The View From 1776
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Morality and Political Order
There is a vast gulf between each person making up the rules to govern his own conduct and the broad-based, traditional moral ethos that must be present in any society, if it is to be politically unified, stable, and enduring. The first is a prescription for anarchy, the other, what history shows to be the most essential quality of civilization itself.
Reader Brooks A. Mick, M.D., responded to Moral Models from Mainstream Media with the following observation:
I beg to differ.? A clear and decent moral philosophy may be and has been developed without recourse to mysticism, as religion is.? There is no way to prove, objectively, that any religion is truer than any other.? Would you conclude that the Islamic terrorists, whose acts are based on their moral views based on their INTERPRETATION of their religion, are behaving morally?
On the other hand, basing a moral philosophy on duty, loyalty, and ?women and children first? can produce, and has produced, a set of principles for living a just and proper life that does not require a belief in a deity or other prop outside of recognition of human fellowship.
First, I welcome a reasoned and civil response such as Dr. Mick’s. In this case I don’t disagree with some of what he says about specific points. Where we differ most is on the macro level, the implications for political societies.
My intent is not to attack Dr. Mick, but to use his comments as a starting point for illuminating contrary views. Let me also acknowledge that nothing I write or have written in this vein is my ideas. I am simply passing along the wisdom of many thousands of years.
With regard to his assertion that, “A clear and decent moral philosophy may be and has been developed without recourse to mysticism, as religion is,” it should be noted that the western world’s first examples of philosophy, in the Greek city states, did in fact arise out of their religious beliefs. Both Plato and Aristotle acknowledged a single Divine source as the origin of the cosmos and, ipso facto, the origin of being or existence itself.
Plato specifically believed in the immortality of the human soul, not as a matter of mysticism, but as developed in philosophical logic. This appears most clearly in his dialog, the “Phaedo,” in which Socrates’s sorrowful friends visit him in prison, just as he is about to drink the hemlock poison. He comforts them with the certainty that his soul is about to pass over into a new realm.
One of the charges upon which he was condemned to death by the Athenian Assembly was leading the youth astray from the many, syncretistic gods brought into cosmopolitan Athens via the city’s vast foreign trade. Plato, using the voice of Socrates, argued that there is only a single Divinity, and that Divinity is the source of moral understanding.
The whole of Plato’s “Republic” is aimed at the concept that a just society must begin with this moral understanding and rest upon the morality of its rulers. Roughly 400 years earlier the Old Testament prophets Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, and Jeremiah had repeatedly admonished the people of both kingdoms of Israel with the same message.
Let me turn next to Dr. Mick’s statement, “On the other hand, basing a moral philosophy on duty, loyalty, and ?women and children first? can produce, and has produced, a set of principles for living a just and proper life that does not require a belief in a deity or other prop outside of recognition of human fellowship.”
Observe that Dr. Mick starts with the assumption that concepts such as duty, loyalty, and ?women and children first? already exist as the foundation blocks for constructing a set of moral principles that will be independent of a belief in a deity. But, where did they come from?
Again, in historical fact, those basic concepts ? duty, loyalty, and ?women and children first? ? all arose under political regimes rooted in religious beliefs. It was in those codes that the earliest known statements of such basic principles occurred.
Every code of law in the western world, such as Hammurabi’s code from around 1770 BC, has predicated the official state god as its source of legitimacy. Around 1500 BC, Moses in the same way transmitted the Ten Commandments from God to the Israelite people.
In every case the formulaic structure is the same. The ruler or spiritual leader rules by the power and grace of God, and the ruler’s law code is always seen as bringing God’s moral justice to his people. Why should this be uniformly the case?
Eric Voegelin and Friedrich Hayek provide an understanding.
My college mentor, Eric Voegelin, covers this question in magisterial fashion in “Israel and Revelation,” one of the five volumes in his “Order and History.” Dr. Voegelin notes that religion and morality are not “things” or “objects” that a single person, or a committee of intellectuals, sat down and conjured up during a conference meeting. He found it necessary to make this reality clear, in distinction to the modern-day, liberal-socialist view that societies and their political structure are simply “on the spot” creations of the minds of morally relativistic human intellectuals.
That misconception, for example, is the root of the disastrous savagery produced by the French Revolutionary intellectuals’ “ideas” about a perfect socialistic government. As present-day French intellectual Andr? Maurois observed in his “A History of France,” the French intellectuals, unlike their English and American contemporaries, had never had so much as five minutes actual experience in self-government. In contrast, the English and their American political heirs had struggled for centuries to hammer out their unwritten constitution governing the rights and privileges of individuals under law, against the crown. Those political understandings were bound up in their religious understandings of the duty of sovereigns and subjects to God. No English king, or Continental sovereign, could claim legitimacy without the blessings of the Christian church.
That, by the way, is why Europe’s first secular and imperialist ruler Napoleon ostentatiously snatched the crown from the hands of the the bishop and placed it himself upon his head at the coronation ceremony. Symbolically, this represented liberals’ hubristic presumption that they alone are the rulers of the universe and that they need no help from God.
Perhaps they should have taken a second look. As I stated in the introduction to this essay, socialistic, individual hubris that presumes to the capacity to make up its own rules of morality is a prescription for anarchic demise.
