Government: You Knew it was a Snake When You Picked it Up

I’ve never been able to fully trace the history of The Fable of the Snake. I came across it in 1994 in the movie Natural Born Killers, and that same year in Hunter S. Thompson’s riff on the 1992 presidential election, Better Than Sex. I’ve since learned that it was around at least as early as 1968, when soul singer Al Wilson recorded a version of it as “The Snake.” It’s probably much older than that. Here it is, in bare bones form:

A woman comes upon a snake in some kind of trouble (frozen, injured or being attacked). She rescues the snake, takes it home, and nurses it back to health. It becomes a trusted friend and pet. Then one day, she decides to go to town and picks up the snake to take it with her … and it bites her. As she dies, she asks the snake why. “Lady,” the snake says, “you knew I was a snake when you picked me up.”

Every new government outrage against all that is right and good elicits reactions of astonishment and outrage — and every time I hear those reactions, I think of The Fable of the Snake.

Seriously, folks: We’ve been pulling the dead weight of government for thousands of years and laboring in the mines of the modern state for hundreds. How could anything that government does be surprising?

The irritant of the day is “health care reform,” specifically “ObamaCare” — a scheme which calls for the US government to feed the wallets (and bodies) of its subjects en masse into the maws of the insurance and pharmaceutical companies — which was passed by the US House of Representatives on Sunday evening and shall shortly be “the law of the land.”

I’ve covered the ObamaCare scam in detail in previous columns; those details are not important to my point here, and in fact there’s nothing particularly unusual about the con (hint: The purpose of all government programs is to transfer wealth from the productive class to the political class).

My point here — the object of my frustration, to be more specific — is that people don’t seem to understand that if they persist in clasping friggin’ poisonous snakes to their bosoms, they’re going to get bit.

Samuel warned the Hebrews what would happen if they insisted that God appoint a king (see 1 Samuel, chapter eight) … it wasn’t pretty.

Thomas Paine warned America’s British colonists that “government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.”

George Washington is quoted (possibly apocryphally but certainly wisely) as likewise warning Americans that “government is not reason, it is not eloquence — it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”

Folks, the guys I’m quoting here are the naive, feel-good, utopian, hippy dippy doo optimists of political history. If you want to a more level-headed, accurate assessment of the ends to which government means inevitably lead, read any well-written history of the Third Reich’s Holocaust, Pol Pot’s Killing Fields or Mao’s Great Leap Forward.

It’s time to stop kidding yourself.

It’s time to stop buying the “this time, it will be different — really!” line.

Lucy will always pull the football away when Charlie Brown tries to kick it, and a poisonous snake will always bite you if you let yourself be charmed into giving it the opportunity to do so.

There are two ways to deal with a poisonous snake: Avoid it, or kill it. The same is true of the state.

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory