws of conduct; and because such people make up the great, the overwhelming majority of mankind, they are called collectively the masses.”
So, Nock’s duty as he saw it was to tend the Remnant, those unique individuals who had, or were willing to develop, the necessary insight and ability to understand and employ ideas on liberty. In distinguishing them from the masses Nock noted: “The line of differentiation between the masses and the Remnant is set invariably by quality, not by circumstance. The Remnant are those who by force of intellect are able to apprehend these principles, and by force of character are able, at least measurably, to cleave to them. The masses are those who are unable to do either.”
So Nock’s primary purpose, then, was not to alter public opinion, manipulate news, or convert others to his way of thinking. He merely sought to improve himself and thereby become ever more capable of furnishing other seekers with the inspiration and insight which might further their own personal unfoldment. His job, in short, was to be a sort of catalytic agent for the Remnant.
Knowing beforehand that the masses were not to be transformed or converted, Nock did not become discouraged in his task of servicing the Remnant. And once you clearly see his point you will understand its soundness.
In other words, if your goal is to reform the world to your liking, you are slated for failure from the outset. For that task is impossible — as well as unnecessary. But if your goal is to reform yourself, and incidentally present the truth as you know it to others, then you cannot fail.
Whether anyone accepts the ideas you present is immaterial to your goal. Even though you may convert no one, you still improve society by improving one of its units — yourself.
Nevertheless, you can be sure that your self-improvement will attract the Remnant’s attention, although you may not be aware of it. Or as Nock said, “… in any given society the Remnant are always so largely an unknown quantity. You do not know, and will never know, more than two things about them: first, that they exist; second, that they will find you. Except for these two certainties, working for the Remnant means working in impenetrable darkness.”
This, then, was Nock’s job. It is likewise the job of all those who are interested in promoting the cause of liberty. And to them, Nock offers this bit of encouragement: “If, for example, you are a writer or a speaker or a preacher, you put forth an idea which lodges in the Unbewusstsein of a casual member of the Remnant and sticks fast there. For some time it is inert; then it begins to fret and fester until presently it invades the man’s conscious mind and, as one might say, corrupts it. Meanwhile, he has quite forgotten how he came by the idea in the first instance, and even perhaps thinks he has invented it; and in those circumstances, the most interesting thing of all is that you never know what the pressure of that idea will make him do.”
This endeavor will, of course, strike a responsive chord only in those rare individuals who are ready to work for the Remnant.
by David A. Woodbury, 10 December 2018
I suspect that a single-payer medical insurance system could work. I suspect, however, that it will be a Pigrolet version of government-run medical insurance that will be thrust upon us in the not-too-distant future. I suspect, I’m sad to say, that it will be a fiscal and practical failure of colossal and damaging proportions, precisely because its designers will have, as their objective, not the success of the program but their own political gain, the avoidance of blame, and the skewering of their rivals. And yet, I say that I suspect such a system could work if Congress had the will to do it right. Let me explain how.
Let’s first make clear who’s the payer in the term, single-payer: taxpayers.
Right now we have a mob of payers, or as many of us experience it, payment-avoiders: for-profit insurance companies, not-for-profit insurance companies, state governments administering Medicaid, the federal government administering Medicare and military medical benefits, and ourselves individually when all of those to whom we have paid taxes and premiums run and hide from the bill.
The single payer almost by definition would be the federal government, using money that it will either collect in taxes or using loans that it will commit our great-great grandchildren to pay.
Here are twelve changes to the current mess that would need to be accomplished, fully and resolutely, in order to have any chance of success.
1. At the outset, fully cover only the medical interventions that keep people alive. For everything else including prescriptions, let the plan offer a portion of the cost from, say, 50-99%. Since we already have the precedent of requiring all Americans to purchase a product from a private company and calling the cost of it a tax, let those medical needs that fall outside the scope of life-saving be covered by a required policy for less-than-urgent care. If a government-run single-payer system delivers the savings and efficiencies and medical wonders that its proponents envision, then, in time, use those savings and efficiencies to bring more services and treatments under the fully covered list.
