Todd Weber's Random Thoughts

March 26, 2009

U.S. Government is Out of Control!

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — tkweber @ 10:37 pm

Somehow the madness must stop. Our government has long been acting outside the limits placed upon it by the Constitution in many ways, but in the last three months it has gone completely out of control.  Why isn’t anyone holding the President and Congress accountable?  Why is the press/media, which is supposed to “speak truth to power,” not doing so?  Why are not the Republicans in Congress making a huge issue of this?  Even though they, as the minority party, lack the power to stop the Democrats, they could raise significant and effective opposition, if only they would try.  They need to get their heads out of the sand, stop fussing over details, and attack hard and unceasingly based on fundamental principles. 

Sadly, it seems that most Americans know little, and perhaps care even less, about the Constitution and the form of government it prescribes for this nation. We need to get back to the core principles of limited government, individual freedom, and personal responsibility.

The gross expansion of the size, reach and power of the U.S. government over the American people in recent months is shocking and frightening.  That there is so little substantive opposition to it is even more shocking and frightening.  Someone once said that America is a nation with a government, not a government with a nation (something like that).  Many, especially those in government, seem to have forgotten that.  They believe that government, simply by virtue of its existence, is somehow wiser and better able to run our lives than we ourselves.

Remember that the government has no virtue or ability of its own. It has no inherent goodness or evil, beneficence or malevolence. It is merely an expression and extension of the people who are placed in charge of it, who are an extension and expression of the citizens who elected them.  One who serves as a Senator or Representative or President or Governor is no better, wiser, or more noble, because of their office, than any other citizen.  So the way in which the current administration continually gets a free pass because of their supposed good intentions, without scrutiny of their ideas or the long term effects of those ideas, is both nonsensical and disturbing.  It is as though people are saying, “It doesn’t matter if their policies wreck the nation, because they mean well.”

The government is out of control because we, the people, have let it get out of control.  It’s time to stop the madness and take it back.

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March 25, 2009

Why Socialism is Bad for America

Socialism is a socioeconomic philosophy which has failed everywhere it has been tried, yet for decades has been slowly and steadily creeping into American society.  Many contemporary Americans, including some prominent and high-level politicians, hold socialist views and continually press for the implementation of socialist principals and programs in the United States.  Socialism is bad for America because it results in large, intrusive and controlling government that diminishes the role and value of individual citizens; it is largely based on “false compassion” that promotes victimhood and big government solutions; and it offers a false hope of utopian brotherhood and equality, resulting in the loss of freedom and the rise of governmental tyranny.

To begin, we must first define socialism.  The New Encyclopedia Britannica (2007) states: “Socialism refers to both a set of doctrines and the political movements that aspire to put these doctrines into practice…there is no precise canon on which the various adherents of contemporary socialist movements agree…the most that can be said is that socialism is, in the words of Anthony Crosland, a British socialist, ‘a set of values, or aspirations, which socialists wish to see embodied in the organization of society.’” (393)

There is a wide variety of socialists in America today, ranging from the neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic National Socialist Movement on one end of the spectrum to the Socialist Party U.S.A. on the other end.  Other socialist groups include the Democratic Socialists of America, National Alliance, Young Democrat Socialist, and the Democratic Progressive Party (Socialism in America, 3).  While there is a wide range of beliefs and goals among these groups, some elements are common to all of them.

According to British scholar and socialist Alec Nove (1987), “a society may be seen to be a socialist one if the major part of the means of production of goods and services are not in private hands, but are in some sense socially owned and operated by state, socialized, or cooperative enterprises” (Buchanan, 1).  Professor Heinz W. Arndt of Sydney University (Australia), a former socialist, listed the main planks of the socialist platform as: nationalization of industry, central planning and direct controls (Kasper, 1).   

Gerard Radnitzky, Professor Emeritus in Philosophy of Science at the University of Trier, Germany, describes the evolution of modern socialism as a transformation from the 1920s-version of “hard socialism with coercive central planning and state capitalism” to the “milder form of creeping socialism, which comes gradually and softly, masked by the sweet poison of the welfare state” of the 1960s (45-46).  This is the insidious, incremental socialism which intrudes upon us today.

