Monday, February 02, 2009

You Should Belong to Washington!

Tibor R. Machan

Back in the times of feudalism, a system the American Revolution was supposed to have overthrown, people belonged to government. The king owned everyone and all the wealth in the country. People were subjects, at the disposal of the will of the monarch not to their own. Decisions about everyone's life was made by the head of state. It was government that was sovereign, self-governing, not citizens!

All of this was what the American revolution managed to abolish, at very great cost. That event put on record the declaration that all human beings have unalienable rights to their lives. And while practical reality took a good while to catch up with this declaration--African Americans did not manage to get their basic right to life recognized until after the Civil War--the principle took root firmly enough so that much of the legal system in time adjusted to it.

It's about time for all this to be over, according to a very prominent and long article in The New York Times Magazine, Sunday February 1, 2009. The author, David Leonhardt, states without reservations that "... Once [e. g., during The New Deal] governments finally decided to use the enormous resources at their disposal, they have typically been able to shock an economy back to life. They can put to work the people, money and equipment sitting idle, until the private sector is willing to begin using them again. The prescription developed almost a century ago by John Maynard Keynes does appear to work..." ("The Big Fix," The New York Times Magazine, Sunday, February 1st, p. 23). Read it carefully--you are to be a government resource according to Mr. Leonhardt, along with everything else in the country, a resource the government "can put to work."

This would be a most revolting development in the supposedly freest country in human history, the leader of the free world. Yet that it is a philosophy Mr. Leonhardt is eagerly urging upon the new administration of President Barack Obama, which is also a great irony. It was, after all, black Americans who continued to belong not to themselves but others, with full sanction from the governments of Southern states. And Mr. Obama's ascent to the American presidency has been hailed as the final step in the long march out of that bondage only to have the current crop of statist intellectuals, such as Mr. Leonhardt, writing in perhaps the most prestigious newspaper in the nation, urge the reversal of the trend and return the country to its pre-revolutionary time when everyone belonged to the government.

All this is advocated, of course, for the laudable cause of reviving the American economy. That kind of supreme objective is exactly what the Soviet government used to justify its disastrous Five Year Plans and what all tyrants use to excuse their system of subjugation. Never mind. These current, American cheerleaders of the reactionary policies of George III, and of mercantilism in general, have no care for individual rights, for the hard won liberties of Americans. All they want is to be in on a phony rescue mission the ultimate result of which is most likely to be a full scale dictatorship in which people and the wealth of the country will be "put to work," like it or not.

According to Mr. Leonhardt and the political economist he lines up in support of this dangerous agenda, namely Stanford University's professor Paul Romer, "The choices that determine a country's growth rate 'dwarf all other economic-policy concerns'." Because of the distorted history of the New Deal accepted by Mr. Leonhardt--and, probably, Professor Romer, a "history" that has been refuted over and over again by the recent work of such researchers as for example Amity Shleas in her Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression, and by Jim Powell in his FDR's Folly: How Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged the Great Depression--the country's most fundamental principles are to be cast aside and its population is to be returned to the status of serfdom--which is what comes to being an economic resource.

It is going to be difficult to counter all this enthusiasm for old style, mercantilist statism--the hunger for power in these times is enormous. Leonhardt mentions the late economist Mancur Olson who observed many years ago that the time for serious change in a country is when it experiences an upheaval like the one that's threatening American now. And of course Leonhardt urges his statist pals to seize the day.

If Olson was right, it is vital that these enemies of human liberty meet with total failure, that they do not get to seize the day in favor of a regimented, top-down planned American economy. For that a widespread and effective counter movement needs to be sustained.

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