Forgetting history again

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
George Santayana

History is a patient teacher. If we do not learn its lesson the first time, it will gladly provide additional opportunities in the future to learn the same lesson.

History teaches us brutal truths, if we but pay attention to more than just dates, places, names and holidays.  Economic history shows that LBJ’s war on poverty has failed, as we have more people on food stamps and welfare than at any time since he began his war.  Economic bubbles are bound to burst and destroy many peoples’ lives and livelihood. Medicare has become a giant program that will soon go bankrupt, along with Medicaid and Social Security. The National Dept of Education has failed to improve student education, as it has focused more on feel good programs and supporting unions than on saving children.

Yet, we do not learn.

If the War on Poverty and Medicare haven’t worked, then let’s try Obamacare on for size, which tries to unite Medicare, Medicaid and several other archaic and unfunded programs together with some new regulations and requirements, and see if we cannot miraculously get it all to save America’s economy AND provide better healthcare at the same time!

We see a history of economic bubbles that government and the Federal Reseve have pushed onto America: tech bubble, housing bubble, banking bubble, etc.  Now, a recent article discusses a Wall Street bubble that is just waiting for a good reason to burst.  Because the government bailed out big banks, big unions, big corporations, and now the Federal Reserve is pumping $85 BILLION per month into banks, the stock market is surging to new records all the time.  All it will take to pop this balloon is for the Fed to stop or slow down its Quantitative Easing (QE) program.  Do they dare risk another recession by doing it?  Or will they continue printing a Trillion dollars a year  of paper money into the system until they wreck the economy (further) for the middle class?

It isn’t a matter of IF, but WHEN such a bubble will pop.  Either the Fed will stop printing excess money and Wall Street will sound like a balloon with all its air being sucked out, or they’ll continue deflating our dollars until gas, groceries and other basic items doubling in price (again).  Either way, it will create a new recession that we will not be able to buy our way out of, because the American dollar will be worthless at that time.

Already, China and other nations are discussing replacing the dollar with some other currency or set of currencies and valuables as the new world standard.  At this rate, within 20 years, America will no longer have a middle class, but will have an elite rich class and most Americans in a poor class.  Even those with college educations need to fear, because the wealthy will have reason to export jobs overseas untl our own wage levels drop to commensurate levels elsewhere.

It is time to tell the Federal government to balance the budget, to stop vast unfunded programs, reduce benefits to those receiving benefits, and tell everyone that our period of excess is over, and now we have to tighten our belts and pay the piper.  If we don’t, then there will be nothing for us to give our children and grand-children (and great-grandchildren) except debt and a Third world lifestyle.

59 thoughts on “Forgetting history again

  1. Also, I love that quote and think it could be used for any number of lessons – some more conclusive than others. I wonder though, is it really the conclusions from your reading of history that inform your opinion on current issues or, would you oppose these programs even if data showed them as sustainable, successful and widely popular?

    For example, there are some who will not allow the history of war in this country to persuade them away from military interventionism. I know libertarians who aren’t phased in the least by data that shows medicare or ss popularity or success- because that’s beside the point to them. The principle of the whole program is against their strict ideals. Its the same with dems and most republicans – they believe in a social safety net for the elderly on principle. If there are problems with the system, tweaks should be made – not a compete overhaul. In cases, deciding what history has taught us is slippery.

  2. Except in times of real emergency (major drought, hurricane, etc), I’m for the free market doing its own thing.

    Farm subsidies have driven small farmers out, and it largely remains in many markets the domain of the big farm producer. And there is lots of fraud. I saw an article a while ago about celebrities buying 5 acre farms to play on, solely to get the farm subsidy! It does not make sense in a world of technology for the average farmer not to be able to do his own planning. He can see what’s going on nation wide, and determine which crops he needs to plant on a particular year, etc.

    I do not believe we need to give big Oil any subsidies. That said, I think we also need to get out of their way and let them drill, ensuring basic safety and environmental standards are maintained. As it is, when the big oil spill in the Gulf occurred, half of the problem of getting a fix for the problem was our own federal government. They turned away help from other nations. A giant ship designed to suck up oil, clean it to 90% pure water and drop it back into the water was rejected for several months, because EPA would not let them dump any toxins into the water! That same ship had to await a coast guard inspection to ensure they had adequate number of life vests on board, etc.

    Pres Obama has restricted many areas on public lands, prevented an oil pipeline to be built, etc. Meanwhile, he funded several green energy companies that went belly-up, but not before wasting billions of our tax dollars. So, government interference in the market has increased prices at the pump and in our taxes, while not giving us a good return on investment (ROI). And the mandates for using corn as a bio-fuel has been a waste, and increased costs all around. Using 1 gallon of gas to make 1.3 gallons of biofuel doesn’t seem like a good ROI.

    Better to let them compete. If the government wants to place some future bench marks on companies in improving gas mileage, turning to natural gas and other better fuel sources, etc,. then I have no problem with that. However, I fear over-regulation. Someone always has other agendas: radical environmental concerns, global warming, saving a snail, preventing wind mills from being built off the coast of Nantucket, etc.

    Doing things the wrong way means fewer jobs, and really does not benefit the environment in major ways. Better to let the free market build it.

  3. Christian,

    I tend libertarian. However, if something works well, then I’m necessarily opposed to it. The issue with Social Security and Medicare, etc., is we could find better free market solutions that get the government out of it and provide better for the people, while creating a system that is sustainable. For instance, Chile has a social security system where each person gets his/her own account, which they can invest in the market, etc. By the time they retire, they often have lucrative retirement funds to use. Meanwhile, our program returns less than 2% a year, PLUS the money is not really there, because Congress borrowed it for welfare programs. So, it is not sustainable and ripe for plundering, even with Al Gore’s lockbox.
    For government, a “tweak” equals Medicare Part D. A vast new program that is unfunded, which has added trillions to our national debt. A “tweak” equals Obamacare (need I say more?).
    If we were to follow history, we would have learned from Vietnam about having a winning strategy, an exit strategy, etc. We remembered it for the first Gulf War, but forgot a decade later, and saw ourselves struggling with a second and third Vietnam (Iraq and Afghanistan). Now, we fear entering any needful war, because we did it wrong, again.
    When we talk about supporting the elderly, we need to ask: to what extent do we give them support? To the extent that children no longer help out? To the extent that we burden future generations with massive debt? In Canada, if an elderly person needs a knee replacement, he is given a wheelchair and told to wait, that maybe someday they can afford a new knee for him. Here, our elderly expect not only a new knee, but cheap drugs, heart transplant, hip replacement, and liposuction!
    Government cannot and should not do all of that!