Michael Novak, the George Frederick Jewett Scholar in Religion, Philosophy and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute, describes modern socialists, whom he calls “economic reds,” as being different from fundamental socialists in some ways, but characteristically “gripped by three seductive fascinations – the views that 1) government is motherly and warm, 2) a halo attaches to the ‘leveling’ of economic differences, and 3) there exists in corporations and in those who profit from commerce a residual stench of evil.” (1)

Since the history and philosophy of socialism and all its effects and ramifications is far too large a subject for this discussion, we will address only three broad reasons why socialism is bad for America.

First, socialism results in large, intrusive and controlling government that diminishes the role and value of individual citizens.  It is a form of statism, which sees the state as all-powerful, all-wise, and more capable of determining and supplying the needs of its citizens than the citizens themselves.  Socialism empowers government, through its bureaucrats, to act as a great benevolent mother caring for her people by appropriating and redistributing the fruits of the people’s labor, as it sees fit, through high taxation and generous social welfare programs. 

Socialists believe that all the ills and inequities of society can be remedied by government programs that require ever more tax dollars to fund them.  Professor Arndt stated that the belief that government intervention was needed to correct “market failure” and protect the weak resulted in “big government, widespread government failures, excessive bureaucratic regulation of business and the lives of citizens, and a ‘political market’ which dispenses protection, subsidies and welfare expenditures in response to organized lobbying.” He contended that such ambitious spending and redistribution triggered inflation, increased unemployment and enlarged the government. (Kasper, 25)

Ever-increasing levels of taxation, social welfare programs, and restrictions on business result in numerous unsustainable consequences, such as deep national debt, unfunded liabilities, wasted capital and loss of productivity, creativity, innovation and consumer choices. F.A. Hayek, author of The Road to Serfdom (1944), showed that “soft socialism–social democratism-will in the long run produce the same results as hard, fundamentalist socialism, namely the bankruptcy of government and enormous opportunity costs: the prosperity that society misses out on as compared to a genuine free market order.” (Radnitzky, 46)

Radnitzky noted that redistributing wealth from the productive segments of society (industry, commerce, etc.) to the non-productive (the political class, bureaucracy, social welfare recipients, etc.) “reduces the rewards for enterprise and production and cuts innovation and employment.” (46)  Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises explained that the slowing of capital accumulation due to redistribution halts economic improvement, technological progress, and the rise of average standards of living. (63)  In other words, soaking the rich doesn’t only hurt the rich, it hurts everyone.  The best way to raise average standards of living, foster technological innovation, and decrease unemployment is to lower taxes (removing the success penalty), which will allow producers to keep the rewards of their labor and encourage further investment.

Another reason why socialism is bad for America is that socialism is largely based on false compassion, which results in a host of serious, though unintended, consequences. The term “false compassion” is used for two reasons.  First, because socialism takes the care of those in need out of the willing hearts and hands of truly compassionate individuals, and places it in the hands of the impersonal bureaucracy of government, which then takes by force from those who have, via taxation, and redistributes it, often with great inefficiency and waste, to others who have not, the recipients have no connection to the source of such benefits (the taxpayer).  Secondly, this involuntary benevolence often results, not in good will, gratitude, and a sense of community, but rather resentment among those who are taxed, and a sense of entitlement and continuing dependency among those who benefit. This false compassion is seen in the socialist obsession with equality and fairness accompanied by the conviction that capitalism and those who espouse it are inherently unfair, insensitive and cruel.

Joshua Muravchik noted that the French innovation with regard to democracy was to include equality among the mandatory pursuits of government, to which was then added the objective of brotherhood, “so that the enduring slogan of the [French] Revolution became ‘liberty, equality, brotherhood.” (1)

Expressing the same ideal, Theodore White (1953) wrote that, “Socialism is the belief and the hope that by proper use of government power, men can be rescued from their helplessness in the wild cycling cruelty of depression and boom.” (Socialism in America, 1).  According to Novak, this is why modern socialists “strive mightily to instill victimhood in fellow citizens, and to picture them as helplessly in need of government’s assistance.” (2)

Socialists believe that by heavily taxing the rich and productive of society, whom they believe have achieved their wealth and prosperity by exploiting the less fortunate, and redistributing it to the poor and disenfranchised, they will bring about social equality for the betterment of mankind.  This sounds nice in theory, but it doesn’t work in the real world.

