The View From 1776

Socialism’s Deep Roots

The late Henry Hazlitt, writing in 1970, informs us that the distortions and sometimes evil imposed upon us by socialistic, collectivized power are nothing new.

Mr. Hazlitt quotes Herbert Spencer’s descriptions of socialistic impulses in Victorian England, where the statist doctrines sweeping out of France and Germany were taking firm root.

Mr. Hazlitt was an economist whose columns were published until his death in 1993 in media ranging from the Wall Street Journal to the New York Times.

Herbert Spencer was an advocate of Social Darwinism, the belief that people should succeed on their own merit, which meant that better qualified and harder working individuals deserved to prosper more than those not so endowed.

Much the same point was made by another Englishman, Hilaire Belloc, in his 1912 book, The Servile State. He noted that, while the socialist state in Great Britain was doing nice things for workers, it was at the price of their liberty to decide whether to work, when to work, or where to work.  Recipients of unemployment benefits, for example, had to report to employment offices and take whatever jobs were offered to them, or face punishment. 

People dependent upon the welfare state forfeit personal moral responsibility and personal liberty, becoming slaves to the bureaucracy’s conceptions of acceptable conduct.

Liberal-progressive-socialism is a form of slavery, or more accurately, a sort of neo-feudalism in which the individual has no rights independent of the figurative “piece of ground” to which the political state has assigned him.

Assuredly, that is not what motivated members of the Continental Congress in 1776, nor of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. 

President Roosevelt proudly proclaimed his abandonment of our nation’s founding ethos in his January 1944 annual message to Congress. 

The one supreme objective for the future…can be summed up in one word: Security.…We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all…Among these are: the right to a useful and remunerative job…The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.…The right of every family to a decent home; The right to adequate medical care…The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment; The right to a good education.  All these rights spell security.

Security, however, amounts to selling one’s soul to the Devil for materialistic gain.