  4. BTW, this from the Krauthammer at the Washington Post on Obamacare and big government:
    “For all his news conference gyrations about not deliberately deceiving people with his “if you like it” promise, the law Obama so triumphantly gave us allows you to keep your plan only if he likes it. This is life imitating comedy — that old line about a liberal being someone who doesn’t care what you do as long as it’s mandatory.”

    History even repeats itself in the world of comedy. We do not learn, or we do not retain the remembrance.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/charles-krauthammer-why-liberals-are-panicked-about-obamacare/2013/11/14/bd2e9834-4d6f-11e3-be6b-d3d28122e6d4_print.html

  5. rame, I’m not as interested in the government good? question as I am about history being a teaching tool that anyone really uses to inform their opinion – outside of rhetoric. Most of what I see is the abuse of history to achieve a previously desired goal. Don’t take that as directed necessarily at any of your points. Just commenting on the theme.

  6. Also, I’ve never met a libertarian who agreed in principle with government intervention in times of real emergency (major drought, hurricane, etc). The events surrounding the dust bowl, for example, led to all kinds of government intervention (environmental, economical). Isn’t that a great historically slippery slope?

    Of course a lot of people like intervention if the disaster happens in their home state, but draw the line if it happens elsewhere. Others seem to draw the arbitrary lines elsewhere. The liberal problem is drawing the line at all, but I understand the dilemma. How do we say the government is obligated to help Oklahoma tornado victims (beyond their control) but not someone who gets cancer?

  7. ” How do we say the government is obligated to help Oklahoma tornado victims (beyond their control) but not someone who gets cancer?”

    A Tornado damages vast amount of infrastructure and affects a community in such a way as to make their own recovery efforts insufficient. As it is the community as a whole that is harmed it works when a Government tries to help. Often when I see failings in community recovery efforts it is usually do to individual circumstances not meshing with community circumstances. This should be expected, as a Government serves the community as a whole and not the individual.

    A cancer patient is a single individual who should be treated as a single unique individual. The Government was not built to serve the individual. What is a good solution for one person can be a terrible idea for another. But any real government program will not treat it like that; it will ether work as a ‘one shoe fits all’ kind of program or it will be to complicated to actually work.

    Another thing that needs to be remembered is the amount of power a Government needs to have a say at all levels of the Medical process. Your Medical choices are some of the most fundamental choices your make for yourself. If the Government has the power to take care of your individual fundamental choices it has the power to take actual choice away from you.

    In other words, if the Government has the power necessary too take care of all your problems and give you anything the Government also has the power to make your choices for you and take away everything you hold dear.

  8. “Your Medical choices are some of the most fundamental choices you make for yourself. If the Government has the power to take care of your individual fundamental choices it has the power to take actual choice away from you.”

    SAMS,

    This is a great argument for what many call “reproductive rights”. And I don’t think a lack of options is the best case against the ACA or Medicare either.

    The Dust Bowl response from the gov. seems particularly applicable to the OP – since we’re talking about learning from history. I have to assume that conservatives who support disaster relief don’t see what FDR did as a cautionary tale. Which is interesting because so many progressives use it as exhibit A for why a healthy dose of economic and environmental regulation is an essential partner for any sustainable system of capitalism.

    Maybe a better example is the Bush/Obama bail outs – which disgusted me in principle – but were hard argue against when I considered the wide spread economic damage that would have been the alternative.

  9. The Constitution provides for the “general welfare” of the nation. To me, this means when a state or section of the nation falls under great struggle due to drought, disaster, etc., then the feds can step in and help.
    Our problem today is we’ve taken the general welfare clause and applied it to everything. Everything becomes a national problem, and so the power is taken away from the people and turned into a vast new bureaucracy.

  10. Rame: “Our problem today is we’ve taken the general welfare clause and applied it to everything. ”

    Maybe it’s a question of semantics. To me, “general,” sounds, well, general. To you, “general” means only under extraordinary circumstances: ” drought and disaster.” But that would not sound “general” to many.

  11. Thanks for the article Geoff. I was intrigued by it’s strange claim that: “The only good that applies to all citizens is freedom, and government’s proper role is the protection of that freedom. That was the meaning intended by the Founders.”

    I’m obviously in over my head in a discussion of original intent, but I’m very happy to disagree with the Founders if they really believed this, and will be even happier to count myself as a non-originalist.

  12. nate, the Founding Fathers used history to base the new Constitution and country on. They found that tyranny of any kind is bad. They found that pure democracy devolves into tyranny. They found that one needs a federal government to establish stability of the nation, however it is best to have it very small and leave most power to the states and people.
    That is one of the problems with those who claim to be progressives or “non-originalists”. They do not look at history prior to considering what government should/shouldn’t do. They ignore the concept of consequences. When you pick up a stick, you pick up both ends. History shows all of this, but we ignore it, whether in welfare issues, economic issues, war issues, etc.
    It is a shame that there are so many people today who think they’ve outsmarted history. I remember when Pres Clinton claimed we had broken the economic cycle of boom and bust, only to have more booms and busts occur later on.
    If it doesn’t work, stop it. Instead, we tend to do more of the same, simply because it makes us feel good to know we’re throwing money at a concern. Yet, if it doesn’t fix it, we are lying to ourselves and not really doing anything of value.

