March 25, 2009

Strakon Lights Up

So we own AIG?

           Statish thinking goes comatose

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"The taxpayers own AIG." (Eighty percent of it, anyway.) You can't watch a news channel for fifteen minutes or read a mainstream opinion piece on the bailouts without encountering that mantra of claptrap. I even heard some poor wretch on the telescreen warning that we shouldn't be too nasty to AIG executives, since after all, "They work for us." The massed media are chanting one version or another of the mantra in unison, prompted, naturally, by the political class. It's almost as much of a tooth-grinder as a certain hideous noise of older vintage, one that I haven't heard recently but that I'm sure I'll hear again: "The president runs the country."

I have to admit, though, that the latter slogan does contain a grain of truth. Of course, it flatly contradicts all the limited-government, constitutional premises that Americans are supposed to cherish; but the modern imperial president does, in fact, try to run the country. At least he pretends to try.

The business about the taxpayers' owning AIG, though, is stuff and nonsense of the undiluted variety. It arises from the democratic-mania subset of what I call "statish thinking." Under that fantasy, "we" — ordinary, private Americans — are the government. That's assuming we periodically vote for some of the government's officeholders or would-be officeholders. I add that proviso because I've been told I don't have the right to object to anything the government might do to me, on account of my refusal to participate in the farce of voting. I take that to mean that, unlike my more cooperative neighbors, I am not the government.

But on second thought maybe I am one of AIG's owners, since I do pay taxes to the Central Government.

It's all very confusing.

If I were to insist, quite narrow-mindedly, on the ordinary meaning of ordinary words, I would first have to ask: When did I lose my mind and decide to buy part of AIG? Doing so certainly doesn't comport with my settled investment strategy. I should probably seek psychiatric help, as should anyone else who bought shares in the shambolic entity.

Moreover, if I do own shares in AIG, where's my proxy form? Has the post office let me down? Where's my copy of the annual report, and the records showing just how many shares I own? I'm afraid that if I don't get my proxy, I may feel obliged to attend the shareholders meeting. When and where will it be? Zounds! — I can't imagine what meeting hall the board will be able to rent: even if only a tiny percentage of shareholders show up, as is typical with such meetings, that may still amount to, what, a million people?

Maybe I'll just decide to take my losses and sell my shares. How do I go about telling the Treasury where to send my check? I'll surely be able to show a consolatory short-term capital loss on my Schedule D next year, yes?

I pause the comedy to wonder what would happen if a shopkeeper who was a victim of the oldtime Mafia's protection racket had showed up at one of those black-window "social clubs" on Mulberry Street to ask how well his involuntary "investment" in the outfit's gambling and union operations was doing. And to ask whether he'd be getting a dividend check from No-Neck Louie's heroin venture.

What kind of ownership is it in which the "owner" isn't consulted in the decision to buy and in which he is robbed of the purchase money in the first place? Why, it's "democratic" ownership in a system of representative government, you silly man! That's what I'll be told. We were consulted, in the election preceding the government takeover of AIG. Since that takeover occurred in September 2008, we're talking about the 2006 election. I suppose a voter has only himself to blame if he didn't realize, in 2006, all of what he was voting for. (Too bad the politicians and bureaucrats won't share the use of those crystal balls they claim to have.) In any case, Our Elected Representatives hold our shares in AIG by virtue of their having been blessed by the vox populi. And any gains or losses from that "public" investment redound to the "public" treasury, the contents of which, again, we own through Our Elected Representatives.

We see here an extreme example of the absurdities that can result when statists strain to draw analogies between normal, voluntary, social life and the slavish, collectivist life of leviathan. That's statish thinking for you. If the statists' analogy is sound, then there's really no difference between a free market and communism, as long as some democratic veneer is glued over the latter (as was actually done in the old Soviet Union).

Don't tell me to relax, assuring me that the claim of taxpayer ownership is just sloppy, careless language. It's dangerous language, which we are invited to take seriously. And it's remarkable how the mainstreamers all arrive at exactly the same slop and carelessness. You never hear them chanting, "We ought to adopt a free market, so that the sun will shine every day, and it will rain only at night, and no puppies will ever be run over again."

Any commentator who, owing to sloppiness or not, cannot distinguish between real ownership — the holding of voluntarily acquired property on the basis of justice and right — and our purported collective ownership of AIG must be ignored lest his further eructations fatally poison our mind.

And that's the case even if we think that the government can own anything in the first place. But it can't. It is a criminal organization dependent on the initiation of force — that is, on robbery, extortion, and fraud. Whatever the government purchases, it purchases with the proceeds of crime.

There is no magic morality under which a group of men calling themselves a government may commit crimes that an individual "private" man may not commit. It's ironic, but those who sincerely suffer from the democratic mania should be able to see that as clearly as we anti-statists see it. The democrats, after all, insist that there is no distinction between us and the government. If that is so, where do government people come by their special morality that turns crime into non-crime?

AIG is owned by "the American taxpayer"? What nonsense. AIG is possessed by the Central Government.

As are we.

March 25, 2009

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