The definition of liberalism has changed greatly over time
By Adam Bitely
Many people—unfortunately—associate the term “liberalism” with the ideology commonly held by people who associate themselves with Barack Obama, progressivism, Occupy Wall Street, and the Democratic National Committee. But are supporters of the above causes, politicians, and parties really “liberals?”
In the modern sense of the term as it applied to American politics, the answer would be yes. But if we were to go back in time about 200 years or so, modern day American liberals would not agree with their “liberal” forefathers.
Think of the revolutionary period in American history. American patriots rallying around the cause of “No taxation without representation,” fear of centralized governments that ruled with great authority, and a great desire for the relationship that people have with their government to forever change to one of the people holding their government in check.
American liberals in 1776, the most famous of which are known as the Founding Fathers, supported limiting the power of government as much as possible. They believed that government powers needed checks at every turn, and that power would naturally corrupt.
Furthermore, these “liberals” did not subscribe to the view that empowering the government with more and more power would lead to a better society. They stood against such expansions as they already knew what happened when the government’s size and scope was beyond control. That is why the Constitution was designed the way it was, pitting each branch of government against the other, so that no one branch would grow powerful beyond control.
As George Mason University Professor of Economics Don Boudreaux recently wrote at CafeHayek.com, “Experience and reason recommended to liberalism’s founders the opposite view, namely, restraining the power of government might not be sufficient to ensure harmony and widespread wealth, but it is certainly necessary.”
But it in the modern day, the American liberal is associated with an ideology that supports ever-expanding government powers intended to correct the ills of society. To the modern American liberal, there is no problem that a politician should not be able to solve. The modern American liberal believes the government is needed to even the playing field, and redistribute from those who have to those who have not. The modern American liberal foresees the government making our lives pain-free and directing society towards prosperity.
Simply put, the modern American liberal has an ideology based in pure fantasy.
Ludwig von Mises once wrote when the definition of liberalism was much different, “Imagine a world order in which liberalism is supreme . . . there is private property in the means of production. The working of the market is not hampered by government interference. There are no trade barriers; men can live and work where they want.”
If Mises were alive today, he would have to use the word libertarianism in place of liberalism to describe the world where government stayed out of the market and no barriers to exchange existed. The liberals of 200 years ago are now referred to as classical liberals, and the modern day people who have a similar distrust of centralized government and the powers they have in the market place are now referred to as libertarians.
What a strange world it is when you consider just how much the definition of liberalism has changed. From the Declaration of Independence in 1776 to ObamaCare in 2010, the term “liberalism” has come to stand for entirely different meanings as the power of the government has expanded.
Should the Rich Be Condemned?
Walter E. Williams
Thomas Edison invented the incandescent bulb, the phonograph, the DC motor and other items in everyday use and became wealthy by doing so. Thomas Watson founded IBM and became rich through his company's contribution to the computation revolution. Lloyd Conover, while in the employ of Pfizer, created the antibiotic tetracycline. Though Edison, Watson, Conover and Pfizer became wealthy, whatever wealth they received pales in comparison with the extraordinary benefits received by ordinary people. Billions of people benefited from safe and efficient lighting. Billions more were the ultimate beneficiaries of the computer, and untold billions benefited from healthier lives gained from access to tetracycline.
President Barack Obama, in stoking up class warfare, said, "I do think at a certain point you've made enough money." This is lunacy. Andrew Carnegie's steel empire produced the raw materials that built the physical infrastructure of the United States. Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft and produced software products that aided the computer revolution. But Carnegie had amassed quite a fortune long before he built Carnegie Steel Co., and Gates had quite a fortune by 1990. Had they the mind of our president, we would have lost much of their contributions, because they had already "made enough money."
Class warfare thrives on ignorance about the sources of income. Listening to some of the talk about income differences, one would think that there's a pile of money meant to be shared equally among Americans. Rich people got to the pile first and greedily took an unfair share. Justice requires that they "give back." Or, some people talk about unequal income distribution as if there were a dealer of dollars. The reason some people have millions or billions of dollars while others have very few is the dollar dealer is a racist, sexist, a multinationalist or just plain mean. Economic justice requires a re-dealing of the dollars, income redistribution or spreading the wealth, where the ill-gotten gains of the few are returned to their rightful owners.
