Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Psychology of Tyranny

This article is must reading:


The Justus family has owned land on West Main Street in Smithville since 1842.

Jonathan Justus’ runs a restaurant in a structure built by his grandfather. The restaurant is across the street from the original Justus Drugstore, where Jonathan's grandfather worked from 1914 to 1955. After he died in 1961, Justus’ mother ran the drugstore in the building for 40 years before selling the pharmacy in 2001.

When the buyers abandoned the premises for a strip mall in town five years later, Justus and his wife, Camille Eklof, seized the opportunity to realize their long-deferred dream: opening their own restaurant.

After mortgaging their house to the hilt and putting in months of sweat equity — they designed and built the interior themselves — Justus and Eklof opened their restuarant in May of 2007. They named it:

Justus Drugstore: A Restaurant

Jonathan and Camille had worked in prestigious restaurants in San Francisco, Paris and Kansas City. Their high-end, dinner-only establishment, which buys from local producers and makes everything from scratch, has drawn rave reviews and is slated to be featured in Bon Appetit and Food & Wine magazines later this summer.

Isn't America great? This is truly "the pursuit of happiness."

Not surprisingly, the government is out to shut them down.

Dan Margolies of the Kansas City Star tells the rest of the story:

Then, just before Memorial Day, an inspector with the Missouri Board of Pharmacy showed up at the restaurant, file folder in hand.

“We have an issue with your name,” Justus recalled her saying.

“I was in shock. I kept saying this must be a joke,” he said.

It wasn’t.

Earlier this month, Justus and Eklof received a letter on Board of Pharmacy stationery ordering them “to immediately CEASE AND DESIST the unlawful use of the word drugstore” (capitals in the original) in the restaurant’s name.

The letter cited Section 338 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri, an enactment dating back to 1951 and designed to prevent unlicensed establishments from holding themselves out as pharmacies. The law bars a business from using the words “drug store,” “pharmacy,” “apothecary” or similar terms “unless the place of business is supervised by a licensed pharmacist.”

Never mind that the word “restaurant” was part of Justus Drugstore’s name and was displayed prominently in its signs. The inspector and board were unmoved.

“I told her that the intent of the law is clear,” Justus recalled, referring to the inspector. “She jumped all over me and said that someone could come to us thinking they were getting medical advice from a professional.”

Yeah, right.

Only a government bureaucrat could conclude that any rational non-government human being could imagine that they were getting "medical advice" from a pharmaceutical "professional" by walking into a building marked "RESTAURANT" at the end of a business day (remember, it's a dinner-only restaurant) getting a plush booth, and ordering from the "menu."

So why doesn't the government bureaucrat say, "Oh, I'm sorry, you're right, excuse me, carry on with your pursuit of happiness"?

Because government bureaucrats love to exercise POWER and control over other people.

Otherwise, the bureuacrat would get a job with Consumer Reports or some other organization that relies on education, persuasion, and voluntary association to achieve social goals, rather than the initiation of force and threats of violence.

Even if a bureaucrat originally signed up with the government to provide valuable social services, it is the nature of government to tempt and corrupt the human heart. And it is the nature of human beings to love it that way.

Lord Acton wrote:

Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.

This is why some people still criticize libertarians for not trusting their government.

John Adams wrote in 1772:

There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.

Should libertarians have more confidence in their government? Thomas Jefferson, 1799:

Confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism. Free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence; it is jealousy, and not confidence, which prescribes limited constitutions to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power.… In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.

James Madison warned the people of Virginia (1799):

the nation which reposes on the pillow of political confidence, will sooner or later end its political existence in a deadly lethargy.

Madison added in Federalist No. 55,

[T]here is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust. . . .

Nobody in government likes that Calvinistic word "depravity." Jean Bethke Elshtain writes,

Political theorist George Armstrong Kelly, in a brilliant and much ignored book, Politics and Religious Consciousness in America, published over twenty years ago, argued that it was impossible to understand American history and life without coming to grips with the "fragmenting" offshoots of Calvinist orthodoxy that quite literally peopled and defined the American republic.

Shain shows that the doctrines of original sin and human depravity grounded much of the political theory and practice of the day. But again, he treats the doctrines as Calvinist or Reformed, although his evidence shows that, within the limits here applicable, the Reformed theologians shared this ground with other Christians.
("Protestant Communalism." Crisis Magazine, October 1995, p.41)

It was this religious idea of "the depravity of man" that created such political doctrines as "separation of powers" and "checks and balances." Jefferson responded to criticisms of his libertarianism in his First Inaugural Address (1801):

Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.

Margolies adds,

For Justus, 43, whose words tend to come out in a rush, the issue is not just one of principle and preserving his family’s patrimony. It’s also one of economics and marketing: Changing the name would require him to alter the restaurant’s signs, menus, uniforms, business cards and the like — not to mention forfeit its hard-won identity.

“We spent an immense amount of energy branding ourselves,” he said.

And then there’s the matter of having to reapply for retail and liquor licenses under a new name. A notoriously thin-margin business, high-end restaurants like Justus Drugstore rely on liquor sales to turn a profit.

The thought of having to await the issuance of a new liquor license sends Justus into a near-panic.

Government licensing of drug stores appeals to the depraved heart of government. It raises the cost of prescription drugs and hinders the availability of herbal supplements and vitamins.

And -- who'da thunkit? -- it closes down fine restaurants.

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