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Second Tier Totalitarianism

by Mark Owen

Totalitarianism is a governmental form where control is theoretically total, both reactively and proactively. It has been with mankind for millenniums, but has been becoming increasingly insidious with the growth of social engineering. The state in general has historically lacked the capacity to apply its will on the people to the degree that the modern state now has because of the wealth and technology generated by modern capitalism. Information and resources now available to the state are unparalleled. Big Brother has the capacity to collect and peer into personal information that was not available even a generation ago.

In contrast, states that have totalitarian regimes are in the decline. The last existing form of complete totalitarianism, communism, crumbled with the Berlin Wall. From an economic standpoint, communism was a complete failure. It lacked the ability to rationally allocate resources and generate a price structure that reflected the true value of a good or service, or how much should be produced. States that still practice the more obnoxious forms of totalitarianism are facing more international pressure than ever before. While the more pure forms of the total state are in decline, a second insidious form of statism has emerged.

This new totalitarianism is subtler. While government allows basic rights and freedoms, it will control people on a secondary level for the "common good". The state is viewed as the primary solver of problems, even when government is ill equipped to solve the problem and by implementing a solution, unintended consequences will result. Government control is not at the primary level, but rather on the secondary level. This is Second Tier Totalitarianism.

In Second Tier Totalitarianism, people have basic rights that do not exist in pure totalitarianism. While government acknowledges these rights to some degree, government attempts to control people's actions through secondary laws. These laws are intended to control how people may exercise their basic rights according to the whim of their legislative bodies and governmental bureaucracies. The primary difference between First Tier Totalitarianism and Second Tier Totalitarianism is that in the former people are controlled at the base level with a relatively simple legal system; whereas in the latter people are controlled by a complex legal system which attempts to control them at a point just beyond their basic acknowledged rights. Examples of these acknowledged rights would be those in the Bill of Rights, at least those rights that are straight forward enough as to not be open to erosion by politicians. This is analogous to the difference between building one large dam on the main branch of a river versus building dams on all the tributaries. The net result is that the water is controlled in very similar ways, but in Second Tier Totalitarianism the main river is undisturbed. Nonetheless it is controlled. Examples can be found everywhere in the alleged "Free World". The concept of private property has become blurred with proxy state ownership through government regulation. People must be protected from themselves by the omnipotent state through seat belt laws, drugs laws, etc., and by general dependence on the state for the solving of societal and/or economic problems. This is the philosophy of government in a Second Tier Totalitarian regime.

What constitutes property rights in this regulatory society? Property is still owned by the individual, but the state has the authority to control its use. The very elements that compose the concept of property are violated by the state. In essence, the state has the power to dictate the use of the property. The more interventionist the government, the more the right of property is violated. The property owner increasing becomes equal to a renter; as the state is increasingly landlord. Just as permission must be acquired from the landlord to change an apartment in any way, permission must be acquired from the state in order to put on a new deck or build an addition to a house or even have a tree removed. The state may dictate the terms or even reject the request for changes to the property. In nations such as Great Britain, where property such as private companies was at one time nationalized, the state has the ability to completely violate the concept of property and become the actual owner without the permission of the original owners.

Actual property rights intrusion will encroach to the point that societal pressure will allow. If a politician senses too great a public outcry and wanting to get re-elected, will quickly back off or force their bureaucratic cronies to back off. This tends to result in a distinction between so called publicly utilized private property (i.e. business) and private residential property and land holdings. It also tends to result in ever-creeping infringement of property rights over time, as societal pressures buckle under the weight of the Leviathan State from an ever more obedient people.

Private property that is considered within the public realm is subject to a larger degree of intrusion. A business owner must comply with a plethora of regulations that dictate how they run their business, additional facilities that they must obtain, paperwork that must be submitted and a variety of other intrusions. The state or an agent of the state has the power to arbitrarily shut down a business for a day or for good. They have the power to arbitrarily damage the reputation of a company without due compensation as in the case of libel. An entrepreneur must be willing to subject himself to the edicts of the state in order to conduct business.

