Todd Weber's Random Thoughts

September 14, 2012

Humane Response to Anti-U.S. Violence

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — tkweber @ 6:29 pm

Enough with the endless mid-east conflict.  It’s long past time to get out.  Completely out.

Forget retaliating for the unprovoked and unjustified invasion of U.S. soil and murder of U.S. citizens.  We should immediately sever diplomatic ties with hostile nations, withdraw all military and official personnel, and terminate all forms of aid – economic, food, medical, defense, and everything else…and stop buying their oil. The billions of dollars saved by ending the international welfare program could be used to temporarily subsidize the price of oil purchased from friendly nations (which would surely rise with increased demand) until we are able to increase oil production within our own borders to sufficient levels. Of course, this must go hand-in-hand with immediately opening our own oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska and elsewhere.

 

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November 14, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I am so very happy that Washingtonians rejected the initiative to implement a state income tax on November 2nd. Also good was the repeal of a recently enacted tax on bottled water, candy, etc. Disappointing was the failure of initiatives to end the state’s liquor monopoly, which I think was due to fear-based ads that convinced non-thinking lemmings that hard liquor is somehow more dangerous than other alcoholic beverages, and that it is better for the state to have exclusive selling rights. It assaults my libertarian sensibilities.

Even more disappointing was the re-election of Senator Patty Murray. Ugh! No surprise, really, in this very left-leaning state, but so frustrating. My sympathies to Dino Rossi for striking out in his third run for high office (two prior attempts at the governorship). Six more years of Super-Spender-Socker-Mom will do no good for the nation.

On another note, if you like inflation you’ll love the Federal Reserve’s plan to pump $600-billion new dollars into the national economy, which they deceptively call “Quantitative Easing.” This increase of the money supply will de-value the dollar (to which many foreign governments have vehemently objected) and cause the price of everything to go up, up and away. So, if you haven’t noticed increases in the price of groceries and gas so far, start paying attention. As you do, you will see them continue to rise indefinitely, and if the predictions of some inflation experts are correct, it will have drastic effects on our daily lives.  Whatever cash we have will be worth less and less, meaning the products we want to purchase will cost more and more. What we pay $5 dollars for today may cost $10, $15, or more in a very short time. 

For this, we have to thank Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, and ultimately President Barak Obama, who determines the nation’s monetary policy. Of course, Obama supports this Qualitative Easing because it moves us further toward his Socialist vision for America by exacerbating the present economic crisis, which he and his Progressive cohorts believe will create the opportunity for them to rush to the rescue with still more Socialist solutions. Remember the words of Obama’s Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel, “Never let a crisis go to waste.”

We can only hope that the recent election of many conservatives to Congress will be the beginning of the end of our nation’s mad dash toward Socialism. I am cautiously and skeptically optimistic.

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.

June 23, 2008

Compulsory Compassion

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , , — tkweber @ 10:26 pm

Is compassion really compassion if one is forced to do it?  Liberals want America to be more compassionate by providing all sorts of tax-funded hand-outs (welfare, nationalized healthcare, social security, etc.).  It’s standard practice for liberals to bash conservatives as cold, heartless, mean people who want take everything for themselves and leave nothing for the so-called less fortunate; however, it’s an empty argument.  The issue really isn’t about compassion at all.  It’s about Marxist wealth redistribution laying a pathway to full-on communism (like that’s been real successful).  It is taking by force from the haves and giving by farce to the have-nots.

 

If person A sees person B in need, and person A decides not help person B, that may be a lack of compassion (of course, there may be other reasons).  However, if person A is forced to help by the government taking what belongs to him by taxing his productivity and giving his money to person B, does this make person A more compassionate?  No.  It just makes him poorer, and may eventually diminish his desire or ability to produce.  Does this demonstrate the government’s compassion?  No.  First, it devalues the virtues of independence, initiative, industry, creativity and thrift, upon which success and prosperity are built.  Second, it penalizes one person in order to help another.  In other words, why is person B worthy of compassion, but not person A?  Does person A have to fend for himself in the cold cruel world simply because he is willing and able to do so, while person B gets a free pass to live off the efforts of others?

 

I believe in compassion, and I am a compassionate person who has helped many people in need, and will continue to do so.  However, compassion is only compassion when one chooses to give it of his/her own free will.  One may be forced into compliance, but not into compassion.  Real voluntary compassion results in gratification and peace for both the giver and receiver.  Attempts to mandate compassion through taxation and redistribution result in anger and resentment among those who “give,” and dependence and perceived entitlement among those who receive. 

 

If you feel there is a lack of compassion in society or the world, then do what you can to change it by being personally compassionate and convincing others to join you.  Don’t force others to participate in fake philanthropy by passing laws and raising taxes so that you can feel like you’re making a difference.  

 

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