Socialistic and secular France, since the 1789 Revolution, has gone though more than a dozen different constitutions, republics, restorations of monarchy, and empires, all the while losing ground to England and the United States, whose citizens remained God-fearing Christians and preserved their unwritten constitution thereby. England, then the United States, became the greatest and wealthiest political societies on earth. Obsessively secular France steadily declined from cultural and militaristic dominance of the Continent into its present third-rank status.
Dr. Voegelin notes that religious revelation, or insight if you prefer, arose after the fact, as moral leaders looked back at the experience of their societies and were inspired with clearer understandings of God’s Will. They could see, on the political level, that, in societies characterized by great wealth,showy charity works, and superficial adherence to religious rules, rulers and subjects alike tended to forget basics such as dealing fairly with widows and orphans and otherwise living in accord with the Golden Rule. Thus, impelled by revelations of God’s Will, these religious leaders were continually calling the people and their rulers back to lives ruled by love of God and doing the right thing for each other.
Freidrich Hayek, a discussion group friend of Eric Voegelin in Vienna of the 1920s, states the same truth from a slightly different perspective. Professor Hayek, a Nobel Prize-winner in economics, identifies socialistic intellectualism as “scientism,” rather than true science.
This scientism leads to the liberal-socialists’ belief that they they do not need God to intuit true morality. It leads sensualist trendsetters like the New York Times to the conviction that the essence of a good society is orgiastic hedonism.
In the process of scientism, intellectuals conceive in the abstract what they believe to be the best possible conditions of everyday life for all peoples everywhere on earth, without regard to their histories, cultures, or geographic circumstances. The best possible state, they conclude, is for all of society’s goods and services to be owned or regulated by the political state and for intellectual councils to devise rules, which they call social justice, for the allocation of those goods and services among the different classes of citizens.
Unfortunately for the intellectuals, the majority of people in those societies do not accept imposition of these “out of the blue” intellectual rules as legitimate. Results range from the cultural civil war here in the United States to the Reign of Terror in France and Stalin’s liquidation of 20-plus million dissidents in the name of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
In “The Counter-Revolution of Science,” Professor Hayek, describes what the study of history actually tells us. No highly complex system of rules ? such as religion, law, or international trade ? governing human conduct ever came into being from the abstract thoughts of an single group of human minds. They are, instead, the product of practical experience and revelatory insights by many thousands of people, over many centuries.
As he was an economist, Professor Hayek used the universal systems of international trade to illustrate the process. Originally trade was village to village, tribe to tribe, then city state to city state across the Middle East and the Mediterranean basin and as far east as China and India. Traders like Marco Polo were able to travel safely thousands of miles into the interior of foreign lands, without harm, because societies had come to recognize them as useful emissaries, rather than as enemies invading their kingdoms.
Nobody sat down and, by pure reason alone, planned such systems or established regulatory commissions to control them. They evolved by trial and error involving many different groups, most of whom never had personal contact with each other except through traders. These widely accepted rules and customs of trade survived because participants were willing to sacrifice some of their local customs in order to gain greater advantages by respecting the procedures of trade established by tradition.
This gradualism, which is an essential characteristic of true conservatism, is what conferred their universal quality upon such systems. A similar process, beginning with Saint Paul’s evangelical preaching of Christianity from Asia Minor to Spain, gradually spread the Gospel until, after nearly three centuries, it became the official religion of both the Eastern and Western Roman Empires. The broad consensus arising from this gradualism left Christianity as the sole unifying force in Western Europe when the Western Roman Empire collapsed in the 5th century AD. And it was this catholicity of Christian faith that structured every aspect of Western civilization, from morality to law, education, literature and the arts.
In contrast, Professor Hayek tells us in “The Intellectuals and Socialism,”...socialist thought owes its appeal to the young largely because of its visionary character; the very courage [recklessness] to indulge in Utopian thought is in this respect a source of strength to the socialists….The intellectual, by his whole disposition, is uninterested in technical details or practical difficulties. What appeals to him are the broad visions, the specious comprehension of the social order as a whole which a planned system promises.”
Bottom line: morality grows out of a slow process of revelation of God’s will and becomes a consensus legitimating moral rule in political society; liberalism’s revolutionary penchant for fashion arbiters and academics making up hedonistic, secular rules in their own minds and imposing them upon society causes anarchic disintegration of the political state.
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NPR: Still Organ-grinding for the Left
By distorting data and by omitting part of the story, NPR repeatedly and blatantly provides free advertising, under the guise of reporting, to the liberal-socialist party. This is hardly news, but here are two recent examples.
In its Saturday morning, October 29, 2005, weekly news commentary, NPR recounted the history of events leading to the indictment of I. Lewis Libby in the Valerie Plame spy-outing case. Among other things, NPR described the sensationalist, anti-Bush charges made by Joseph Wilson, Plame’s husband, as if they were verified truth.
NPR failed to mention either that Mr. Wilson was a paid flack for Senator Kerry’s presidential campaign, or that the bi-partisan Senate Intelligence Committee report issued in July, 2004, refuted all of his major assertions.
It will be recalled that, in the midst of the 2004 campaign for the presidency, Mr. Wilson, in interviews with the press and in his op-ed article published in the New York Times, stated that his wife had nothing to do with his selection to investigate British intelligence reports about Saddam’s agents seeking uranium source materials for WMD in Niger and that, furthermore, the Bush administration had ignored his report discrediting British intelligence.