  13. Unlike the vast majority of us, the Founding Fathers could read about the democratic experience of Athens — in the original Greek! Or they could read Cicero’s speeches — in Latin!

    They were, as a group, incredibly educated men. They did indeed use history as a teacher during their debates and deliberations in forming the Constitution.

  14. Rame, I agree with your points about tyranny. I would just say that I think tyranny is a good thing in moderation. My view is that the founding fathers overcompensated because they were uptight their history with the British monarchy. I think we have too many checks and balances and not enough power in government. If Obama had more power, he could have created a full government health system replete with death panels, waiting lines, and medical rationing like Great Britain, done on the cheap, at a fraction of the cost of the current monstrosity of Obamacare.

    Or, if Ron Paul could miraculously get elected, he would be able to privatize everything, and cut all government spending and taxes, and create a powerful new plutocracy, until the voters kicked him out. That would be fine with me too.

    A little tyranny is a good thing.

  15. nate,

    Your ideal of sudden government induced change sound absolutely terrifying and would create an environment where long term business and personal planning was impossible. Why bother starting a business or hiring anyone if there was a very real chance the next elected semi-tyrant was going to wipe out your entire industry with the wave of his hand? Why bother investing or planning for retirement when the entire economy might be rewritten the next time the super-president feels like introducing a new currency?

    Gridlock, local government and personal freedom are all good things because they help create predictable environments for long term planning. A predictable tax rate gives you a number to work with when trying to decide if you can afford to sell your product at a certain price. Predictable laws make it easy to figure out whether or not your company can legally build and sell your idea. On the other hand unpredictable taxes and laws make it impossible to even guess at whether your business will or won’t work. Deciding whether to save, spend or invest becomes a gamble. Planning for the future becomes a joke.

    And since civilization thrives on people planning for future generations…

  16. That’s a good point JSG. I hadn’t thought of that. I should probably emphasize, “a little” tyranny. The US system is good, but it could possibly be improved by allowing a bit more lubrication of the wheels of power. Getting rid of the filibuster would be a great start.

  17. It always starts with just a “little tyranny.” Hitler didn’t start out killing Jews or invading other nations. Napoleon didn’t start out as a ruthless and power hungry Emperor. Just look at what a “little tyranny” did to ancient Rome: Nero, Caligula, etc. Even here in the USA, we used a “little tyranny” to lock up thousands of American Japanese during WWII, do syphilis testing on black men at Tuskegee, and had Jim Crow laws.
    I am not a fan of Machiavelli, whose ideas are pure evil. I think Nephi foresaw the day when people would say that it would be okay to lie a little and to dig a pit for one’s neighbor, all would be well in the end with God forgiving everything. That sounds like doing just a “little tyranny” to me.

  18. BTW, the country of Bolivia is one of the richest when it comes to minerals like tin and silver, oil and natural gas, and other great resources. Yet, it is one of the poorest nations on earth. They used to produce lots of gas and oil, until the government nationalized the industry in the early 1970s. By the time I arrived on my mission in 1978, the oil fields were barely producing anything. The nationalized mines produced tons of environmental hazards and poisonous rivers, while impoverishing the workers.
    A little tyranny caused them to have 6 presidents of the country in my 2 year mission, meaning no companies wanted to invest there, afraid of the instability. Tyranny caused poverty.

  19. Rame said: “the Founding Fathers used history to base the new Constitution and country on.”

    Yes, and they did a good job. But there is no evidence that their solution was perfect and couldn’t be improved upon. Other high functioning 1st world democracies have constitutions that differ from ours in various ways. I’m not an expert, and I can’t say, “this country does it better,” but it is obvious to me that Washington DC is not running at optimum speed. This isn’t the fault of politicians or voters. Politicians are just doing what we ask them to do. So to me, that means there is something broken in the system, something which causes things to grind to a halt when political disagreements overheat the system. I say “add a little tyranny” to be provocative, but what I really mean is allow politicians to find workable solutions to problems, without being slaves to a machine that makes them too beholden to non-expert, clueless voters.

    When voters hire an electrician, they let him do the job however he wants, as long as it gets the desired results. But they seem to think they can micromanage the affairs of their politicians, even though they have no clue about the mind bogglingly complex mechanics of power in Washington. These are smart guys, and they can figure things out. But we don’t let them because we are constantly threatening to “throw the bums out!”

    All I am suggesting is that we actually allow our politicians to do their job. But that is impossible, given the current amount of public oversight, and their arrogant and presumptive attitudes. Voters will be voters, but we need a system that will protect them from their arrogance. We only need them to help set general trends, not to vicariously vote on every bill by issing constant threats to their long suffering slaves in congress.

  20. Art, Medicare is broken in that it has trillions of dollars in unfunded mandates, potentially as high as 100 Trillion dollars in unfunded mandates over the next few years! We can barely afford a 17 Trillion dollar deficit, we cannot afford 6 times that amount.

    Nate, the difference between an electrician and the government is if the electrician does a poor job, I can fire hiim, not pay him, or take him to court. I can’t easily do the same with the government. And government has often shown itself to be untrustworthy. Would you trust Richard Nixon with rewiring your house?

    Politicians cannot do the job, because they cannot agree on the fundamentals on what their job is anymore. If I hire an electrician, he better not be working on my plumbing, or tearing the roof off my house. It used to be that both parties kept their hands off of the things not specifically given to them in the Constitution. They would argue over whether we should have gold as the only standard, paper specie, or to include silver. They argued over going or not going to war.

    Now, they argue over specifics that dig into our personal lives. Should American citizens lose their Constitutional right to due process so we can blow them up with a drone? Can NSA listen in on any of us? Can the feds go from handling general welfare issues to specific issues of individual welfare?

    Until we get the electricians to only work on the wiring, we cannot fix government.

