Todd Weber's Random Thoughts

November 27, 2010

The Presidency and the Constitution

I was so moved and inspired by this that I am compelled to post it here for others. — TW

By Mike Pence, U. S. Representative, Indiana’s 6th Congressional District.  

(Adapted from a speech delivered at Hillsdale College (Michigan) on September 20, 2010.  Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.)

The presidency is the most visible thread that runs through the tapestry of the American government. More often than not, for good or for ill, it sets the tone for the other branches and spurs the expectations of the people. Its powers are vast and consequential, its requirements impossible for mortals to fulfill without humility and insistent attention to its purpose as set forth in the Constitution of the United States.

Isn’t it amazing, given the great and momentous nature of the office, that those who seek it seldom pause to consider what they are seeking? Rather, unconstrained by principle or reflection, there is a mad rush toward something that, once its powers are seized, the new president can wield as an instrument with which to transform the nation and the people according to his highest aspirations.

But, other than in a crisis of the house divided, the presidency is neither fit nor intended to be such an instrument. When it is made that, the country sustains a wound, and cries out justly and indignantly. And what the nation says is the theme of this address. What it says – informed by its long history, impelled by the laws of nature and nature’s God – is that we as a people are not to be ruled and not to be commanded. It says that the president should never forget this; that he has not risen above us, but is merely one of us, chosen by ballot, dismissed after his term, tasked not to transform and work his will upon us, but to bear the weight of decision and to carry out faithfully the design laid down in the Constitution in accordance with the Declaration of Independence.

The presidency must adhere to its definition as expressed in the Constitution, and to conduct defined over time and by tradition. While the powers of the office have enlarged, along with those of the legislature and the judiciary, the framework of the government was intended to restrict abuses common to classical empires and to the regal states of the 18th century.

Without proper adherence to the role contemplated in the Constitution for the presidency, the checks and balances in the constitutional plan become weakened. This has been most obvious in recent years when the three branches of government have been subject to the tutelage of a single party. Under either party, presidents have often forgotten that they are intended to restrain the Congress at times, and that the Congress is independent of their desires. And thus fused in unholy unity, the political class has raged forward in a drunken expansion of powers and prerogatives, mistakenly assuming that to exercise power is by default to do good.

Even the simplest among us knows that this is not so. Power is an instrument of fatal consequence. It is confined no more readily than quicksilver, and escapes good intentions as easily as air flows through mesh. Therefore, those who are entrusted with it must educate themselves in self-restraint. A republic is about limitation, and for good reason, because we are mortal and our actions are imperfect.

The tragedy of presidential decision is that even with the best choice, some, perhaps many, will be left behind, and some, perhaps many, may die. Because of this, a true statesman lives continuously with what Churchill called “stress of soul.” He may give to Paul, but only because he robs Peter. And that is why you must always be wary of a president who seems to float upon his own greatness. For all greatness is tempered by mortality, every soul is equal, and distinctions among men cannot be owned; they are on loan from God, who takes them back and evens accounts at the end.

It is a tragedy indeed that new generations taking office attribute failures in governance to insufficient power, and seek more of it. In the judiciary, this has seldom been better expressed than by Justice Thurgood Marshall, who said: “You do what you think is right and let the law catch up.” In the Congress, it presents itself in massive legislation, acts and codes thousands of pages long and so monstrously overcomplicated that no human can read through them – much less understand them, much less apply them justly to a people that increasingly feel like they are no longer being asked, but rather told. Our nation finds itself in the position of a dog whose duty is not to ask why – because the “why” is too elevated for his nature – but simply to obey.

America is not a dog, and does not require a “because-I-said-so” jurisprudence; or legislators who knit laws of such insulting complexity that they are heavier than chains; or a president who acts like, speaks like, and is received as a king. 

The president is not our teacher, our tutor, our guide or ruler. He does not command us; we command him. We serve neither him nor his vision. It is not his job or his prerogative to redefine custom, law, and beliefs; to appropriate industries; to seize the country, as it were, by the shoulders or by the throat so as to impose by force of theatrical charisma his justice upon 300 million others. It is neither his job nor his prerogative to shift the power of decision away from them, and to him and the acolytes of his choosing.

Is my characterization of unprecedented presumption incorrect? Listen to the words of the leader of President Obama’s transition team and perhaps his next chief-of-staff: “It’s important that President-elect Obama is prepared to really take power and begin to rule day one.” Or, more recently, the latest presidential appointment to avoid confirmation by the Senate – the new head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – who wrote last Friday: “President Obama understands the importance of leveling the playing field again.”

