The Sideshow That Never Leaves Town, by Butler Shaffer

Many of us have been trained to serve the state, and the training becomes more ingrained and pervasive with the young. From Butler Shaffer at lewrockwell.com:

“There is nothing more frightening than active ignorance.” 

– Wolfgang von Goethe                

Growing up in Nebraska, I was delighted each September, when the State Fair opened. I enjoyed walking the midway – accompanied by the spirit of P.T. Barnum – listening to sideshow barkers peddling their shows for “just ten cents, one thin dime.” Bearded and tattooed ladies, two-headed calves, and fortune-tellers were among the offerings.

With last week’s closing of the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus, a significant part of American culture has disappeared: circuses and carnivals. With the exception of 1950s era network television circuses, these extravaganzas were largely performed at the local level, abetted by the main street circus parades that brought us downtown and enticed us out to the circus grounds. With network television bringing so many of our demands for entertainment to the national level, traveling circuses, carnivals, and fairground midways have largely disappeared; although the sideshows have not. Freak shows have gravitated to television news networks, with anchors tantalizing us with the “breaking news” of assorted cranks and misfits waiting to challenge the suspension of our intelligence. “See the lady who can speak endlessly without saying anything;” or, “see the SUV that will bring the world to an end;” or “see the lady carrying a severed head.” H.L. Mencken was prophetic – as usual – in labeling politics as a “circus”, and a “carnival of buncombe.”

My understanding of history has led me to the view that Western Civilization is in its final stages. The structuring and regulation of life-sustaining processes have proved as fatal to our culture as cutting off a bird’s wings would seal its fate. To forcibly deprive individuals of their self-directed, self-interested nature in order to serve some mythical collective, has brought us to where we are. Beneficiaries of this herd-oriented mindset are institutional interests with a highly-concentrated presence that could not be maintained without the coercive force of the state restraining the development of competitive alternatives that would arise in a free market. Those interested in seeing how the business system has benefitted from this economic structuring, are invited to read my book In Restraint of Trade: The Business Campaign Against Competition, 1918-1938.

To continue reading: The Sideshow That Never Leaves Town

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