Wilson meanwhile was working on Senator Kerry’s team as an advisor supporting their campaign charge that the President had deliberately lied to the public about Saddam’s possession of WMD in his “mad rush” to invade Iraq.
Shortly thereafter, The Washington Post, one of the nation’s two premier liberal-socialist newspapers, blew Mr. Wilson out of the water with its report on the Senate intelligence committee report in the July 10, 2004, edition:
“Plame’s Input Is Cited on Niger Mission
Report Disputes Wilson’s Claims on Trip, Wife’s Role”
None of that, of course, has anything to do with whether Mr. Libby is guilty as charged. But it is a clear piece of one-sided political propaganda that might as well have been scripted by the Democratic National Committee, since it gives the public the unambiguous impression that the Bush administration sought to cover up its “lies” about WMD by attacking Mr. Wilson. In fact, the exact reverse is the truth: the administration’s intelligence information may have been inaccurate, but it was only Mr. Wilson who lied.
By presenting Joseph Wilson’s lies as if they were factual, NPR provided PR support for the liberals’ now-building 2006 Congressional campaign strategy.
The second example occurred later in the same news summary, and NPR’s reporting was again deliberately slanted to support the liberal-socialist line that the Iraq campaign has been a mistake and a failure. It involved an interview with an Iraqi psychological councilor who has been treating emotionally distressed Iraqis whose family members have been killed or maimed by terrorists.
NPR’s Linda Wertheimer asked the councilor if he had seen similar problems under Saddam’s regime. The councilor answered that, yes, he had in the few instances when Iraquis had risked retaliation by Saddam’s thugs by coming to him.
So, concluded Wertheimer, cutting off the Iraqi councilor and ending the interview, conditions for the Iraqi people are no better now as a result of our deposing Saddam than they were before.
Her interpretation ignores the obvious fact that there was no hope under Saddam for a better future, while there now clearly is. Why else would there have been massive voter turn-outs on two occasions, both at risk of life, to elect constitutional convention delegates and to approve the constitution?
The effect of NPR’s presentations in both examples is to make the network an agent for the Teddy Kennedy/John Kerry propaganda line that the Iraq invasion was a disastrous mistake and that the President is an untrustworthy liar.
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Thursday, October 27, 2005
Moral Models from Mainstream Media
Irate emailers frequently denounce my view that all moral conduct stems from religion. It is true that some atheistic, morally-relativistic liberals behave with personal honesty and decency, but not because of the class-oriented, social-justice doctrine of liberal-socialism, which enthusiastically welcomes every trendy descent into hedonistic degeneracy that affronts traditional standards of social conduct.
The New York Times makes my case for me.
Liberal-socialists who behave morally are free-riders (for an explanation, read here and here) on Judeo-Christian morality, because they have no other source for their standards. The vast majority of liberal-socialists, who hew to the moral relativism of pragmatic philosophy, have no standards of personal conduct other than what Hollywood, TV, and mainstream print media tell them are the current novelties of vulgar fashion.
It is, to say the least, irresponsible for a major newspaper to write lyrically about conduct such as sexual promiscuity (hetero or same-sex) that spreads deadly diseases and leads to a life-focus on purely hedonistic addiction. And it is simply a fact that anyone preoccupied with indulging his sensual gratification can have little inclination, time, or energy left for dealing with his fellow humans in accord with the Golden Rule.
As I have written before, I am prepared to accept that homosexuals and lesbians may simply be born that way. Beating them up, making them the butt of jokes, or otherwise ostracizing them is not in accord with Judeo-Christian morality. We are instructed to be loving and respectful to all of God’s children. We may condemn anti-social conduct, but God alone can judge what is in a person’s soul.
Yet under no set of moral rules, except liberal-socialism and anarchism, can sexual promiscuity be regarded as acceptable.
I wrote in an earlier posting:
“It?s impossible to be moral and ethical without being religious. Without religion, there is no standard for acceptable (moral) conduct. Otherwise you?re simply a nihilist for whom nothing is forbidden…...Today?s standards, under the religion of socialism, of course, are unlikely to be tomorrow?s (cf. Stalin?s abrupt switches in the Popular Front era). So you are obliged to read the New York Times every day to determine which of your beliefs from yesterday are no longer valid.”
Illustrating the point, Heather Mac Donald, writing in the Autumn Edition of City Journal (see Gay Times: The no-longer-gray lady indulges its taste for not-fit-to-print news), describes a typical New York Times imprimatur on such anti-social promiscuity.
Sample: “Just wondering?what exactly was the news value of the New York Times?s huge front-page Metro-section spread yesterday: A SEX STOP ON THE WAY HOME? Subtitled JUST OFF A PARK?S PLAYING FIELDS, ANOTHER GAME THRIVES, with an eye-catching cropped photo of the gut (but not the shoulders or head) of a beefy man in shorts and pink socks standing just inside his SUV?s open door, the story recounted in jaw-dropping detail the pick-up rituals of anonymous homosexual sex in a Queens parking lot. The lot adjoins athletic fields used by both youth and adult teams.”
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Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Liberalism is Unmitigated Greed
Liberalism’s fundamental nature necessitates relentless, class-centered greed. Congressional or regulatory action truly for the general welfare is almost impossible.