“Take power…rule…leveling.” Though it is the model now, this has never been and should never again be the model of the presidency or the character of the American president. No one can say this too strongly, and no one can say it enough until it is remedied. We are not subjects; we are citizens. We fought a war so that we do not have to treat even kings like kings, and – if I may remind you – we won that war. Since then, the principle of royalty has, in this country, been inoperative. Who is better suited or more required to exemplify this conviction, in word and deed, than the President of the United States?

The powers of the presidency are extraordinary and necessarily great, and great presidents treat them sparingly. For example, it is not the presdent’s job to manipulate the nation’s youth for the sake of his agenda or his party. They are a potent political force when massed by the social network to which they are permanently attached. But if the president has their true interests at heart he will neither flatter them nor let them adore him, for in flattery is condecension and in adoration is direction, and youth is neither seasoned nor tested enough to direct a nation. Nor should it be the president’s business to presume to direct them. It is difficult enough to do right by one’s own children. No one can be the father of a whole continent’s youth.

Is the president, therefore, expected to turn away from this and other easy advantage? Yes. Like Harry Truman, who went to bed before the result on election night, he must know when to withdraw, to hold back, and to forgo attention, publicity, or advantage.

There is no finer, more moving, or more profound understanding of the nature of the presidency and the command of humility placed upon it than that expressed by President Coolidge. He, like Lincoln, lost a child while he was president, a son of sixteen. “The day I became president,” Coolidge wrote, “he had just started to work in a tobacco field. When one of his fellow laborers said to him, ‘If my father was president I would not work in a tobacco field,’ Calvin replied, ‘If my father were your father you would.'” His admiration for the boy was obvious.

Young Calvin contracted blood poisoning from an incident on the South Lawn of the White House. Coolidge wrote, “What might have happened to him under other circumstances we do not know, but if I had not been president…” And then he continued, “In his suffering he was asking me to make him well. I could not. When he went, the power and glory of the Presidency went with him.”

A sensibility such as this, and not power, is the source of presidential dignity, and must be restored. It depends entirely upon character, self-discipline, and an understanding of the fundamental principles that underlie not only the republic, but life itself. It communicates that the presdent feels the gravity of his office and is willing to sacrifice himself; that his eye is not upon his own prospects but on the storm of history, through which he must navigate with specific powers accorded to him and the limitations placed on those powers both by man and by God.

The modern presidency has drifted far from the great strength and illumination of its source: the Constitution as given life by the Declaration of Independence, the greatest political document ever written. The Constitution – terse, sober, and specific – does not, except by implication, address the president’s demeanor. But this we can read in the best qualitites of the founding generation, which we would do well to imitate. In the Capitol Rotunda are heroic paintings of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the victory at Saratoga, the victory at Yorktown, and – something seldom seen in history – a general, the leader of an armed rebellion, resigning his commission and surrendering his army to a new democracy. Upon hearing from Benjamin West that George Washington, having won the war and been urged by some to use the army to make himself king, would instead return to his farm, King George III said: “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.” He did, and he was.

To aspire to such virtue and self-restraint would in a sense be difficult, but in another sense it should be easy – difficult because it would be demanding and ideal, and easy because it is the right thing to do and the rewards are immediately self-evident.

A president who slights the Constitution is like a rider who hates his horse: he will be thrown, and the nation along with him. The president solemnly swears to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. He does not solemnly swear to ignore, overlook, supplement, or reinterpret it. Other than in a crisis of existence, such as the Civil War, amendment should be the sole means of circumventing the Constitution. For if a president joins the powers of his office to his own willful interpretation, he steps away from a government of laws and toward a government of men.

Is the Constitution a fluctuating and inconstant document, a collection of suggestions whose purpose is to stimulate debate in a future to which the Founders were necessarily blind? Progressives tell us that even the Framers themselves could not reach agreement in its regard. But they did agree upon it. And they wrote it down. And they signed it. And they lived by it. Its words are unchanging and unchangeable except, again, by amendment. There is no allowance for a president to override it according to his supposed superior conception. Why is this good? It is good because the sun will burn out, the Ohio River will flow backwards, and the cow will jump over the moon 10,000 times before any modern president’s conception is superior to that of the Founders of this nation.

Would it be such a great surprise that a good part of the political strife of our times is because one president after another, rather than keeping faith with it, argues with the document he is supposed to live by? This discontent will only be calmed by returning the presidency to the nation’s first principles. The Constitution and the Declaration should be on a president’s mind all the time, as the prism through which the light of all question of governance passes. Though we have – sometimes gradually, sometimes radically – moved away from this, we can move back to it. And who better than the president to restore this wholesome devotion to limited government?

