The riptide of our demise
Time for a little history lesson as the proverbial “Dog Days of Summer” have set in and the prosecution of public policy, good and bad, appears to be taking a beach holiday.
It was 20 years ago when I was a few years into a two-decade run as editorial page editor of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that I also was the regular recipient of email firebombs sent by a very militant liberal reader.
He was a chain-yanking, button-pushing and malevolent missive-sender extraordinaire. His epistles often were laced with the readily imaginable epithets that, sometimes, showed no imagination at all.
And as usually is the case with such regurgitators of what’s nothing less than boilerplate Marxism, he bolstered my steadfast arguments for limited and decentralized government, a hallmark of freedom and independence.
Indeed, my antagonist’s increasingly nutty liberal harangues against conservatism and libertarianism were an affirmation of their rising influence and acceptance.
Of course, he didn’t see it that way, calling such a conclusion “a fantasy” because “the vast majority of people in this country will never accept the inane ideology called conservatism. Conservatives never learn from the past (psychotic behavior).”
But from the mentality that saddled America with the New Deal and The Great Society, it was quite the audacious claim.
”Conservatism really has nothing to offer most of the public,” he continued. ”It’s very tenets — greed, selfishness, meanness and bigotry — are not embraced by most.”
Indeed, this was, and remains, pretty much standard modern liberal rhetoric (if not worse). Nonetheless, there is a cleverness and expediency to it (albeit in a most Marxist way given its duality of thought and concept). Many get sucked into it. Of course, should they take a moment or two to take a few steps or three back, logic would prevail in this rather juvenile 1+1=3 ”proof.”
What seems to bother the likes of my frequent email flamer of 20 years ago and their ilk that has so proliferated 20 years hence is that conservatives and libertarians don’t buy into the government-as-provider manifesto.
It’s not enough that government should serve as a guardian of the fundamental things (property and contract rights and national defense, to name three); Nanny Government must level the playing field, they say, routinely insisting on “equity” — equal results — not just equal opportunity. Anything less is, you got it — ”greed, selfishness, meanness and bigotry.”
Think of it as kind of a Rube Goldberg perpetual motion machine but offering ”perpetual justice.” And it is this mind-set — that government must do what we won’t do or fail to do for ourselves — that’s part and parcel to modern-day “progressivism.”
Back in 2001, a new book had just hit the shelves –”The Price of Citizenship” by Michael B. Katz. From the dust jacket back blurb:
(Katz) argues that in the last decades, three great forces — a ferocious war on dependence, which has singled out the most vulnerable; the devolution of authority within both the government and the private sector; and the application of market models to social policy — have infiltrated and revised all aspects of the social contract … .
Katz shows how these changes are propelling America toward a future of increased inequality and decreased security as individuals compete for success in an open market with ever fewer protections against misfortune, power and greed. And he shows how these trends are transforming citizenship from a right of birth into a privilege available only to the fully employed.
As I wrote at the time, “Heavens to Betsy Ross, have you ever read such tommyrot?!”
Here’s a translation of what Katz was really saying and promoting:
First, in a country founded on a ferocious fealty to independence, dependence is something to be preserved as an ideal.
Second, central authority is desirable over local governance.
Third, free markets, the prime guarantor of liberty, the footer for the foundation on which any success must be built, are the antithesis of ”good” social policy (i.e., the welfare state).
Fourth, competition breeds ”inequality” and threatens citizen ”security.”
But in reality, the tenets are, and remain, an unequivocal, bald-faced argument for no less than a tyrannical state. Worse, it’s one that the liberal ”boobsoisie” intelligentsia openly embraced then and continue to do so to this day where we see such a shocking government-orchestrated assault on freedom and liberty’s fundamentals.
To see how far American society has fallen, the words of great social philosopher Herbert Spencer (an Andrew Carnegie mentor) must be recounted:
In paraphrase, the best way to measure one’s liberty is not by what government does ”for” you but by what it allows the citizenry to do for itself.
Or, more expansively, in Spencer’s words:
(The proper sphere of government is) not to regulate commerce; not to educate the people; not to teach religion; not to administer charity … but simply to defend the natural rights of man — to protect person and property — to prevent the aggressions of the powerful upon the weak — in a word, to administer justice.
”This is the natural, the original, office of a government. It was not intended to do less; it ought not to be allowed to do more.”
The simple fact of the matter is that conservatism and libertarianism indeed do not ”grant” favors, privileges or collectivist ”beneficence” as the government Leviathan is wont to do.
Both philosophies do, however, offer the individual — no matter one’s race, color, class or creed — the best opportunity to achieve independence on one’s own terms and to prosper accordingly.
America must reflect on this, deeply, during these dog days. For, sadly and tragically, our founding American ideals are at critical risk of being flung into the ocean and drowned by the riptide of ignorance.
Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (email@example.com).