The essential nature of liberalism forces people to think only of themselves and to place never-ending demands on the public treasury. When government becomes both the tax-collector of a huge portion of people’s income and a mechanism for redistributing that income, people have no choice but to scramble for whatever they can get.
There is no point in altruistically holding back. If your special-interest group doesn’t grab the money, some other group will greedily snatch it.
The concept of the general welfare, which the Constitution’s preamble says the Constitution was ordained and established to promote, changes dramatically. Instead of the original design of balancing competing sectional economic and other interests to do what would be in the best interests of the nation as a whole, the Federal government under liberalism becomes merely a marketplace for the purchase of votes.
The general welfare becomes nothing more than the arithmetic sum of all demands by special interest groups for funds and privileges. And, there no longer being a unifying concept of the national interest and the general welfare, Congress has no way to reconcile the inevitable conflicting and counter-productive purposes of the multitudinous special-interest programs.
Once the process of funding special interests becomes the accepted mode of government, there can be no restraints upon it. Every special interest group can legitimately demand, why not us, if you gave to them? There being no criterion of a unified national interest and general welfare, Congress has no answer to the greed of special interests.
This is the real root of our preoccupation today with election campaign reforms. All of the McCain-Feingold bills in the world, with whatever number of amendments may be affixed, will be of no use, so long as the Federal government is the universe’s largest fountain of inflated money. As bank robber Willie Sutton explained, he robbed banks, because that’s where the money is.
Under what was called pluralistic democracy during the New Deal in the 1930s, the Federal government shifted from individualism to collectivism, in two respects: power was unconstitutionally stripped from states and local government, concentrating it in Washington, DC, and the unit of popular sovereignty was changed from the individual voter to special-interest classes of voters.
Governing via coalitions of special-interest voters was a fundamental implication of Karl Marx’s socialistic economics, which held that class conflict is the essential motivating force of political society.
Along with that collectivization of power in Washington came an astronomical expansion of the Federal income tax. When President Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1932, the top bracket Federal income tax rate was 25 percent. That top rate was immediately raised by the New Deal, reaching 80 percent in 1939, well before the onset of World War II, when the top rate went to 95 percent.
When Mr. Roosevelt took office, more than 70 percent of all taxes were raised by state and local governments. By 1939, that ratio had been reversed, with the Federal government confiscating the revenues that historically had enabled state and local governments to handle all of their everyday functions of government.
Unconstitutionally arrogating to the Federal government all of the revenues and, ipso facto, powers and functions of state and local governments was essential to implementing President Roosevelt’s 1932 campaign promise to impose Soviet and Fascist-style state planning in the United States. So radical and far-reaching was New Deal planning that its centerpiece, the National Recovery Administration modeled on Fascist State Corporatism, was declared by Italian leader Benito Mussolini to be much too harsh compared to Fascism.
The contrast between liberalism and the founding ethos of the United States is stark.
Statesmen who wrote the Constitution structured a government whose functions and powers were enumerated in the Constitution, among them national defense, diplomacy, regulation of interstate commerce, maintaining a postal service, and providing and regulating a national money. Fearing a repetition of the high-handed and arbitrary exercise of power by Parliament and George III that led to the War of 1776, they deliberately left nearly all powers of everyday government in the hands of the states and local communities.
Additionally, it was explicitly and repeatedly affirmed by all statesmen that such a government of limited powers required a populace that would be self-restrained by its commitment to Judeo-Christian morality. One had to balance the other.
Liberal-socialist measures like Social Security that we take for granted today would have been unthinkable under the ethos prevailing throughout the 18th and 19th centuries in North America. Not because people were indifferent to hardships of their fellow citizens, but because such people were to be helped by individuals, synagogues, and churches, guided by the Bible’s great commandments to both Jews and Christians: Love the Lord God above all others, and love your neighbor as you would want him to love you.
Walter E. Williams, a Professor at George Mason University and a syndicated columnist, in a recent article provided some specific instances of this understanding:
“....Some people might say, “Aha! They forgot about the Constitution’s general welfare clause!” Here’s what James Madison [a principal architect of the Constitution] said: “With respect to the two words ‘general welfare,’ I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.”
Madison’s understanding was the accepted one, with the exception of Progressive [liberal] Republican President Teddy Roosevelt, as late as the presidency of William Howard Taft, from 1908 until 1912.
Giving additional examples, Professor Williams also noted that, “?In February 1887, President Grover Cleveland, upon vetoing a bill appropriating money to aid drought-stricken farmers in Texas, said, ‘I find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and the duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit.’
“President Cleveland added, ‘The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.’”
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Tuesday, October 25, 2005
PC Education in Action
For some specific examples of inculcating liberal-socialism in the minds of inexperienced young students, read “Hating Christopher Columbus at Pierce School” by Emil Levitin, and look for similar articles on the Republican Voices website.
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In Case You Have Forgotten….
JB Williams reminds us why electing Al Gore or Jean Francois Kerry would have been disastrous.
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The Liberal Bucket Has a Gaping Hole In It
Liberalism can’t carry its own water. Tested on its most basic claim to superiority, liberal-socialisism fails dismally.
Despite liberals’ claim to superior wisdom, everywhere the real-world results of liberal-socialism fall far short of predicted results. Liberal-socialism is such a leaky bucket that, before you can get from the well to the house, all the water has drained out.
