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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Pre-Election Angst for the Serfs


It’s kinda fun watching Republicans and Democrats suffering so much angst over whether John McCain or Barack Obama will be elected president.

Part of people’s anxiety, I suspect, is rooted in the realization that the candidate from the other party will have access to the trillions of dollars in tax loot to dispense to his buddies.

But I think the reason for people’s agitation goes much deeper than that.

For the past year, in their effort to garner favor from the electorate, the presidential candidates have had to be nice to people and curry favor with them in their quest to be elected. All sorts of promises have been made, which everyone knows are impossible to keep. No matter. The year before an election makes people feel like they’re in charge, given the subservience that the candidates pay to the citizenry.

But everyone, including the candidates, knows that on November 4 everything changes. Everyone knows that on that day, the roles are reversed. The people who win the election are now in charge. They assume their role as masters, answerable only to themselves. The citizens assume their role as serfs, once again subservient to those in power and doing their best to curry favor with them.

Think back to the slaves on the plantations in the Old South. Imagine that the law mandated that every four years there would be elections on the plantations in which the slaves would have the right to elect their taskmasters. In the months prior to the election, one can envision 3 or 4 taskmaster candidates vying for votes by being kind to the slaves and making all sorts of promises to them. In the months prior to the election, the slaves would feel a sense of empowerment. The process would provide a feeling of exhilaration for the slaves, as the candidates for taskmaster fought for their votes.

But as election day drew near, anxiety levels would begin rising because everyone would know what would happen on that day. Whichever taskmaster would be elected would no longer need to be kind and subservient. Promises could be broken or forgotten, and there would be nothing the slaves could do about it. After all, the new taskmaster would be the taskmaster and the slave would be the slave.

Given the omnipotent power that the president now wields, on Tuesday night either John McCain or Barack Obama will be America’s new taskmaster and Americans will continue to remain the serfs. People’s lives and fortunes will once again be unconditionally subject to the orders and decrees of the president, albeit a newly elected one. The fact that many people consider the president to be their “commander in chief,” viewing themselves as soldiers in an army or bees in a hive, only makes the situation worse.

What modern-day Americans fail to realize is that the right to elect one’s master does not change the status of the serf. It simply gives him the right to elect his taskmaster.

In fact, the only real value of democratic elections is that they provide the citizenry the means to effect regime change in society peacefully. In the absence of voting, the only way to effect regime change is through violence.

But we must never confuse voting with freedom. Freedom is achieved through the imposition and enforcement of external constraints on the exercise of power. With such constraints, the citizenry are the masters and the government officials the servants, regardless of who is elected to office.

Our 19th-century American ancestors did not suffer the pre-election anxieties that modern-day Americans suffer. Our ancestors knew that after Election Day, the president would continue to lack the power to tax their incomes, regulate their economic activities, provide them with welfare, conscript them, send them to die in foreign wars, force them to accept irredeemable paper money, confiscate their wealth through inflation, put them in jail for drug offenses, arbitrarily arrest them, indefinitely incarcerate them, spy on them, and torture and sexually abuse them.

Today’s Americans know full well that after tomorrow, either John McCain or Barack Obama will wield all those powers over the American people. It’s not surprising that such knowledge is producing pre-election anxiety within the serfs.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.