Seth Mandel writes at Commentary online:
The fact that the Supreme Court will hear a religious freedom-based challenge to the ObamaCare contraception mandate is the kind of story that possesses significance likely beyond any volume of coverage it will receive. Indeed, while liberal activists will repeatedly try to cast this in the mold of the fictional “war on women,” their own arguments reveal just how far-reaching a definitive ruling on this would be for American religious and political practice. …
Liberals have a curious definition of rights. Last night … the birth-control activist Sandra Fluke [said] on MSNBC …
There’s an attack on allowing employers to be required to provide this insurance coverage on insurance that employees pay for, at the same time that there’s an attack on public availability through clinics.
One more time: [Fluke reckons that] there’s an attack on allowing employers to be required to provide this insurance.
To the left, there is no freedom without government coercion. … That’s the argument the left is running with: they want you to be forced to provide the funding for even their most private activities; only then will you be truly free.
But Fluke isn’t the only one making this argument. … [In] an MSNBC roundtable on the issue … the panelists are panicked at the thought of affording Americans full religious liberty because, essentially, it’s then a slippery slope to protecting all constitutional rights. And then – mayhem, or something:
“This is another reason why we should have moved toward a single payer system of health coverage, because we’re just going to end up with one challenge after another – whether it’s in the courts or outside of the courts – and I just don’t see an end to this,” [Bob] Herbert submitted.“We’re already on the slippery slope of corporate personhood,” he continued. “Where does it end?”
“Where does it end” is the attention-getter in that comment, but I think Herbert’s plea for single-payer health insurance is just as telling. Put the government in charge of the country’s health care, Herbert argues, because then it will be much more difficult for Americans to “challenge” the government’s infringement on their freedom. It’s not just legal challenges either. Herbert says those challenges can be brought “in the courts or outside of the courts,” the latter perhaps an allusion to the shady world of participatory democracy.
So this is much more than a fight over birth control, or even health insurance. It’s about two fundamentally different views on American constitutional freedoms. Conservatives want those freedoms to be expansive and protected, as the Founders did. Liberals want those freedoms to be curtailed lest … the democratic process imperil the state’s coercive powers.
Thus far we agree with Seth Mandel. We are for individual freedom: the Left (whether it calls itself liberal or progressive or socialist) is not.
Free people can say what they like and do what they like (short of interfering with anyone’s else’s freedom), and that means they can believe anything they like, worship anything they like or nothing at all, make and follow any self-imposed rules they like. They only mustn’t impose their rules on anyone else, or if they’re in a group on anyone outside it.
If the government pays for everyone’s health care, it will claim the right to dictate how everyone must live in order to stay healthy. Paying for health care is the quickest way for a government to become a dictatorship. That is why government should not be the paymaster for health care.
But now the article changes from making good sense to arguing a spurious case for religion as a brake on government power:
The Founders saw religious freedom as elemental to personal liberty in America. But they were not alone in thinking that unimpeded religious worship was a guard against an overly ambitious or arrogant national government. As Michael Burleigh writes about the role of religion in post-French Revolution European politics, with a supporting quote from Edmund Burke:
The political function of religion was not simply to keep the lower orders quiescent, as has been tiresomely argued by generations of Marxists, but also to impress upon those who had power that they were here today and gone tomorrow, and responsible to those below and Him above: “All persons possessing any portion of power ought to be strongly and awfully impressed with an idea that they act in trust, and that they are to account for their conduct in that trust to the one great Master, Author, and Founder of society.”
Guarding against ambitious and arrogant government was not at all the point of allowing religious freedom in America. Allowing freedom and establishing participatory democracy set limits on government power, but the idea that the unleashing of all religions was done to ensure some sort of cumulative force for restraint is absurd.
Edmund Burke was an important philosopher of Conservatism. But that assertion of his does not stand up to examination. Were the popes and primates of the Catholic Church ever restrained in the way they exercised their nearly totalitarian power by remembering that they were “here today and gone tomorrow”? That they would have to “account for their conduct” to their Master, Author or whatever else they called their god? No, they were not. Nor did their actions ever suggest that they thought they “ought to be”. They carried on, and expected their successors to carry on, in the well-established tradition of compulsion by terror.
Mandel goes on:
Religion was not the “opiate of the people,” intended to keep them in line. It was, rather, to keep the government in line. This was not a revolutionary idea; it predated the American Constitution, certainly. As Francis Fukuyama writes in The Origins of Political Order: “The existence of a separate religious authority accustomed rulers to the idea that they were not the ultimate source of the law. The assertion of Frederic Maitland that no English king ever believed that he was above the law could not be said of any Chinese emperor, who recognized no law other than those he himself made.”
The medieval Church kept everyone in line, monarchs and people alike, as firmly as it could. It did exercise a brake on the powers of the secular rulers. (One famous example: King Henry II of England felt that he had to submit to the humiliating punishment imposed on him by Pope Alexander III for letting his knights murder Archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170.) But it is also true that the secular rulers exercised a brake on the power of the Church. There was a long sustained secular-papal power struggle (manifested notably, for instance, between the Pope-supporting Guelphs and the Emperor-supporting Ghibellines in Italy, a struggle that lasted from the 12th to the 15th centuries).
The Church or the belief in a Heavenly Judge had nothing whatever to do with English kings accepting that the law was above them. Magna Carta held them to it, and it was issued by King John in 1215 without any help from the Church.
Mandel seems to be trying to build a case – which he touches on by mentioning the Founders, but then wanders off it – that the liberty-enshrining Constitution of the United States was a product of the religiousness of those who framed it. The Constitution itself said no such thing. Individuals among the framers may have thought they were carrying out their God’s will when they wrote it – who can know? But what is certain is that they were inspired by the secular ideas of the Enlightenment – ideas which broke the power of the Churches forever. With all due respect to Edmund Burke – it was especially in post-French Revolution European and American politics that religion had no significant role.
If rulers are to be restrained by anything, it must be by the people they rule: by the democratic process that Mandel himself refers to.
“God” is superfluous to democracy, to justice, and to freedom. In his – ie the Church’s – long reign over Europe, there was no democracy, no justice, and no freedom. And wherever else religion dominates to this day, there is only oppression, injustice, subjugation and fear.
There is much that we like about libertarianism, but have points of strong disagreement with most of the libertarians we listen to and read. The one we find ourselves most often in agreement with is John Stossel.
Here is his reminder of what we ought to be thankful for on Thanksgiving day: private property. The history of the Pilgrims bears a powerful message that private property is a way to life, liberty, and happiness, while communism is the road to starvation:
Had today’s politicians and opinion-makers been in power four centuries ago, Americans might celebrate “Starvation Day” this week, not Thanksgiving.
The Pilgrims started out with communal property rules. When they first settled at Plymouth, they were told: “Share everything, share the work, and we’ll share the harvest.”
The colony’s contract said their new settlement was to be a “common.” Everyone was to receive necessities out of the common stock. There was to be little individual property.
That wasn’t the only thing about the Plymouth Colony that sounds like it was from Karl Marx: Its labor was to be organized according to the different capabilities of the settlers. People would produce according to their abilities and consume according to their needs. That sure sounds fair.
They nearly starved and created what economists call the “tragedy of the commons.”
If people can access the same stuff by working less, they will. Plymouth settlers faked illness instead of working the common property. The harvest was meager, and for two years, there was famine. But then, after the colony’s governor, William Bradford, wrote that they should “set corn every man for his own particular,” they dropped the commons idea. He assigned to every family a parcel of land to treat as its own.