Liberal rhetoric centers on “fairness” and “helping the little guy,” both presented in PR terms as moral issues. This is rank hypocrisy. And, from an economic viewpoint, it is destructive mendacity.
Look instead at reality. Because liberalism is an atheistic, secular, and materialistic ideology, it has to stand or fall exclusively on its material results; it has to be more efficient and more productive than the individualistic, Judeo-Christian ethos on which the United States was founded.
Liberals’ chatter about “fairness” is hypocrisy, because there is no moral content in liberal atheism. “Fairness” in practice is nothing more than arbitrary allocations of tax revenues, based on buying the maximum number of votes; the masses will always happily take something that appears to be free.
Liberalism is, as Darwinism proclaims, a morally relativistic world view without right or wrong. It is a world view without standards of decency, in which the most degraded imaginable forms of hedonism are welcomed as “freedom.” It is a world in which women can murder their infants as a right of “privacy.” It is a world whose heroes are people like Teddy Kennedy, the Hero of Chappaquiddick.
Liberal-socialist theory sounds deceptively logical. The only reality is material things that can be touched, seen, heard, tasted, or smelled; the rest is Judeo-Christian, unscientific ignorance. That means that only material factors can influence human conduct; forget about moral codes. A government of collectivized political power can regulate the materialistic factors of its economy and thereby control the productivity of its citizens and maximize social harmony.
Liberal-socialist theory further asserts that free-market competition produces waste by encouraging an unnecessarily large array of products and by spending on middle-men like advertisers and wholesalers. The profit motive encourages capitalist entrepreneurs to build speculative, unnecessary production facilities with money that ought to be in the hands of socialistic state-planners. Don’t worry about about technological innovation; remember that Al Gore invented the internet.
State-planners, in contrast to selfish, profit-driven businessmen, are concerned only about the public welfare. In addition, they are more intelligent and better informed about the “laws” of human behavior, which enables them to eliminate unnecessary products and to employ existing production and distribution facilities more efficiently. Thus, according to theory, liberal-socialism is more efficient and more productive than free-market individualism.
Unfortunately for liberals, there is an inescapable inconvenience. So far, it hasn’t worked that way.
As an example, let’s take a look at Sweden, the darling of liberal-socialists, the best that the world of liberal-socialism has to offer. Sweden was apotheosized by Pulitzer-Prize-winning liberal columnist Marquis Childs in his 1930 best-seller, “Sweden: The Middle Way.” The book influenced Franklin Roosevelt’s decision in the 1932 election campaign to promise imposition of socialistic state-planning in the New Deal.
Sweden’s experience suggests that the heaven-on-earth of liberal-socialism’s materialistic political and social order is, in practice, not a boost to productivity, but a disincentive to work and to produce goods and services. According to its own government statistical studies, the average Swedish citizen in 1999 had a comparative income 40 percent lower than his American counterpart.? Worse, productivity is so much lower in Sweden that the gap is increasing each year.
This should be no surprise. Aristotle noted about 2,300 years ago in his “Politics” that when everything belongs to everybody, nobody feels the need or the responsibility to take care of it. Socialism begets the mindset that “they” will do everything for you; just worry about getting your entitlements.
According to a New York Times report published September 24, 2002,
“A government report this month showed that one in 20 Swedish workers were on sick leave for more than a week last year, double the European Union average, and that paid sick leave averaged nearly 25 days, up from 14 days in 1998. An average of 430,000 Swedish employees, 10 percent of the country’s work force, is on sick leave at any given time.
“According to another study, carried out for the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise by the research firm Temo, 62 percent of the employees interviewed said they had taken sick leave when they were not really sick and that they felt there was nothing wrong in doing so.
“.....The government pays a benefit equal to 80 percent of a person’s salary during sick leave, no matter how long, and an additional 10 percent in what is called “contract insurance” for the first three months. This public outlay has grown to $5.3 billion annually from just over $2 billion in 1998.
“Getting a doctor’s certificate often takes just a phone call. The Temo study showed that physicians routinely approve sick leaves solely at a patient’s request.
“......when the government made benefits more generous, people took more days off. In 1998, Prime Minister Goran Persson increased the government’s benefit from 75 percent to 80 percent of salary, and the average number of days spiked upward each year thereafter, from 11.1 in 1997 to 24.4 in 2001.”
Sweden’s unemployment rate of 5.6 percent (in August, 2004) was not high compared to other socialist countries like Germany and France, which push into double digits. But Sweden’s percentage of GDP allocated to welfare-state benefits is among the highest in the world, so any increase in unemployment and reduction in tax revenues immediately impacts the gargantuan Swedish welfare-state budget.
The problem is so severe that, in 2002, Sweden began a program to coax the long-term unemployed back into the work force. Under its program, workers are paid 85 percent of their regular wages if they agree to take a twelve-months’ sabbatical and let unemployed people get training in their jobs. The hope is that some long-term loafers might discover that working for a living is not entirely bad.
Whether this program works or not, it does not increase production of goods and services, the sole criterion upon which liberal-socialism can be judged.
The Swedish government’s tax burden on its citizens is almost 51 percent of the GDP, approximately twice as high as the 25.4 percent in the semi-socialist United States. In plain terms, the socialistic government arrogates the prerogative of deciding for you how you should spend your money. It takes most of your income as taxes, then gives it back, less administrative costs, in the form of standardized welfare benefits available to anyone, without regard to merit.
