If You Meet the Buddha on the Road
by Charles Goyette: So
What Inspired You To Write Your Book?
is a Zen puzzle or riddle designed to shatter mechanical or habitual
thought. For one unfamiliar with the form, a koan can appear to
be nonsense, or a foolish paradox. It can provoke the same frustration
with which a hard-bitten literalist might meet a poetic metaphor
or a Christian parable. But at its best, a koan can trigger a sudden
flash of clarity or insight: "Aha!"
Zen koan goes like this: "If you meet the Buddha on the
road, kill him."
to imagine the confusion and discomfort such sharp and unexpected
advice would cause the devoted Zen student for whom the Buddha is
an object of veneration and a symbol of enlightenment. But perhaps
the koan can be understood to warn against accepting something outside
of yourself, a substitute that may appear to represent your enlightenment;
a doctrine or dogma that cuts your journey short before your own
awakening is attained.
as it may seem, I find myself thinking about the "Buddha on
the road" koan often these days as I talk about my new book
and Blue and Broke All Over: Restoring America’s Free Economy.
Its really a book about freedom and the way freedom produces
One would be
obtuse indeed not to see that American freedom and prosperity are
at an inflection point. It can be seen when the head of the FBI
is asked in a congressional hearing if the president has the authority
to order American citizens assassinated, even within our own country.
To which the FBI director answered that hed have to check.
We are headed
in a whole new direction.
point can be noted in this moment of our monetary affairs. The trillions
of dollars of reserves the Fed "printed" to buy worthless
paper from the banking cartel and conjured up in QEII debt monetization,
suddenly is no longer just quietly humming unnoticed on the Feds
books. It is beginning to wobble, a dangerously unstable monetary
mass, the breaching of its containment seen now in the rising prices
of gasoline and groceries.
the Fed thought it could create $2 trillion without consequences?
It is a point
of no return.
Once I have
made the case in interviews and talk shows that our freedom and
prosperity are at an inflection point, a host or listener will almost
invariably ask, "What is to be done?"
perfectly logical question. Since these are political problems,
the habitual response is that they must demand political solutions.
The questioners want to know what political steps are demanded.
What petition can they sign to make things right? What kind of commission
do we need? Which party or candidate can fix things? Surely, there
is a proposal, program, or reform that we can implement, is there
I am afraid
my answer frustrates the demands of such logic. Because my answer
is no: There is no such mechanical solution. Instead of representing
a solution, politics is the very definition of the problem. It is
the Buddha on the road.
If the monetary
system is failing, shall we petition the State, the corrupter of
money, to restore it? If needless wars are leaving us destitute,
shall we beg the State, thriving as it does on warfare, to stand
down? If we are losing our liberty, shall we empower the State by
asking it to grant us liberties?
I do understand
how empty this leaves those conditioned (by the State) to believe
there is a State solution to every problem. But I recommend that
instead of turning to the State and its mechanisms, we turn instead
to freedom itself. That we each conduct ourselves in ways consistent
with a respect for freedom. That we improve ourselves as exemplars
of freedom. That we learn more about freedom to better appreciate
its virtues and to better communicate them when called upon.
This was the
approach of the late Leonard Read, who eschewed mass programs for
mass movements because he knew that the many follow the few. With
his approach of self- improvement, Read became a light of great
importance. In 1946, he created the Foundation for Economic Education,
the first modern think tank devoted to human freedom. He was able
to provide some support to Mises when the academic world failed
to provide him a suitable position. He had a tremendous effect on
many of todays greatest champions of liberty. And, indeed,
a simple essay Read wrote more than 50 years ago called I, Pencil,
has had an impact on the consciousness of many of its readers so
deep and lasting that I am pleased that I am able to extend its
reach by having it reprinted in Red and Blue and Broke All Over.
view of the foundational importance of consciousness to our progress
in life can also be seen in John Adams description of the
American Revolution. Writing to Thomas Jefferson in 1815, Adams
asked, "What do we mean by the Revolution? The war? That was
no part of the revolution; it was only an effect and consequence
of it. The revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was
effected from 17601775, in the course of fifteen years, before
a drop of blood was shed at Lexington."
Today the case
for freedom must likewise be made in the minds of the people. To
engage our challenge under the capitol domes only feeds the beast
where it lives and thrives. The case for State power is endlessly
reinforced in the marbled halls of the State to begin with. It is
reiterated by the education system on a daily basis. It is regurgitated
by the lapdog press. The State and its prerogatives are the default
position of the American public debate. The mantra of political
discourse is "mandates." Indeed, one can go through an
entire American life through public or even private schools
and universities, attending to the news and the political contests
of our age without ever hearing the case for freedom explicitly
those who have a vestigial attraction to freedom pitch all their
energy and resources into fighting the States serial power
grabs. In case after case, they raise funds, write letters, run
candidates, oppose legislation, and seek a seat at the table.
focus of their effort is on stopping a policy like nationalized
health care. If they lose, their energy is drained, their resources
are exhausted, and their ad hoc organizations fade away. If they
win, it is only to be rewarded with betrayal by their allies who,
too, have never encountered an explicit case for freedom and therefore
accept the presupposition of the States preeminence. (Remember
that in the fight against ObamaCare, the Republican National Committees
advertising did not oppose the States hand in health care;
its advertising called only for a "responsible" plan and
a "bipartisan" plan.)
No matter how
well-intentioned those who undertake these efforts may be, in the
end they are only waylaid by the State on the road to freedom.
But when we
make ourselves more effective champions of freedom, we shine a light
that Read would have said cannot be extinguished by all the collective
darkness of the universe.
In a dark age,
with liberties being snuffed and the descending nightmare of a monetary
calamity, we each must increase our own light. It is not enough
to oppose the trends that rob us of our freedom and prosperity.
Freedom needs new champions who know not just that the State doesnt
work, but why it doesnt work. Why central economic planning
must fail. Why government price interference makes us poorer. Why
freedom creates prosperity.
It was to make
the case for freedom explicit in terms of todays events that
I wrote Red and Blue and Broke All Over: Restoring Americas
Free Economy. If it is successful, it will have helped in a
small way to increase the candle power of new champions of freedom.
In the meantime,
if you meet the State on the road, you know what to do.
© 2012 Charles Goyette
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