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Why the Welfare State Isn’t Well and It Isn’t Fair October 24, 2014

Posted by Dr. Robert Owens in Politics, Politiocal Philosophy.
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Why the Welfare State Isn’t Well and It Isn’t Fair

Throughout most of the 19th and 20th centuries Socialism had a fairly precise definition, a somewhat clear program, and a generally agreed upon goal. The definition of Socialism was some variant of Karl Marx’s well known statement, “From each according to the ability to each according to their need.” Socialism’s program was the nationalization of all means of production, exchange, and distribution. Socialism’s goal was the use of all three in a comprehensive plan to bring about some chimera of social justice.

There were two general schools or roads socialists followed to utopia, Marxism and Fabianism. Both were variants of Socialism. They differed mainly in their stated ultimate ideal of a Socialist State and how to get there.

The Marxists said they believed that in a fully Socialist State the State itself would wither away, and all that would be left was a classless society basking in the sunshine of social justice for all. The method advocated by the Communists to achieve this social nirvana was revolutionary change leading to a dictatorship of the working class (proletariat) which ruthlessly exterminated the old society and built the new.

The Fabians saw their road to social justice leading through a highly centralized government built up gradually by democratic means slowly gaining control of the levers of power and gradually implementing its program of bureaucratic control until complete social justice was achieved.

In Europe these schools of thought were explicit and open forming political parties and vying for power either through the ballot or from the barrel of a gun. In America the engrained belief in personal liberty, individual freedom, and economic opportunity were too strong to allow the open development of any party that openly claimed Socialism as their philosophy. Therefore the gradualist approach of the Fabians became the incremental approach of the Progressives.

Starting with Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, massively redirecting society under FDR, and moving ever forward under every president, except Ronald Reagan, the Progressives have slowly built the web upon which America now is bound.

With the fall of the Soviet Union and of its satellite empire communism finally lost its great patron. It had long since lost its allure in the reality of a brutal dictatorship that ground its people into the dirt in the race to social justice. So in the West Socialism has gone underground in the Green Movement, the vast network of community organizing groups, and in the Democrat Party. Many of the leaders of the Party now openly call themselves Progressives. All of them champion the idea of a Living Constitution that is evolving from the old American ideal of individualism toward a new collectivist ideal of social justice.

As long as the ideas and goals of Socialism were just that: ideas and goals, it all sounded good and many intellectuals as well as many members of the general public bought into the lofty sounding fairness of social justice. However once the Socialists gained actual power in the USSR and later in its satellite empire the crushing reality of its brutish methods and the soul killing dullness of its execution dimmed the glow. It changed its image from a rising sun of opportunity into the glare of an interrogation lamp.

This is where the insidious and dangerous character of the new underground Socialists in the plethora of underground manifestations reveals itself. Today we don’t have a socialist state in America; instead we have a welfare state. Unlike Socialism the welfare State has no precise definition. The attempt to understand all its implications is like trying to take a picture of fog: it obscures the picture however it cannot be seen as anything solid. The leaders of this homegrown style of Socialism: Progressivism, have learned that by incrementally increasing the level of governmental control over private industry and individuals they can still achieve the Socialist goal of income redistribution without the stigma of advocating an admittedly authoritarian dictatorship.

All they have to do is speak in vague terms of the general good and spreading the wealth around and the low information citizens nurtured in state schools will stand in line to proudly vote for hope and change. Never realizing that the prosperity Paul thinks he is voting out of Peter’s pocket will not reach him as it is syphoned off to feed an ever growing bureaucracy needed to transfer the wealth.

As long as the danger to liberty came from self-declared Socialists who were openly pursuing collectivist goals and as long as there was the glaring disconnect of a brutal dictatorship saying it was oppressing its own people in the quest for social justice it was easy to argue that the tenets of Socialism were false. There were examples to show that it would not achieve its goals, that its execution was brutish, and that it would inevitably produce results which most Socialists themselves would find abhorrent.

The situation is different when we face the Welfare State. It has no definite form and is instead a conglomeration of diverse and sometimes even contradictory elements. Some of these elements may seem to make a free society more attractive such as something for everyone while others such as the means to take from one to give to another are incompatible with freedom.

I am not in any way advocating for no government. I am advocating for limited government. There are many things which most will agree are beneficial to society and which are legitimate concerns for government such as defense, the mail system, taxes appropriate to a limited role, and the judiciary. Most people today would also agree that some form of a safety net is possible in a free society to protect against risks common to all.

However here it is important to differentiate between two views of this type of protection. There is limited protection which can be achieved for all and absolute security which can never be achieved.

The first of these types of protection is against severe poverty: the assurance of a minimum level of support for everyone. The second is the guarantee of a certain standard of life which is determined by comparing the standard enjoyed by one group against that enjoyed by another. In other words the difference is between the protection of an equal minimum income for all and the protection of a particular income for particular groups. This is the goal of the Welfare State that brings us back to “From each according to their ability to each according to their need” or as our current Progressive President puts it, “Spreading the Wealth Around.”