The results were dramatic. Much more corn was planted. Instead of famine, there was plenty. Thanks to private property, they got food — and thanks to it, we have food today.
This doesn’t mean Pilgrims themselves saw the broader economic implications of what they’d been through. “I don’t think they were celebrating Thanksgiving because they’d realized that capitalism works and communal property is a failure,” says economist Russ Roberts. “I think there were just happy to be alive.”
I wish people understood. This idea that happiness and equality lie in banding together and doing things as a commune is appealing. It’s the principle behind the Soviet Union, Medicare, the Vietnam War, Obamacare and so on. …
The Pilgrims weren’t the first settlers on the East Coast of the New World to make this mistake.
Just a few years before, the colony of Jamestown was almost wiped out by the same idea.
Historian Edmund S. Morgan, in “American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia,” describes what happened in 1609-1610: “There are 500 people in the colony now. And they are starving. They scour the woods listlessly for nuts, roots and berries. And they offer the only authentic examples of cannibalism witnessed in Virginia. One provident man chops up his wife and salts down the pieces. Others dig up graves to eat the corpses. By spring only sixty are left alive.”
After that season, the colony was abandoned for years.
The lesson that a commons is often undesirable is all around us. What image comes to mind if I write “public toilet”? Consider traffic congestion and poor upkeep of many publicly owned roads. But most people don’t understand that the solution is private property.
When natural resources, such as fish and trees, dwindle, the first impulse is to say, “Stop capitalism. Make those things public property.” But they already are public — that’s the problem.
If no one owns the fishing rights to a given part of the ocean – or the exclusive, long-term logging rights to part of the forest – people have an incentive to get there first and take all they can before the next guy does. Resources are overused instead of conserved. We don’t maintain others’ property the way we maintain our own. …
No one starves when ranchers are allowed to own land and cattle. Or turkeys.
Private ownership does good things.
On June 7, 2008, we faced with horror the possibility that Barack Obama could become president of the United States with a post titled Obama can only fumble and fail:
We would say to him: ‘Come on, Barry, face the fact that you cannot lead this nation.’
Barack Obama makes flabbergastingly naive statements of intent. He seems to be stuck with adolescent ideals, a view of what is desirable and possible that few sane people over the age of 21 can normally continue to hold. He manifests no knowledge of history, or of political or economic theory. His ideas have the quality of sticky-sentiment greetings cards, but are delivered with the grandiloquence of extreme narcissism. His manner of dropping his voice at the end of every sentence gives everything he says a certainty; an inarguable ‘I say so, so that’s how it is’ finality; an apodictic quality. This manner, combined with the lift of his chin to one side like Mussolini, enchants gullible listeners: makes them think, ‘Ah yes, he is so sure, he must be right, he should lead us!’ Only when he has to answer a question he has not prepared himself for, do we hear him fumbling, stammering, losing the eloquence of the well-rehearsed demagogue.
To elect him to the presidency of the United States at this point in history would be a mistake so devastating that it’s hard to believe sensible voters could even contemplate doing so. Now, just as Europe has learnt too late that socialism does not work, he would bring socialism to America. For make no mistake about it, Obama is a socialist … Just for starters he wants a national health service – a wholly socialist notion – though every example of such a thing everywhere in the world is failing.
Has he brought socialism to America? Yes. Or very much more of it to add to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s start.
Has he imposed a national health service on the nation? Yes. He has begun to do it with a health care act that taxes every citizen and resident of America just for existing, and is proving to be so unmanageable that the only way out of its mess is either to repeal it as Republicans want to do, or go to a full “one-payer system” – the one payer being of course the state – as Obama’s faithful Democrats want to do.
His foreign policy ideas are even more disastrous. He wants to disarm the US in a world of spreading nuclear know-how and capability along with hostile intention.
Is he doing so? Yes. He is defunding the US military and turning servicemen into social workers.
Is the country called ‘the last best hope’ of humanity about to follow the European example and become weak, demoralized, decadent, and slowly subjugated by aliens whose ideas derive from the seventh century?
Yes. In addition to following the European model of socialism, Obama has brought the Muslim Brotherhood into his administration.
What of his world leadership as US president? He has just proved himself incapable of exercising it. Worse, he has broken the Pax Americana on which the world relied – as Caroline Glick explicates:
What happened in Geneva last week was the most significant international event since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The collapse of the Soviet Union signaled the rise of the United States as the sole global superpower. The developments in the six-party nuclear talks with Iran in Geneva last week signaled the end of American world leadership.
Global leadership is based on two things – power and credibility. The United States remains the most powerful actor in the world. But last week, American credibility was shattered.
Secretary of State John Kerry spent the first part of last week lying to Israeli and Gulf Arab leaders and threatening the Israeli people. He lied to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Saudis about the content of the deal US and European negotiators had achieved with the Iranians.
Kerry told them that in exchange for Iran temporarily freezing its nuclear weapons development program, the US and its allies would free up no more than $5 billion in Iranian funds seized and frozen in foreign banks.
Kerry threatened the Israeli people with terrorism and murder – and so invited both – if Israel fails to accept his demands for territorial surrender to PLO terrorists that reject Israel’s right to exist. …
It is hard to separate the rise in terrorist activity since Kerry’s remarks last week from his remarks.
What greater carte blanche for murder could the Palestinians have received than the legitimization of their crimes by the chief diplomat of Israel’s closest ally? Certainly, Kerry’s negotiating partner Catherine Ashton couldn’t have received a clearer signal to ratchet up her economic boycott of Jewish Israeli businesses than Kerry’s blackmail message …
Kerry’s threats were so obscene and unprecedented that Israeli officials broke with tradition and disagreed with him openly and directly, while he was still in the country. Normally supportive leftist commentators have begun reporting Kerry’s history of anti-Israel advocacy, including his 2009 letter of support for pro-Hamas activists organizing flotillas to Gaza in breach of international and American law.
As for Kerry’s lies to the US’s chief Middle Eastern allies, it was the British and the French who informed the Israelis and the Saudis that far from limiting sanctions relief to a few billion dollars in frozen funds, the draft agreement involved ending sanctions on Iran’s oil and gas sector, and on other industries.
In other words, the draft agreement exposed Washington’s willingness to effectively end economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for Iran’s agreement to cosmetic concessions that will not slow down its nuclear weapons program.
Both the US’s position, and the fact that Kerry lied about that position to the US’s chief allies, ended what was left of American credibility in the Middle East. That credibility was already tattered by US fecklessness in Syria and support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
True, in the end, Kerry was unable to close the deal he rushed off to Geneva to sign last Friday. [But] it wasn’t Iran that rejected the American surrender. And it wasn’t America that scuttled the proposal. It was France. Unable to hide behind American power and recognizing its national interest in preventing Iran from emerging as a nuclear armed power in the Middle East, France vetoed a deal that paved the way a nuclear Iran.
Kerry’s failure to reach the hoped-for deal represented a huge blow to America, and a double victory for Iran. The simple fact that Washington was willing to sign the deal – and lie about it to its closest allies – caused the US to lose its credibility in the Middle East. Even without the deal, the US paid the price of appeasing Iran and surrendering leadership of the free world [in this instance] to France and Israel. …
Thus, Iran ended Pax Americana in the Middle East, removing the greatest obstacle in its path to regional hegemony. And it did so without having to make the slightest concession to the Great Satan. …
It was fear of losing Pax Americana that made all previous US administrations balk at reaching an accord with Iran. …
The Obama administration just paid that unsustainably high price, and didn’t even get a different relationship with Iran.