  21. Nate,

    I think one issue here is that we have fundamentally different views on what politicians are supposed to do. You see politicians as expert level electricians being prevented from doing their job by dumb voters who keep getting in the way. On the other hand I see politicians more like a bunch of electricians who keep insisting they should also be allowed to rearrange my furniture, do my plumbing and decide whether or not I go see a movie next weekend. I’m not trying to prevent them from doing their job, I’m trying to prevent them from doing things that aren’t their job.

    Given how unlikely it is that either of us will convince the other to change their views on what governments are for you might consider the merits of local government. The federal government tends to get stuck in gridlock because trying to get 60% of 100% of the country to agree on anything is hard. But if we move power away from Washington DC and back to the states and cities then you only have to get 60% of a smaller and more culturally homogenous group to agree on each law. The Great State of Nate can pass new laws with blinding speed in hopes of eventually finding the right combination to usher in utopia while the citizens of JSGland can decide that they prefer a predictable if slightly flawed status quo and would rather solve their problems on their own while the politicians just pay the police and build the occasional road.

    If nothing else a system of powerful local governments would be more fault tolerant because it avoids putting too many eggs all in one basket.

  22. Ouch. I should have refreshed before I posted that. Rameumptom got to all the good electrician metaphors before I did.

  23. “Other high functioning 1st world democracies have constitutions that differ from ours in various ways. I’m not an expert, and I can’t say, “this country does it better,” but it is obvious to me that Washington DC is not running at optimum speed.”

    Well there are lots of reasons for this. I mean, let’s look at the Constitution very carefully. It’s been amended several times, representation is capped at 435 in the House. If we’d kept representation the way the Founders had originally envisioned, we’d have about 2000 members in the House. With 2000 representatives instead of 435, they’d be far closer to their constituents (one per every 20,000 citizens as opposed to 1 per 2 million).

    Secondly, where in the Constitution does it mandate that we are only allowed to have two major political parties? Total bovine fecal matter that we are stuck with two corrupt, borderline criminal, political parties that have written the rules and regulations to practically exclude any other party from challenging their duopoly. Break the lock of the Democratic and Republican parties, and you’ll start to see some real change in the country.

    I could go on, but those two issues I just listed are huge, man. Like, totally huge.

  24. Michael Towns “Break the lock of the Democratic and Republican parties, and you’ll start to see some real change in the country.”

    I like that idea, because in order to make it happen, we would have to abolish filibusters and majorities, because everyone would be in a minority. Then you could accomplish something with only 25% vote, instead of 50% or 60% or whatever it is.

    Rame and JSG, you all didn’t like my electrician analogy, because you said that the government electrician is also doing plumbing and yard work when he wasn’t asked. But that’s not true. Every politician in Washington is doing exactly what the voters in his constituancy asked him to do. Mike Lee isn’t doing what New York voters want congress to do, and Chuck Schumer isn’t doing what Utah voters want congress to do. But everyone is trying to remake government in the ideal of whatever the majority in their particular constituancy wants for America.

    Of course we’ll have disagreements, inherint in the fabric of our society. But we elect smart people to figure things out and work out compromises, because we can’t do it ourselves. Mike Lee is a smart person, and he knows which way the wind is blowing. Just like you saw Paul Ryan abandon his idealism after he became the vice presidential candidate, Mike Lee would abandon it too, as soon as it became a political imperative for him. These guys are in it for a career. Just like you and me, they have career aspirations and want to be good, lifelong politicians, and maybe do some good for the country at the same time. But first, they have to make the voters happy. But they are also really smart and very capable. If we gave them more freedom, they would be able to work together and find solutions. If Mike Lee and all the other idealist in congress were politically rewarded for being part of a solution, rather than being an obstructionists, they would be able to use their brains to make some simple calculations: first, that a majority of Americans want a modest welfare state. Second, that a welfare state that is too big causes long term deficits that are unsustainable. There are solutions to that connundrum. But they involve brianpower, education, expertice, wheeler dealing, schoozing, compromising, back scratching, pork, and all the other basic ingredients of any political operation. Clinton and Gingrich managed it in the 90s. Could it be done again? Of course! These are smart guys, much smarter than you or I! Of course I would trust Nixon to be my electrician. Nixon was brilliant, and a great president. When he had power in his hands, he only wanted to do good for the country, and he did good, and he used that power wisely. Our gripe with Nixon is that he gained that power through deciept. But that doesn’t bother me so much. I look at results, and I say, Nixon was a great president.

  25. Nate,

    “These are smart guys, much smarter than you or I!”

    I think I found a core difference in our world views. Hooray for communication! I personally don’t think any mere mortal can be sufficiently intelligent and well informed to micromanage something as complex as a country or even a state or well-sized town.

    In fact, one of the things I love best about capitalism and liberty is that it invites everyone to work on solving the problems of their own family and community. It turns the entire country into a massive parallel processing social computer that churns out viable solutions at a rate that far outpaces anything a simple government could hope to achieve. A million average people can solve a million average problems much faster than a thousand smart people even if each smart person is individual three times better at problem solving.

  26. I think we’d be much better off with a parliamentary system like Australia, Canada, or Germany. Those systems allow multiple parties to flourish, mandate coalition building in order to govern (which minimizes the kind of polarization we see in the U.S.), and most importantly provide for new elections when gridlock occurs.

  27. ” I personally don’t think any mere mortal can be sufficiently intelligent and well informed to micromanage something as complex as a country or even a state or well-sized town.”

    JSG is correct. The beauty of the human experience is that we do best when left alone to manage ourselves. There is no federal Dept of Physics, yet physicists continue to make discoveries without being managed. Same with all of the sciences. Where there is the least amount of management (the internet, computer sales, cell phones, etc) is where we see the greatest innovation as free people make their own choices about what they will buy and what they will do. The results are often disappointing (porn and gambling addictions) but also uplifting (General Conference via the internet and missionaries using social media to reach new converts).

    The most horrific mistake of the progressives is that they can “manage” human desires and results as if they are God themselves. Such hubris is proven wrong time and time again.