To accomplish this, the coercive power of the State is used to ensure that particular people get particular things which in turn require discrimination between people and unequal treatment. Some are forced to give while others receive. This is incompatible with a free society. Thus the welfare State which aims at social justice inevitably leads back to Socialism with its coercive power and arbitrary methods. In addition though some of the aims of the Welfare State such as income equality can only be achieved through the use of methods which are incompatible with freedom all of the aims may be pursued in that fashion.

The primary danger is that once the aims of the Welfare State have been accepted as legitimate it is then tacitly assumed that the use of means which are contrary to freedom are acceptable. The ends justify the means and the rule of law is sacrificed in the name of social justice.

Ultimately we arrive at a place where the criticism of the generally accepted goals of the Welfare State leads automatically to negative labels. If you point out that Obamacare is socialized medicine you are throwing grandma over the cliff. If you point out that common core is indoctrination you are against education. If you point out that progressive taxation is inherently discriminatory and unfair you are the friend of millionaires and billionaires and the enemy of the poor. If you point out that government regulations are strangling business you are against clean air and consumer safety.

Our Progressive leaders always point to the shining city on a hill where everyone has everything. Our low information fellow citizens never seem to realize that a government which ceases to administer limited resources put under its control for a specific purpose will instead use its coercive power to ensure that people are given what some bureaucrat decides they need. They never connect the dots. They do not understand that when larger and larger segments of the population come to depend on the government for everything eventually it will be the decision of those in authority what anyone receives. This isn’t freedom. This isn’t what America was or what it is supposed to be. And this is why the Welfare State isn’t well and it isn’t fair.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion. He is the Historian of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2014 Contact Dr. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens / Edited by Dr. Rosalie Owens

July Fourth 2010: The State Versus the Individual July 4, 2010

Posted by Dr. Robert Owens in Uncategorized.
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In America, individualism is a kind of philosophical almost theological ideal upon which our society was founded.  This foundation birthed a society of free individuals who entered into a social contract wherein they surrendered some authority and power to government to gain enough security and peace to enjoy their rights while retaining their inherent freedom and inviolable personal independence.

That man was conceived of by our founders as a created being is attested to in the Declaration of Independence when it says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  These rights the Creator endowed us with fall into two broad categories.

The primary of these is the right to think and act as we see fit in matters which concern and affect only ourselves.  Then there are civil rights.  These are the rights all people possess before entering into the social contract such as, to act, to own property, to manage our own affairs in areas that might affect others all of which are not surrendered by our entrance into society, since they are inherent and endowed by our Creator.   These second are the rights which no one individual can assure for themselves without the cooperation of others, hence the need for a social contract and society.  And although the individual is not personally capable of ensuring the enjoyment of these rights this does not give society the authority to curtail them.  It’s for the protection of these rights that governments are established, or as the Founders put it, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men.”

All of the above refers to and elaborates upon the rights of individuals.  Each individual as created and endowed is sovereign in and of their own person and should therefore enjoy the unfettered exercise of their rights which besides those already enumerated also consist of the right to equality before the law, to participate in political activity, to engage in commerce, and to express their thoughts and beliefs.

The state is nothing more than individuals bound together by the social contract which they have all either directly or indirectly agreed to.  The state is not an individual.  The state is not a separate entity with inherent rights of its own.  This is a destructive concept which is equivalent to making the state god and is contrary to reality.  For when states begin to exert their personhood, to demand their rights this always equates to the usurpation of individual rights by corrupt leaders who say by their actions, “I am the State” in the name of a vague collective that is ultimately beneficial to them.

When contemplating the forceful nature of government within the lives of men Henry David Thoreau accepted the motto, “That government is best which governs least,” and he even expanded it to say, “That government is best which governs not at all” making him the poster child for modern anarchists.  While not embracing the extremity of Thoreau’s position the reasonableness of Jefferson’s is seen in his statement, “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences of too much liberty, than those attending too small a degree of it.”  Perhaps Thoreau had too much faith in his fellow man, but sad to say his descendants have become a people with too much faith in government.  For government, once it has secured the peace and security necessary for the individual to enjoy the use of their personal rights, once it has secured the border from invasion and made provision for defense is more an encumbrance than a help.

Over the years there have been many abuses of power by the representatives of the people.  The rights of the individual have been curtailed and the imagined rights of the government have been expanded at their expense.  However, the American ship of state has always righted itself after the aristocratic or bureaucratic storm passed.  However, today the dreamweavers of collectivism are ensnaring whole generations in their cradle-to-grave web of dependency.  Collectivism is not native to the human condition, and it does not spontaneously evolve from the actions or the desires of life.  Everywhere it is imposed by ideologues through either the use or the threat of force.  The modern manifestations of collectivism in its extreme Communism, National Socialism, and Fascism have everywhere been attended by massive dislocations of society, mass murder, war and collapse.  In its milder and more immediate manifestations, socialism and corporatism leads the way to stagnation, loss of incentive and economic collapse.

