Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

An American Classical Liberalism | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on May 8, 2021

Goethe’s Prometheus cries:

Do you fancy that I should hate life,
Should flee to the wilderness,
Because not all my budding dreams have blossomed?

And Faust answers with his “last word of wisdom”:

No man deserves his freedom or his life
Who does not daily win them anew.

Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr.

Every four years, as the November presidential election draws near, I have the same daydream: that I don’t know or care who the president of the United States is. More importantly, I don’t need to know or care. I don’t have to vote or even pay attention to debates. I can ignore all campaign commercials. There are no high stakes for my family or my country. My liberty and property are so secure that, frankly, it doesn’t matter who wins. I don’t even need to know his name.

In my daydream, the president is mostly a figurehead and a symbol, almost invisible to myself and my community. He has no public wealth at his disposal. He administers no regulatory departments. He cannot tax us, send our children into foreign wars, pass out welfare to the rich or the poor, appoint judges to take away our rights of self government, control a central bank that inflates the money supply and brings on the business cycle, or change the laws willy-nilly according to the special interests he likes or seeks to punish.

The President’s Job

His job is simply to oversee a tiny government with virtually no power except to arbitrate disputes among the states, which are the primary governmental units. He is head of state, though never head of government. His position, in fact, is one of constant subordination to the office holders around him and the thousands of statesmen on the state and local level. He adheres to a strict rule of law and is always aware that anytime he transgresses by trying to expand his power, he will be impeached as a criminal.

But impeachment is not likely, because the mere threat reminds him of his place. This president is also a man of outstanding character, well respected by the natural elites in society, a person whose integrity is trusted by all who know him, who represents the best of what an American is.

The president can be a wealthy heir, a successful businessmen, a highly educated intellectual, or a prominent farmer. Regardless, his powers are minimal. He has a tiny staff, which is mostly consumed with ceremonial matters like signing proclamations and scheduling meetings with visiting heads of state.

The presidency is not a position to be avidly sought but almost granted as honorary and temporary. To make sure that is the case, the person chosen as vice president is the president’s chief political adversary. The vice president therefore serves as a constant reminder that the president is eminently replaceable. In this way, the vice presidential office is very powerful, not with regard to the people, but in keeping the executive in check.

But as for people like me who have concerns besides politics, it matters little who the president is. He doesn’t affect my life one way or the other. Neither does anyone under his control. His authority is mainly social, and derived from how much the natural elites in society respect him. This authority is lost as easily as it is gained, so it is unlikely to be abused.

This man is elected indirectly, with the electors chosen as the states direct, with only one proviso: no elector may be a federal official. In the states that choose their electors by majority vote, not every citizen or resident can participate. The people who do vote, a small percentage of the population, are those who have the best interests of society at heart. They are those who own property, who head households, and have been educated. These voters choose a man whose job it is to think only of the security, stability, and liberty of his country.

The Invisible Government

For those who do not vote and do not care about politics, their liberty is secure. They have no access to special rights, yet their rights to person, property, and self government are never in doubt. For that reason and for all practical purposes, they can forget about the president and, for that matter, the rest of the federal government. It might as well not exist. People do not pay direct taxes to it. It doesn’t tell them how to conduct their lives. It doesn’t send them to foreign wars, regulate their schools, pay for their retirement, much less employ them to spy on their fellow citizens. The government is almost invisible.

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Contact Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr.

Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., is founder and chairman of the Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, and editor of

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