Socialists consider inequality in wealth and incomes as injustice; and the greater the disparity, the greater the injustice. Mises observed that this view then justifies the confiscation of wealth from the rich in order to provide for the poor, presumably resulting in a more equitable situation. (1)  However, this always proves to be a slippery slope of never-ending redistribution.  Mises noted:

The history of the taxation of profits, incomes, and estates in all countries clearly shows that once the principle of equalization is adopted, there is no point at which the further progress of the policy of equalization can be checked…As long as any degree of inequality is left, there will always be people whom envy impels to press for a continuation of the equalization policy. (1-2)

In the end, socialist efforts toward economic equalization result in universal poverty, except perhaps among the ruling class. Rather than achieving a higher quality of life for all, the forces of socialism invariably push everyone down to equal impoverishment and misery. This has been demonstrated everywhere that all-out socialism has been practiced, most notably in the former Soviet Union, North Korea, and China, among many others.  Muravchik astutely observed, “There is no escape from inequality, except through uniform poverty.” (5) 

The final reason we will note as to why socialism is bad for America is that it offers false and empty hope in an idealistic fantasy that has never succeeded in practice, and which has repeatedly resulted in tyranny and terrible human suffering.  Those who would implement socialist or quasi-socialist policies in the United States of America are either unaware of the bleak history of socialism and have not considered the long-term consequences of their aims, or they are so enamored of their ideology that they don’t care.  Ludwig von Mises wrote that politicians who recommend socialist policies while claiming that they want to preserve the market economy and economic freedom are “either hypocrites who want to bring about socialism by deceiving the people about their real intentions, or they are ignoramuses who do not know what they are talking about.” (63)

Clive Hamilton, author of Growth Fetish and Affluenza, and executive director of the Australia Institute, a green socialist think tank, admitted, “It was not socialism that broke down the barriers of poverty and class, it was capitalism.” (Saunders, 6)

According to Muravchik, socialism has “proved to be mankind’s greatest mistake since the serpent beguiled Eve.” (5)  “After World War Two, new varieties of socialism were created in…Africa, Arabia and elsewhere,” including Cuba and Vietnam which adopted more standard Communist systems. By the late 1970s, socialism had come to dominate over sixty percent of the world. (3) Recounting the history of scores of socialist experiments, he reports that all of them have failed, utterly and disastrously. (2) 

Many countries that have tried socialism and found that it didn’t work are turning toward capitalism, to one degree or another, even as the United States seems intent on pursuing socialism.  China, Britain, France and Tanzania are a few such examples.

In 1978, China’s Deng Xiaoping announced a “second revolution,” which was to move away from hard communism toward “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” Many of the ensuing changes “bore greater resemblance to capitalism.” (Muravchik, 4)

Within a year of China’s move away from communism, Britain’s Margaret Thatcher “set out to ‘kill’ socialism, which she believed was the true cause of the so-called ‘British disease’ that others saw as a mysterious and irremediable decline of national culture.” (ibid)

A year after France’s Socialist Party, led by Francois Mitterand, took power (1981) and began to “implement measures creating new public sector jobs, nationalizing industries, and mandating increases in wages, pensions, and welfare…the economy was in such a tailspin that Mitterand ordered an abrupt reversal.” (ibid)

Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere, “once the avatar of African socialism, confessed: ‘If I call back the British to look at their old plantations, they will laugh at us because we ruined them.” (ibid)

Besides the economic costs and consequences of socialism, there is also the inevitable loss of freedom and the concurrent rise of governmental tyranny which are its natural products.  Muravchik noted that “the totalitarian impulse” in socialism is not an aberration, but has been present from the earliest days of socialist philosophy. (ibid)