In America we see the fusion of politicians, unions, interest groups and too-big-to-fail crony capitalism into a formless cross-party bloc reminiscent of the outfit which has controlled Chicago politics for generations.  The principle proponents of this new conception of American society, the Progressives in the left-wings of both major political parties, have maneuvered themselves to the apex of power, and are controlling all three branches of the federal government.  They have the stated goal of transforming America, and the transformation they have in mind is the collectivization of all for the benefit of the few.  Washed away will be the individualism which has been our foundation and the sanctity of the rights this individualism proclaims.  As an unnatural creature the collective state asserts its imagined rights at the expense of our endowed ones.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College and History for the American Public University System.  http://drrobertowens.com © 2010 Robert R. Owens dr.owens@comcast.net

Red Emperors Exploit Red Ink May 23, 2010

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Where does our federal government get the right to put the chains of hopeless debt on our grandchildren to buy a better hammock for those who won’t work? The 10th Amendment says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” If we never delegated the power to create a National Debt how did the government get it? The power to encumber is the power to destroy. This habit of charging the Visa to the MasterCard is selling us out to the rising red star in the East and if we don’t pull the brake we’re heading for a cliff.
East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet passed for wisdom in the days when information took more than a nanosecond passing between continents. Today they not only meet they compete, and the Red Emperors of the East exploit the red ink of the West. Today our Progressive leaders embrace the suffocating sameness of socialist conformity and collectivist confiscation while communist mandarins release the long pent up energies of their people.
Living behind the veil of a high-tech Forbidden City unseen by the outside world Red Emperors abandoned the unattainable ideal of equality of outcome for the more economically successful model of indigenous industries and monetary policies designed to ensure a favorable balance of trade. Alexander Hamilton once recommended these policies and the early United States followed them. The unseen hand of Chinese leaders transforms Mao’s Stalinist nightmare into the poster child for an economic miracle.
Transforming a cult of personality into an oligarchy holding local elections monitored by the Carter Center and judged by them to be open and competitive top leadership faces intraparty elections and peacefully transfer power from one leader to the next. They’ve jettisoned Communist economic policies, which inevitably lead to ruin transforming themselves into a corporate-style authoritarianism resembling the Five Families of New York, or the Outfit and Machine of Chicago. An efficient arrangement that provides ample benefits for those who shut-up and go along to get along and ruthless whacks for any mole silly enough to poke its head up.
The tale of two civilizations: America slides into the decay of collectivism with oppressive regulations and confiscatory taxes discouraging the innovation and enterprise which made us great. China turns away from these tools of re-distribution and embraces capitalism without naming it. Today, business opportunities found in the shadow of Tiananmen Square are discouraged and penalized in the shadow of the Liberty Bell.
Today Union Bosses no longer break your legs if you oppose them, instead they sell your stock short, likewise the leaders of the People’s Liberation Army openly urge that China dump American bonds to influence American policies a naked example of Chinese power and American weakness. China knows they can’t face America militarily. However, due to crippling collectivist policies the American economy is on life support propped up through massive borrowing from China making us vulnerable to extortion. In addition to the $798.9 billion in U.S. Treasuries China holds its accumulated $2.4 trillion in foreign reserves mainly in American dollars. How are they using this economic arsenal? China buys American natural resources, major stakes in American Icon companies, and control of vital natural resources around the world.
As the economies and social systems of Western Europe stumble and America lurches in the same direction what type of system will rise from the abyss? Will dazed survivors of the coming crash shuffle off into a shabby future replicating the collectivist mistakes that drove us off the cliff adding totalitarian terror tactics to the mix or will the re-booted West re-embrace the inspirational thinking of the Enlightenment? Though it’s the excesses of casino capitalism protected and bailed-out by cronies in government inflating the bubbles of our drowning civilization economic freedom and republican principles are blamed for the crime. The true engine of our decline is the collectivism of the Progressives slipping in one entitlement and one tax at a time regulating opportunity and predetermining outcomes. This undermined the economic and social forces of Western exceptionalism. As bewildered citizens become aware of what’s happened to their countries they’ll gravitate to whoever promises the best example of success. It’s an inescapable conclusion China is well situated to provide that example.
Confucius said, “To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” The debtor is slave to the lender, and he who pays the piper calls the tune. Whether it comes from the East or the West, wisdom tells us spending yourself into oblivion isn’t such a good deal when it comes time to pay the bill, and payday’s coming some day.
Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College and History for the American Public University System. http://drrobertowens.com © 2010 Robert R. Owens dr.owens@comcast.net

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