  28. Just wanted to clarify that I didn’t mean to knock innovation from the private sector, I absolutely agree that capitalism is the engine of our prosperity. Socialism is the bridle, capitalism is the horse. Government can easily choke innovation with too much micromanaging.

    But politicians also can’t work effectively if they are micromanaged by the collective mob. Mobs don’t innovate. Gifted individuals do. Politicians are very gifted, and could be great innovators if we let them.

  29. Rame, Maybe its tiring to you, fine. I still am going to ask again about your view of the feds response to the Dust Bowl. Was it necessary? Should they have left it alone? Doesn’t your rhetoric about “a little tyranny” apply directly to this historical example? I’m fascinated because of the history theme of your OP. Also, I really enjoy seeing how the rhetoric squares with the practical.

    For my own part, I’ve tried to lean conservative at more than one point in my life but my reading of history is one of the reasons I’ve been unable to make it stick. I can’t outright object to federal involvement in the affairs of the states after “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door”. I can’t outright object to banking regulations after an unprecedented period of stability because Glass–Steagall. And, I will never be able to say that environmental regulations or government stimulus are outright bad for the economy (or for “freedom”) after studying about the Dust Bowl.

    Ultimately I’ll say again that history has lots of lessons to teach us – but not all of them fit into a single political ideology. Most of us are really just picking and choosing. You have to, if you want to develop any consistency in our worldview.

  30. “The most horrific mistake of the progressives is that they can “manage” human desires and results as if they are God themselves.”

    I’ve heard this argument given for why gay marriage (and in VA, sodomy laws) should be legal. That you can’t legislate morality. The counter argument is that gay marriage will harm society as a whole.

    I think this is exactly what progressives claim when trying to legislate their own management of human desires.

  31. Nate,

    I understand that you don’t *want* to hamper private sector innovation. I understand that you *think* the government can exercise benevolent tyranny without significant drawbacks to the citizens. I recognize your almost childlike faith in the existence of federal supermen who can solve our problems if we just let them.

    I just happen to think your worldview is based on fantasy more than reality and believe that nothing but tragedy will come from trying to force everyone to live your impossible dream.

    So once again, the problem here isn’t that I don’t understand what you’re trying to say. The issue is that your worldview and my worldview are based on fundamentally different and incompatible beliefs about the nature of reality.

  32. Nate said: “But politicians also can’t work effectively if they are micromanaged by the collective mob. Mobs don’t innovate. Gifted individuals do. Politicians are very gifted, and could be great innovators if we let them.”

    But how do you draw the line? One gifted government innovation is another person’s debacle. Does government innovate as we’ve seen the last few presidents do? LBJ’s war on poverty has not moved the line on poverty, and may have increased it in some ways. Carter’s and others’ education efforts have not moved the education levels up any, and we are now trailing most industrial nations. George W Bush’s Medicare Part D is costing us trillions in unfunded debt. Obamacare is an albatross.
    I don’t think we can afford too much more “innovation”!
    The problem is, in an open market, ideas compete and the best ones win out. In a government sanction, it is the political party that picks and chooses the winners and losers. They do not always pick the best horse to run in the race, just look at Obamacare. Or the war on drugs. Or the war on poverty. Or Educaiton. Or Medicare and Medicaid. Or Social Security. Or Energy. Or Environment.
    So, your dreamy thoughts about how government is wonderful is we just get out of its way and let it innovate simply isn’t true. Marx innovated a lot of people into slavery. I just do not want us going down that same road of innovation!

  33. Christian wrote: “Rame, Maybe its tiring to you, fine. I still am going to ask again about your view of the feds response to the Dust Bowl. Was it necessary? Should they have left it alone? ”

    I am not a conservative. I am a Constitutional libertarian. I have no problem with government seeking to help out on the Dustbowl, as long as the following are done: 1. the help is temporary, 2. the help does not put people on the dole.
    FDR tried to provide jobs for people, and I applaud him for that. Some scholars would suggest that at least some of his efforts may have extended the Great Depression, and I’m sure they did. However, it benefited people until the crisis was generally over.
    This is what I consider “okay” within the General Welfare Clause of the Constitution. A general crisis occurs, bigger than a state can manage, and so the feds step in temporarily to help out.
    Now, if the feds were STILL managing the dust bowl crisis now, THEN we would have a problem of too much government involvement.
    This is what is happening in Welfare, Medical, Retirement, Education, Energy, and many other areas of society. Government has over-regulated things to an incredible amount – with no appreciable return on investment (ROI). While we are living longer, the huge unfunded mandates will mean our grandchildren will not have a quality standard of living simply because of the debt unloaded on them. Short term success does not mean government is good. It means they have just kicked another can down the road.

  34. Christian, I disagree with your last point. My take is anecdotal, but I’m sure many– including maybe Nate– would agree. Progressives want gay marriage legal, not out of some deference to individual choice, but precisely because they believe gay marriage is moral. To them, supporting traditional marriage exclusively is immoral. They’re all about legislating their own take on morality.

    Nate, I agree with you that politicians are gifted, but not in the way you imagine. Regardless of political views, politicians are especially gifted at gaining power, keeping power, and spewing BS. I think the fundamental difference between you and the more libertarian-leaning among us is the way we perceive politicians. We see them as liaisons hired by their constituents, who need to be kept on a tight leash so they remember their place. They do our bidding ans answer to us. You see politicians as parental figures and thus put an inordinate amount of trust in them. They’re gifted. They’re smarter than you. Why shouldn’t they be given some latitude?