2. Let a panel of doctors determine what will fall under the life-saving level of coverage. Let another panel of doctors prioritize less-than-urgent medical care as well, and how such measures might gradually be added to the fully-covered list over time, as savings and efficiencies make that possible. Remove all incentives for these panels to save money by denying care; their decisions are strictly medical and patient-focused. They will be able to recognize that what is merely desirable for one patient is life-saving for another because individual patients have unique vulnerabilities. Nowhere does this point include politicians, insurers, lawyers, or the IRS in any panel of doctors.
3. Let the federal government provide the money, but let private companies, not an army of new federal employees, administer it under contracts with the federal government. By “administer it” I don’t mean “decide whether Janet’s E.R. visit was justified” — that is up to the doctors in the previous section, speaking for the country as a whole — but let private companies manage the record-keeping, and while they’re at it, the electronic medical records. Companies that already have the system in place to administer insurance for which they currently collect the premiums might transition readily to keeping records only and not handling the money.
4. Relieve employers of the expectation to provide group medical insurance — group rates will become obsolete under a single-payer system anyway. For employers who therefore will no longer be funding a portion of medical insurance, arrange that those savings will either be converted to other employee benefits over time or added to a company’s tax burden, in either event to be phased out just as employers are no longer tasked with providing stables for employees’ horses.
5. Get the for-profit insurance companies out of medical underwriting, premium administration, and determining appropriateness of care. Let them collect profits on their automobile and home policies, business underwriting, and all the rest. This is necessary for two big reasons: There is no excuse for transferring taxpayer money to private profits in the name of medicine, and to let insurers profit from taxpayers only “proves” that Congress is owned by corporate America. Yes, there are examples of companies that do profit from government contracts, Defense Department contracts being the most recognizable examples, however there is nothing so mysterious about the concept of insurance that it justifies seven-digit executive salaries at taxpayer expense. Under a government-funded program they will be tasked with keeping records and could, as well, be the best resource for keeping electronic medical records that are instantaneously available to all doctors.
6. Get the lawyers out of medicine. This is the most radical requirement. They will rise up in protest, but I doubt anyone can show me another country in the world where the lawyer class is so comfortably supported by people who require medical care. For, no matter who a lawyer works for under the umbrella of medicine, it is the sufferer who ultimately pays. Whether employed by hospitals, specialty practices, pharmaceutical companies, equipment manufacturers and importers, insurance companies, tort practices, or government agencies dedicated to assuring “compliance,” lawyers in the industry can only be supported by those who pay insurance premiums or taxes, and to a minor degree, by foundations providing charitable funding and university medical centers supported by tuitions and benefactors (charity again). Those are the only sources of money coming into medicine. Supposedly, lawyers oversee everyone’s work the better to protect us. But the regulations that have made them ubiquitous are tantamount to requiring a traffic policeman on every corner of every intersection in the country. We don’t need that much watching.
7. Combine all programs into one. Entrenched federal agencies will scream in agony and rage at the idea. But chaos is assured in a transition to a single-payer system if Medicare remains distinct, both in name and practice, from Medicaid, from Champus, from Veterans Administration programs, and all the rest. Indeed, from my ample experience, the way the Veterans Administration provides medical care is an example for the rest to follow. Since health insurance portability is moot for someone covered by the VA, apparently HIPAA (health insurance portability) does not apply. Under a single-payer system, HIPAA will become obsolete. During VA visits, am I not inundated with demands to sign copies of that grossly-misnamed Advance Beneficiary Notice, not to mention all the privacy notices and lists of my rights that I must endure in civilian office and hospital visits. And the VA is clearly not intimidated by the assumed secrecy provisions of HIPAA. Yes, basic privacy protocols are observed, but the concept has not been turned into a requirement to speak in coded whispers.
8. Start small, as detailed in the first point, and call the fully-funded part of it, for instance, Part A; but also require minimum coverage at each citizen’s own expense for additional needs, and call it Part B. Everyone is covered 100% for life-saving interventions — no co-pay, no premiums. For each citizen who asserts an inability to afford the premiums of Part B, reduce that individual’s reverse income tax (welfare benefits) by the amount of the unaffordable premium. This has already been put into place under the Affordable Care Act. Medicare and Medicaid currently recognize the totally disabled and make allowances, and these allowances need to remain in place. There is a difference, though, between a person who is totally inconvenienced — for instance, one who won’t pull himself up by his own bootstraps, and a person who is totally disabled — for instance, one who was born without bootstraps.