This explains why so many Swedes go into long-term unemployment or, when they work, fail to show up on the job an average of one day a week. Young Swedes told New York Times reporters that they did so, because everyone gets paid more or less the same wages, no matter how well or how poorly he performs, so there is little incentive to work hard. Moreover, with just about the highest tax rates in the world, Swedes have very little discretionary income left to spend on personal entertainment, so why not just take time off from work?
Yes, but what about the social benefits of “cradle-to-grave” welfare coddling? Even there, performance of materialistic liberal-socialism is not what liberal theorists lead one to expect. According to the Spectator.UK, Sweden’s crime rate is the highest in Europe, despite the liberal dogma that crime is purely the result of an inadequate welfare state.
Mona Charen, in her August 15, 2003, column wrote about the “health gap” between former members of the Soviet economic bloc and other, less socialized Western countries. Hungary, she noted, ranked first in the world for the rate of cancer deaths among men and women in 2000, according to the American Cancer Society. For men, the other Eastern European countries held the second through seventh places
“What’s interesting,” she wrote, ” about this [Washington Post] story (aside from the obvious) is that it so casually acknowledges a reality that was, until very recently, hotly denied by the kinds of people who write for The Washington Post. I refer to the fact that in all ways , including quality of life and very much including health care, the communist countries were vastly inferior to the free West.
“During the Cold War, liberals were always telling us that while the communist states certainly could not claim to have political liberty, they had outperformed the harsh, capitalist West in terms of social services. The communist health care systems were very much lauded and admired. Why, in the Soviet Union, they gushed, health care was “free” and nearly all of the doctors were women. A two-fer! “
For those with eyes to see, what emerges is that liberal-socialism amounts to eating your seed-corn. Your stomach is full today if you eat everything you already have, but tomorrow there will be no new corps to fill your belly.
It is a snap-shot theory that assumes all economic conditions are fixed, that intellectual planners merely have to move people and productive facilities around as if they were checkers on a checker-board. It makes no allowance for real-life reactions of real people to socialism: self-centered greed or passive resistance.
Liberalism is, in the final analysis, an artificial and savagely destructive world view that sooner or later will impoverish its religious adherents and sap their patriotic will to defend their nations.
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Them is My Sentiments, Too
Burt Prelutsky’s article, posted on the Intellectual Conservative website, admirably sums up my feelings about liberals and conservatives.
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Saturday, October 22, 2005
When it comes to business, liberals literally don’t know what they’re talking about.
Liberal-socialist academics, far from educating students, fill their heads with simplistic nonsense that is far removed from the realities of the business world.
Rudy Rummel’s The Free Market as Utopia highlights a fundamental piece of liberal-socialist ignorance: the assumption that businesses under free-market capitalism force people to do as “the rich” desire. In fact, as Rudy notes, the free market leads business people to search endlessly for new ways to benefit consumers. If customers don’t like a corporation’s products or services, it goes out of business.
Listening to liberal theorists, however, you would never know that. From Karl Marx through today’s ivory tower academics, liberal-socialists paint a beatific picture of the good life under socialism and contrast it with their picture of fear and uncertainty under the horrific free-market competition of individualistic capitalism.
They believe that business owners and managers, via a combination of advertising and financial power, can simply compel people to buy their products, whether the buyers really want the products or not. Profit at any price is, in the socialist picture, the only motivating power in capitalism.
Michael P. Lerner, who was a professor at Trinity College in Hartford when he wrote “The New Socialist Revolution,” illustrates this simplistic view of the business world.
We must move to socialism, because, Mr. Lerner writes, ” These vestiges, institutionalized as the capitalist system, not only keep us from our potentialities but simultaneously threaten the whole world with extinction in the process of maintaining an oppressive rule.” This is true, because “(1) a small number of Americans have vast economic power while the overwhelming majority have almost no power in the economic realm; (2) economic power gives the small group that wields it a huge amount of political power while, for most Americans, political power is very limited and exists within a narrow framework; and (3) powerlessness in the economic and political spheres affects people’s daily lives in a large number of ways, permitting the development of a society in which the human needs of most people are largely ignored so that the wealthy and powerful can benefit.”
Businessmen, in other words, are like French farmers who cram vast amounts of food into the throats of geese to create an abnormal obesity that yields high-priced pate de foie gras.
This vicious capitalistic system, says Mr. Lerner, enables a “small number of people, through their ownership and control of the means of production(e.g., factories, farms, mines)....to buy the labor power of most other people and to direct that labor power into production of goods to be sold for the profit of the owners.”
This frightful state of affairs divides the nation into two classes, the haves and the have-nots, so memorably described by liberal-socialist candidates John Kerry and John Edwards in 2004.
The “haves” control banks and corporations that gives them power over everyone else. They sit back and rake in dividends from ill-got profits squeezed from the oppressed “have-nots,” who have no choice but to work at substandard wages or starve.
Managers of large corporations, Mr. Lerner informs us, can selfishly exploit the public, because they are the largest single group in the stockholding population.
