by Fred Stopsky
December 24, 2007
A Christmas Tale: Libertarianism, Paulism, and Fantasy
Christmas is a time of fantasy and dreams. It is also a time when humans take pride in their relationship with other people and are proud to be part of the human community. During the past several months writing this blog, I continually encounter the Ron Paul/Libertarianism cohort who believe freedom entails being free of “coercive government” and a return to a time when people controlled their property and were free of nasty intrusions like income taxes and laws that said people had to behave in certain ways. So, this is my Christmas tale.
I was born at a time when the income tax took about 1% of money, when there were no laws guaranteeing social security nor minimum wages and workers could be beaten by property owners for daring to organize into unions. If a Catholic or Jew or Negro wanted to purchase a home, the owner could inform them of his right to be a bigot, and many a newspaper still had employment ads stating, ‘No Irish Need Apply.” It was truly an era in which “property rights” allowed a person complete control without any thought of civic obligations to fellow members of the community. And, of course, if you were sick and lacked money or had lost your job, there was always charity to pull you through. God bless the Salvation Army, just line up, bow your head, say a few prayers, and you got a bowl of soup and a lice infested blanket to use for sleeping. We didn’t have any of that coercive government around to provide food and lodging for the poor. I guess, for Ron Paul, that was a perfect Christian world which personified the ideals and values of Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, for libertarians, along came the evil Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal which began the modern era of “coercive government.” Laws were passed stating employers had to pay minimum wages, had to contribute to retirement of workers through the social security system, had to guarantee safe working conditions, and drugs and products were inspected by “coercive government” to ensure health standards were maintained. Youth were provided money to attend college and the Civilian Conservation Corps was created to ensure young people had productive jobs. For their parents, the “coercive government” provided jobs through the WPA. Of course, these “lazy welfare bums” built great highways, halted erosion of soil, built schools and hospitals and community centers, all products of “coercive government” intruding on property rights and actually insisting the wealthy pay slightly higher taxes.
Coercive government got much worse in the 1940s and 1950s. The G.I. Bill of Rights paid veterans to go to college or trade schools with all expenses taken care of as well as living expenses. President Truman actually believed he had the power to “force” white soldiers to accept Negroes into their units, and that damn “coercive” Supreme Court had the nerve to state segregation was illegal. They even told bigoted property owners they could not deny Jews and Catholic and Negroes of the right to live where they so desired. The dream world of free people unfettered by “coercive” government was under attack. Why can’t people be bigots? How dare the government actually say it was illegal to set quotas as to the number of Jews who could attend a college? To libertarians, this is a free country and people and institutions have a right to behave in any manner they so desire.
I am always fascinated reading Ron Paul and the libertarians when it comes to stating government creates problems. The Northwest Ordinance of the 1780s gave land to states that could be sold to build colleges. That, NOT FREE ENTERPRISE, is the source of most midwestern state universities. Tom Jefferson was the one who used FEDERAL MONEY to begin the first national road–later it became highway 40. The entire canal system of America was built with COERCIVE GOVERNMENT MONEY, and there would be no railroads spanning the continent without FEDERAL MONEY. Mr. Paul, is there something wrong with your theory of coercive government when Federal and State money is used to build transportation systems which then enable private enterprise to make huge fortunes and farmers to become productive?
I am frightened and angry at actions of the Bush administration which has made major assaults on our freedoms. But, I am also aware this generation has greater access to freedom of speech than any prior generation in American history. During WWI, President Wilson imprisoned dozens of people for “speaking” against war policies, including Eugene Debs, who ran for President in 1912 as a Socialist and got a million votes The other day I received a missive from someone who claimed the “coercive government” was taking away his freedom of speech. This person was writing on a COMPUTER and using the INTERNET–two developments that arose due to GOVERNMENT MONEY–and saying he disliked the government intruding into his private life!! The Internet and MySpace and Facebook have nonstop attacks on government by people who claim “the government” is taking away their right to attack the government!!
