If you are a parent and ever took a road trip with your children, I’ll bet that you’ve heard this phrase more times than you care to remember. Impatience is the constancy of childhood. Children can’t wait until they’re old enough for…..well, just about everything that they see adults doing. For a child, sitting in a car for more than ten minutes not “doing” something is boring. Back then we didn’t have super SUVs with video screens or iPads, we had Game Boy. Our kids ripped through that in about twenty minutes.
It takes maturity to learn patience; adolescents seldom do; most college students lack that; and young adults often fail and make poor judgements, not thinking things through before they act. This is not a knock on any generation, it’s just one of life’s lessons we need to learn on the way to maturity. The problem for American society is that we have stunted the intellectual and psychological growth of our younger generations for quite some time now. I say “we” because as a society we have lost historical perspective that informs us of the empirical reality of consequences resulting from poor judgement. This has been going on for quite some time, so it’s not just a current phenomenon.
It is an accepted historical axiom that every civilization and society has within itself the seeds of its own destruction. If that’s true, then the corollary should be that as humanity progresses it should be able to root out those seeds to provide a more stable and lasting society. It’s also an empirical reality of history that the more that societies create compulsory structures, i.e. other than those that evolve naturally through the civil evolution of the population, create distortions that lead to some kind of conflict, whether that is environmental, economic, political, etc. that provides for decline and eventual collapse.
It was Alexis de Tocqueville who observed that when voluntary and private associations are allowed to flourish, they become a natural and integral part of society that can not only compliment political institutions, such as governments, but even provide functions without the need for governmental participation at all. Further, they become in effect the means for resolving dissent through civil discourse, provide for an equitably meritorious allocation of resources and a natural evolutionary social experimentation without the need for governmental coercion. This in turn creates societal cohesion and confidence even during periods of governmental chaos.
This idea was not a new revelation to the Founders of our Republic as they were well aware of the evils that were plaguing European nations and sought to construct a political system that would protect the essential liberties necessary for that stability and permanence. What they failed to do regarding slavery was a source of conflict that eventually led to a form of collapse called civil war and continuing civil strife to this day. The test for American Society is how we will resolve this issue going forward.
But because there is confusion among Americans as to what liberty and its attenuating rights are, there is an impediment to resolving conflicts. We seem intent more on changing the past rather than ensuring our liberty for the future. One of the most glaring examples of this is the corruption of free speech. It is of no small concern that this trend has become imbedded in our educational institutions, nearly all of which in various degrees are regulated by government. It is common practice to have students and teachers disciplined, expelled or fired for expressing ideas contrary to whatever majoritarianism is extant at the time.
This corruption of one of our most cherished liberties, an explicit right stated in our constitution, provides an insight of a phenomenon so contrary to Alexis de Tocqueville’s empirical observation. Historians call the study of societal collapse “collapsology”; while the term may appear a product of modern linguistic invention, it has been around for quite some time. It entails a multidisciplinary approach as there are many factors that can lead to this, but one that is in the realm of sociology, i.e. principally political science and economics, is within society’s ability to avoid; to repress a peoples’ natural right to express themselves, even if that expression is repugnant to others in society, will lead to polarizations and conflicts that will surely be the cause of that society’s demise.
While there are natural phenomena over which humans have no control, such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, that have contributed to societal collapse, understanding and respecting the natural rights of everyone should not be a difficult thing to do. However, history has shown that time and again the draw of power has proven to be stronger than the mutual respect required for a civil society. The Roman Republic fell in to despotic imperialism, spawning the chaos of the Middle Ages and its varied monarchies. While the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy nor Roman, it was an absolute monarchy. The French Revolution resulted in the First Republic, which quickly devolved in to despotism similar to the monarchies before it. All during these periods war, famine and plague were the results of just plain really bad judgements, culminating in the Great War, the supposed war to end all wars, a war to preserve democracy; of course it proved nothing of that kind but the source of even greater despotism in Europe and Asia, and also the Americas. There again poor judgements led to economic collapse, societal stress and conflicts, culminating in another world war with even worse atrocities, all contributing to conditions so inimical to a society Alexis de Tocqueville described.
There were many types of repressive regimes that evolved between these two catastrophic world wars, but what they all had in common was the growth of statism, of large all powerful and encompassing governments. They were all forms of socialism from the Marxists communism of the USSR to the gang tactics of the National Socialist Party. In America we had the New Deal, which really was not all that new, just another form of Democratic Socialism. As A.E. Samaan once said “Democratic Socialism is simply totalitarianism that allows you the illusion of a voice in the matter.” It really doesn’t matter if the form of despotism comes from the ballot box, a coup or devolution from freedom to serfdom as the results are the same.