This will come as a great surprise to pension funds, mutual funds, and insurance companies, the institutional investors who own the vast bulk of all common and preferred stocks, as well as corporate bonds. In a typical example, officers and directors of General Motors own only about one percent of its stocks, while a single institutional investor, representing many thousands of individual clients, in 2004 owned roughly 17 percent of the common stock.
This supposed dictatorial power of management would also come as a great surprise to the many corporate managers who have been forced from office by institutional shareholders impatient with their poor performance.
The purported dictatorial power of business managers, according to Mr. Lerner, enables them to force customers to buy their products whether they need them or not. For example, he writes, “...a bank might convince a corporation to take out loans for unneeded investments in order to increase the bank’s wealth…. Bank control over airlines is so heavy-handed that, even though airlines are suffering from considerable overcapacity, they continue to buy more giant planes…. Banks are willing to finance the production and sale of unneeded aircraft because they make an estimated 56 percent profit on their aircraft leasing business.”
Mr. Lerner obviously has not even a faint clue about realities in the business world.
First, let’s take the 56 percent on aircraft leasing. Simply plugging numbers into a basic lease calculation reveals that 56 percent is a ridiculously unattainable number.
To start, corporations lease equipment, rather than buying it, among other factors, to be able to switch to newer equipment, after a short time, where there is a high rate of technical obsolescence.
From the financial institution’s viewpoint, the rent charged on the aircraft lease is only part of its calculated rate of return on the lease. A huge part of the rate of return depends upon the expected market value of the airplane at the end of the five-year lease.
If an airline leased an airplane, say for five years, with an annual rent percentage of 7 percent (which is higher than what corporations now pay as interest on their bonds), the bank lessor would have recouped less than half its purchase cost on the airplane (7 percent, times 5 years, neglecting interest earned on annual rents, would be only 35 percent of the cost). Thus, just to break even on the deal, the bank must be able to sell the used airplane at the end of year five for at least 65 percent of its original cost.
Plug numbers into a lease calculations and you will find that, in order to make 56 percent on the lease, the bank will have to be able to sell the airplane after five years at a price more than 800 percent of the original, brand new purchase price. Even in the fairy-land of socialism, that’s an unrealistic assumption.
But remember that Mr. Lerner says that the banks’ heavy-handed power is used to compel airlines and other corporate borrowers to take loans and to lease aircraft that they really don’t need. In the real world, leases under such conditions would flood the market for used aircraft at the end of lease periods and drive world aircraft market prices down to probably considerably less than even 65 percent of original purchase cost.
If bank managers really operated as Mr. Lerner supposes, they would quickly lose their jobs and their institutions would go bankrupt.
How do business people accomplish their power grab? Mr. Lerner breathlessly informs us that, “large corporations are permitted to spend millions of dollars each year that are not reported as income but are written off as business expenses. In fact, the tax system actually works to redistribute wealth from the poor to the rich, because the wealthy control the state legislatures, the Congress, and the government bodies.”
Mr. Lerner, as does the New York Times regularly, several times every year, excitedly notes that the top-bracket wealthy have much higher incomes than other people. Of course, neither Mr. Lerner nor the Times has the fairness and honesty to add that the top one percent of those high-income people also pay 34.3 percent of all Federal income taxes, while earning just 16.8 percent of the adjusted gross income; and that the top five percent of taxpayers pay more than half of all Federal income taxes, while the entire bottom half of taxpayers pay just 3.5 percent of Federal income taxes.
However, let’s not trouble ourselves with nasty specifics. It’s enough for liberal-socialists that a gap, of any size, exists between the top and bottom income groups. By definition in a world of social justice, as they conceive it, everybody is equally poor.
The one thing that academic liberals like Mr. Lerner don’t do is examine the real-world performance of socialistic economies and compare them to even a partly socialized economy like that of the United States. We do considerably better than socialistic nations like France and Germany.
And, as one of the auto companies used to say in its advertisements, “Ask the man who owns one.” The newly liberated former Soviet Comintern nations that have rejected socialism and adopted free-market competition have far outstripped the still-socialist EU nations in job creation and increases in wealth for all their citizens.
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Thursday, October 20, 2005
Historically education preserved and transmitted to each generation the traditions of society. Educators in the 19th and 20th centuries began to view the aim of education as destroying the American way of life.
(This essay is scheduled for posting on the upcoming edition of the Republican Voices Newsletter)
All of today’s educational problems stem from the philosophical views that spread throughout Europe and into the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries.
For most of three hundred years, education first in the colonies, and then the United States, was aimed at teaching students to read, write, master basic mathematics, learn something about American history, absorb as much as they could about science, and especially at imparting Judeo-Christian morality via reading the Bible and the best literature of Western civilization. In addition to being a means to prepare students for making their way in the world, education was a means to preserve and transmit the culture that was the unwritten constitution of the people, the glue that held society together, the shared understandings that made people Americans.
Despite some educators’ efforts to redirect this emphasis, such was the basic thrust of American education until the mid-1960s. People were proud to be Americans and optimistic about our nation’s future.
It is, of course, obvious to everyone that such is no longer the case. Society is split down the middle over issues of morality and the role of the Federal government, while educational proficiency slides inexorably toward the lower depths.