Ron Paul is a very decent man. I like him as a human being. He has admirable feelings and emotions and means well. Unfortunately, his ideas on economics, politics, and social interactions are more conducive to a 19th century society than one of the 21st century. He lives in a fantasy world that exists in his mind, but was never part of the reality of the American historical experience. The history of America from day one witnessed government money being used to stimulate economic development. We have traveled– and still are traveling– a long road in the quest for government legislation to protect human rights. Allow the ideas of libertarians or Ron Paul to become the norm, and the poor of this world will be subjected to oppression of the wealthy.
A few weeks ago, I wrote an essay stating that “I Am A Jesus Man.” There is one thing I know in my heart, if Jesus Christ appeared tomorrow on his birthday, he would be on the side of government which ensures the dignity of human beings. As long as a child is denied decent food, clothing, medical care, education, and protection against abuse, I must use government to protect them. As long as working person faces poverty and charity to meet his/her needs, then I want government to respect their human dignity by providing funding. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal was predicated on the idea that you didn’t give people something for nothing, you provided work because people need work to maintain their dignity.
Let me conclude about a story which exemplifies the difference between Ron Paul and Franklin Roosevelt. In the initial days of the New Deal they were developing the WPA to provide work for the unemployed. Harry Hopkins, a close adviser, recalls that after finishing his conversation with the president, just has his hand touched the door knob, he turned around and asked: “Mr. President, what about artists and writers and musicians, should we also help them?” The president hesitated a moment, threw back his head and laughed while saying, “include them all.” That remark led to among the most creative periods in American intellectual history. Yes, Mr. Paul, federal money paid musicians to play in Grant Central Station, it led to the birth of Black Theater and wonderful novels and histories, it led to capturing the folk music of Appalachian mountain people, and it meant millions had their human dignity respected.
Tell me, Mr. Paul, if Jesus appeared today, whose ideas would he support, your libertarianism or my ideas for government aid?
A new survey by the German Interior Ministry reveals that 92% of German Muslims reject religiously motivated terrorism and violence. About 6% indicated “violent tendencies” and 14% indicated anti-democratic values. Those figures would fit any group surveyed in the United States. If you asked Americans during the 1970s about Italians, they would have immediately responded with the word, “mafia” due to the Godfather films then in circulation.
A Czech Republic survey by the People In Need Foundation, found that 80% of high school and college students did not like the Romany (gypsy) people and wanted them to attend segregated schools. They also have negative views about prostitutes, drug addicts and the homeless. What a wonderful statement by students to emerge during Christmas. Hey, what about the Jesus family which didn’t have a home and had to sleep in the manger?
Kudos to newly elected Kevin Rudd of Australia who made it clear that Australian troops will be leaving Iraq by June.
Speaking of surveys, recent polls published in The Independent, indicate, about 50% doubt if British soldiers are getting the right equipment. There is strong feeling in Great Britain to have their soldiers returning home.
The Israel government is going ahead with constructing 1000 new apartments in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Even Condi Rice termed the decision as “unhelpful” but there is no indication Bush will exert pressure to halt this terrible mistake. Israel’s Peace Now organization said the move will damage diplomatic relations. Israel’s Prime Minister Olmert said he was not interested in discussing the cease fire — ‘hudna” proposed by Hamas because they always lie. If Israel assumes Hamas always lies then it is impossible to know when they really have changed their minds.
I will not make sarcastic remarks on Christmas.
England, The Independent: ‘Homeless Men Freeze To Death On Streets Of Paris”
They were found at the Place de la Concorde, in the center of Paris.
USA, Army Times: “Nebraskans Pay For Guardsmen To Come Home”
Some wonderful people, aided by Democratic Senator Ben Nelson, raised money so Nebraskans serving in US bases here in the United States could get home for the holidays.
OK, one sarcastic comment: Where are all those right wing religious fundamentalists when it comes to actually helping a member of the service?
How about a nice Christmas Story? My wife was driving along when someone hit her car from the side. The driver behind her, came over, got her out of the car, parked it in a parking lot, and waited for the police so he could give an eye witness account of how the other driver hit her. A few minutes later, a man drove up. He had been going in the opposite direction, saw the accident, went to work, and then drove back to tell the police what happened. As my wife stood there shook, but OK, a woman from the Subway store came out and gave her a bottle of water. I thought it was a lovely Christmas tale of good people.
See you on Wednesday. My kids are off seeing their wonderful Christian grandparents.
Love and Peace