Today's Politicos vs The Words and Deeds of The Founders
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We’ve Been Here Before

To take from one, because it is thought that his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, ‘the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry, and the fruits acquired by it. — Thomas Jefferson

There may have been a time in this country when Socialism had a negative connotation. But that was before Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Lyndon Banes Johnson, public education, academia and, most recently, the mainstream media cumulatively promoted the idea that the collective good is advanced by an activist government.

If the term socialism was once a pejorative, its goals and policies have now been adopted by a growing segment of the electorate.

In a recent Pew Research poll, an astounding 29% of those surveyed view socialism in a positive light, 15% Republicans and a whopping 44% of Democrats. The 29% who embrace socialism’s utopian intentions do so without concern for their real world consequences.

FDR envisioned a beneficent state that would provide social and economic rights. Rights not endowed by the Creator; but created and secured by the state.

In 1944, FDR called for an Economic Bill of Rights (eerily similar to this document and restated by the Socialist Party USA). Among the enumeration of those rights are the following statements

The right to housing supersedes the profit interests of lenders, developers and landlords. If other human needs are not to be threatened, protection against forced evictions must be guaranteed.

In the 21st Century, college, or its equivalent in career and technical training, are becoming baseline requirements, and should be free for everyone…

Free time is fundamental to cultural, political, and intellectual development. Every working person should be guaranteed a minimum of four weeks paid vacation and paid family leave, as needed…

20 years later, Lyndon Johnson expressed analogous high mindedness when he explained that the “Great Society was about more than fighting poverty” it wants to “build a richer life of mind and spirit,” in a society “not condemned to soulless wealth.“1

In the context of history, President Obama’s desire to “remake America” is nothing new. It is only the latest chapter in a very old book.

In 1933, eminent Austrian economist and philosopher, F. A. Hayek, wrote a short memorandum about the rise of the National Socialist Party in Germany. He contended that it would ultimately destroy German capitalism and he criticized crony capitalists for being “short-sighted” in allying themselves with the movement.

One of the main reasons why the socialist character of National Socialism has been quite generally unrecognized is no doubt its alliance with the nationalist groups which represent the great industries and the great landowners.  … many capitalists are themselves strongly influenced by socialistic ideas, and have not sufficient belief in capitalism to defend it with a clear conscience.  But, in spite of this, the German entrepreneur class have manifested almost incredible shortsightedness in allying themselves with a movement of whose strong anti-capitalistic tendencies there should never have been any doubt.

Think Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, GE, GM, AIG, and Chrysler.

Hayek argues that the violent anti-capitalistic attack is genuine — and not a mere piece of propaganda. He cited the personal history of the intellectual leaders of the movement as from the general milieu from which it springs.  It is not even denied that many of the young men of today who play a prominent part in it have previously been communists or socialists.

Hayek’s analysis resonates today.

Van Jones, Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, Carole Browner, Socialists for Obama, Bernie Sanders, Robert McChesneyNoam Chomsky to name a few.

Hayek’s description of the national socialist movement in Germany (remember, this was in 1933 — before the Holocaust) should set off alarms as well.

Beyond certain limits collective action in the interest of all can only be made possible if all can be coerced into accepting as their common interest what those in power take it to be.  At that point, coercion must extend to the individual’s ultimate aims and ideas and must attempt to bring everyone’s [world view] into line with the ideas of the rulers.

Hayek predicted the concept of private property would become meaningless. For the “small artisan and shopkeeper,” National Socialism would:

… nominally recognize private property in general.  But private initiative will probably be hedged about with restrictions on competition so that little freedom will remain.

In the case of wealthier capitalists,

state control and restriction of income will leave little more than the name of property, even while the intention of correcting the undue accumulation of wealth in the hands of individuals has not yet been carried out.  Even at the present moment, state commissioners have been put in charge of many important industries and, if the more radical wing of the party has its way, the same is likely to happen in many other cases.

Current events in Europe and the pending insolvency of some American states illustrate that Socialist or quasi-Socialist systems are not economically sustainable. As Margaret Thatcher said, “The trouble with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

In Hayek’s introduction to The Road to Serfdom, he forecasts that at some point there will be an effort to rehabilitate Socialism.  Even though those pushing for Socialistic goals may not be socialists of the “Hot Socialism” variety (such as the USSR and NAZI Germany), even an incomplete transformation may have a similar result.  Those who are impatient

… for quick results may lead us to choose instruments which, though, perhaps more efficient for achieving the particular ends, are not compatible with the preservation of a free society. The increasing tendency to rely on administrative coercion and discrimination where the modification of the general rules of law might, more slowly, achieve the same object, and to resort to direct state controls or to the creation of monopolistic institutions where judicious use of financial inducements might evoke spontaneous efforts, is still a powerful legacy of the socialist period which is likely to influence policy for a long time to come.

Sound familiar?  The TARP bailout was touted as an emergency and  necessary to supersede capitalism in order to save it.  Then there was the second stimulus package which, we were told, would prevent unemployment from going above 8%.  The president recently decreed that BP must place 20 billion dollars under US government control to be dispensed to those the government determines to be victims of the oil spill. That there is no law that authorizes such a mandate does not appear to be a consideration.

And so it goes.

The Federal Trade Commission presents “Potential Policy Recommendations To Support The “Reinvention Of Journalism.”  (Please refer to an earlier post on this for more information.)

Whether socialist systems evolve into variations of National Socialism or The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is irrelevant to those condemned to live under them. In any case, the result of their policies is always the same. If people do not willingly acquiesce to what the government requires, the power of the state will be visited upon them.

If people don’t want to buy health insurance, they must be forced to do so.

If the states are reluctant to surrender education to the central government, they must be bought off so that the rising generation can be imbued with the proper attitudes and values.

If there are recalcitrant elements in the media who criticize the administration, they must be silenced through the tax code and by subsidizing those who are compliant.

If the people refuse to give up their cars, legislation must be brought to bear that will make driving them economically untenable. In his recent speech, the president indicated that he would use the latest crisis (the Gulf oil spill) to force into law a new climate and energy bill the public has repeatedly rejected.

For the kind of “change” President Obama deems necessary, the Constitution will have to be “reinterpreted” and barriers to government intrusion further weakened or obliterated. Once those have been dispatched, individual rights will be created and secured by the state … or not.

1. The Johnson quote is taken from Fred Siegel’s informative review of Never Enough: America’s Limitless Welfare State by William Voegeli.   Claremont Review of Books, Spring and Summer issue.

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