Most analyses of what happened in Geneva last week have centered on what the failure of the talks means for the future of Obama’s foreign policy.
Certainly Obama, now universally reviled by America’s allies in the Middle East, will be diplomatically weakened. This diplomatic weakness may not make much difference to Obama’s foreign policy, because appeasement and retreat do not require diplomatic strength.
But the real story of what happened last week is far more significant than the future of Obama’s foreign policy. Last week it was America that lost credibility, not Obama. It was America that squandered the essential component of global leadership.
And that is the watershed event of this young century. …
Until Obama became president, the consensus view of the US foreign policy establishment and of both major parties was that the US had a permanent interest in being the hegemonic power in the Middle East. US hegemony ensured three permanent US national security interests: preventing enemy regimes and terror groups from acquiring the means to cause catastrophic harm; ensuring the smooth flow of petroleum products through the Persian Gulf and the Suez Canal; and demonstrating the credibility of American power by ensuring the security of US allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia. The third interest was an essential foundation of US deterrence of the Soviets during the Cold War, and of the Chinese over the past decade.
Obama departed from this foreign policy consensus in an irrevocable manner last week. In so doing, he destroyed US credibility. …
[Even] if a conservative internationalist in the mold of Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy or Ronald Reagan is elected in 2016, Obama’s legacy will make it impossible for him to rebuild the US alliance structure. US allies … will not be willing to make any longterm commitments based on US security guarantees.
Obama has taught the world that the same US that elected Truman and formed NATO, and elected George H.W. Bush and threw Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, can elect a man who betrays US allies and US interests to advance a radical ideology predicated on a rejection of the morality of American power. Any US ally is now on notice that US promises – even if based on US interests – are not reliable. American commitments can expire the next time America elects a radical to the White House. …
America’s appalling betrayal of Jerusalem under Obama … is the straw that has broken the back of American strategic credibility from Taipei to Santiago. …
The twice-elected president of the United States has dispatched his secretary of state to threaten and deceive US allies while surrendering to US foes. It is now an indisputable fact that the US government may use its power to undermine its own interests and friends worldwide.
Could a president fail more catastrophically than Obama has? The list of his failures is too long for this space. Enough to say he has had no successes. America under his leadership is more in debt, its government is more corrupt, its position in the world is weaker, its Constitution is voided, its citizens are less free, its enemies are triumphant, its allies are enraged …
And yet … an awful question arises. What if all this represents not failure but success? What if the wrecking of the economy, the collectivization of the people, the weakening of America as the dominant world power, the voiding of the Constitution, the advancement of Islam, the existential crisis of Israel, are precisely what Obama set out to achieve?
Then he would have to be assessed as the most successful president since George Washington. The failure is colossal, but it is not his. It is America’s.
It seems tragically probable that the Left has won. Socialism – or call it statism, or collectivism – has won. All over the Western world it has won. There are no political parties in Europe or the New World that have any chance of coming to power that are not socialist. Those parties that call themselves conservative are no more likely to dismantle the welfare state that every Western nation has become than are the self-declared collectivist parties.
The Left, we repeat, has won throughout the West. And having allied itself with Islam, it is helping that savage force to replace our civilization and its outposts and defenders throughout the whole world.
It is too late to reverse the accumulating consequences of its victory. Sentiment has defeated Reason by achieving political power and using it to coerce conformity.
For all its claims to be rational, Socialism is the political expression of sentiment: the sentiment of egalitarianism, to appease the base emotion of envy.
In its claims to act in the name of compassion; in its determination to humble the more gifted and more accomplished; in its vision of a High Government as lord, father, judge, director, enforcer, provider, punisher; in its mystical doctrine of an ideal existence somewhere in the hereafter that will justify suffering and sacrifice; in its striving for total control; in all this Socialism closely resembles Christianity. Socialism can fairly be called “secular Christianity”.
Though the Enlightenment destroyed the power of the Christian Churches, and to a large extent drained Europe of religious belief, Christianity has its revenge. It has crept back through the romantic idealism of Marxism and its daughter, the welfare state, until once again popes and primates – the ideology’s elite – command obedience. The punishments they will inflict on you for not conforming are not now the rack, the wheel, or the stake. (Or not yet.) Rather, they will tax away your wealth. They will actively seek ways to incriminate and imprison you. They will surreptitiously deny you your rights under the law.
In America, agencies of oppression are now most notoriously the IRS, the EPA, the TSA (see here, here, and here.). Among the government departments which have arrogantly assumed dictatorial powers are those of Justice, Health, and Education. We have been told by a source we have no cause to doubt that law-enforcement agencies throughout the country have been instructed by the socialist administration to investigate, humiliate, accuse, and whenever possible condemn and imprison “the Rich”, and – it seems from some cases we know of – to fine them to the limit of the law. Rich or not , you will find that there’s no aspect of your life that the long fingers of despotism cannot or will not probe and re-direct.
For this calamitous system a growing majority, it seems, will cast their votes time and time again. Democracy itself has brought the one country which was founded on the idea of personal liberty to this condition.
The Left has won in America; it has won in Europe; it has won throughout the West. It prevails in the schools and academies where dissent is discouraged and even penalized. It is enthusiastically supported by the mass media. And those who should oppose it, the Republicans, far from standing for liberty, talk passionately about trivial issues, apparently seeing its mission as a holy crusade to keep people from making their own choices in matters of personal – especially sexual – relations. They would have us all conform to busy-body moral rules laid down by Christians. For in America the old Christianity still holds the minds of millions in thrall. The sacerdotal Christianity of the puritan Right will not be liberty’s champion against the secular Christianity of the tyrannous Left.
The Left thinks in terms of achieving an ideal society. It has ends and goals. The leftist government steers the nation towards a vague vision. The people must be carried on forever towards it, whether they like it or not, while every effort is made to persuade them that the end, the goal, the destination is a paradise. But history tells us that socialism leads only to impoverishment at best and unmitigated hell at worst.
Governments should not have “ends”. They should only have functions. Or rather, one function: to protect the liberty of the people. Government should serve us, not reign over us. With the only other political party likely to gain power in America too feeble to fight, is there no other force that we can look to for taking up the cause of liberty?
The answer ought to be the libertarian movement. If the libertarian movement were genuinely for liberty above all else, for defeating the Left by upholding the Constitution, shrinking government, keeping the state from interfering in the economy, and defending the nation, there would be hope for a future victory of Reason and Freedom.
But the libertarian movement is not a force bringing hope.
Derek Hunter writes at Townhall on The Problem With Libertarians:
There was a time I called myself a Libertarian. And there was a time I was a Libertarian. I just wanted to get government to leave me alone, to leave people alone and to go all crazy and limit itself to doing only that which is spelled out clearly in the Constitution. That was what a Libertarian was. But it’s not anymore.
The word no longer has any meaning, no definition or parameters, certainly no coherent philosophy to speak of. And there’s no one to blame for that except Libertarians themselves.
So what happened?