In a free society, for the most part, people with high incomes have demonstrated extraordinary ability to produce valuable services for -- and therefore please -- their fellow man. People voluntarily took money out of their pockets to purchase the products of Gates, Pfizer or IBM. High incomes reflect the democracy of the marketplace. The reason Gates is very wealthy is millions upon millions of people voluntarily reached into their pockets and handed over $300 or $400 for a Microsoft product. Those who think he has too much money are really registering disagreement with decisions made by millions of their fellow men.
In a free society, in a significant way income inequality reflects differences in productive capacity, namely one's ability to please his fellow man. For example, I can play basketball and so can LeBron James, but would the Miami Heat pay me anything close to the $43 million they pay him? If not, why not? I think it has to do with the discriminating tastes of basketball fans who pay $100 or more to watch the game. If the Miami Heat hired me, they would have to pay fans to watch.
Stubborn ignorance sees capitalism as benefiting only the rich, but the evidence refutes that. The rich have always been able to afford entertainment; it was the development and marketing of radio and television that made entertainment accessible to the common man. The rich have never had the drudgery of washing and ironing clothing, beating out carpets or waxing floors. The mass production of washing machines, wash-and-wear clothing, vacuum cleaners and no-wax floors spared the common man this drudgery. At one time, only the rich could afford automobiles, telephones and computers. Now all but a small percentage of Americans enjoy these goods.
The prospects are dim for a society that makes mascots out of the unproductive and condemns the productive.
More bureaucratic tyranny
Man catches 881-pound tuna, seized by feds
A Massachusetts fisherman pulled in an 881-pound tuna this week only to have the federal authorities take it away. It sounds like a libertarian twist on the classic novella by Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea, but for Carlos Rafael, the saga is completely true.
Rafael and his crew were using nets to catch bottom-dwellers when they inadvertently snagged the giant tuna. However, federal fishery enforcement agents took control of the behemoth when the boat returned to port. The reason for the seizure was procedural: While Rafael had the appropriate permits, fishermen are only allowed to catch tuna with a rod and reel.
It would seem that unlike the fictional New England shark hunters in Jaws, Rafael didn't need a bigger boat, just a better permit.
In an interview with the Standard-Times of New Bedford, Rafael disputes the claims from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) enforcement division that the humungous tuna was trawled from the bottom of the Atlantic. "They didn't catch that fish on the bottom," he said. "They probably got it in the mid-water when they were setting out and it just got corralled in the net. That only happens once in a blue moon."
And while Rafael is denied the mother of all fish stories, the federal impoundment of his catch also means he's probably losing out on a giant payday. A 754-pound tuna recently sold for nearly $396,000. NOAA regulators do not share any of the proceeds from the fish's eventual sale with a fisherman found in violation of federal rules.
"They said it had to be caught with rod and reel," a frustrated Rafael said. "We didn't try to hide anything. We did everything by the book. Nobody ever told me we couldn't catch it with a net."
Rafael says he has meticulously prepared for a giant catch like this, purchasing 15 tuna permits over the past four years for his groundfish boats. He even immediately called a "bluefin tuna hot line" (yes, such things exist) to report his catch. "I wanted to sell the fish while it was fresh instead of letting it age on the boat," he said. "It was a beautiful fish."
Proceeds of the sale from the fish will be held in an account until the case is resolved, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Law Enforcement. "The matter is still under investigation," said Monica Allen, deputy director with NOAA Fisheries public affairs. "If it's determined that there has been a violation, the money will go into the asset forfeiture fund."
