Though people of all political stripes are continually complaining about various injustices and absurdities committed by those in positions of power, neither the real problem, nor its solution, exists inside the beast called "government." Instead, it resides inside the skulls of several billion people. The real problem is inside our own heads. In other words, to quote that wise and noble cartoon opossum (Pogo), "We have met the enemy, and he is us."
Whether any group of people is free or enslaved has far less to do with what any outside force is trying to do to that group than it does with what's already inside the heads of the people in the group. As Robert Heinlein put it, "Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free." Even many self-described freedom advocates hugely underestimate just how true that is, and how much their own perceptions, assumptions and beliefs are hindering their efforts.
Time for an analogy. Imagine a southern plantation owner in the 1800's, who one day gave the following speech to his slaves:
"From now on, this plantation will be run for your benefit, as much as for mine. This plantation will continue to provide you with jobs, and with food and housing. In return, you are asked to contribute what you can by donating your labor, in order to serve the good of all of us. Of course, a successful, productive plantation requires order and organization, which requires rules and management, and having someone in charge. Otherwise there would be chaos. And because we all suffer when one person decides to break the rules, or not perform his assigned duties, it is up to each of you to help your fellow workers to remain hard-working, and to always comply with those rules which exist to maximize peace and prosperity for all of us."
Imagine that the plantation owner then began holding weekly meetings with all of his slaves, and had a suggestion box where they could request changes to the rules, or otherwise voice their concerns or complaints. The slaves were still slaves, the master still made up the rules, and the slaves were still harshly punished for breaking any rules or for not working hard enough. But the plantation owner insisted that that was necessary for the "common good."
In reality, would such rhetoric and rituals change the actual fundamental nature of the relationship between the plantation owner and his slaves?
Not at all. But it would likely change how the slaves perceived the relationship. In fact, imagine the plantation owner adding one more thing:
"No other plantation around here allows you to have this much input, and allows you this much freedom. In fact, if you decide you don't like things here, you can go work as a slave on Mr. Johnson's plantation to the east, or Mr. Smith's plantation to the west. That means you are free men, though of course there are still rules you must follow."
Now, in every sense of the term, the slaves would still be slaves. (Giving them a choice between owners is obviously not the same as them actually being free.) But if their perceptions were influenced via such rhetoric and propaganda, not only might they imagine themselves to be free--or at least more free--but they might very well begin to feel a deep loyalty to their master and owner, even if he continued to work them hard, beat them, and basically treat them like cattle.
Now imagine that every week, a few slaves would come to the meeting and give impassioned, articulate, well-reasoned arguments and pleas, petitioning the master to let the slaves keep more of what they earned, and to let them otherwise control more aspects of their own lives. And every week, the plantation owner would put on a serious expression, and say that things are tough all over, and that, as much as he would like to grant their requests, the plantation just couldn't afford it. In fact, the master regretted to inform them that he needed to "ask" them to work a little harder, and do with even less, for the sake of the common good. And so it went, week after week, year after year.
Sound familiar yet?
In such a situation, the slaves might very well imagine that they were a lot closer to being free, when in reality, not only would they not be any more free than they were before, they would actually be further away from being free, because they would stop recognizing the slavery for what it was. Frederick Douglass, while a slave, at one point was allowed to work for people other than his master, as long as he gave his master a substantial cut of whatever he earned elsewhere. At first, Mr. Douglass thought this was a big improvement, but later came to realize that it was worse, because it gave the illusion of at least partial freedom, while maintaining the reality of total enslavement. If it was still up to the master how much of the fruits of a slave's labor the slave would be allowed to keep--if the "tax rates" were totally up to the discretion of the master--then the slave was still his property, utterly and completely.
And that brings us to today. Who decides what the "tax rates" will be? Is it the people who earn the money, or the politicians? And what do the people--even those in the freedom movement--do when they object to how much is taken? Do they just not hand over the money, or do they beg the politicians to let the people keep more of what they earn?
It's a safe bet that as long as you talk and act as if someone else owns you, that "someone else" will act accordingly, treating you like his property. That's why politicians view you and treat you the way they do:
because you speak and act as if you belong to them. When you beg for "lower taxes," you are condoning your own enslavement, by accepting and reinforcing the notion that it's up to the politicians how much of your own earnings you will be allowed to keep. When you refer to politician scribbles as "laws," and say things like, "That law should be changed, but we have to obey it until it is," you are accepting and implicitly agreeing that someone else owns you. If you take pride in being a "law-abiding taxpayer," you are taking pride in your status as the property of the politicians--a slave who faithfully obeys the master's rules and hands over what he produces. When you vote, or you protest, or you petition for or against this or that piece of "legislation," you are the slave who pathetically begs his master to let him have a few more scraps of freedom.
Not only won't you get it, but you are demonstrating that you still want the approval of "authority"; you still want the politicians' "official"
permission to be free. And that means you're not even free inside your own head, because you continue to accept that the politicians are your rightful lords and masters, that their commands are "law," and that disobedience to them is "crime." In fact, by accepting and repeating the mythology of "authority," you are actually helping to perpetuate tyranny and legitimize the violent aggression that masquerades as "law" and "government." We have met the enemy, and he is us.
Getting back to our hypothetical plantation owner, who duped his slaves into thinking they had some say in what happened to them, into thinking that the plantation existed to serve them, and so on, what do you think would actually scare the master? Begging and pleading? No. As long as the slaves showed up every week to present their heartfelt pleas and petitions, the master would know that he was still in control, and that his slaves still thought they needed his permission in order to ever be free. In other words, as long as they kept showing up, the master would know that they remained enslaved in mind, and so would remain enslaved in body, no matter how loudly or how often they objected and complained about things. So the master would actually look forward to hearing them beg and cry to him for mercy, because it meant he was still in charge.
What would actually scare the master, on the other hand, would be when the slaves didn't show up at the meetings at all, and didn't beg him for anything--when they stopped playing the pointless, manipulative games the master had made up to keep them distracted and helpless (e.g., voting and petitioning). Then the plantation owner would know that, even if he still physically held them captive, he would have lost control over their minds.
And after that had happened, it would only be a matter of time before the master woke up one day and found no one to boss around. Or perhaps, one day he wouldn't wake up at all. Then, and only then, the slaves wouldn't be slaves anymore.