Tearing the Mask Off Statism

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Tearing the Mask Off Statism

Posted in : The Nature of Government on by : Michael Maharrey

Some guy named Duncan Hothersall writing for the New Statesman tore the mask right off statism with a single sentence.

“I know, I’m a monster. But hooray for the enforcers, I say.”

Hothersall specifically cheered the enforcers who fined a 5-year-old girl £150 for running a lemonade stand in London. Her official crime was “trading without a license.”

“She was crying and repeating, ‘I’ve done a bad thing’,” her dad said. “As we walked home, I had to try and convince her that it wasn’t her, it wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t her who had done something bad.”

Hothersall believes one should beg “officials” for permission and pay the requisite fee before engaging in voluntary transactions with other people. Of course, he has good reasons.

“There are half a million cases of food poisoning each year in the UK, and one of the reasons we have stringent controls on who can sell food and drink, especially in unsealed containers, is to try to cut those figures down. And street stalls in general are regulated because we have a system of taxation, rights and responsibilities in this country which underpins our functioning society. Regulation is a social and economic good.”

One might debate the “social good” of uniformed thugs making little girls cry. But I confess that I do find it hard to argue against the economic good of fee collection and fines – at least for the monopoly government units that collect them. As for safety – that one seems pretty laughable, considering even with the swift and effective actions of heroic enforcement officers, the UK still has 500,000 food poisoning cases per year.


Hothersall doesn’t care if I call him “a monster.” But I don’t think that’s quite accurate. He’s a violent bully that has no problem using force and coercion to make other people do his bidding. But like most bullies, he’s a coward. He would never shut down a little girl’s lemonade stand himself. Instead, he hires (votes for) thugs to impose his will – kind of like a mafia boss. That way he can stand off at a distance with clean hands and moralize at the rest of us about the nobility of coercion and violence for the “common good.”

On second thought, maybe monster fits just fine.

Hothersall calls to mind the well-known C.S. Lewis quote.

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

Most people with a shred of common sense recognize the absurdity of shutting down a kid’s lemonade stand. Even the city council in this case apologized and canceled the fine. But I have to give Hothersall credit for at least being honest. He stands firmly on his statitst principles. He knows what’s best for you. That entitles him to hit 5-year-old girls when they don’t comply with his wishes. After all, it’s for our own good.

Sadly, the vast majority of people criticizing officials in London for shutting down children’s lemonade sales support the principle, if not the application. Deep down, they believe in the benevolent power of government. They believe force, coercion and violence makes the world go ’round. They just don’t like the way it happened to be applied in this case. But when the long arm of the law reaches out to crush something they disapprove of, they’ll stand and cheer right along with Mr. Hothersall.

So, I have to extend a hearty thank you to Duncan. He tore the mask right of statism. He gave us a clear glimpse of the monster underneath in all its ugly glory.

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