  35. Nate, I literally beg you to read this essay and consider it. The veneration of “the state” is the greatest evil of our time and responsible for the deaths of hundreds of millions and the impoverishment of hundreds of millions more. We can see politicians as temporary public servants whom we elect to represent us, but turning them into heroes, when they are almost always the exact opposite of that, is a huge mistake.

    http://mises.org/pdf/anatomy.pdf

  36. Christian wrote:”For my own part, I’ve tried to lean conservative at more than one point in my life but my reading of history is one of the reasons I’ve been unable to make it stick. I can’t outright object to federal involvement in the affairs of the states after “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door”. I can’t outright object to banking regulations after an unprecedented period of stability because Glass–Steagall. And, I will never be able to say that environmental regulations or government stimulus are outright bad for the economy (or for “freedom”) after studying about the Dust Bowl. ”

    Lots to unravel here. First, there is a role for government. It is first to ensure our protection from external enemies. Second, it is to provide a secure and safe environment for freedom to flouish. In the case of school segregation, it was appropriate for government to step in and promote freedom. That said, we should remember that the same government provided for slavery AND Jim Crow laws for most of our American history. “Separate but equal” was given to us by the same Supreme Court we use today.

    Banking regulations failed us because government regulation was left half undone. Banks were given full license to expand, but the safeties were kept in place by government. Therefore, banks saw that they would be extremely risky, and government would bail them out.

    The “Stimulus” created few long term jobs, and the ones that were created cost us over $300,000 each for a one year period. It would have been cheaper to just give small businesses $50,000 for each new hire they made and kept for 2 years.

    There are still many people losing homes, even after the Stimulus “saved” those homes (which it didn’t). Instead, it sent lots of money to banks, but still allowed them to foreclose. We could have spent less than $2 Trillion on paying everyone’s
    home interest for 2 years, and allowed them to stay in their homes and have time to turn their lives around.

    The Federal Reserve is pumping $85 billion a month into the banks, helping banks and big corporations, but nothing for small business or the middle class. Instead, it is cheapening our dollar, working ourselves out of the recession and debt by making our dollar worth 30% less than before. Note that this year’s deficit is “only” $650 billion, instead of $1Trillion. That’s because our dollar is now cheapened, while milk, meat, bread, and other foods have gone up. They are only helping the rich, guys.

    Had we deregulated the banks AND told them they would be responsible for their own choices, we probably would not have had the huge bubble we’ve had. Normally banks would lend 4-5 times over the amount they have in their vault. So, if a bank had $1 Billion in the vault, it could loan $4-5 Billion. Then, if 10% defaulted, they easily had the funds to cover it.

    But for several years, the partial de-regulation allowed them to risk going to 20 times what was in the vault. So, if 10% of the loans defaulted, suddenly a bank with $1 Billion in the vault would owe $2 Billion and would instantly be in default. It was a collapse just waiting to happen, because they knew the feds would bail them out. And the feds did bail out the big banks.

    Also, the feds (always politicking for votes) pressed banks to accept more and more people for loans, meaning bigger and bigger risks.
    These things would not as easily occurred without the mangled federal rules and management.

    So, fix a Dust Bowl with temporarily helping people find jobs. But don’t use a crisis as an opportunity to create more Democratic votes by turning Chrysler over to the unions, developing Obamacare in the middle of a financial crisis, etc.

  37. rame, Jim Crow were state and local laws. At the time, when the feds stepped in and forced desegregation and a stop to violence, many in the South called it tyranny.

  38. Geoff, thanks for forwarding the Mises article, which was very articulate and interesting.

    The arguments presented make perfect sense, but my problem is that I don’t believe in the natural rights of man, but rather that there should be subjects and rulers, and that subjects should submit to benevolent rule, and rebel only against oppressive rule. I basically feel like the apostle Paul, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God….For he is the minister of God to thee for good.”

    If Paul said this of the oppression of Rome, how much more it should apply to our benevolent and democratic republic.

    “Innaleanable rights” is not a religious concept, but humanist. Therefore as a Mormon, I have no issue whatsoever with the authority of the State, as I believe it is ordained of God, and that man has no rights, as the Book of Mormon says, other than to be cast into hell. Everything else is grace. And the grace of the benevolent US government is wonderous indeed, compared to that of Rome and others throughout history.

    History teaches me that I should I should be eternally grateful for the extreme benevolence of the State in our day, which is so so much better than all the other States in the history of the world.

  39. Nate,

    I would suggest you take a look at 1 Samual Chapter 8 for a brief overview of God’s opinion on the virtue of kings and those who seek them.

    Also, the Joseph Smith translation of Romans 13 along with the church provided chapter summary seems to suggest it is primarily talking about being subject to Church leaderships, not worldly governments.

  40. Christian, Jim Crow laws were state laws, but supported by the direction the federal government was giving them. Not until the feds changed direction did the Jim Crow laws end. That same federal government caged Japanese Americans in the 1940s, stating that slavery was still okay.

    nate, Alma warned about wicked kings (king Noah, etc), and King Mosiah encouraged the people toward greater personal choice. When the Israelites wanted a king, Samuel was upset and the Lord stated that the people were not rejecting Samuel, but God himself.
    So, picking and choosing scriptures and then taking them out of context, does not help anything. Besides, saying our government is “benevolent” is a subjective concept. I can show objective events that show it is not as benevolent as nate implies, including NSA spying, killing Americans with drones, and Obamacare harming millions of households just so progressives can increase the size of government.
    Our nation was built upon the concept of freedom. It was based upon the concept of “inalienable rights” given to man by God. That is NOT humanist, but a religious foundation. Saying we get rights from government is the humanist argument (God cannot or will not help, so government will act like God and regulate everything and everyone).

  41. JSG, thanks for pointing out that the JST changes the meaning from secular governments to religious ones. I hadn’t realized that. Joseph Smith was a child of the American revolutionary spirit, and he would have known how that scripture had been abused over the centuries. I personally disagree with the JST on the change, as I feel Paul’s view on the subject of secular government is absolutely fundamental to understanding how he understood the role of God’s church in society.

