The Devil You Say: “If I Wanted America to Fail”

by EDWARD CLINE May 1, 2012

On April 9th, FreeMarketAmerica.org, a project of Americans for Limited Government, released a Doberman of a video that goes straight for the jugular of stealth socialism and totalitarian government, "If I Wanted America to Fail." Little more than four and a half minutes long, it is powerful, it is unique, it is effective. As of this writing, hits are nearing the two million mark on YouTube.   

Instead of another audiovisual encomium for free enterprise and freedom, "If" takes the inverse position, and that is the key to its punch. A devilishly handsome fellow stares the viewer in the eye and muses in a conversational tone on all the different ways he could make America fail and fall. It's the eye contact that does the trick. You don't doubt his sincerity. His sincerity is palpable. He's thought it all out, and his means and methods of bringing about failure are too familiar to most Americans. You believe him.

Understanding the narration doesn't require a degree in economics or political science. The content is aimed at the layman and anyone who has experienced first-hand the crushing economic and political consequences of past and current policies. Even though the narration is punctuated with alternating visual connections between the narrator and skylines, flags, faces of Americans, oil rigs, closed businesses, bureaucrats, and so on, the eye contact isn't lost. In the background, a piano flutters around a somber melody to emphasize certain points, employing the same technique as "Three Things About Islam You Didn't Know."  

"If" is as professionally done as any million dollar, Madison Avenue-produced election campaign ad. The photography, the lighting, and the pacing all work together to produce the maximum potency of the video's message. Champions for freedom will grow red in the face in anger. Statists might even blush in shame and embarrassment - and break eye contact.

Another key to its power is that it doesn't name names, but ideas. It assumes that we all know the names of the individuals responsible for the destructive policies described by the musing narrator. The implied guilty party is the Obama Administration - the narrator serves as its proxy - but the policies the narrator describes are those which the Congress and the White House have been adopting and imposing for at least the past half century. It doesn't identify Woodrow Wilson, or FDR, or JFK, or any of their successors. That task is left to the viewer, should he choose to investigate the history of the ideas the narrator outlines with such hubristic confidence.

This device, of not naming names, obliges the viewer to face and think about the ideas, rather than specific policies appended to specific individuals. It is, after all, these statist ideas which must be combated, refuted and annulled. "If" renders their practitioners irrelevant by virtue of omission.

The narrated script was written by Ryan Houck. He ought to be awarded something for it. So should the director and the actor/narrator. What follows is that script.

If I Wanted America To Fail ...

To follow, not lead; to suffer, not prosper; to despair, not dream.

I would start with energy.

I'd cut off America's supply of cheap, abundant energy. I couldn't take it by force. So, I'd make Americans feel guilty for using the energy that heats their homes, fuels their cars, runs their businesses, and powers their economy.

I'd make cheap energy expensive, so that expensive energy would seem cheap.

I would empower unelected bureaucrats to all-but-outlaw America's most abundant sources of energy. And after banning its use in America, I'd make it illegal for American companies to ship it overseas.

If I wanted America to fail ...

I'd use our schools to teach one generation of Americans that our factories and our cars will cause a new Ice Age, and I'd muster a straight face so I could teach the next generation that they're causing Global Warming.

And when it's cold out, I'd call it Climate Change instead.

I'd imply that America's cities and factories could run on wind power and wishes. I'd teach children how to ignore the hypocrisy of condemning logging, mining and farming - while having roofs over their heads, heat in their homes and food on their tables. I would never teach children that the free market is the only force in human history to uplift the poor, establish the middle class and create lasting prosperity.

Instead, I'd demonize prosperity itself, so that they will not miss what they will never have.

If I wanted America to fail ...

I would create countless new regulations and seldom cancel old ones. They would be so complicated that only bureaucrats, lawyers and lobbyists could understand them. That way small businesses with big ideas wouldn't stand a chance - and I would never have to worry about another Thomas Edison, Henry Ford or Steve Jobs.

I would ridicule as "Flat Earthers" those who urge us to lower energy costs by increasing supply. And when the evangelists of commonsense try to remind people about the law of supply and demand, I'd enlist a sympathetic media to drown them out.

If I wanted America to fail ...

I would empower unaccountable bureaucracies seated in a distant capitol to bully Americans out of their dreams and their property rights. I'd send federal agents to raid guitar factories for using the wrong kind of wood; I'd force homeowners to tear down the homes they built on their own land.

I'd make it almost impossible for farmers to farm, miners to mine, loggers to log, and builders to build.

And because I don't believe in free markets, I'd invent false ones. I'd devise fictitious products-like carbon credits-and trade them in imaginary markets. I'd convince people that this would create jobs and be good for the economy.

If I wanted America to fail ...

For every concern, I'd invent a crisis; and for every crisis, I'd invent the cause; Like shutting down entire industries and killing tens of thousands of jobs in the name of saving spotted owls. And when everyone learned the stunning irony that the owls were victims of their larger cousins-and not people-it would already be decades too late.

If I wanted America to fail ...

I'd make it easier to stop commerce than start it - easier to kill jobs than create them - more fashionable to resent success than to seek it.

When industries seek to create jobs, I'd file lawsuits to stop them. And then I'd make taxpayers pay for my lawyers.

If I wanted America to fail ...

I would transform the environmental agenda from a document of conservation to an economic suicide pact. I would concede entire industries to our economic rivals by imposing regulations that cost trillions. I would celebrate those who preach environmental austerity in public while indulging a lavish lifestyle in private.

I'd convince Americans that Europe has it right, and America has it wrong.

If I wanted America to fail ...

I would prey on the goodness and decency of ordinary Americans.

I would only need to convince them ... that all of this is for the greater good.

If I wanted America to fail, I suppose I wouldn't change a thing.

I suspect that the idea for "If" can be traced to the method and format employed by the late Paul Harvey, a conservative American radio broadcaster. One of his most successful spiels was "If I were the Devil," which he would edit and deliver to fit the outrage of the moment. In it he would describe how he would bring about America's corruption and downfall - according to conservative values.

"If I Wanted America to Fail," however, and needless to say, goes Harvey one better. It focuses, by implication, on the political and economic ideas and not on concretes, while at the same time stressing those concretes. It is, to say the least, thought-provoking, thought in the sense that it should compel viewers to reflect on the fundamental causes of their current and perilous predicament.

In another sense, it is an encapsulation and worthy twist of John Galt's speech in Ayn Rand's prophetic novel, Atlas Shrugged.

Every nation struggling under the burden of altruism and collectivism should adopt its own "If I Wanted...." The American version cannot help but wake many, many Americans up to the evil of that devilishly handsome visage describing their doom-and move them to fight back.

Edward Cline is the author of the Sparrowhawk novels set in England and Virginia in the pre-Revolutionary period, of several detective and suspense novels, and three collections of his commentaries and columns, all available on Amazon Books. His essays, book reviews, and other articles have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, the Journal of Information Ethics and other publications. He is a frequent contributor to Rule of Reason, Family Security Matters, Capitalism Magazine and other Web publications.     


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