By not even loosely defining the parameters of a set of beliefs, Libertarians allowed their brand – as it was – to be hijacked by anyone willing to wear the label. They went from the movement for individual responsibility, small government and free markets to a gaggle of misfits who want pot and prostitution legalized and a total non-interventionist foreign policy. …
We have no objection to pot and prostitution being legalized. Why were they ever illegalized? But we hear libertarians defending child pornography; preaching historical revisionism; pretending liberty can dispense with the rule of law. And we object to all that. As for their non-interventionist foreign policy, they seem to think that we need not stir ourselves in our own defense unless America is invaded militarily by a hostile power. It makes us wonder if such libertarians are at all aware of what’s going on in the outer world. Do they think about what it will mean for us when Iran becomes a nuclear power – which it soon will? Have they thought what will happen to this country if there is nuclear war anywhere on the globe? We doubt it.
The great Reason magazine is a wonderful publication filled with great articles, solid journalism you won’t find elsewhere … and a voice that does little more than complain.
Reason is great at highlighting abuses by every level of government, stories ignored by other media outlets. But you won’t find much in the way of philosophy or solutions. …
I love the Cato Institute and have a lot of good friends who work there, and they do offer some good solutions. They just refuse to do anything about them. Cato has a deserved reputation for refusing to play nice with anyone else. When was the last legislative “victory” spearheaded or introduced by Cato? …
On election night 2008, I was at a Reason/America’s Future Foundation (another Libertarian group) election night party in a Chinatown bar in DC. The results of the election were a forgone conclusion, so what better way to mark the night than with a few drinks and friends. Hell, the band played as the Titanic sank, so why not imbibe a bit as the nation hit the iceberg?
It’s not like anyone was thrilled to vote for John McCain that day. But as bad as McCain was (and still is), he was better than Barack Obama. At least that’s a conclusion you’d expect anyone who supported liberty to draw.
Yet that night, as each state was declared for Obama, cheers rose from the crowd. When Obama won Ohio, you would’ve thought you were in a bar in Green Bay and the Packers had just won the Super Bowl. High-fives and laughter filled the room.
It wasn’t as though these self-described Libertarians wanted Obama to win. Well, actually, many of them did. But the majority of them wanted McCain to lose. They wanted Republicans to lose. Their victory was to let the country lose, to get that smug sense of self-satisfaction they were feeling. …
Libertarians have devolved from the pro-liberty wing of the right side of the ledger to the annoying kid who, when he doesn’t get 100 percent of what he wants, takes his ball and goes home. The team he agrees with more than half the time loses to the team he barely agrees with at all, and he cheers …
David Horowitz, writing at the National Review, argues for a united front to be formed against the Left; all factions of Republicans, libertarians, conservatives, coming together under the banner of liberty. But he does not expect the idea to win instant favor.
Naturally, the first reaction of conservatives to this advice will be to reject it. Conservatives do not want to behave like leftists, who see politics and government as a means for transforming the world and the people in it. Temperamentally, conservatives are cautious because they know that the problems the world faces are caused by human beings, not by the social institutions that progressives plan to change. …
Fortunately, the objections of conservatives are not an obstacle to getting behind a unifying idea. The conservative cause already has a moral core; it is just not currently a political theme, the way equality is for Democrats and progressives. But it can be made into one.
Conservatism … is about protecting the constitutional system created by the Founders. But the creation of this constitutional arrangement was a revolutionary act. It provided a political framework to maximize individual freedom and allow citizens to exercise their talents and enjoy the best possible lives.
What conservatism is about is freedom, and this is its natural unifying idea.
Individual freedom and ordered liberty made possible by the imposition of limits on government is the idea that unites conservatives and Republicans, and should be their rallying cry. The idea is fundamentally opposed to the “equality” that is the goal of progressives and Democrats. …
The equality proposed by progressives and Democrats is a declaration of war on individual freedom, and therefore on the American constitutional framework. The steady erosion of that freedom is the consequence of progressives’ political successes. This is the war that divides Left and Right. Conservatives must recognize that it is a war, and prosecute it as a war to defend individual freedom. That should be the unifying idea of the conservative cause. …
The very struggle that inspired the Right in the Cold War era — the battle between tyranny and freedom — is once again staring us in the face, but we are reluctant to name it. We have gone almost silent instead. The silence must end. It is time to connect the battle for individual freedom at home and the defense of our free society abroad, and to make them one. That is the way to advance the conservative message and unify the political forces on which the future of our nation depends.
If conservatives continue to ignore the fact that their opponents approach politics as a religious war, if they fail to organize their own resistance as a moral cause, they will eventually lose the war and everything that depends on it.
Eventually? We fear “eventually” is now.
Look up! See the skies filling with pigs on the wing – because: The left-biased media are exploding with disapproval of the president they have long and deeply adored.
CBS finally got round to airing a report on what happened in Benghazi on 9/11/12 that is not flattering to the Obama administration because it shows – without explicitly stating – that Obama and Hillary Clinton lied about the disastrous events of that night of death and defeat. [But see Postscript.]
Obama’s most faithful dog NBC reveals to its audience that Obama lied when he said that people could keep their health insurance under Obamacare.
Four opinion columnists of the left-leaning Washington Post are shocked, shocked at Obama’s display of incompetence, his denial of culpability, his claimed ignorance of what his administration has been doing badly.
Ruth Marcus becomes quite strong in her disapproval, here. Her theme is “the chaotic reality of the Obama administration’s second term”. She writes:
The menu of current problems [that] go to issues of core competency to govern [are]:
Eavesdropping on foreign leaders. The choices here are unflattering. EitherPresident Obama did not know what his spy agencies were up to, in which case he is not fully in control of the reins of power after nearly five years in office, or he knew, in which case he did not think through the obviously inadequate cost-benefit ratio and his aides are misleading the public now. … How could he not know? If he did know, how could he think the information gleaned could possibly be worth the risk of having foreign leaders discover the surveillance? …
Syria. … the herky-jerky nature of the administration’s approach — drawing a red line, failing to enforce it, trumpeting enforcement, then suddenly shifting to Congress — does not portray the president in a flattering light. This is first-year-of-first-term amateurishness …
Oh yes, health care. The president’s signal domestic policy achievement. Probably the most important legacy of his administration. … So how could the roll out of the Web site be so bad?
Chris Cillizza writes skeptically:
“Obama didn’t know” has become a regular refrain for this White House. Last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the president was unaware of the red flags that had been raised in regards the launch of Healthcare.gov, and back in May the President himself said knew nothing about the reports of the IRS targeting of conservative groups before he read about it in the media.”
And his column is illustrated with a video clip from a CNN report about Obama’s repeated plea that he “didn’t know”, questioning whether this was “a strategy”. The host’s air of mild surprise, his tone of “only asking”, fig-leafs the message that if Obama really doesn’t know what’s going on in his administration, he should.
Dana Milbank seems more than a little irritated (writing here at IBD):
For a smart man, President Obama professes to know very little about a great number of things going on in his administration. .. Is it better that he didn’t know about his administration’s missteps — or that he knew about them and didn’t stop them?
Richard Cohen – seeming hurt and even a touch angry (here):
[Obama] has lately so mishandled both domestic and foreign policy … [His Syrian policy is] intellectually incoherent and pathetically inconsistent … The debacle of the Affordable Care Act’s Web [raises]questions about confidence. … An erratic presidency has made the world a bit less safe.
Why were they unable to see what sort of man Obama is until now?
They saw what they wanted to see.
