Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Welfare State: Monument to a Barbarian

One of the unfortunate Rules of Life is that any institution that is not explicitly conservative will eventually devolve to liberalism. This proves, among other things, that liberalism is a kind of default state of the untutored mind. It is what we regress to unless we mature or are educated up and out of it.

For example, yesterday reader Julie linked to an article called American Catholicism's Pact With the Devil, which makes the point that Catholics who vote Democrat have no right to complain when they are deprived of their first amendment rights by the very regime they voted in.

Likewise, the Republican party has only rarely been the explicitly conservative party. As such, just as liberalism is slow-motion socialism, Republicanism has tended to be slow-motion liberalism, or super slow-mo socialism.

I have once again been reminded of this sobering truth in reading Steven Hayward's new Guide to the Presidents, from Wilson to Obama. I've read a number of these "Politically Incorrect Guides," some of which are quite good, others rather lame (especially the ones that come from a far-right paleo-conservative perspective -- you know, the usual suspects who argue that Lincoln was an evil dictator or that states have "rights").

I've almost finished the book, and one implicit theme is just how temperamentally conservative American presidents have been, even when they have been politically liberal. This shows the extent to which conservatism (by which I mean classical liberalism) is in America's DNA if not its DNC. In turn, this is why undisguised leftism has been such a tough sell in America, and why the left must always resort to deception or force (as in judicial force) in order to enact their schemes.

Some of our worst presidents, e.g., Wilson, Roosevelt, LBJ, and Carter, were clearly at odds with their own conservative impulses, which is probably what made them so damaging. Each of them exemplifies Murray's point about liberals not preaching what they practice.

Let's take the wretched LBJ, whom acquaintances describe as "power-hungry, cruel, bigoted, ruthless, deceitful, vain, grasping and... immoral." People who knew him more intimately characterize him as "treacherous, dishonest, manic-aggressive, petty, [and] spoiled."

As a senator, the dignified Johnson routinely whipped out his and "urinated in public, raged at and belittled his staff, used racial epithets with abandon, stole elections, and collected prodigious sums of campaign donations in cash."

Indeed, "despite" spending his entire life as a "public servant" in DC, LBJ somehow amassed a fortune of some $15 million. In other words, typical liberal.

The fact of the matter is that Johnson had no articulated political philosophy, but was a .... what was he?

I raise this question because the current fiscal crisis we are living through is a direct result of policies put into place by LBJ, who is responsible for more liberal legislation than any other president, including FDR. But upon what principle is all of this founded?

Answer: no principle (and certainly no constitutional principle).

So: trillions of dollars down the drain, and trillions more charged up to future generations, all in defense of the principle of... no principle.

If LBJ wasn't motivated by principle, then what did motivate him, and is it fair that we should all be on the hook for it, forever?

As to the first question, "Johnson had a voracious appetite for political achievement, and an unquenchable thirst for distinction and adulation." As to the second, we might say that our multi-trillion dollar festering sump-hole of Great Society debt is like an ongoing monument to Johnson's awesomeness.

As Hayward writes from out on his limb, "There do not appear to have been any political principles at Johnson's core." By now it is common knowledge how much damage the "War on Poverty" has caused to black Americans, but the truth of the matter is that Johnson couldn't have cared less.

Before becoming president and building his leviathan legislative monument, he was as racist as any other mainstream Democrat, for example, writing in 1960 that "I am firmly opposed to forced integration and I firmly believe that the doctrine of states' rights should be maintained." Acting on his beliefs, he "worked to water down the civil rights legislation that President Eisenhower had proposed to Congress" (Hayward).

Not only was Johnson uninterested in the damage caused by his programs, he didn't even want to know if they were effective. And yet, despite it all, he still nurtured a tiny core of American conservative principle inside his desiccated soul, in that he absolutely never envisioned putting into place a permanent welfare state and thus fundamentally altering our way of life.

Which means that not only are we on the hook for the grandiose dreams of an unprincipled barbarian, but that this has been followed by a systematic misapplication of his lack of principles, which we call the Welfare State. His absence of principle has been turned into one.

In other words, the War on Poverty, like all wars, was intended to be time-limited. Instead, five decades on, it has resulted in a permanent war that is a completely unsustainable fiscal cancer.

Consider how the idealistic Johnson reacted when he discovered that welfare was subsidizing bastardy: "They want to just stay up there and breed and won't work and we have to feed them.... I don't want to be taking taxpayers' money and paying it to people to just breed."

In other words, WTF?!

Too late! To the everlasting consternation of the left, human nature is human nature, and it cannot be changed. The tiny little flaw at the root of liberalism is the insane belief that human beings will not respond to the perverse incentives it puts in place. Other than that, it works beautifully.


julie said...

This explains so much. It's like we're stuck in one of those bathroom conversations with Johnson, with no way to escape as the fumes continue to rise, in perpetuity.

Verdiales said...

"Other than that, it works beautifully."

And it's amazingly egalitarian: it works for all elites, whatever their ideological stripe!

mushroom said...

...liberalism is a kind of default state of the untutored mind ...

Fallen man.