    Rame, I would be interested if you could provide any scriptural proof to justify your assertion that “innaleanable rights” is a religious concept. I know that prophets recommend theocracy over monarchy in the Bible, and in the Book of Mormon they recommend representative government over monarchy, but this is not an argument against The State. It’s just that prophets sometimes recommend one kind of State over another. I know that the Book of Mormon also rails against oppression and champions freedom, but that is not an argument for “innaleanable rights.” Benevolent governments grant freedom by their grace and goodness, not because the people have a right to it. God sets very arbitrary bounds upon the various freedoms of his children, granting some great abundance and gifts, and others poverty of mind, disability, or retardation. Who will accuse God of not granting the retarded person his due freedom and rights? God is an administer of grace, not rights. Who will justify himself before God? This is great arrogance. Thomas Jefferson was a deist, who worshiped a god made in his own image. It is good policy for a State to benevolently grant “rights,” but these rights were certainly never granted by God.

  42. “I don’t believe in the natural rights of man, but rather that there should be subjects and rulers, and that subjects should submit to benevolent rule, and rebel only against oppressive rule.”

    The Constitution and D&C 134 very clearly accept the traditional view of natural rights, i.e., that man has a natural right to life, liberty and property. These rights are given to men by God and cannot be taken away except by oppression. In God’s eyes, there is no such thing as “subjects” and “rulers” in Earthly realms. There are free men, born with liberty, and those who attempt to “reign with blood and horror on the Earth.” Those rules who set up tyrannies are literally Satanic and are opposed to God’s plans.

    I believe all thinking Mormons accept the idea that there will be a theocracy eventually with Christ at the head. We can see a model of this theocracy in our own wards and stakes. Bishops and stake presidents basically leave people alone and give them occasional callings and assignments. In Joseph Smith’s words, you teach people the correct principles and let them government themselves. Bishops and stake presidents are not our rulers, and we are not subject to them. We are free people who voluntarily decide to follow Christ and his representatives on the Earth.

    The claim that we should be “subjects” and follow “rulers” literally makes me sick to my stomach.

  43. “I don’t believe in the natural rights of man, but rather that there should be subjects and rulers, and that subjects should submit to benevolent rule, and rebel only against oppressive rule.”

    I’ll chime in here. The notion of being a subject was tossed in 1776. There are serious historians, like Bernard Bailyn, who have studied the American Revolution extensively for decades, and who maintain that one of the things that made the American Revolution special was its particular assertion of natural right, based on a notion of natural law.

    There is a world of difference, both qualitatively and innate, between a “subject” and a “citizen”. The American Revolution went even further: you don’t even have to be a citizen to have the right to life and liberty — these were the common birthrights of all. (Please don’t be pedantic and remind me that the American Revolution didn’t go far enough in abolishing slavery or giving females the vote — I’m well aware of these facts. Nevertheless, the Revolution laid the groundwork for both the eventual emancipation of slaves and granting women the franchise.)

    Unfortunately, since the time of Franklin Roosevelt, the relationship of the person to the state has been re-framed, redefined, and changed. Dangerous ground for the remainder of the 21st century.

  44. Michael, thanks for noting the difference between subjects and citizens. Part of my own view is certainly emotional, as I hold a certain fondness for the romance of monarchy, and the beauty of loyalty to a soverign. But of course I am aware of the drawbacks of monarchy and the great advantages of democracy.

    I also agree with Michael that absolutely, the Founding Fathers set the stage for the emancipation of women and slaves, and that slaverly was absolutely contrary to the humanist principles set forth in our founding documents. Jefferson would have abolished slavery if he could have.

    Geoff, thanks for pointing out D&C 134, which I think is the ONLY scripture that could possibly said to support the idea that inaleanable rights come from God. However, if you read the section carefully, there is actually nothing there that explicitly supports this assertion. In fact, it can be argued to actually be supporting the more Pauline view of government from the New Testament.

    “governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man.” This supports the idea of the divine authority of The State, as also articulated by Paul. Its “governments” plural, not just our own inspired Founding Fathers, but also monarchies and other benevolent States.

    “We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.”

    Again, nothing here that declares that these rights are given by God. Rather, a refrence to our particular govenrment, which grants those rights. Mormons believe that the humanist inovations in our democracy have helped our government to exist in peace, and we believe that these humanist inovations should be extended to all governments. But it is not stated that we believe these rights come from God.

    “We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments.”

    Here, the phrase “inalienable rights” is not specifically said to come from God, but rather, a direct refrence to the language of the Declaration, which refers to such rights as “inalienable.”

    “we do not believe it right to interfere with bond-servants… nor to meddle with or influence them in the least to cause them to be dissatisfied with their situations in this life… such interference we believe to be unlawful and unjust, and dangerous to the peace of every government allowing human beings to be held in servitude.”

    Here is the clincher. Unlike Jefferson, who would have abolished slavery if he could have, but still set the stage for the abolition within his framework, Joseph Smith supported the existing heirachies of his government, although they contradict ideas of “inalianable rights.” If Joseph Smith really believed that inalianable rights come from God, he would not have included this paragraph. Rather, he is expressing the Pauline view that slaves should “not be disatisfied with their situation,” and that citizens should sustain the institution of servitude, if it is part of their government.

    So I think it is extremely problematic to claim that inalianable rights come from God based on this scripture.

  45. Nate,

    The Church’s goal is to preach the gospel to every nation and people on the earth. It can hardly do that if it has a reputation as a rebellious organization. Based on this observation it seems to me that 134 thus has 4 messages:

    1) Government is instituted of God to avoid the terrors of anarchy
    2) Good governments protect the rights and freedoms of the people
    3) Good Mormons should be good citizens
    4) The Church does not threaten the sovereignty of any nation or government and does not encourage slaves or subjects to rebel

    This last idea makes especial sense when you consider the fact that some of the greatest friction between the early Church and their neighbors was a fear that the Mormons were going to take over the local government and economy and drastically change local laws and traditions. It was thus in the Church’s best interest, and still is, to avoid being seen as a major political power thus allowing us to live, worship and preach in peace.

    Given how you’ve reacted to the past to even small amounts of Church political action I imagine you agree with the general sentiment.