OWS has plenty of haters and agitators but stymied by lack of any leadership
Despite numerous anti-capitalist signs (e.g., "End Capitalism" and "Smash the Pillars of the Pig Empire") and an equally large number of signs advocating socialism and communism, the OWS movement insists that it doesn't want to destroy business; it just wants to make a few changes. Specifically, it wants American business to hire more people, increase salaries and benefits, provide free health care and education, reduce the prices of products and services, and eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The profits (if any, after all the wealth-sharing) should be returned to society. So the new system would be a hybrid in which capitalists could own businesses but control neither their property nor their profits. Let's call it Marxalism.
Nationwide demonstrations by rebellious youth may annoy and disrupt American business, but they are unlikely to cause an immediate, voluntary switch to Marxalism. Nor will they result in a swift enactment of anti-greed laws. The real leaders understand the futility of such languid tactics. They are professional radicals, hiding in the bowels of the movement — deep thinkers for whom class warfare is a full-time job. They are the friendly statists from ACORN-like orgs, whose anti-capitalist outrage calls for social revolution. And they want it before ADHD and cold weather drive demonstrators back to their jobs and classrooms.
In terms of the stated goals, two months of demonstrations have achieved nothing. As the OWS movement has grown and spread, so too has its proclivity for violence and revolution. Writing in the New York Post of a recent visit to Zuccotti Park, Charles Gasparino "found a unifying and increasingly coherent ideology emerging among the protesters, which at its core has less to do with the evils of the banking business and more about the evils of capitalism — and the need for a socialist revolution."
Unfortunately, the latest recruits to the cause — for the most part, criminals, drug users, panhandlers, and the homeless — have produced little more than a stench pervading the carnival-like encampments. Indeed, the increasing violence and decreasing sanitation of the movement has begun to wear out its welcome in many cities. And with the onslaught of winter, many protestors plan to retreat, vowing to return with the fair weather of spring. Self-respecting socialists cannot be expected to carry their clever anti-capitalist signs while shivering and holding their noses at their own fetor. Besides, it is an image more ridiculous than that of a Michael Moore T-shirt.
In the bowels of the OWS movement lie zealous agitators who see themselves as its true leaders. Privately they regard the mainstream media, vocal celebrities, and shrill professors of socioeconomic equality as useful idiots. When it comes to money and power, they are as greedy and exploitative as any of their oppressors. By offering false hope and fomenting hatred and unrest, they seek to extort capital and usurp power for themselves. And with thousands of eager demonstrators at their disposal, they believe their moment is now (or next spring).
But there is an obstruction, a chronic irritation — the lack of charismatic demagogues to articulate the ideology. Some would say the movement has been stricken with irritable bowel syndrome. Alas, for this strain, no medicine seems to be available.
Money slated for health law gets detoured
Lawmakers tap fund three times within a year
In cash-strapped Washington, President Obama’s $1 trillion health care law is presenting a tempting target for lawmakers seeking funds for other projects, as Congress last week raided the health care piggy bank for the third time in less than a year.
Congress last week axed a part of Democrats’ signature domestic achievement to find $11 billion to cover the cost of repealing a withholding tax that otherwise would have hit government contractors in 2013. Mr. Obama signed that bill into law on Monday.
The withholding bill follows two other efforts — one in December and another in April — that reworked the health care law to squeeze savings for other priorities. The December bill funded higher payments for doctors who treat Medicare patients, and the April legislation repealed a paperwork provision in the original health care law that businesses said would be onerous.
All told, Congress and the president have tapped some $50 billion earmarked to pay for benefits and programs in the health care overhaul in future years to fund more-immediate spending needs.
Both earlier efforts dealt with health care issues, but the bill Mr. Obama signed Monday marks the first time that the massive 2010 law has been tapped to fund something completely unrelated.
“They don’t want to open it up. They’re getting forced to open it up now and then, but to open it up for budgetary reasons, I think the pressures are pretty real,” said former Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Holtz-Eakin, who said it’s easier to cut future benefits than it is to cut programs that are already paying out.
Most of the health care law’s benefits won’t begin paying out for several years, and Mr. Holtz-Eakin said he expects legislators to revisit the law again before then.
The failure of the bipartisan supercommittee this week to come up with a plan to shrink the federal deficit and find spending cuts and revenues is likely to increase the pressure to raid the health care program for funds.
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)