Thursday, February 12, 2009

Selling our birthright for a mess of porridge

I forwarded my post about the attempts to roll back welfare reform on the sly through the stimulus bill to a group of folks that I discuss politics with pretty often. One of them replied:
"IMHO, libertarianism is at best a platonistic abstraction of a widespread belief/tradition/common wisdom most visible in the 19th-century US -- perhaps the premier laboratory of representative democracy at the time. Whether welfare is practically more prone to abuse than defense, policing and courts is one question (think military-industrial complex, police state and Robespierre before you get completely sure)."
I responded, and in doing so managed to crystallize my thinking on one aspect of political philosophy better than I have in the past. (I'm an extrovert, so I think better by talking and writing and bouncing my ideas off of people. I've been writing a lot about this before I finally managed to get out what I'd been thinking for a while, though.)
[W]orries about military-industrial complexes, police states, or reigns of terror, (not to mention massive subsidies, agricultural or otherwise) wouldn't exist without the big government we're currently discussing.

Without the Progressives, there would be no imperialist American foreign policy (colonies in Puerto Rico and the Philippines, interventions in Latin America, and a foreign policy tradition that led to Korea, Vietnam, and the current Iraq War), nor would there probably have been a New Deal (since, as we know from Liberal Fascism, most New Dealers were just Progressive retreads waiting to get back into the limelight). Without those two, there would never have been a military-industrial complex, because there would have been no massive post-WWII military build-up to justify it. (We often forget that the modern bloated military was a creature of the Korean War, not WWII. Truman, drawing from Wilson's rhetoric, decided that the US needed to be big enough to take care of the world's problems.) True, modern water sanitation and sewage systems would probably have come along later than they did, but I'd call that a fair trade any day.

Modern Liberal political philosophy (Liberalism since the Progressives) has bequeathed more suffering and oppression to mankind than just about anything else in human history. It was the original driving force behind America's imperialist foreign policy. It gave rise to the vast majority of 20th century tyrants (like Wilson, Lenin, Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Kim Il Sung, and Kim Jong Il), while robbing people of most of their freedoms (except, of course, their sexual freedom, which is the only freedom to have noticeably increased under Liberalism), their self-determination (by subjecting more and more of society to the rule of "experts" or regulators instead of the people themselves or their elected representatives), their self-respect (through massive welfare states which encourage people to live idle, meaningless lives), their productivity (through increasingly higher taxes), and their safety (through increasingly lax treatment of criminals).

In return it gave them sanitized water systems, functioning sewage systems, and trains that ran on time. You can even throw in the dismantling of systems like Jim Crow, although that wasn't something central to Liberalism so much as something central to liberalism (the concept of limited government and individual rights that undergirds Western civilization, not the Progressives' love affair with the redemptive powers of the state). Talk about selling your birthright for a mess of porridge. Some day, if our society is not so far gone that it can't recover and it lasts long enough afterwards, historians will look back on the late 19th, the 20th, and the 21st centuries as a shameful era where Progressive thought robbed people of the better part of their humanity, while treating them like livestock that was fit for nothing else than being ruled and spending their days rutting in the fields.

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