9. Place all citizens, including all government employees, military personnel, and members of Congress, under the same system with no special privileges. And what applies in Poughkeepsie, New York, applies in Muleshoe, Texas, and in Kailua, Hawaii, and in Dothan, Alabama, if for no better reason than that people travel and people move and need to rely upon rules that apply equally to all of us.
10. Continue to permit private pay and private doctors for anyone who can afford to arrange it, as it currently exists in a few instances. If a rock star or movie mogul wants to put a private doctor on his staff, let them. Such a person must also participate in the single-payer system as well but is not required to use the same doctors if he can afford to own one. Also, respect the town here and there that has hired a community doctor where the citizens of the town have pooled their resources to engage one. Members of such a community must likewise participate in the single-payer system as well, but they must not be forbidden to provide themselves with other options.
11. Allow all citizens to participate at the same level of premiums and care, that is, do not penalize those who have assets. A single-payer system must not be a ruse by which to seize private property. Medicaid has become just such a system, to the extent that people avoid enrolling because it means losing their homes and their meager personal assets. Just as the premium tables under the present system make no distinction whether the participant earns $50,000 a year and has no assets or earns $900,000 a year and has a portfolio worth millions, so it must be under a single-payer system. It must, to the greatest degree possible, divide the total cost of everyone’s care as evenly as possible among all participants without regard for ability to pay. The ability to pay, or lack of ability to pay, must be dealt with separately. This point is fundamental, because the temptation will be strong to sock it to the rich. Insurance of every type is originally something that people would buy, if they chose to, in order to reduce the financial burden arising from an unexpected, sometimes catastrophic event. Conceptually, medical insurance is the same, but differs from all other types only by its emphasis on saving one’s life. Since medical science has made that all the more realistic in my lifetime, and since that objective has become exceedingly important to most people not just for themselves but on behalf of everyone else, and since some level of medical care, although not even vaguely delineated, is now sometimes demanded as a “right,” it needs to be the objective of adopting a single-payer system to achieve a basic level of coverage for everyone, not to use the process to fundamentally transform the United States of America. (Disempowering and disemprivileging certain populations — insurance companies, lawyers, and members of Congress — who should never have acquired their present levels of power, may seem like it is fundamentally changing the country, but the country will not suffer if those groups are humbled to more closely resemble the rest of us.)
12. Fund the system with a national sales tax that covers only the system and make it pay for itself. Since the so-called income tax has become a wealth redistribution system, funding a single-payer medical insurance system through the IRS needs to be avoided altogether. (Medicare taxes, collected through employers since 1966 and now standing at 2.9% of income, would become obsolete.) People with low incomes don’t buy a lot of stuff, so their contribution by way of a sales tax would be self-limiting, while people with high incomes do spend it, even if they merely use their buckets of money to buy stock. Tax their stock purchases, then. (Leave IRA and similar retirement plan contributions alone. The national sales tax will hit those funds when they are actually spent in later years.) Funding a single-payer system with a national sales tax makes it easy to determine whether the system is paying for itself, and if it is not, then Congress can raise the sales tax until it does. Make it pay for itself and make it pay only for itself, make its accounting transparent, and don’t use the sales tax for other pet political schemes.
There is more to my wish list than these criteria. These, though, are the necessities for any hope of success, and any attempt at creating a single-payer medical insurance system which omits any of these requirements will fail with the drama and suffering of an airplane crash in a residential neighborhood. Perhaps someone else could suggest a few more absolute requirements that I would agree with. I don’t harbor any delusions, though, that Congress will act with the resolve necessary to make it work.
Since we’ve now been living with the global warming story for 30 years, it might seem hard to believe that science could now come up with anything that would enable us to see that story in a wholly new light. But that is what I am suggesting in a new paper, thanks to a book called Groupthink, written more than 40 years ago by a professor of psychology at Yale, Irving Janis. What Janis did was to define scientifically just how what he called groupthink operates, according to three basic rules. And what my paper tries to show is the astonishing degree to which they explain so much that many have long found puzzling about the global warming story.
The conservative answer to liberal prohibition (oxymoron?) is to “arm and train the teachers.” While no one has come out and suggested mandating teachers carry firearms or be trained in using them, every suggestion seems to suggest “we” (i.e., the government) need to do the arming and training. Here’s a little newsflash for both sides: the teachers are already armed.