What’s happened that they see him more clearly now? Why did they let him get away with so much? Why are they still not complaining about the lies and cover-up of Benghazi?
Is it too late to undo the harm Obama has done to America?
We now know that perhaps 16 million people* will lose their health coverage because of ObamaCare. But David Axelrod sniffs “the overwhelming majority of the population won’t lose their current coverage,” and Anna Eshoo (my congresswoman) assures us that these millions will now be able to purchase “better” insurance (which they don’t want and which doesn’t fit their needs).
Three years of blatant lies from Obama in order to herd the American people, mostly against their will, into an unworkable, financially disastrous system, all in the service of the long-term goal of the Democratic Party: to increase the power, the reach, and the intrusiveness of the federal government, thereby turning free, independent citizens into wards of the state. This is what Obama meant when he proclaimed shortly before his first inauguration that the total transformation of this country will begin in five days. Next on Obama’s agenda is universal pre-school, that is, a year or two more in state-run, generally mediocre schools and a year or two less time with their parents (who may harbor undesirable, reactionary views). And let us not forget the Obama administration’s long-standing policy of not enforcing immigration laws, which means an ongoing rapid transformation of the demographics of this country and a huge increase in the number of people who will vote for welfare state policies.
What is this transformed America that Obama and most Democrats envision? At best, it’s a bloated European-style welfare state similar to the ones that are currently sinking into insolvency, that are unwilling and unable to defend themselves against the enemies within and without, that are becoming more culturally enfeebled with every passing year, and that are locked in a demographic death spiral which ensures their virtual disappearance as a culture in the lifetime of my grandchildren. At worst, it’s a leviathan state which holds the commanding position in every critical aspect of life, both political and economic — something akin to a Soviet Union but perhaps without the gulags, the purge trials, and the sealed borders. This worst case scenario is not so far-fetched when one considers the chief influences in Obama’s life: the Reverend Wright, Frank Marshall Davis (Communist Party member), Saul Alinsky, Bill Ayers, and Obama’s revered father, a Marxist revolutionary. Steve Weinberg, Nobel Prize winner in physics, once expressed amazement that religious people actually believe that the Bible is literally true. When it comes to irrational belief, is it as difficult to grasp the notion that Obama might very well believe and wish to put into practice the anti-American, anti-capitalist worldview of those he has chosen to associate with throughout his adult life?
One may argue that a single man cannot possibly do irreparable damage to a society in eight short years. Let us hope this is true. But think about it! In two generations, Greece has gone from a nation of sturdy fishermen, farmers, and merchants into a bankrupt society whose citizens riot at the prospect of not being able to retire at the age or 50 with full pensions. Massive government intervention, in particular unearned benefits, has done to the Greeks what it has done to so many blacks in this country; that is, it has reduced them to feckless wards of the state. As Ambassador Daniel Moynihan pointed out, culture is more important than laws, but culture can be changed by changing the laws.
As far back as the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville described a new and distinctive culture, one that was totally different from those of Europe. It was a culture characterized by individualism, self-reliance, hard work, suspicion of authority, individual generosity, and the willingness to form local associations to solve social problems. It is what shaped and molded America and is the reason why the United States and not Brazil, Argentina, or Russia is the world’s preeminent power. Obama appears to have nothing but contempt for this culture, as exemplified by his off-hand comment about those people who cling to their guns and religion and his wife’s comment (almost certainly approved by him) on the campaign trail to the effect that for the first time in her life she felt proud of her country. When asked what made America great, Obama cited the passage of Social Security and Medicare – implying that the evolution of 13 weak colonies to the most powerful, the wealthiest, and the most innovative and creative nation in a little over two centuries was nothing compared to social welfare legislation. On another occasion, Obama opined that the Constitution was a flawed document in that it stipulates only negative rights (Congress shall not do this or that) and but does not stipulate positive rights (good jobs, free education, free medical care, free housing, etc.). But by their very nature, it is beyond the power of government to guarantee such “rights”. Government can decree the things it wants done but cannot ensure that these things will be done. If it could, the Soviet Union (which had a magnificent constitution) would have been an earthly paradise but, like all other states that have offered cradle-to-grave fulfillment of human needs, was a giant prison whose citizens were equal in their poverty.
Robert Kantor TAC Associate October 30, 2013
*Footnote: A Forbes article headlines: Obama officials [predicted] in 2010 that 93 million Americans will be unable to keep their health [insurance] plans under Obamacare.
Postscript 11/13/13: It turns out that the CBS report was based on a false account. This does not alter the fact that an Obama-supporting TV channel was prepared to discuss Benghazi without whitewashing the Obama administration – unless putting out the program was the start of a cunning plan to tell lies, have them exposed, and so make it seem that any adverse criticism of the administration’s handling of the Benghazi attack is likely to be untrue. It’s a possibility, but we think it more probable that CBS was simply deceived, and its willingness to criticize the administration’s handling of that dire event remains the notable point.
“Liberal” is a misnomer for the American mainstream Left. The Democratic Party has become a socialist party, and socialists are not liberal in the plain meaning of the word. Democrats are not for liberty, they are against liberty. They are for government control of the people. They hate Republicans, conservatives, the Tea-Party and anybody who believes in individual freedom and a government that serves rather than masters the people, and their hatred inspires and motivates them. They reflexively blame the Right for everything that goes wrong. Every time there is a terrorist attack in America the leftist MSM declares that the Right must be to blame. In almost all instances it turns out that their allies, Muslim jihadis, are actually the perpetrators. (The few exceptions have almost all been lunatics.) The growth of illiberality among the so-called liberals dates back at least five decades, when the Left did its utmost to blame the Right for the assassination of President Kennedy. The fact that the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was a creature of the Left was …
… an inconvenient fact [which] had to be expunged. So, 24 months after the assassination, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the Kennedys’ kept historian, published a thousand-page history of the thousand-day presidency without mentioning the assassin.
So George Will writes at Investor’s Business Daily. He goes on:
The afternoon of the assassination, Chief Justice Earl Warren ascribed Kennedy’s “martyrdom” to “the hatred and bitterness that has been injected into the life of our nation by bigots.” The next day, New York Times luminary James Reston wrote in a front-page story that Kennedy was a victim of “a streak of violence in the American character”, but especially of “the violence of the extremists on the right”.
Never mind that adjacent to Reston’s article was a Times report on Oswald’s communist convictions and associations. …
Three days after the assassination, a Times editorial, Spiral of Hate, identified Kennedy’s killer as a “spirit”: The Times deplored “the shame all America must bear for the spirit of madness and hate that struck down” Kennedy. The editorialists were, presumably, immune to this spirit. The new liberalism-as-paternalism would be about correcting others’ defects.
Hitherto a doctrine of American celebration and optimism, liberalism would now become a scowling indictment: Kennedy was killed by America’s social climate whose sickness required “punitive liberalism”.
That phrase is from the Manhattan Institute’s James Piereson, whose 2007 book Camelot and the Cultural Revolution: How the Assassination of John F. Kennedy Shattered American Liberalism is a profound meditation on the reverberations of the rifle shots in Dealey Plaza.
The bullets of Nov. 22, 1963, altered the nation’s trajectory less by killing a president than by giving birth to a destructive narrative about America.
In George Will’s view, however, this meant the beginning of liberalism’s own decline in America.
Fittingly, the narrative was most injurious to the narrators. Their recasting of the tragedy to validate their curdled conception of the nation marked a ruinous turn for liberalism, beginning its decline from political dominance.