    However, the fact that the Church has no interest in toppling nations doesn’t mean that it automatically supports big government. Nor does the admonition that we be loyal citizens mean that we, as members of a democratic republic, should not use our votes and voices to encourage our governments to support the freedoms and liberties that our scriptures teach us to be so valuable.

    Finally, I personally also had quite a love for kings after a childhood spent reading Arthurian fantasies of great men and their loyal followers doing great deeds of justice. A certain amount of time with actual history eventually convinced me that such fantasies were, alas, not an accurate representation of how the world works.

  46. JSG, thank you, I agree absolutly with your interpretation of the section. You say: “the fact that the Church has no interest in toppling nations doesn’t mean that it automatically supports big government.”

    Yes, and I would add that it doesn’t mean that it supports small government either. Members can choose to support whatever kind of government they think is best without church interference. Of course we can use our feelings about church doctrine to support our political views, like Reid who says: “I’m a democrat because I’m a Mormon, not in spite of it.” Or like on this blog which uses church doctrines to defend the philosophy of libertarianism. But all this is really superfluous to the mission of the church, and our common identity as members of the church is so much more important than our different political affiliations.

  47. Nate,

    Slightly off topic, but have you ever considered the extreme romanticism inherent in American style liberty?

    For instance, some time ago I was taking stock of my life and realized that I own property, vote on local and national political matter and am allowed through the 2nd amendment to wield my choice of personal weapons in defense of my family and country should that become necessary.

    And it occurred to me that is more or less the same privileges and responsibilities of a classic English Knight. In fact, I’m probably closer to a Lord since Knights were mostly allowed to own weaponry and horses and it was more of the Lords that got to do the whole property ownership and politics things.

    For me that really helped put the status of American citizenship in a global and historic perspective. Every single American is more or less the legal equivalent of a mid-level feudal Lord, making US citizenship one of the more impressive and desirable titles a human can hold both historically and in modern times.

    So it’s not that America doesn’t have kings and lords and knights. It’s that every American is a Lord with the autonomy to run and protect their own miniature kingdom and form alliances with their fellow American Lords. Admittedly some citizens make a mess of their life with this power but a quick trip through history shows that even when Lordship was highly restricted every other Duke and Baron seemed to use his power to make a mess of things by bankrupting their holdings or descending into hedonism or starting wars with their neighbors or more often than not all three at once.

  48. nate wrote: “Here, the phrase “inalienable rights” is not specifically said to come from God, but rather, a direct refrence to the language of the Declaration, which refers to such rights as “inalienable.””

    Actually, the Declaration of Independence states that we are “endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights…”

    So, they are given by God, and not a humanist condition as you’ve claimed. Nice try to change the terminology of documents to fit your needs. Several have provided scripture and documents, which you’ve obliquely ignored or waved away.

    I agree that people are allowed to have the government they want. That said, for this country (USA) the Lord has said “no kings” and that we will have a free people.

    As a historian, I am amazed at your claims of “benevolent government”, when most benevolence was not as it seems. The king giving out bread to the poor, so they will not rise up against him, is not a true form of benevolence. Boxing day is not a form of benevolence.

    Charity does not come from government, but from the people. If it were not for the US’ Constitution and concepts of freedom, there would not be the great advances over the last 2 centuries. Kings were happy with the way things were, so there would be no need to develop new technologies. Kings gave out monopolies and supported guilds, which reduced competition, free markets, and inventiveness. We would still be communicating by horse if it weren’t for America’s freedom. And as other nations have imported freedom, they also have improved their people’s lives in many ways.
    Up until just 2 decades ago, India used to have a benevolent socialist democracy. People starved because there were not enough jobs. It would take years to get approval to start a new company, build a factory, or get phone lines. Most companies gave up and moved to other free nations. Since they became a freer nation, their economy has boomed and they now have a middle class. The same holds true with Red China, which now has a middle class of hundreds of millions of people.
    This is not the results of a benevolent government, but of a government that allowed freedoms the people were born with!

  49. rame, if you some time on your hands, I recommend this episode of This American Life (erroneously thought of as a liberal program) – House Rules:

    https://soundcloud.com/this-american-life/512-house-rules?utm_source=soundcloud&utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=twitter

    Mostly about housing discrimination, the report lays in part the many ways in which the federal government perpetrated housing discrimination throughout the country – specifically from the 1930′s – 1960′s. It also, profiles George Romney’s fight against institutional segregation in his own state and throughout the country (must listen for any Mormon). Essentially, the episode did a good job of proving me partly wrong in my assessment of the fed as on the good side of racial prejudice in this country. And I’m happy to be corrected. It also opened my eyes even more to the white privilege that me and my ancestors have enjoyed in this country – by law. I highly recommend it. You may, at the very least, find it useful in future conversations with liberals who place too much faith in the fed.

  50. Christian, thanks for the link. I’ll try to look at it soon.

    Walter Williams posted a great article on Totalitarianism. The Founders sought to give people unalienable natural rights that are “negative” rights. Not negative in that they are bad, but negative in that they do not impose on anyone else.

    Totalitarians try to impose what they call “positive” rights. This means that they seek to give people the right to a house, work, food, etc. It seems nice, but it means taking from someone in order to give to someone else. Williams offers an example via free speech and freedom of travel/movement. He notes that it is an issue of how much slavery one will impose on others, in order to provide this form of “right”.

    http://townhall.com/columnists/walterewilliams/2013/11/27/masking-totalitarianism-n1752830

  51. Christian J, it is worth remembering that racial discrimination laws were *government* laws, either federal, state or local. On an individual basis, not every southern person was a hateful racist (obviously), and most interactions were cordial and friendly. Businesspeople have a huge incentive to sell as much as they can, and there are many, many cases when businesspeople would have liked to get around racist laws but could not (I am not claiming this was all cases or even a majority — my only point is that making money can often help people overcome racism because people will do business with other people regardless of race). So, in the case of American history, businesspeople often were ahead of a racist government that prevented them from free association. Just some food for thought.

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