Residential property and land holdings face a different set of criteria, which is not quite as intrusive as that of the business sector. Government acts somewhat differently regarding the regulation of residential or land property holdings. Its coercive approach is more indirect. Instead of forcing all homeowners to change a now illegal appliance in their house, they will simply not allow new ones to be sold. This is more efficient for the state since the resources needed to force all homeowners to comply would be extremely expensive and would create a great deal of resentment toward the state. The logical course for the state to hold sway over residential property is to control how the property is utilized before development begins and to control any changes after development by new product availability and permit requirements.

A Second Tier Totalitarian regime is inherently unstable in its policies. What was legal yesterday is illegal today, but may be legal again tomorrow depending on the will of the body politic. The only constant being the states' attempt to direct its citizenry through legislative action depending on the perceived popular will or special interest group pressure at a given moment. This causes long term planning problems in the economy. It also creates deadweight economic loses through resources having to be constantly redirected through changing rules and resources expended on complying with regulatory edicts. Ofttimes, the citizenry will not be cognizant of many of the constantly changing laws under which they live, thus making large numbers of de facto criminals. Many citizens will also attempt to circumvent new rules and will lead to a diminished respect of governmental institutions. The only constants in a Second Tier Totalitarian state are control and an ever growing number of laws and regulations.

As the government begins to practice various forms of social engineering, state force begins to replace voluntary community cooperation for the solving of social ills. Dependence on the state replaces community interdependence. With this includes a decline in the social pressures against bad behavior. Having a child out of wedlock does not present large negative externalities socially speaking when the state will pick up the bill and responsibility versus when a family allocates resources toward the support of the new mother and child. The state will either guarantee support or will hunt down the father and force him to pay, which does not address the problem at its root cause the way societal pressures will when a family ends up supporting their unwed daughters child. The so-called social safety net is in reality a subsidy for bad behavior. Assurance of government largess leads to people using the assumption of government assistance into their economic planning. Thus, an individual or nuclear family does not fear unemployment since they will be able to count on the government for assistance. This results, ceterus paribus, in a lower rate of savings to prepare for possible unemployment. The government in essence acts as an inefficient forced savings instrument that has a rate of return that would make a private investor want to jump off a building for its negative rate of return. People begin to look to the government for the solution to problems that were formerly addressed through societal interaction. This creates a synergistic relationship with the concept of using force for the solving of societal problems.

It takes less effort to apply force to implement a solution to a problem than to create a voluntary organization to solve a problem. The differential in effort between creating a voluntary organization versus indenturing people to contribute toward a perceived problem gives a socialist, especially the lazy one, an incentive to choose force. Socialists also perceive it as more fair to force everyone to contribute something to problem resolution, even when there is no consensus on how a problem should be resolved or if one even exists. Those in power then define the problem and how it is to be addressed; "those who know better what is best for the individuals who comprise society than those individuals themselves." With a majority of society looking to government for answers and with those in power arrogant and naive enough to believe they can problem solve by mandate, the growth of a citizenry living in a state where their every action is micro-managed can not be far behind.

The government solution, though, loses focus as politicians, special interest groups and bureaucrats compete out of rational self-interest. This competition politicizes the process of addressing perceived problems, while the people look to this clumsy process for effective answers that never come. Society settles into a bureaucratic malaise.

Thus Second Tier Totalitarianism is a system where peoples lives are managed by mandate. The actual rules under which people are managed are in a constant state of flux as a result of the varying forces affecting the legislative process. Bureaucracy continues to grow as the number of laws do, while few old ones disappear. This growing bureaucracy is used to enforce the ever-increasing quantity of laws on people, giving them less and less freedom "for the common good." This clumsy attempt to enforce an ever more complex tangle of bureaucratic mandates leads to laws being enforced sporadically and drive many formally legitimate activities underground. Second Tier Totalitarianism grudgingly acknowledges base freedoms, but the end result is totalitarianism nonetheless.

Mr. Owen can be reached via e-mail at: mowen76@aol.com

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