Punitive liberalism preached the necessity of national repentance for a history of crimes and misdeeds that had produced a present so poisonous that it murdered a president.
To be a liberal would mean being a scold. Liberalism would become the doctrine of grievance groups owed redress for cumulative inherited injuries inflicted by the nation’s tawdry history, toxic present and ominous future.
Kennedy’s posthumous reputation — Americans often place him, absurdly, atop the presidential rankings — reflects regrets about might-have-beens. …
But the Kennedys were not the stuff great leaders are made of. JFK was not on course to take American power, prosperity and prestige to new heights. Rather, “the Kennedys pioneered the presidency-as-entertainment”.
Under Kennedy, liberalism began to become more stylistic than programmatic. After him — [and] after his successor, Lyndon Johnson, a child of the New Deal, drove to enactment the Civil Rights Acts, Medicare and Medicaid — liberalism became less concerned with material well-being than with lifestyle and issues such as feminism, abortion and sexual freedom.
Sexual freedom being the only freedom liberals now manifestly approve of. More – they promote it with enthusiasm.
The bullets fired on Nov. 22, 1963, could shatter the social consensus that characterized the 1950s only because powerful new forces of an adversarial culture were about to erupt through society’s crust. Foremost among these was the college-bound population bulge — baby boomers with their sense of entitlement and moral superiority, vanities encouraged by an intelligentsia bored by peace and prosperity and hungry for heroic politics.
It is a devastating thought, that people can become bored by peace and prosperity. An appetite for heroic politics is an even worse phenomenon, a romantic phenomenon. It’s what motivated millions of Germans passionately to support the Nazi Party in the 1930s. And, as George Will implies, it is a desire that drives many into the collectivist Left – the Left that anti-liberal “liberalism” has become in America.
Liberalism’s disarray during the late 1960s, combined with Americans’ recoil from liberal hectoring, catalyzed the revival of conservatism in the 1970s. As Piereson writes, the retreat of liberalism from a doctrine of American affirmation left a void that would be filled by Ronald Reagan 17 years after the assassination.
But since Reagan the illiberal Left has risen again. And its season in power this time has been as disastrous for America – and for the world – as were the years of President Franklin Delaney Roosevelt (who helped to defeat Nazism, but allowed Communism to spread in Eastern Europe, and fathered the New Deal.) What it is doing now is probably even worse.
This information was given to us as a comment on our post Saved from Communism – and flourishing (September 15, 2013) by our reader – and citizen of Chile – Carlos. It confirms the two reports we quoted, which praise Chile for its spectacular economic achievements since 1973. But it is also a reality-check and corrective to their optimism, because it also tells the distressing story of how the Left is trying to sabotage the system that worked so well and return the country to failed collectivist policies:
The information you cite on this post is correct. The country I grew up in was entirely different from the one my parents knew. Latin American nations have always been poor in ways someone that hails from the Anglo-Saxon world can’t fathom, and it’s been like that since the Spaniards came hundreds of years ago.
My parents, the son and daughter of poor country workers (the kind that toiled the land without technology or electricity), are now medical professionals, wealthy, and have traveled to all continents. It’s the kind of story you hear in those once poor third world countries that lead free market reforms, or about first generation immigrants that arrive to the US as paupers and then, after some decades, amass the kind of wealth only a small percentage possess in their countries of origin.
Besides [and because of] having the highest per capita income of the region, the people of Chile surpass others in South America on eating and drinking alcohol, so much that, just like the US, obesity and diabetes are a major health concern of all ages.
With all this, you would think that the Chilean people would be happy and elated about their progress …
Yes, progress – because obesity and diabetes are bad effects of eating too much, not too little …
… but that could not be farther from the truth. The political consensus, accepted by pretty much everyone, is that the Chilean economic system is immoral and awful; a system built on “inequality and greed”.
Like in the US and Europe, the political Right has abandoned the Universities and intellectual spheres, leaving them to the Left to reign supreme. Socialism of all stripes is discussed on all political talk shows, while the greatest and most successful economic reforms in Chile’s history (the greatest reduction of poverty in recent years, for one) are scorned as “neoliberalism” and not egalitarian, and capitalists are despised with the same animus as your lefties [in the US] inveigh against the “one percenters”.
While the European welfare states are teetering, the people here hate the privately managed social security, accusing them of being thieves. The general belief here is that if something, whether minerals, forests, social security funds, etc., is owned by the State it is the property of everyone, which is good (no matter how much it costs or how much the national debt rises), but if it is private then someone somewhere is stealing from them (with commodities this is believed even if the prices are low).
This thinking is also applied to education.
Throughout 2011, huge protests broke out clamoring for free university education and the end of the voucher system for funding school education for poor families. The protesters were led by a member of the Communist Party, who was acclaimed and embraced by the fawning media. The protests ended up with more than a thousand policemen injured (beaten, burned by molotov bombs, etc.) and damages to schools on strike (by their own students, if not older members of left wing fanatic groups) that, according to the Minister of Education, amount to the cost of building 11 all-new schools.
Street violence is now a staple of the national life, with policemen attacked with a shower of rocks, molotov bombs, and acid (yes, ACID). Even the horses that policemen use have been the subject of horrible knife cuts. The last protest to commemorate the 40 years of the coup ended up with a policeman with his face (nose, teeth, cheek) destroyed by a rock blow, as several others had their hands burned with acid. (See videos of the riots here – where a fallen mounted policeman is stoned – and here and here.)
All of this without counting the crude and disgusting language the police are subject to by the crazed mass that revels in violence.
The two greatest universities of the country are hostile grounds for Presidents of all stripes. Years ago, Ricardo Lagos, a Socialist President, was verbally abused in the Law faculty of the University of Chile and paint was hurled at him for the crime of not been socialist enough. And just three or two years ago, the current President, Sebastián Piñera and other political colleagues where attacked in the Catholic University of Chile by a group of students that behaved like a group of crazed baboons hooting and jeering.
The “secular religion” of the Left, besides the sanctification of the “Dear Leader”, is the adoration of the martyrs of the Revolution.
At the tax payer expense, a Museum of the Memory was built to commemorate all the 3000+ victims of the Pinochet dictatorship, all under a language of Human Rights violations. Of course, there is no mention of Allende’s association with the Soviet Union, one of the greatest Human Rights violators ever, only surpassed by others that applied the system of Scientific Socialism, which Allende and the Left adhered to and admired. There is no mention, also, of the more than 400 police and military men that were murdered by the paramilitary groups; no mention of the human disaster that Allende government was (with a ridiculous high inflation, shortages of the basic victuals, rationing lines, out of control political violence, aggressive taking over of land and industries, the State controlling most of the economy); no mentioning of the language the Left used during Allende’s reign: the threat of violent Revolution, and, most disgusting of all, the claims that, after killing the men of the Bourgeoisie, they would take their women ‘to the bed’, a nice and blithe euphemism for rape.
Our Communist Party has expressed, openly, their grief for the passing of the lunatic dictator Kim Jong-il, and gave vocal support to the Assad regime on the glorious duty of massacring their own people (a very Communist endeavor, you know). These horrendous, ignominious, disgraceful acts in support of murder and evil that boggle the mind are met with total (yes, that is the word) indifference by the general populace, while Pinochet’s dictatorship is routinely condemned.