Calling LBJ a barbarian may be an insult to barbarians. They just rape, pillage, and burn and move on. Johnson's attempts at self-aggrandizement have become the main tumor that is killing our nation and devouring the Constitution.

You make an excellent point about the shock they experience. I had always assumed that most of the smarter ones did it not caring what the consequences were -- and Johnson was certainly malicious enough.

Though he had no personal moral boundaries, his success had always depended on exploiting the moral limits within which others operated. The immoral depend on the moral to be moral, you might say.

It probably was a shock when a subsidy for bastards resulted in more bastards. "That's not right. They aren't playing by the rules!"

Van said...

" As a senator, the dignified Johnson routinely whipped out his and "urinated..."


"Too late! To the everlasting consternation of the left, human nature is human nature, and it cannot be changed. The tiny little flaw at the root of liberalism is the insane belief that human beings will not respond to the perverse incentives it puts in place. Other than that, it works beautifully."

True, and true again!


Gagdad Bob said...

Speaking of how beautifully liberalism works, from today's WSJ:

Imagine a city where all the major economic planks of the statist or "progressive" platform have been enacted:

A "living wage" ordinance, far above the federal minimum wage, for all public employees and private contractors. A school system that spends significantly more per pupil than the national average. A powerful school employee union that militantly defends the exceptional pay, benefits and job security it has won for its members. Other government employee unions that do the same for their members. A tax system that aggressively redistributes income from businesses and the wealthy to the poor and to government bureaucracies.

Would this be a shining city on a hill, exciting the admiration of all? We don't have to guess, because there is such a city right here in our state: Detroit.

Detroit has been dubbed "the most liberal city in America" and each of these "progressive" policies is alive and well there. How have they worked out?

In 1950, Detroit was the wealthiest city in America on a per capita income basis. Today, the Census Bureau reports that it is the nation's 2nd poorest major city, just "edging out" Cleveland.

Could it be pure coincidence that the decline occurred over the same period in which union power, the city government bureaucracy, taxes and business regulations all multiplied? While correlation is not causation, it is striking that the decline in per capita income is exactly what classical economists predict would occur when wage controls are imposed and taxes are increased. --Jarrett Skorup

Verdiales said...

Great article, Bob. Here's a link:

This is malfeasance on a grand scale.

Van said...

Passed it on, thanks for finding the link Verdiales.

Van said...

willian said "Americans got clobbered in 2008 with the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression."

Yes. Like the El Niño, it was completely unconnected to the actions of any legislation, agencies, financial policies, regulations or taxes... it just happens.

Because of conservatives.

And like manmade glowbull warming, it's the actions of conservatives trying to spend and interfere less in people's lives that causes these periodic catastrophes to clobber the American people.

Thank God... er... allah... er... the brights... for people like willian, if they couldn't copy 'n paste other people's thoughts, who knows what might clobber us next.

wv:Take phsnts
I don't know why wv wants us to take pheasants, but I'm sure it'll help the homeless.

Nevermind, it changed it's mind... a couple times... now it's saying "crafty: yagoom" make of that what you will.

Gagdad Bob said...

Wait 'til he finds out about Obamacare...

Van said...

willian said "...stuff that religious people never change their mind about, no matter what happens."

We need more Govt control of the economy and social services! What could possibly go wrong?!

4. 61,911,000 Murdered: The Soviet Gulag State
5. 35,236,000 Murdered: The Communist Chinese Ant Hill
6. 20,946,000 Murdered: The Nazi Genocide State
7. 10,214,000 Murdered: The Depraved Nationalist Regime

8. 5,964,000 Murdered: Japan's Savage Military
9. 2,035,000 Murdered: The Khmer Rouge Hell State
10. 1,883,000 Murdered: Turkey's Genocidal Purges
11. 1,670,000 Murdered: The Vietnamese War State
12. 1,585,000 Murdered: Poland's Ethnic Cleansing
13. 1,503,000 Murdered: The Pakistani Cutthroat State

Go Obamao!

William said...

What I love about the GOP - the House Oversight Committee that is taking up the womens contraception issue - he GOP majority = 100% men.

Keep those women subjugated and force them to submit. It's all in the Bible.

Huh? Earth to Van ? Yea, yea.. Obama is running a Gulag State. Go back to praying, god will take care of you.

Van said...

willian said " Yea, yea.. Obama is running a Gulag State."

Oh, you're probably right. I'm sure despots all identify themselves on their ballots "Remember, a Vote for me is a Vote for the Gulag State!", I'm sure there was nothing else they had in common, like eliminating property rights for the greater good, what was I worrying about.

Silly me. Thanks bright one.

wv:mercilessly mestsle

Brazentide said...

William: "What I love about the GOP - the House Oversight Committee that is taking up the womens contraception issue - he GOP majority = 100% men."

What I love about William - we don't need visit the far-left sites to find out what their headlines are. He delivers the cherry-picked, fact-lite, and heavily-spun goods right to our front door.

It's a creative way for him to pay for his free education here~

I just wish he started showing some signs of progress.

julie said...

Ha - exactly.