On November 13, 1789, Benjamin Franklin sat down to write a letter to a French scholar and physicist by the name of Jean-Baptiste Leroy, famous for his experiments with electricity. The French Revolution was gathering steam, Versailles and the Bastille had been stormed and Parisians were becoming used to Madame Mob marching through her streets. Franklin had been corresponding with Leroy for a long time and had grown worried about his French colleague after not having heard from him for an entire year.
“Are you still living? Or have the mob of Paris mistaken the head of a monopolizer of knowledge, for a monopolizer of corn, and paraded it about the streets upon a pole?” Franklin enquired, before going on to a brief mention of affairs on the other side of the Atlantic. “Our new Constitution is now established, everything seems to promise it will be durable; but, in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.”
Death and taxes happen to be the current favorite topics of the mob of Washington, D.C. and the head of the mob who is juggling his demagoguery of those two issues. The situation is not yet so dire that, like Lenin or Chavez, the mob is calling for the heads of the monopolizers of corn. Instead our Foulons are the mythical 1 percent who are hoarding all the wealth that Washington has not yet spent.
In movie theaters, Les Misérables, a tawdry movie based on the tawdry musical based on the tawdry novel, is playing side by side with Django, a black revenge fantasy, and The Hobbit, a bit of conservative escapism from a British author born not long after the death of Victor Hugo bidding farewell to the pleasant way of life of the British countryside.
Cinematically a refried exploitation of the aftermath of the French Revolution is brushing shoulders with a refried exploitation of ’70s black liberation clichés, both of which have been shouldered out of the way by the majority’s longing for the village green and the humble power of the common man who makes no noise at all, but proves surprisingly courageous when the first Nazi bombers begin passing overhead.
In real life, the silent majority of hobbits is often stomped underfoot by revolutionaries and gangbangers. And these days it’s the Django and Les Misérables agenda that is moving forward.
Taxes will of course go up. Unlike the French peasant, the modern beneficiary of these ruinous taxes has never worked a day in his life and would be considered a wealthy man or woman in 95 percent of the world. But revolutions aren’t made for peasants, even if they are allowed to have the occasional bit of fun killing a Foulon or two and then walking around with his head on a pole. Revolutions, like the bad movies filmed about them, are made for the profit of revolutionaries.
The other item on the agenda is death. The death of children always makes for powerful propaganda, and modern propaganda isn’t a matter of a passing out some dirty handbills, but full-blown hysteria broadcast on every channel, printed in every newspaper and shouted from the covers of every magazine. And the purpose of propaganda is the seizure of power.
To impose taxes it helps, as Congressman Nadler said, to act as if the “State ought to have a monopoly on legitimate violence.” And once there is a state monopoly on legitimate violence, then the state, like all monopolies, loses its last remaining incentive for making any fine distinctions between the legitimate and illegitimate uses of its power.
The next stage of every revolution, once the prisons are stormed and the heads are paraded around on poles, is the monopolization of revolutionary violence by the revolutionary state, protecting its ability to impose taxes through its power to impose death; legitimate death through legitimate violence.
“The government in a revolution is the despotism of liberty against tyranny,” Robespierre said, and his example has since been followed by countless tyrants of liberty and despots of freedom, who are distinguished from their predecessors only by their relentless cruelty and the ideological principles that they use to justify their tyranny.
The new monopolizers of corn, who killed the old monopolizers of corn, must also have a monopoly on violence. The monopolizers of all things, from knowledge to corn to power, begin with a cause, with the bodies of dead children, with the image of assailed women, and then on they go, murdering women and children beyond count in the name of the despotism of liberty and the liberty of despotism.
Some months before Franklin had penned his letter, Madame Mob had stormed the Bastille, leading to the death of several women and children, and freeing a handful of oppressed prisoners who were paraded through the streets. One of those oppressed prisoners was the Comte de Solages, locked up at the request of his family for “monstrous acts” that involved incest, and the Marquis de Sade, a rapist and pedophile, who helped touch off the storming of the Bastille by shouting through a window that the prisoners were being murdered, who became a delegate to the National Convention, and went on being a rapist and a pedophile. And all of it was done for the murdered children at the Bastille.
Our own revolutionary leaders are quite adept at manufacturing and exploiting martyrdom, even if on close inspection the beneficiaries turn out to be our own Marquis de Sades; monsters like Bill Ayers. The Bastille is stormed over and over again, but there is nothing inside, only more distractions, more empty memorial services full of political rhetoric and promises that if we grant the government a total monopoly on violence then Aurora and Newtown will never happen again.
Franklin understood that death and taxes are constant things, for no matter what happens and whatever principles are articulated, there will be someone coming by to collect the taxes and deal out death if the taxes aren’t paid.
Death and taxes are the secret heart of government. They are the secret heart of all power, from the playground bully offering a choice between your lunch money or a knuckle sandwich, to the government bully offering a sophisticated legalistic version of the same.
In Washington, the talk is of death and taxes again. Given a monopoly on death, the government will keep us from dying with its rationed health care and its even more strictly rationed gun control. And given our taxes, the government will be able to pay for it all. But death is even more inevitable than taxes, the death of men and the death of their ambitions. All systems and ideologies perish. It is the people who live on, generation after generation, outliving the monopolists and tax collectors, the tinpot revolutionaries and the mob leaders who eventually fall victim to their own vices of terror.
The American way of life was not made for kings or revolutionaries, for grand systems and tremendous tyrannies. It was made for the people, for the silent majority that seeks only to keep what it has, rather than steal from others, and when the mobs have moved on, it is the people who will restore America.