The vital choice must be made – now 313

The big divide in politics, the all-important ideological choice, is between collectivism and liberty.

On the one side are those who want to be looked after. They believe that the state should guarantee that they will always be fed, housed, schooled, and medicated. They believe that they should not be left to provide the necessities of life for themselves. The state should be their guardian and provider. Thus, they imagine, they will be secure; they will never starve, freeze in the streets, be left helpless when they sicken. We’ll call them the Serfs. Also on this side are those who want to be the guardians, the providers, the controllers. They covet the power. They will pride themselves on being the benefactors of the rest. They believe they know what’s best for the people better than the people can know it themselves. We’ll call them the Masters. This ideology of total state control, of an entrenched and privileged elite ruling by decree over obedient serfs, is Collectivism. Its devotees do not describe themselves in those terms. They see themselves as Benefactors and Good Citizens rather than as Masters and Serfs. They name their ideology variously as Socialism, Communism, National Socialism, Progressivism, and even – self-deceivingly – Liberalism. But whatever they call it, it is Collectivism.

On the other side are those who know it is an illusion that lives are best sustained by the state. They know that to depend on the state is to be powerless. They know that what the state gives the state can withhold. They know that each of us can only, first and last, depend on himself. What they want is to be free to pursue their own aims and interests as best they can according to their own judgment. They may acknowledge the necessity of government, but government kept within limits, serving the people and not mastering them; using its monopoly of force only to protect the liberty of the people. That means to protect the country from external enemies, and every individual’s person and property. Those elected to govern must be forever subservient to the rule of law, which must apply to everyone equally – the only equality that is needed and desirable. This is the ideology of Liberty.

These two ideologies are obviously, by their very nature, opposed to each other. Nations need to choose between them. They cannot combine collectivism and liberty. Liberty is indivisible.

Attempts have been made to combine the two. After the Second World War,Western European states tried to preserve a degree of freedom for their citizens while at the same time using the power of government to provide for them. They called this hybrid the Welfare State. It was doomed to failure.

The welfare state is too expensive to maintain. The welfare state is a Ponzi scheme, and can only last – only seem to work – for a limited time. Ponzi schemes must collapse sooner or later.

This is what happened. Productive citizens were taxed exorbitantly to fund “free” education, “free” health care, subsidized housing, and cash handouts to the jobless and handicapped. Multitudes quickly realized that they could do better living on the money the state handed out than by working. In some European countries a working life was barely twenty years. The age at which retirement could begin might be as low as forty-five. Pensions were provided by those still working and paying heavy taxes. Pensioners lived long. The working generation bore fewer children, preferring to use the money the state left them with to finance a pleasurable life. There were not enough productive citizens to keep the Ponzi scheme going. So foreigners were imported. But many of them did not work. Rather than contributing to the economy, they immediately became dependent on the state – which is to say on the ever-decreasing revenue collected from the ever-decreasing work-force.

All over Europe, welfare states are failing, as they had to. Those that are not failing now must fail eventually. For some the moment of crisis has arrived. The people are rioting in the streets. Governments are desperate. They search for help from sources as helpless as themselves. The experiment in “the mixed economy” is over.

More slowly, less comprehensively, the United States has been turning itself into a welfare state over the same period of time. When, in 2008, it elected a Marxist to the presidency, and he appointed collectivists to help him rule as far as he could by decree, and the collectivist Democratic Party controlled both houses of Congress, the pace quickened. Giant steps were taken towards transforming the land of liberty into a European-like welfare state.

It is too expensive to maintain. It is a Ponzi scheme. America is impoverishing itself. It has run into vast debt by handing out tax revenues to tens of millions for their “social security” and health care.

The crisis has come upon America. It had to come, and it has come now. There is no reconciling the ideology of those who want to finance “big government” and its spending on entitlements by means of high taxes, limitless borrowing, and the printing of paper money – all of which are impoverishing measures – with the ideology of those who believe in self-reliance, fiscal responsibility, limited government, and who would rather pay for defense than finance dependency.

Compromise between the two is not possible. The collapse of the European welfare states proves that. The choice has to be made now between the crippling Ponzi economics of redistribution and the tried and proved prosperity-making economics of the free market. Which is to say, between collectivism and liberty.

The bitter wrangling between Republicans, who in theory are the party of liberty, and Democrats, the collectivist party, over whether to raise the debt-ceiling; the mutual accusations of “unwillingness to compromise”; the insistence on one side that government spending must be cut and on the other that taxes must be raised, are skirmishes in the battle that had to be joined, that was being prepared over many decades. Some on each side have accused the others of “playing politics” or “only trying to score a political point”, not understanding that this is nothing less than the most important political battle of the age. It is being fought in Congress. It is being fought with words between the political parties in Congress, and more distantly between the Tea Party and the White House. It is not being fought with weapons in the streets. Or not yet. Whether it will come to that depends on whether the argument is won decisively now in Washington.

It is much more than a theoretical controversy. It is not “bickering”. This is the moment of having to choose between serfdom or liberty.

The survival of our civilization depends on the outcome.

Jillian Becker  August 8, 2011