The article that is linked below may be the best analysis of what our rulers in the United States will never understand about their responsibility to govern. All of what Ayn Rand has to say, in this piece by George Smith for libertarianism.org and republished at fee.org (the Foundation for Economic Education), are thoughts that have stewed in my mind but never come to words, at least not words as clearly expressed as she did.
As Smith says: Rand knew better than to accept the traditional left-right dichotomy. It has always been about the individual vs. the state.
In a letter written on March 19, 1944, Ayn Rand remarked: “Fascism, Nazism, Communism and Socialism are only superficial variations of the same monstrous theme—collectivism.” Rand would later expand on this insight in various articles, most notably in two of her lectures at the Ford Hall Forum in Boston: “The Fascist New Frontier” (Dec. 16, 1962, published as a booklet by the Nathaniel Branden Institute in 1963); and “The New Fascism: Rule by Consensus” (April 18, 1965, published as Chapter 20 in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal [CUI] by New American Library in 1967).
Rand knew better than to accept the traditional left-right dichotomy between socialism (or communism) and fascism, according to which socialism is the extreme version of left-ideology and fascism is the extreme version of right-ideology (i.e., capitalism). Indeed, in The Ayn Rand Letter (Nov. 8, 1971) she characterized fascism as “socialism for big business.” Both are variants of statism, in contrast to a free country based on individual rights and laissez-faire capitalism.
She warns especially against choosing the middle of the road between the two extremes of the same collectivism, a position that gives us, as I have written elsewhere, the Pigrolet.
Read Smith’s article here: https://fee.org/articles/ayn-rand-predicted-an-american-slide-toward-fascism/. If left to me I would say no one should graduate high school without understanding this analysis and what is behind it.
David A. Woodbury
by Jarrett Stepman
Following the  presidential election, numerous stories surfaced about how “fake news” influenced the results. This prompted a reaction from the media and a concerted effort by the social media giant Facebook to crack down on the phenomenon—announcing that it would in part by using fact-checkers to distinguish the “real” from the “fake” news.
Americans have been better at finding the truth than less free societies.The truth is that while the American media landscape has been in a constant state of change over two centuries, the spread of hyperpartisan, scurrilous, and even phony news stories has been more common than uncommon throughout the history of the republic.
Ultimately, despite the increasingly Wild West state of journalism, Americans have been better at finding the truth than less free societies.
The media response frames the fake news issue as nearly the single greatest threat to democracy in our time. But despite the worries that surround an uptick in fraudulent news, the phenomenon is nothing new, nor does it particularly portend dark times in America’s future.
The overreaction in response, potentially damaging both the right to free speech and a culture that supports it, may be more dangerous to a free society.
‘Dupes of Pretended Patriots’
The idea that the press could try to deceive rather than enlighten readers was not lost on the Founders. In the years before and after the American Revolution there was an explosion of printing presses throughout the Western world as improved printing technology was becoming widely available.
Journalists and pamphleteers were certainly vital to spreading the ideas of American rebellion against the English—names like Thomas Paine and Samuel Adams were nearly synonymous with the American Revolution, and they certainly weren’t alone. Though propaganda and distortion of the news were common as well.
After America gained independence, there were still huge numbers of scribblers writing about news and politics with varying levels of credibility and accuracy.
When the framers of the Constitution met to discuss the construction of the new government at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, freedom of the press and what it would mean for the future of the country was certainly on their minds.
Many Founders fretted about what the proliferation of false or destructive notions would mean for the idea of democracy and a society of mass political participation.
Massachusetts delegate Elbridge Gerry lamented how the people in his home state were being led astray by false stories from malcontents and manipulators.
“The people do not want [lack] virtue, but are the dupes of pretended patriots,” Gerry said. “In Massachusetts it had been fully confirmed by experience, that they are daily misled into the most baneful measures and opinions, by the false reports circulated by designing men, and which no one on the spot can refute.”
So what did the Founders do to stop this problem? They created a system of government that would allow room for democracy, yet checked its vices: through institutions like Congress, the constitutional amendment process, and division of power between branches of government as well as the states and federal government. Not to mention the Electoral College, which the modern left now decries as unfair and undemocratic.