Actually, the best way to describe the type of socialism that has prevailed in the US is to understand what Benito Mussolini, in discussions with his star pupil Juan Peron, described as the kind of socialism we have today when he said “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” Now we should not be thrown off by the word “fascism”, a term all too often thrown around modern American politics without any understanding of its origin or nature. The term is derived from an ancient Roman symbolism, possibly passed down from Etruscans, representing a magistrate’s power and jurisdiction. Fasces were a bound bundle of wooden rods around an axe, carried by Lictors who were a magistrates body guards. Magistrates, such as Praetors, had both judicial and executive powers, i.e. judge and executioner. Easy to understand is negative derivation.
Often the term is reserved for what is commonly assumed to be a “right wing” phenomenon, when in reality any political party in power can manifest such tendencies. Here again the right versus left spectrum is such a badly contrived political analysis. As George Orwell so eloquently stated, the real political division is between statists and libertarians; he would have said liberals if we were referring to 18th century political science, another indication of the fluidity of definitions in modern times.
Let’s go back to education in America. In 2017, about 44.4% of adults over 25 years of age had an associate degree or higher; 16.3% had some college education but no degree; 28.8% were high school graduates; 10.4 percent had less than a high school education. In polls taken regarding basic economics, about a third of those under middle age had little to no concept of what that was, and less than half of seniors fared better. When asked if capitalism was a result or a cause of freedom, overwhelmingly few answered correctly. When asked about what was the equivalent term to describe the time preference of money, pitifully few even understood the question. When asked what made for a store of value and a reliable medium of exchange, even less had a clue what that meant. So when we hear that more and more young Americans are in favor of socialism, an invented and compulsory system of societal relationships that has failed time and again, we should understand the lack of basic economics that informs them, an obvious failure of our educational system.
History has shown that socialism will always fail because it is not concerned with the creation of wealth, only the redistribution of it. This is done because socialist confuse compassion with compulsion. In his Second Treatise of Government, John Locke wrote that an individual “…seeks out and is willing to join in society with others for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties, and estates, which I call by the general name, property.” Where in America today do students even hear the name John Locke, let alone what he wrote. It is doubtful that they even know who Adam Smith really was. They are likely to hear he was an evil economist promoting selfish capitalism, when in fact he wasn’t even an economist, but a moral philosopher and sociologist.
It does not serve the state well to have students learn what makes for a truly civil society as that undermines the power of the state. How many students have ever heard of Walter E. Williams, recently deceased, but certainly a contemporaneous economist of Klugman and Samuelson, but seldom given much exposure academically despite the fact of his status as a Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University. Understandably he can’t be in much favor with progressives when credited with his statement that “What our nation needs is a separation of business and state as it has a separation of church and state. That would mean crony capitalism and crony socialism could not survive.” Notice how he included both cronyisms as he clearly understood the essence of Mussolini Fascism.
Now how does this all relate to the title of this blog? Well as we have traveled the road of our own history, we have made judgements to take a course toward socialism. Teddy Roosevelt’s Progressivism helped set the stage for the Wilson administrations during which the Federal Reserve and income tax were created, all contributing to America’s ability to participate in the obscene conflicts spawned by European and Asian imperialism, together with some of our own militaristic adventures. “Crisis is the rallying cry of the tyrant.” James Madison wrote in the Federalist; he was well aware of tyranny’s insatiable hunger for more and more power and that crises provide cover for that. It’s not a coincidence that the 20th Century was an era of constant conflict and strife aided by this phenomenon.
Americans did not consciously veer toward socialism. Politicians did not explicitly propose such ideas; what they did is argue for the power to protect people from themselves. They often cited the preamble to the constitution as proof that the Founder’s intent was for the Federal government to “…promote the general Welfare,… “. As the primary author of the constitution, Madison clearly stated in his many contributions to the Federalist Papers that the preamble is only an introduction and it does not define government powers or individual rights. He also made clear that the intent of the welfare clause was not a means of benevolence but a means test that a tax is only legitimate if it is for funding clearly enumerated powers stated in the constitution. Further, that charity is not a legislative power.
In more current times, the American economist F.A. Harper expressed the concept of charity toward others more in keeping with Alexis de Tocqueville’s observations when he stated that “Assistance given voluntarily is truly charity; that taken from another by force is not charity at all, in spite of its use for avowed charitable purposes. The virtue of compassion and charity cannot be sired by the vice of thievery. All told, the process of political charity is about as complete a violation of the requisites of charity as can be conceived.”