And as the president returns to the consistent application of the principles of the Constitution, he will also ensure fiscal responsibility and prosperity. Who is better suited, with his executive and veto powers, to carry over the duty of self-restraint and discipline to the idea of fiscal solvency? When the president restrains government spending, leaving room for the American people to enjoy the fruits of their labor, growth is inevitable. As Senator Robert Taft wrote: “Liberty has been the key to our progress in the past and is the key to our progress in the future…If we can preserve liberty in all its essentials, there is no limit to the future of the American people.”

Whereas the president must be cautious, dutiful, and deferential at home, his character must change abroad. Were he to ask for a primer on how to act in relation to other states, which no holder of the office has needed to this point, and were that primer to be written by the American people, whether of 1776 or 2010, you can be confident that it would contain the following instructions:

“You do not bow to kings. Outside our shores, the President of the United States of America bows to no man. When in foreign lands, you do not criticize your own country. You do not argue the case against the United States, but the case for it. You do not apologize to the enemies of the United States. Should you be confused, a country, people, or region that harbors, shelters, supports, encourages, or cheers attacks upon our country or the slaughter of our friends and families are enemies of the Unites States. And, to repeat, you do not apologize to them.”

Closely related to this, and perhaps the least ambiguous of the president’s complex responsibilities, is his duty as commander-in-chief of the military. In this regard there is a very simple rule, unknown to some presidents regardless of party: If, after careful determination, intense stress of soul, and the deepest prayer, you go to war, then, having gone to war, you go to war to win. You do not cast away American lives, or those of the innocent noncombatant enemy, upon a theory, a gambit, or a notion. And if the politics of your own election or of your party intrude upon your decisions for even an instant – there are no words for this.

More commonplace, but hardly less important, are other expectations of the president in this regard. He must not stint on the equipment and provisioning of the armed forces, and if he errs it must be not on the side of scarcity but of surplus. And he must be the guardian of his troops, taking every step to avoid the loss of even a single life.

The American soldier is as precious as the closest of your kin – because he is your kin, and for his sake the president must, in effect, say to the Congress and to the people: “I am the Commander-in-Chief. It is my sacred duty to defend the United States, and to give our soldiers what they need to complete the mission and come home safe, whatever the cost.”

If, in fulfilling this duty, the president wavers, he will have betrayed his office, for this is not a policy, it is probity. It is written on the blood-soaked ground of Saratoga, Yorktown, Antietam, Cold Harbor, the Marne, Guadalcanal, the Pointe du Hoc, the Chosin Resevoir, Khe Sanh, Iraq, Afghanistan, and a thousand other places in our history, in lessons repeated over and over again.

The presidency, a great and complex subject upon which I have only touched, has become symbolic of overreaching. There are many truths that we have been frightened to tell or face. If we run from them, they will catch us with our backs turned and pull us down. Better that we should not flee but rather stop and look them in the eye.

What might our forebears say to us, knowing what they knew, and having done what they did? I have no doubt that they would tell us to channel our passions, speak the truth and do what is right, slowly and with resolution; to work calmly, steadily and without animus or fear; to be like a rock in the tide, let the water tumble about us, and be firm and unashamed in our love of country.

I see us like those in Philadelphia in 1776. Danger all around, but a fresh chapter, ready to begin, uncorrupted, with great possiblities and – inexplicably, perhaps miraculously – the way is clearing ahead. I have never doubted that Providence can appear in history like the sun emerging from behind clouds, if only as a reward for adherence to first principles. As Winston Churchill said in a speech to Congress on December 26, 1941: “He must indeed have a blind soul who cannot see that some great purpose and design is being worked out here below, of which we have the honor to be the faithful servants.”

As Americans, we inherit what Lincoln in his First Inaugural called “the mystic chords of memory stretching from every patriot grave.” They bind us to the great and the humble, the known and the unknown of Americans past – and if I hear them clearly, what they say is that although we may have strayed, we have not strayed too far to return, for we are their descendants. We can still astound the world with justice, reason and strength. I know this is true, but even if it was not we could not in decency stand down, if only for our debt to history. We owe a debt to those who came before, who did great things, and suffered more than we suffer, and gave more than we give, and pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor for us, whom they did not know. For we “drink from wells we did not dig” and are “warmed by fires we did not build,” and so we must be faithful in our time as they were in theirs.