Michelle Bachelet, a member of the Socialist Party who governed Chile between 2006 – 2010, will return again as a candidate for the next election. While in her first mandate she tended to be Center-Left, supported by a somewhat moderate coalition, and applying as much fiscal sanity as a Socialist can have, this time she comes at the head of a new political group that includes the Communist Party and is bent on changing the “Neoliberal” system, increase taxes and all the litany of reforms that scares investors and ruins long term economic projects. She enjoys the support of nearly 40 – 45% of voters, mostly because of her motherly appearance and the fact that she is a woman.
The problem with Chile is that, as Ayn Rand would say, its very core, its spiritual, cultural and historic center, is complete and powerfully rotted with Altruism. It is embedded in the national soul. Its roots lie, I believe, with the Catholic creed, and is something that most Chileans embrace. This allows for any right, any value to be sacrificed on the altar of the Collective, Public, Tribal good.
This is the reason I am writing this to you, because I think that in some years, Chile will utterly fail in its quest for economic development, and it will be a disaster.
Economic liberalism, individualism, is the antithesis of Altruism.
The Left has learned NOTHING from the experience of Allende’s government: the living members of his administration have publicly refused to ask for forgiveness for ruining the economy and the coexistence of a nation that some three years before was peaceful and stable. The younger members of the Left believe that the CIA and the Right ruined the economy just to get rid of Allende. The lessons of History only apply to their enemies.
It is a very bleak picture that I have painted of the current situation of Chile, but it is one that any of us living here would profess, any of us that believe in freedom, private property and the secular Rule of Law focused on defending individual rights.
We knew it and we said it. When Left fascists in power advocate “free” – ie tax-payer funded – pre-kindergarten education for all toddlers, they are planning early indoctrination.
That is to say, in our vocabulary, they are planning to corrupt them.
At present they can only start at kindergarten level.
This comes from CNS:
The Chicago Public Schools this year are mandating that the district’s kindergarten classes include sex education …
And it’s okay, you see, because the Left Fascist in Chief has ached for it for a long time …
… fulfilling a proposal President Barack Obama supported in 2003 when he served in the Illinois state senate and later defended when he ran for president in the 2008 election cycle.
At a Planned Parenthood convention at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington, D.C., on July 17, 2007, a teenage girl who said she worked as a sex-education “peer educator” in the D.C. public schools asked then-U.S. Sen. Obama what he would do to encourage the teaching of “medically accurate, age-appropriate, and responsible sex education”.
Obama [said] … that he had worked with Planned Parenthood to push a sex education bill when he served in the Illinois state legislature. … [because] it is the right thing to do, to provide age-appropriate sex education, science-based sex education in the schools.” …
Explanations and “clarifications” follow. Belt out a few of those and no one should have any more questions. Okay, once more. Pay attention.
To further clarify Obama’s position on sex ed for kindergartner’s, Obama’s campaign spokesman, Bill Burton, pointed MSNBC to the “curriculum for those in kindergarten” produced by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS).
Ah, there’s an authority to command respect. And we didn’t even know it existed! (Read about it here.) Obviously, with a name like that, it deserves to have the last word.
This curriculum suggested discussing same-sex relationships — in non-graphic terms – with kindergartners.
Non-graphic terms, you see. So what’s there to worry about? You thought they’d be discussing sex with five-year-olds in graphic terms? What do you think they are? Filthy-minded?
SIECUS explained that the bill Obama supported did indeed extend sex education to kindergartners in Illinois. At that time, Illinois mandated sex education only for children in grades six through 12. SIECUS also said the bill would have removed all mention of “marriage” from sex education in the state’s public schools. …
Marriage was even then becoming a no-no. Except for gays.
“It would also have expanded sexuality education to students in kindergarten through fifth grade and mandated that students be taught the age of consent, positive communication skills, and that they (the pupil) have the power to control behavior,” said SIECUS.
Bureaucratese is always a difficult language to interpret, but you could try. Remembering that the euphemistic phrases are spoken by sex-maniacs, fill in the blanks:
Teaching five-year-olds “the age of consent” means …
“Positive communication skills” means …
“You, five year old, have the power to control behavior” means …
Well, it seems common sense prevailed that time in Illinois:
Despite Obama’s support for it, the bill did not pass and did not become Illinois law. …
But now the pedophobic pedagogues are having another go. Chiefly because they are determined that homosexuality be accepted as a norm, this time the corruption is “mandated”.
Its the healthy way, you see:
According to a report published yesterday by the CBS affiliate in Chicago, the new sex education program mandated in Chicago public schools will — like the SIECUS curriculum — instruct kindergartners about same-sex relationships.
“Students [they’re “students” already at five] will also take a look at the different family structures that exist in today’s society,” said the CBS report. The report then quoted Stephanie Whyte, the chief health officer of the Chicago Public Schools: “Whether that means there’s two moms at home, everyone’s home life is different, and we introduce the fact that we all have a diverse background.”
When you’re five years old, you gotta know that. Get it into your head, baby. Don’t sit there among your toys thinking nasty thoughts about homosexuals. We’re on to you. Listen up …
It is commonly said of Communism (as also, incidentally, of Christianity): “You can’t say it hasn’t worked because it has never really been tried.” The idea is that only rogues and sadists have led Communist revolutions and ruled Communist countries, but if that really nice Communist that everyone knows in private life were to implement his ideas, then – voila! – Utopia.
Sometimes one of the Communist faithful will speak of Alexander Dubcek as an example of a man who could have headed a Communist government that would have made Czechoslovakia happy if he had not been stopped by the wrongly-led USSR.
Question: Can any collective, any serfdom, ever make for human happiness?
Our answer: No.
Vladimir Tismaneanu, professor of politics at the University of Maryland gives his answer to the question in an article at Front Page. Here it is, almost in full:
In August 1968, the Warsaw Pact tanks and half a million-strong military killed the Prague Spring. It was not simply the end of a daring political experiment, but also a gigantic defeat for the dreams of reconciling communism and democracy. Marxist revisionism, the utopian endeavor to rediscover the presumably forgotten thesaurus of left-wing radicalism, suffered a terrible blow. In the words of a Polish dissident, “We then realized that there was no socialism with a human face, but only totalitarianism with broken teeth.”
Even Jean-Paul Sartre, the philosopher who in the 1950s had been silent (to put it mildly) about the Gulag, lambasted the invasion as “the socialism which came in from the cold.” It was the Leninist communism of barbed wire, fear, suspicion and lies. Stalin, as famous East European dissidents showed, was Lenin’s most faithful heir. He was also the most successful disciple. Post-Stalin Soviet leaders refused to allow for genuine democratization, remained faithful to the original one-party autocracy.
A joke of those times captured this continuity: “What are Brezhnev eyebrows? Stalin’s mustache at a higher level.”
The leader of the Prague Spring was Alexander Dubcek, a Moscow-trained communist apparatchik with reformist propensities. Elected Communist Party leader in January 1968, he launched an ambitious renewal program. In a few months, many Stalinist institutions lost their power. Censorship was disbanded, intellectuals were excited, civil society returned. Warsaw Pact leaders, headed by the sclerotic Leonid Brezhnev, panicked. Romania’s Nicolae Ceausescu supported Dubcek not because of solidarity with the attempt to humanize socialism, but rather as a way to challenge Soviet imperialist claims.
