The View From 1776

ObamaCare: An Assault By The Left-Wing Minority

The reincarnation of liberal-progressive President Woodrow Wilson (without the political skill).

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/20 at 02:11 PM
  1. As the post asserts, "Wilson’s elitist attitude underlies our present-day, we-know-what’s-best-for-you nanny state. . ." And so it has been throughout the history of nations--the elites have shaped national policy. But some elites have done well, and the problem for historians is to distinguish why some elites have helped forge successful societies, and other elites have brought on their decline. Just as there are good horses and bad horses, there are elites of all sorts. Today, in America, we have a corrupt, incompetent, and ideologically dangerous elite that is destroying Americas vitality and its future.

    The Rise and Fall of the most successful Nations in history has been marked by a common recurring theme. They usually have started small, governed as a Republic, with leaders selected for their integrity and competence, and watched over by an attentive citizenry. Athens, Rome, Florence, and Venice established a pattern of success of that sort. The American miracle was based on those principles and succeeded beyond anything ever seen in history. The engine of success in these "start-up" societies was a limited government, an open and free economy, the protection of private property, and very few intellectuals or aristocrats.

    Unfortunately, most great Republics, grown large and properous by their very nature, gradually morphed into populist democracies--The public discovered that they could live off the accumulated wealth built by their founding generations. Politicians, seeking election and perks for themselves, soon discovered that they could pander to those populist desires. A culture formerly devoted to work, thrift, and sobriety would then inevitably decline into one of dependency, victimhood, and class envy.

    A new intellectual elite usually accompanied this destructive process, and they became, in the slightly paraphrased words of Thomas Sowell, a new and parasitic class, purveying their assumed expertise in second hand ideas, and subverting the cultural values that had helped foster the nation's success. What's more damaging was that with the affluence and better schooling available, these new elites were the best and brightest abstract "thinkers," possessed with an irresistable verbal virtuosity, and peddling the most seductive utopian schemes--all designed to hoodwink the citizenry into letting them dictate from the top their grandiose plans to make things better. And that's where we are today.

    No great nation in history has ever recovered, or come back, from such a decline--It appears to be impossible to restore a peoples' self-reliance, pride, and integity once a majority have been converted into a mass of willing victims living off the fruit of other people's labor.

    China is the exception to this rule--they have managed to reinvent themselves a few times over the millennia, never with much success, but this time they may just do it?!
    Posted by bill greene  on  12/20  at  08:06 PM
  2. Bill,

    China appears to headed for catastrophe, strangling on air and water pollution, societal unrest, pervasive corruption, overpopulation, drought and a host of other problems.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/20  at  11:17 PM
  3. Thomas and Bill,

    I hesitate to differ, but ...

    While I agree there are parallels to Wilson, I don’t see they are, here, well demonstrated, and are more than a little speculative. Wilson was undeniably intellectual, pushed progressive causes, and was an unabashed promoter of expanding government. Beyond those, however, the comparison breaks down. I have to believe that, confronted with some of the things Obama has favored, Wilson would be more likely to oppose than abet his particular programs. Unlike Wilson, Obama is a pseudo-intellectual whose advocacy of ‘progressive’ causes is motivated by a vision of America that is highly prejudicial. Whereas, Obama sees America as ‘the problem’, Wilson saw America (or his conception of it/us) and uniquely American values as ‘the solution’. Moreover, Wilson was a true scholar (despite the bad policies and wobbly notions).

    Wilson was a believer in individual and human (aka, collective) rights; though he was, just as clearly, of the opinion rights were given too much emphasis (note that more than a few Republicans share this opinion) at the founding. It is instructional to inquire why a Constitutional scholar, such as Wilson, might hold an opinion apparently at odds with itself. I think the clue lies in his pro-Confederacy upbringing. We know Wilson was intolerant toward blacks (and initially toward certain immigrant groups). And, like some white southerners of the era, harbored resentment of upwardly mobile blacks and of the conferring of equal rights on them. Hence, his belief too much emphasis on ‘natural rights’ had been put into our founding. The 14th Amendment was a particular thorn in his (Confederate) side, one that might be purged by executive fiat as Congress could not be made to do his bidding. Obama stands diametrically opposed to Wilson in this respect, and his resentment would be that too little attention was given to ‘human rights’ at the outset. Both, then, were steeped in views at odds with a strong Constitutional defense, and naturally prefer a Constitution more amenable to their own particular meddling. Thus, both come/came to the same excuse for usurpation, though with vastly different agendas.