Unfortunately, some of these checks have been eroded over time and continue to be undermined. For instance, the 17th Amendment forced states to elect senators through a popular vote rather than have the state legislature choose a representative, which has reduced the power of the states in the American system.
And in some states, like California, the requirement to pass a constitutional amendment is simply 50 percent of the vote plus one, yet again increasing the chance that a temporary excitement of the populace can lead to rapid, negative changes in governance.
The weakening of the structural checks on democracy has been the greater threat of fake news’ proliferation than nonsense peddlers themselves.
Tocqueville on the ‘Liberty of the Press’
The years following the founding saw a booming and free-wheeling publishing industry, unimpeded by the licensing and restrictions common in other countries. It was not only the Founders who understood the trade-offs between a free press and misleading news. Alexis de Tocqueville, the famed French observer of American life, wrote about the freedom of the press in his 1835 book “Democracy in America.”
Tocqueville noted that when he arrived in the U.S., the very first newspaper article he read was an overheated piece accusing then-President Andrew Jackson of being a “heartless despot, solely occupied with the preservation of his own authority” and a “gamester” who ruled by corruption. This type of account was not unusual.
The years following the founding saw a booming and free-wheeling publishing industry, unimpeded by the licensing and restrictions common in other countries. Freedom allowed newspapers to proliferate throughout the United States in a highly decentralized way.
And in early American history, most newspapers were expressly partisan or outright controlled by individual politicians. They often aggressively attacked and made outrageous comments about political opponents.
Yet Tocqueville wrote that despite the general vehemence of the press, America was further from actual violence and political revolution than other societies that tightly controlled information.
While recognizing the occasional problems of an unimpeded fourth estate, Tocqueville wrote that “in order to enjoy the inestimable benefits that the liberty of the press ensures, it is necessary to submit to the inevitable evils that it creates.”
An attempt to submit “false” news and opinions through an official fact-checker would likely only elevate and perhaps justify a false opinion in the minds of the people, according to Tocqueville.
He continued to write that expecting to have the good of a free press without the bad has been “one of those illusions which commonly mislead nations in their times of sickness when, tired with faction and exhausted by effort, they attempt to make hostile opinions and contrary principles coexist upon the same soil.”
Americans were so used to being bombarded with opinions and information from a diverse media, Tocqueville wrote, that they were less likely to react to falsehoods and outrageous opinions.
Fake News existed in that time as well as ours, but it did little to outright convince people to change their views. This continues to be the case today.
Tocqueville concluded of a free press:
When the right of every citizen to a share in the government of society is acknowledged, everyone must be presumed to be able to choose between the various opinions of his contemporaries and to appreciate the different facts from which inferences may be drawn. The sovereignty of the people and the liberty of the press may therefore be regarded as correlative, just as the censorship of the press and universal suffrage are two things which are irreconcilably opposed and which cannot long be retained among the institutions of the same people.
The visiting Frenchman understood what Americans have almost always believed. Occasional false news stories cannot destroy a society fitted for liberty, but extreme efforts to contain them will.
The Search for Truth
The reality is, barriers to prevent modern Americans from receiving “fake news” are unlikely to succeed in a free society where a mass of information is readily available.
The internet, and a lack of trust in the legacy media, has allowed numerous new media publications to find success. It has again radically decentralized the way Americans get their information.
These legacy media organizations are attempting to reign in the chaos with new gimmicks like fact-checkers, but ultimately their influence and credibility are fading in the minds of Americans as fewer people trust or desire to read those sources.
This isn’t an anomaly in American life—it has been the norm. We must trust and maintain the mediating constitutional system the Founders created along the judgment of the American people.
The freedom of the press, enshrined in the First Amendment and tempered by institutions designed to slow governmental change and thwart temporary excitements of opinion, created a nation incredibly free, yet robust enough to withstand potential large-scale errors in judgment.
The Founders understood that the good would outweigh the bad with a free press, and no court could justly measure the rightness or wrongness of news and public opinion. They realized that without allowing the press to operate freely and leaving the people as its ultimate tribunal, America would never truly be a land of liberty.
Fake or biased news was the willingly paid price of an open society, and the winnowing process of the American system ultimately leads the country toward the truth.
This piece ran on DailySignal
Jarrett Stepman is an editor for The Daily Signal
This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.