Many great generations are gone, but by the character and memory of their existence they forbid us to despair of the republic. I see them crossing the prairies in the sun and wind. I see their faces looking out from steel mills and coal mines, and immigrant ships crawling into harbors at dawn. I see them at war, at work and at peace. I see them, long departed, looking into the camera, with hopeful eyes. And I see them embracing their children, who became us. They are our family and our blood, and we cannot desert them. In spirit, all of them come down to all of us, in a connection that, out of love, we cannot betray.

They are silent now and forever, but from the eternal silence of every patriot grave there is yet an echo that says, “It is not too late; keep faith with us, keep faith with God, and do not, do not ever despair of the republic.”

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November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Day Thought

It is Thanksgiving Day, 2010, and as I consider this nation which I am bless to call my own, I am once again awed by its greatness and wonder. It is truly unique as the freest, safest, most prosperous and benevolent nation in the history of mankind.

Yet, there is also a twinge of apprehension and uncertainty as to how long it may endure. Forces of fundamental change have pushed us to the edge of a precipice from which, once overstepped, there may be no return. To avoid this will require the attention, self-discipline and thoughtful participation of a majority of citizens.

It is time for Americans to put aside trivial, meaningless pursuits, entertainments, idleness and apathy, and engage in rational thought and debate of the complex and weighty matters presently facing our nation. We must turn off the frivolous “reality” shows, sitcoms, and celebrity worship and exercise our minds toward dealing with substantive issues that truly matter. Let us cease thinking only of ourselves and our immediate comfort and gratification, and focus on what is best for the nation as a whole, both now and in the future. Such a focus will likely require a willingness to make sacrifices. As our forefathers sacrificed their fortunes and their lives to create this great nation, let us muster the same readiness to preserve it.

I urge you to take time to educate yourself regarding the pressing issues of the day, and also to learn about the origins of our nation. Read the writings of the founders of America, such as George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and others. Study also those who influenced them, such as Adam Smith, John Locke, Henry Blackstone, Cicero, and Montesquieu.

The United States of America has not survived and prospered by luck or accident. It has done so because of the wise and prudent principles upon which it was founded, among which are the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; limited government; free-market capitalism; the rule of law; freedom of religion; and equal rights for all.

Freedom is not free and the cost of citizenship in a free society is active participation in order to keep it free, safe and prosperous for all. Too many have either forgotten or never learned of this duty. As fellow citizens, we owe it to one another and to future generations to take seriously the responsibility of self-government – a rare opportunity in human history.

Have a happy Thanksgiving Day!

November 18, 2010

There is Hope for the Republic!

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — tkweber @ 1:15 pm

There may be hope for the United States after all. Hope, that is, that we can avert the seemingly inevitable plunge into full-blown socialism and its frightening consequences. This hope is the result of the “new media,” the internet, social networking, twitter, and more enabling the free-flow of information and ready access by virtually anyone anywhere. Of course, this can be and is abused, and there is a lot of misinformation and deception floating around; nevertheless, “the truth is out there.”

Among other things, the tremendous opposition to Obama-care, the rise of the Tea Party and the conservative sweep of the 2010 mid-term election, and the growing protest against Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve’s Quantitative Easing are all indicative. Just a few years ago, liberal progressives could have pushed their socialist agenda upon us without anyone really noticing. Since there is no objective, critical investigation and reporting from the mainstream media – unless of course it is about the evils of conservatives and their agenda – much of what has been happening in Washington D.C. would pass under the radar of the average American until it is too late. The watchful few who did notice had little, if any, ability to warn and educate significant portions of the populace.

With the advent of cable news, talk radio, internet bloggers, facebook, etcetera, Americans are able to get their hands on more information than ever before and many are waking up to the facts and not liking what they see. It is possible (and I hope it is so) that the more people realize what is happening in the White House and Congress, and the more they learn about the real threats and consequences of what is being pushed upon the nation, they will rise up en masse to turn things around. I am hopeful that the latest election results are the first wave of that turn-around.

Jesus said, “The truth will make you free.” There seems to be something to that.

May 29, 2009

Even the Russians are laughing at us!

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — tkweber @ 1:04 pm

A friend sent me this link to a very interesting and timely article: http://english.pravda.ru/opinion/columnists/107459-american_capitalism-0

Russians are ridiculing America’s mad dash toward the Marxist wasteland from which they recently emerged. If they recognize the overtly socialist agenda of the Obama administration, why can’t the American people?! How stupid can we be? Pull your head out, people! Look around. Turn off American Idol, stop watching John & Kate exploit their eight, and read some world history! What President Obama and Congress are doing to and with this nation has NEVER WORKED ANYWHERE, AT ANY TIME, IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD!