    Wilson was the first president to advocate a ‘living’ approach to the Constitution; though that, like so much else, is inaccurately ascribed to him as its originator (idea actually started in our federal courts). Yes, he shared this notion, but it is inaccurate making him its author and chief purveyor. Better candidates for that distinction are Brandeis, Holmes and Warren. If anything, there are clearer parallels to FDR than to Obama, not least being FDR shared with Wilson some regard for his nation’s welfare and standing.

    Now, before you think I am defending Wilson, I will add he was a terrible President on other scores: first president to instigate a propaganda scheme with thousands of government-paid operatives, invaded Mexico without Congressional approval (an act of war; putative bandit suppression) and attempted a regime-change (which he bungled), segregated federal workers, fear-mongering, strong-armed citizens into signing pledges (patriotic and to foreswear ‘luxury items’), invaded Haiti and Dominica, subverted a Nicaraguan election, espionage & sedition acts, dissenters imprisoned, neighbor incited against neighbor (spying, including listening in on phone calls and reading mail), trust-busting, shielded [progressive] muckrakers from slander charges, child-labor laws that disrupted lives rather than protect children, journalists jailed, editors censored, and their publishers threatened with closure. Most of his better-intended policies (farm loans, anti-trust, child-labor, banking reforms, &c) were short-sighted (okay for near-term only), ended in failure, or continued equivocally.

    Superficially, these auger similarities to Obama, but the key word here is ‘superficial’. Whereas Obama seeks to change and subvert without thought to endgame or damage, Wilson followed a program of defined goals (most progressive, but some also regressive and/or protectionist); and even placed some limits on how far he would go achieving those goals. Possibly if Wilson were President in today’s schismatic political arena, he would be no more restrained than Obama; but, that is just too much conjecture for good argument.

    Notes: & - While I agree with some of Powell’s observations, I cannot agree with many of his conclusions blaming all mid-20th century atrocities on Wilson alone. While Wilson is certainly culpable for some of what followed in the decades immediately following his administration and bungled diplomacy, others (on both sides of the Atlantic, and even in far away Japan and China) also had a hand in shaping what came after WWI. Much of the policy and ideological framework undergirding totalitarianism pre-dates Wilson, and his contributions to it were more derivative than original. Therefore, his contribution was to put theory into practice; which he did narcissistically and ineptly. Even his writings (which lead to his candidacy) are almost entirely the work of others. Take, for example, his robust advocacy of British parliamentarianism closely following that of high-federalist like Hamilton, Jay, Lee, and Chase. If you want real culprits for 20th century totalitarianism, look to the mid-19th century political theorists (e.g., Proudhon, Marx, Bakunin, &c) some of whose ideas he may have absorbed, who recast politics as ‘evolutionary’ and as ‘struggles to right [perceived] past injustices’. Wilson gets much of the credit (i.e., blame) for this nonsense mainly because he was the first American president to push progressivism (since identified with socialism) on a substantial scale, and because America’s role in fostering such polices achieved global reach soon after (i.e., had he been, say, a Canadian prime minister, we would now be blaming someone else). We should remember, however, that socialists, anarchists and radicals of Wilson’s era were suspect whereas progressivism (which at that time was a sort of ‘milquetoast’ socialism) was deemed respectable, and was embraced by Republicans as often as by Democrats. Wilson was an odd mix of progressive and libertarian, with the former proving his core philosophy and the latter a facade for American political legitimacy (my assessment).
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/26  at  10:50 PM
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