While the term “fascist” is regularly used by liberals as a derisive epithet against conservatives, it is actually a beast which arises from the waters of socialism. In Liberal Fascism, Jonah Goldberg argues that “In reality, international fascism drew from the same intellectual wellsprings as American Progressivism.” (Hayward, 1)  According to Goldberg, fascism should be understood as supercharged nationalistic statism. He noted the bold incursion of fascism under President Woodrow Wilson who “disparaged ‘individualism’ and the market economy, and advocated ever more powerful government and economic planning.” (ibid 2)  This path was trod further by Hoover and then by Franklin D. Roosevelt and company who authored the New Deal and:

understood their project as wholly congruent with what they saw approvingly in Italy and Germany. Waldo Frank declared in 1934 that Roosevelt’s National Recovery Administration “is the beginning of American Fascism” and the Nazis expressed their admiration and enthusiasm for FDR’s program…The New York Times reported in 1933: “There is at least one official voice in Europe that expresses understanding of the method and motives of President Roosevelt. This voice is that of Germany, as represented by Chancellor Adolf Hitler.” (ibid) 

Goldberg also noted that the liberal penchant for regulating people’s lives for their own good (smoking bans, healthy eating mantras, etc.) or “for the children” represents “the still-vibrant residue of the last wave of fascist enthusiasm.” (ibid) He documents in copious detail many disturbing parallels between European fascism and modern liberalism, which is consonant with socialism.

Thus, socialism poses not only a threat to the economic principles and practices which have led America to a level of prosperity and power unprecedented in human history, it also threatens the very freedom that is both the incubator and protector of that prosperity.

In conclusion, I have shown that while socialism seems to have run its course in virtually every other nation in which it has been tried, it still represents a clear and present danger to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in America.  Socialism is bad for America because it leads to large, intrusive and controlling government that diminishes the role and value of individual citizens; it is largely based on false compassion that promotes victimhood and big government; and it offers false hope of utopian brotherhood and equality, resulting in the loss of freedom and the rise of governmental tyranny.

 

References

Buchanan, James. Socialism is Dead But Leviathan Lives On. (1990, March 27). Center for Independent Studies. Retrieved February 9, 2009, from http://www.cis.org.au.

Flynn, Daniel. (2008). A Conservative History of the American Left. New York: Crown Forum.

Goldberg, Jonah. (2007). Liberal Fascism. New York: Doubleday.

Hayward, Steven. Who’s Fascist Now? (2008, Jan. 22). American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Retrieved February 9, 2009, from http://www.aei.org.

Kasper, Wolfgang. The Art of the Economy: Stability Growth and Philosophy. Interview with Heinz W. Arndt. (2000, Spring) Policy. Center for Independent Studies. Retrieved February 9, 2009, from http://www.cis.org.au.

Mises, Ludwig von. Inequality of Wealth and Incomes. (2000, Spring) Policy. Center for Independent Studies. Retrieved February, 9, 2009, from http://www.cis.org.au.

Muravchik, Joshua. The Rise and Fall of Socialism. (2000, Jan. 1) American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Retrieved February 9, 2009, from http://www.aei.org.

New Encyclopedia Britannica, Macropaedia, The. 15th Edition, Volume 27. (2007) Chicago.

Novak, Michael. Economic Reds: A Diagnosis. (2007, June 25) American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Retrieved February 9, 2009, from http://www.aei.org.

Radnitzky, Gerard. Ludwig von Mises on His 120th Birthday.  (2001, Spring) Policy. Center for Independent Studies. Retrieved February 9, 2009, from http://www.cis.org.au.

Socialism in America. Retrieved February 5, 2009, from http://www.u-s-history.com.

Saunders, Paul. Why Capitalism is Good for the Soul. (2007, Summer) Policy. Center for Independent Studies. Retrieved February 9, 2009, from http://www.cis.org.au.

Waldron, Arthur. China’s Disguised Failure. (2002, July 1) American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Retrieved February 9, 2009, from http://www.aei.org.

 

 

© copyright Todd K. Weber, 2009. No part of this may be used or reproduced without permission from the author.

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