Adopted in April 1968, the “Action Program” of the Czechoslovak communists pledged to put an end to repressive policies and engage the party in a genuine dialogue with the citizens. One its main authors, Zdenek Mlynar, had studied law in Moscow in the early 1950s. He shared a dormitory room with a young Soviet student, an arduous Komsomol militant named Mikhail Gorbachev. They became close friends. Years later, Gorbachev would resume the Prague Spring agenda hoping against hope that democratic communism could somehow be accomplished.
In June, writer Ludvik Vaculik issued a document that entered history as “The Two Thousand Words” manifesto. The Soviets and their allies went ballistic. The Manifesto was an unmitigated, outspoken, unambiguous call for political pluralism. Millions supported it expecting a multi-party system to emerge soon. As events unfolded in breathtaking speed, the neo-Stalinists East European despots acted pre-emptively and crushed the Prague Spring. Dubcek and his comrades were arrested, transported to Moscow and forced to sign a humiliating capitulation. A few months later, Dubcek was expelled from the communist party.
A new freeze followed under the name “normalization.” It was the normalcy of jails, denunciations, terror. … Opposition activists were harassed, besmirched, jailed. They acted heroically in spite of the most unpropitious circumstances. Among them, critical intellectuals like Vaclav Havel who argued in favor of the power of the powerless.
Then in March 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in Moscow. In his belief that communism included such a humanistic dimension and his insistence that Stalin had been a vicious traitor to the original Marxist and Leninist messages, Gorbachev was part of a long tradition within the communist chapels. Students of Marxism refer to the attempt to turn such beliefs into policy as revisionism.
Of course, Gorbachev was not the first celebrated revisionist. Before him, attempts had been made by others to reconcile socialism with democracy and to jettison the repressive features of the system as distortions of an intrinsically healthy order. Consider Imre Nagy*, Hungary’s premier during the 1956 revolution, executed in 1958, and then Alexander Dubcek. Both Nagy and Dubcek failed because Soviet intervention crushed their experiments and dashed hopes of renovating socialism from within. But when Gorbachev came to power in March 1985 and announced his program of renewal, there was no foreign force to threaten the great shaker in the Kremlin. The seeds of the negation of the old order were planted in the empire’s innermost sanctum.
What have been the main illusions of Nagy, Dubcek, Gorbachev and other revisionists?
First, that the Communist Party, as the initiator of reforms, should preserve a central role during their implementation.
Second, that there was a middle way between the conservation of Stalinist structures and their complete disbandment.
Third, that a compromise of sorts could be reached with the exponents of the old regime.
And fourth, that the population at large was ready to enthusiastically espouse the revisionist program and endorse the new leaders in the frantic search for modernization. The revisionists naively believed in their popular mandate.
But this logic was basically flawed. The system could not tolerate structural changes and secreted antibodies. In the case of the Soviet Union, instead of foreign intervention, Gorbachev was faced with the morose inertia of the bureaucratic colossus. His exhortations increasingly fell on deaf ears, as economic performance failed to improve. The work ethos was plagued by apathy and indifference.
Were Dubcek and Gorbachev true believers? In a sense yes, because only a true believer would have engaged in such destructive action while hoping that there was enough loyalty to the system among its subjects to keep the regime alive.
The crushing of the Prague Spring was justified as defense of socialist internationalism. In fact, Marxist internationalism was nothing but hollow, ludicrous rhetoric, a facade for Soviet imperialism, ethical dereliction, civic paralysis, and bureaucratic domination. …
It demonstrated a truth that East Europeans had been long familiar with: There is no communism with a human face.
*We have doubts that Imre Nagy would have tried very hard to “reconcile socialism with democracy and to jettison the repressive features of the system as distortions of an intrinsically healthy order”, but every other point in the Professor’s expert demolition of the starry-eyed argument for a kinder gentler Communism supports our own convictions.
This is from the Heritage Foundation’s Morning Bell:
Last week, the Obama Administration attempted to spin its announcement of a one-year delay in Obamacare’s employer mandate as an effort to implement the law “in a careful, thoughtful manner.” Don’t be fooled. Even Democrats have admitted the law has turned into a massive “train wreck,” with delays, glitches, and problems aplenty. Here are a dozen more Obamacare implementation failures.
1. The CLASS Act: ABANDONED, THEN REPEALED
One Democrat famously called this new long-term care entitlement “a Ponzi scheme of the first order, the kind of thing that Bernie Madoff would have been proud of” — and so it proved. In the fall of 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) admitted CLASS could not be implemented in a fiscally sound manner — and Congress eventually repealed the program outright.
2. Exchanges: MISSED DEADLINES
Most states resisted Obamacare’s call to create insurance exchanges, choosing to let Washington create a federally run exchange instead. However, a Government Accountability Office report released last month noted that “critical” activities to create a federal exchange have not been completed, and the missed deadlines “suggest a potential for challenges going forward.”
3. HHS mandate: DELAYED; UNDER LEGAL CHALLENGE
Last year, the Administration announced a partial delay for Obamacare’s anti-conscience mandate. However, many employers have filed legal actions against the mandate, which forces them to fund products they find morally objectionable or pay massive fines.
4. Small business plan choice: DELAYED
The Administration announced in April that workers will not be able to choose plans from different health insurers in the small business exchanges next year—a delay that liberal blogger Joe Klein called “a really bad sign” of “Obamacare incompetence.”
5. Child-only plans: UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES
A drafting error in Obamacare has actually led to less access to care for children with pre-existing conditions. A 2011 report found that in 17 states, insurers are no longer selling child-only health insurance plans, because they fear that individuals will apply for coverage only after being diagnosed with a costly illness.
6. Basic health plan: DELAYED
This government-run plan for states, created as part of Obamacare, has also been delayed, prompting one Democrat to criticize the Administration for failing to “live up” to the law and implement it as written.
7. High-risk pools: UNDERPERFORMING; FUNDING LOW
This program for individuals with pre-existing conditions faced higher costs and lower enrollment than advertised. Though it was originally projected to cover up to 700,000individuals, only about 110,000 have enrolled — yet the Administration had to halt new enrollment and take other radical measures to prevent the $5 billion program from running out of money.
8. Early retiree reinsurance: BROKE
The $5 billion in funding for this program was intended to last until 2014 — but the program’s money ran out in 2011, two years ahead of schedule.
9. Waivers: UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES
After the law passed, HHS discovered that some of its new mandates would raise costs so much that employers would drop coverage rather than face skyrocketing premiums. Instead, the Administration announced a series of temporary waivers — and more than half the recipients of those waivers were members of union health insurance plans.
10. Co-ops: DEFUNDED
Congress blocked additional funding to this Obamacare program in January, and with good reason: In one case, a new health insurance co-op was called “fatally flawed” by Vermont’s state insurance commissioner.
11. “Employee free choice”: REPEALED
This provision, which would have allowed certain workers to use contributions from their employers to buy exchange health plans, was repealed in April 2011, as businesses considered it too complex and unworkable.
12. Medicaid expansion: REJECTED BY MANY STATES
Last year, the Supreme Court made Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion optional for states,ruling that Obamacare as written engaged in “economic dragooning” that puts “a gun to the head of states.” Many states are resisting Obamacare’s call to expand Medicaid, knowing that expansion will saddle them with additional, unsustainable costs.
As these examples demonstrate, it’s not just the employer mandate that’s flawed — it’s the entire law. Recognizing these myriad, massive failures, Congress should hold the line and refuse to spend a single dime on Obamacare implementation.