It has become about as close to an axiom of government redistribution policies that very time there is some kind of redistribution of wealth, the funds distributed are reduced by the inevitable parasitic nature of bureaucracies. This phenomenon was well expressed by President Reagan’s summary of such economic policies when he noted that “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”
Regarding any dissent toward such policies, what have you heard? I’m not referring to the partisan practice of the party not in power, such as currently the case with the Republicans, criticizing the tax and spend policies of the Democrats, as their concern about debt only seems to arise when they are not in power. Notice that during the Trump administration, not only was such an outcry absent, but they created the largest deficit to date. True the Democrats will definitely exceed that greatly, but that does not make the Republicans a financially responsible party.
On the issue of dissent, free speech is not an important issue to either of the two main political parties, and both have embraced Mussolini’s methodology by making corporations, specifically media as regards free speech, their instrument of repression. Direct government intervention would surely result in obvious constitutional challenges, but “private” entities have no such restrictions under the constitution. While Trump’s posts on social media are repugnant to most Americans, Facebook’s policies are clearly censorship and Americans should object to that.
One of the most obvious tools that government has to “influence” the private sector in this and other issues is the tax structure. In a recent interview by Joe Wiesenthal of Bloomberg Markets, economist Stephanie Kelton, a professor of economics and public policy at Stony Brook University, and a leading expert on Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), and a Senior Fellow at the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at the New School for Social Research, was a guest. MMT has as one of its principal tenets that governments should print as much money as they want because deficits don’t matter, which she made clear on the show. Wiesenthal, being a fairly intelligent interviewer, asked the obvious question, i.e. “If we don’t need to worry about deficits, why do we have taxes?”
Great question, and Kelton’s answer, while grotesque, was also very insightful. What she basically said was that taxes are still required because “….they remove dollars from our hands, so we can’t spend them,….”; so while taxes make people poorer, they provide more power for the government as taxes can be used to punish certain people by redistributing their money for doing things she finds contrary to what the government wants them to do. Sounds like something right out of Mussolini’s play book.
Now consider what has happened very recently since the new administration took office. We have proposals for trillions of dollars in programs, some described as “infrastructure” while only a fraction is for that, much of it for further social engineering. To pay for this, we will have increased taxation, further money printing, Federal Reserve “accommodation”, i.e. buying assets and artificially depressing interest rates, etc. When confronted with the growing alarm about inflation, we are told not to worry, it’s only “transitory”. When faced with the jobs reports show a slowing of new jobs and a criticism that related programs are counterproductive, the response is we need more of the same. When business complains that the increased unemployment benefits motivate a stay at home attitude among workers, the government goes in to denial mode. When the dollar dives due to MMT practices, we are told no big deal, we will get more of the same.
In recent reports from various economists who study monetary policies, alternative currencies and precious metals, it was noted that the assumptions regarding the US dollar were woefully out of touch with reality. Take for example the government noting that the US still has gold reserves larger than any other country at some 8,500 tons. That was true, if you ignore what China has been doing for quite some time now. While their central bank still has less reserves than the US, they have three other institutions that have separate reserves, but still under control of their government, at an estimated total of some 20,000 tons. What is also noted is what China intends to do with all that gold. These same experts have been paying attention to what the Chinese have opening stated is their intent to not only put their currency, the yuan, on a gold standard, but also make it a digital currency. It’s understandable why many of these currency economists predict the end of the USD as the world’s reserve currency or preferred settlement currency for international trade. China also encourages its citizens to own as much gold and Bitcoin as they can. Yes, China plans while the US and Europe keep drinking the cool aid of MMT.
Now what’s curious of course is why the US government even bothers with gold, or cares about reserves at all given the policies since FDR and Nixon that essentially killed the US gold standard. In reality, the gold standard has never really gone anywhere; it’s still with us, just in a different form. While an ounce of gold is always just an ounce of gold, it’s the currencies that have changed, i.e. become weaker. Note that when FDR thuggishly declared it illegal for Americans to own gold, it was set at $20/oz; as of today, it’s more than $1,800/oz, or in other words the USD has depreciated more than 90% of its gold standard value, and falling rapidly.
So when we are told that the new proposed taxes will only affect the rich and corporations, realize that the real, yet stealth but most insidious of taxes, i.e. monetary inflation, will affect us all, and that kind of inflation is not “transitory”, unless of course you believe that the US will cease MMT, pay down its $30T debt, balance the budget, cut spending, and restore a monetary standard for dollar stability; now that would be fiscally responsible, but forgive me if I just don’t see that happening any time soon.
So to all Americans who profess their desire for America to travel the failed route of socialism, sadly I think we’ve arrived, and neither the journey nor the destination is any fun. I’m at the point politically where I am agreeing more and more with the Polish political scientist Jakub Bożydar Wiśniewsk, who observed that “A libertarian is someone who graduated from thinking that there are problems with the state to realizing that the state is the problem.”