Politics as a Feudal Privilege

Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute tells us this last week in The American Spectator that Europe’s political class is a failure. Not that there is any news in that statement; but Gregg also explains why it is a failure, and why the voters in the supposedly “democratic” European countries have been dealt a bad hand for the last 40 years or so. And, if we are careful to take lessons, his words contain wisdom as to what we Americans should change in our own political system in order to not follow too close in the steps of Europe as she is going to disaster.

Two things are very characteristic about European politicians:

First, most of them have never worked in the private sector – which, of course, means that they they have never worked, period. Most of them started their political career while still in college, and have continued it throughout their whole life without ever going to the job market to search for a job. They have never had to meet a customer, serve a customer, or complete a project that serves other people in a real way; they have never had to deserve their money. Every penny they received as income was not earned but extorted from the taxpayers at the point of a gun.

Gregg quotes a survey about the French Parliament, that only 30 out of 331 have ever worked in the private sector. Predictably, the basic instincts of the politicians, when it comes to legislation or dealing with crises is more government regulations and more taxes. They can’t even begin to think “liberty.” If there is a problem that can’t be resolved by increasing the power of the central government, these people don’t know about it. Gregg points to the fact that when it comes to policies, there is a staggering lack of diversity of ideas among the European politicians, no matter what party they come from. All they know is the “European social model” which is the buzzword for total government control and redistribution of wealth.

Second, politics seems to run in the family, or rather, in a few families, when it comes to Europe. In some European countries like France or Greece, politics is controlled by whole dynasties that have been in politics for three generations. Not only grandfather to father to son, but in-laws and close family friends too. Newcomers outside of these families – like Angela Merkel in Germany or Geert Wilders in the Netherlands – are rare. The Mafia apparently has serious competition in politicians when it comes to caring for the family. The closest word that comes to mind is “feudalism.”

And the problem with feudalism, of course, is that a feudal family requires that everyone else is a serf. And indeed, the European populations are in the position of serfs, not having any political representation, constantly toiling under the burden of ever increasing taxes and regulations; while their money is spent on lavish government programs or simply given away to bankrupt governments like Greece.

That political class has failed in producing the political paradise on earth. And the European voters are feeling cheated. They shouldn’t. It is their fault as well.

It is their fault because the European voters have bought into the lie that they could be provided by the government, whether they work or not. The age-old lie of “something for nothing” has been sold to them under different names – solidarity, social model, social responsibility, social justice, etc. The meanings of those words are vague, and there is nothing that better creates an entrenched political class than vague promises for a better future. Any liar can promise a better future; when a successful lie comes with a government salary, the result will be that all professional liars will want to become politicians. The better they lie, the more they get paid. And then European voters wonder why is it that honest people seldom get in politics. They shouldn’t.

Which brings us to our own reality, and the lessons we can take from Europe. The more we expect the government to provide, the more we will get liars who make promises, and the liars with the least conscience will win the day. Feudalism can only thrive when people are serfs in their hearts – waiting for someone to take care of them. The welfare Washington promises is designed to make us serfs so that the politicians become like their European counterparts, an entrenched feudal class controlling our lives. We better rely on our own work than on the promises of liars.