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.

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.

November 5, 2008

The End of America

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — tkweber @ 11:15 am

 

The elections of November, 2008, represent, in my opinion, the end of America: not that the United States will cease to exist, or even that it will fall from preeminence among the nations of the world (in the short term, that is), but rather that it is the end of America as we have known it.  The American nation, as it has existed for the last two-hundred-thirty years, will soon be, and perhaps is already, no more.

 

This transformation is not a recent phenomenon, but is the culmination of countless changes, small and large, which began most obviously in the early twentieth-century when fascistic and socialistic forces began their subtle yet steady incursion into American government and public life.  Like the proverbial frog-in-the-pot, unsuspecting Americans have been slowly cooking in the ever-increasing heat and pressure of modern liberalism, anesthetized by a growing addiction to careless leisure that is nurtured by Hollywood and Madison Avenue, and by a federal educational system that seems designed to churn out millions of ignorant automatons lacking any sense of pride in their own country or knowledge of it’s true history, or the ability and desire for critical thought and reasoned discourse.

 

It may be impossible to identify the tipping point, but it is evident that we have already gone over the edge.  The citizens of the United States of America have elected the most liberal, leftist President in its history: a man who has stated publicly that he believes the Constitution, upon which this nation was founded and which he will swear to uphold and defend, is fundamentally flawed; a man who has a long history of willing association with unapologetic terrorists, communists, racists and anti-America activists; a man who is more concerned with our nation’s reputation in the world than with its security and sovereignty.

 

In addition to this, we have ignored the dismal failure, impotence and negligence of the Democrat-controlled Congress of the last two years, which not only has the lowest public approval rating of any Congress in the history of the nation, but which also is indisputably responsible for the recent sub-prime mortgage fiasco that has devastated the national economy.  What’s worse is that Americans, now drunk on government give-aways and eager for the promise of more, have strengthened Democrat control of both houses of Congress, in conjunction with the election of a far-left Democrat President, so that there is now little, if any, restriction on liberals and their socialist/fascist agenda. 

 

That anyone as radically leftist as Obama even made it through the political primary, let alone to win the Presidency; or that someone as dishonest and unethical as former comedian Al Franken can be in a close race for the Senate (Minnesota), is clear evidence of America’s philosophical transformation and decline.  

 

I am deeply grieved at the loss of the fundamental principles of our great and divinely blessed nation, and mourn the likelihood that our greatest days are behind us.  I have no confidence that this condition will be reversed (even if McCain were our next President).  We’ve gone too far.  Sadly, it is probably only a matter of time before our liberty and prosperity and preeminence in the world fade away completely, and America joins the ranks of other once-great nations on history’s list of has-beens.

 

Todd K. Weber

November 5, 2008

June 27, 2008

America At Risk

The recent Supreme Court decision to uphold the Second Amendment to the Constitution (enumerating the right of citizens to keep and bear arms) is a victory for freedom and the American way of life.  However, it was a close victory – too close.  The fact that the court was split five-to-four on the decision should cause every American citizen to tremble, and wake us up to the overwhelming importance of the next Presidential election.  It is not only the Second Amendment that is at risk, but the entire Constitution. 

 

There is a strong chance that the next President will likely appoint the next round of Supreme Court justices, as some of the current sitting justices are likely to retire in the next few years.  The two oldest members of the court are John Paul Stevens (88), and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (75).  With the right President, this can be a very good thing.  With the wrong President, it may be disastrous.  If Barak Obama is elected, there is no doubt that he will appoint liberal judges who will treat the Constitution as a “living document” that has no fixed meaning or application; consult international courts and laws for guidance as they adjudicate American law; and continually overstep their strictly judicial responsibilities to legislate from the bench and interfere with the political process.  This may spell the end of America as we know it.

 

John McCain has promised that, if elected, he would follow President Bush’s model in choosing Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. (L.A. Times, May 19, 2008).  These are justices who, along with Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, are committed to upholding the spirit and principles of the founding fathers.  Such justices are needed on the court to guide our country by the rule of law, rather than by the arbitrary, fluid and subjective pursuit of so-called social justice, as Obama would have it.

 

As stated by the attorney who defended the Second Amendment before the court, this is not the end of the matter, but merely the end of the beginning.  There will be more lawsuits challenging the Second Amendment and other long-held American rights and liberties, and we must not give up the fight to preserve our way of life.  A vote for John McCain for President is a vote for a conservative Supreme Court and to preserve the American way of life.  God bless America.

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