In the United States after the Civil War, beginning around 1865, increasing numbers of educators swung to the view that the advent of industrialization and large corporations made true freedom for the average person an illusion. Influenced by French and Marxian socialism, they theorized that the customs, traditions, laws, and religions of society had all been fabricated by the rich and powerful in order to exploit the workers. As Marx described it, religion was the opium of the masses, intended to keep them from full awareness of the nature of their wretched conditions and prevent them from uniting to overthrow their oppressors.
Taking their cue from European Marxists and English socialists, these dissident educators believed that only by restructuring society to break the power of the undeserving rich, by eliminating private property, could true freedom be established. The aim was a socialistic society in which decisions about production and distribution of goods and services would be made by workers’ councils.
Hence the about-face in educational theory that began in the increasingly liberal Eastern Establishment and spread to the upper Midwest, which had long been a redoubt of socialist believers. Education was no longer simply to teach subject matter. It was to inculcate new attitudes that would ultimately change all of the rules and customs of society. Education was no longer to be just a transmission medium; it was to become the driving force to restructure society.
Various schools of educational theory came into being, all of them preoccupied with effecting change in society to comport with intellectuals’ ideas of social justice.
Social justice, however, had nothing to do with traditional ideas of justice, such as reward in proportion to hard work and skill, or punishment befitting the crime. It was a “justice” dealing only with the material conditions of everyday life, a “justice” that applied to all members of a social class, a “justice” that aimed to reduce everyone to the same level of economic and social condition.
Social justice was, in the famous Marxian phrase, “from each according to ability, to each according to need,” without regard to effort, skill, or desert.
Students no longer were modestly to respect their elders and to strive to be good citizens. Educators were to graduate students fired with the exhortation to “go out and change the world.”
A major educational splinter movement resulted from John Dewey’s incorporation of pragmatic philosophy to produce progressive education. Dewey was a heart-and-soul socialist, but he leaned to the English Fabian version that preferred gradualism to the revolutionary offshoot of Marxism developed by V. I. Lenin in the Soviet Union. Dewey admired the Soviet educational system, but wanted to get there gradually, by peaceful means.
Some of his acolytes were more impatient and preached a more vigorous and forceful assault on tradition. They formed what came to be called the reconstructionism movement. They intended to change society then and there.
Both progressive education and reconstructionism adopted the philosophy of pragmatism. Both focused upon imparting attitudes that would be conducive to socialism, which Dewey and his intellectual cohort believed to be inevitable.
The first task was to supplant Judeo-Christian morality with pragmatism’s moral relativism. Marx had taught that society’s moral and religious traditions stood in the way of social justice. The educator’s role was to discredit Judeo-Christian morality and to infuse students’ minds with a fairy-land picture of life under a good socialist society. In George Orwell’s description of that utopia, “The abolition of private property, [Oscar Wilde] says, will make possible the full development of the individual and set us free from “the sordid necessity of living for others”. In the Socialist future there will not only be no want and no insecurity, there will also be no drudgery, no disease, no ugliness, no wastage of the human spirit in futile enmities and rivalries.”
Readers will recognize in this the source of the “sensitivity” that leads Senators John Kerry and Teddy Kennedy to advocate turning America’s national defense over to the UN and leads liberals, in the wake of the the Hurricane Katrina fiasco in New Orleans, to call for reverting full-bore to the Great Society welfare-entitlements system to “eliminate poverty.”
Readers also will recognize that, if educators conceive their principal task to be undermining Judeo-Christian morality and what may be loosely called capitalism, then they can’t spend time on counter-productive matters like teaching students reading, writing, and mathematics, along with American history and traditions. These are, in the Marxian formulation, the very things that keep people blindly mired in the system created by the rich and powerful to prevent them from organizing to seize power and bring socialism’s earthly heaven into being.
The result is multi-culturalism and political correctness.
Students must be taught to disparage their elders’ traditional values. To impart moral relativism, for example, they are instructed on how to use condoms and how to engage in sexual promiscuity. They are told not to heed their parents’ moral beliefs, but to make their own decisions (with no foundation of experience) about right and wrong. Moral relativism preaches that you make it up as you go along; the only criterion is whether you get what you want. This is what is known as “teaching students to think.”
Darwinian evolution teaches them that there is no God, that the minds of intellectuals are the only legitimate source of social-justice morality and political rule. Judeo-Christian morality is dismissed as ignorance.
Nonetheless, despite the pretensions of socialism to reconstruct human nature along one-dimensional, rational lines, people still seek a metaphysical explanation for the meaning of their existence, the answer most perfectly revealed, in my personal faith, by Christianity. In place of Judeo-Christian morality, contemporary education reverts to crude, ancient paganisms having more in common with prehistoric Druidism than with modern science: feminism, environmentalism, animal rights, black cultism, and worship of homosexuality. There is nothing wrong with any of these, of course, so long as each is kept in perspective and not elevated as an object of veneration.
Multi-culturalism tells students that our American traditions are no better than any others, that we should strive to create a society with no common traditions (which amounts to anarchy). Students are given “experiences” with plays, projects, and field trips calculated to infuse a communal attitude that will equip them to live happily in a socialist world. They are taught that the United States was settled by criminals who stole land from American Indians, who lived in societies of perfect benevolence in which strife was unknown. They are taught that the United States is an imperialistic oppressor of the world’s peoples.
Diversions like setting standards and “teaching to test” in order to master academic subject matter must not interfere with multi-culturalism’s and political-correctness’s goal of making all students into amoral Blue-State voters.