“The State is not God.”
If that sounds familiar, then you, like me, probably spent New Year’s Eve watching the Twilight Zone marathon on the science fiction channel.
The line actually is heard in two episodes, both involving young women subject to government-mandated health care. In the first episode, titled “Eye of the Beholder,” a beautiful young woman undergoes plastic surgery to make her look like everyone else (all of whom are hideous), and is ultimately sent to a ghetto when the surgery is unsuccessful.
In the second, “Number 12 Looks Just Like You,” all citizens are required upon attaining adulthood to undergo plastic surgery to make them look just like one of a dozen or so government-approved appearances.
In both episodes, an intelligent, defiant young woman eloquently challenges the authority of the State to impose on the individual’s rights with that simple expression: “The State is not God.”
Even in episodes in which this statement is not made explicitly, it is implicit. Remember the episode where a man is sentenced to die for the crime of being an obsolete librarian in a State that has banned books? That challenge – “The State is not God” – rings through every scene.
It used to be that, when I told young people how I spent my New Year’s Eve, they would consider it a rather quaint way for a rather quaint man, with nothing better to do, to spend the holiday. And I assumed that they, still being young, had better things to do on New Year’s Eve than watch The Twilight Zone.
But the last couple years, a strange thing has been happening. Many respond, “So did I!”
Just as people have been rediscovering the lost Constitution in the last two years, and rediscovering philosophers like Hayek and Bastiat, who place the individual above the State, they are also rediscovering The Twilight Zone.
The battle-cry, “The State is not God,” resounds throughout the land these days.
Many people got elected to political office in November by saying little else. Briefs challenging unconstitutional new laws echo the sentiment. And of course, it can be heard here at The Dark Side every week (I suppose that is why this column is so popular).
Unfortunately, there is one place where this endorsement of liberty cannot be found – U.S. Supreme Court opinions dating back to the New Deal.
In 1940, a farmer named Roscoe Filburn dared to plant wheat on 23 acres of his land, more than twice the 11.1 acres that the State decreed he could plant. Farmer Filburn argued that the quota was unconstitutional because he did not sell the extra crops on the market, but either used it himself or fed it to his livestock and poultry.
“The State is not God,” Farmer Filburn argued to the court. But the court disagreed.
The court held that the State’s power to regulate interstate commerce extended to wholly intrastate, noncommercial activities.
In the United States of America, a majority of the court declared, “The State is God.”
And unfortunately, the State will remain God until cases like Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942), are consigned to the trash bin of history, where they belong.
When that finally happens, we will indeed have a happy new year. I think I’ll spend it out on the town, instead of watching the television.