Uncommon Sense

politics and society are, unfortunately, much the same thing

Corrupting Christianity and distorting history to justify communism

original article: There is no ‘Catholic case for communism’
July 25, 2019 by Rev. Ben Johnson

 

On Tuesday, America magazine published an apology for Communism that would have been embarrassing in Gorbachev-era Pravda. “The Catholic Case for Communism” minimizes Marxism’s intensely anti-Christian views, ignores its oppression and economic decimation of its citizens, distorts the bulk of Catholic social teaching on socialism, and seemingly ends with a call to revolution.

While author Dean Detloff claims to own Marxism’s “real and tragic mistakes,” he downplays these to the point of farce. He admits, without elaboration, that “Communism in its socio-political expression has at times caused great human and ecological suffering.” That seems a rather anodyne way to describe decades of imperialismcensorship, and torture; the Gulag archipelago, reeducation camps designed to eradicate the victim’s entire personality, and the systematic industrial slaughter of 100 million people (and still counting in North Korea, China, and Cuba).

In this America essay, the plight of Communism’s victims is reduced to the level of “ecological suffering.”

Similarly, Detloff obfuscates about Communism’s hatred of religion in general and Christianity in particular. He will allow only that Marxist-Leninists “were committed Enlightenment thinkers, atheists who sometimes assumed religion would fade away in the bright light of scientific reason, and at other times advocated propagandizing against it.”

Had Communists restricted themselves to propaganda, they would have failed before taking power rather than 70 years afterward. The Bolsheviks murdered 2,691 Russian Orthodox priests, 1,962 monks, and 3,447 nuns in 1922 alone. Detloff obliquely admits Communists persecuted religious people “at different moments in history” – apparently the Marxist equivalent of “some people did something.” In reality, Communist persecution of the Church was near-universal. The same cycle unwound in Spain, Hungary, AlbaniaNorth Korea, and Xi Jinping’s China. Its boot has fallen on the necks of such luminaries as Cardinal Mindszenty, Blessed Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko, and an obscure Polish priest named Karol Wojtyla.

Before taking Christian lives, the Communists took their property. Lenin wrote secretly in 1922 that the Politburo must use the Bolshevik-inspired famine as cover to “confiscate all church property with all the ruthless energy we can still muster.” He understood, better than Christians, that without property the Church has no earthly self-defense. Wealth gives its holder agency – which is to say, liberty.

Detloff attempts to reassure his readers that Communists will only despoil “the rich,” not common people. Abolishing private property does not mean the Red Guard will confiscate “the kinds of things an artisan or farmer might own” but only “the kind of private property that most of us do not have”: businesses, capital goods, etc. This assumes that universal human rights depend on one’s class. It overlooks the sacking of Church property, the only opulence most peasants ever saw – property that was truly preserved in common for scores of generations.

More importantly, it again ignores the bloody pages of Communist history. Stalin sent soldiers door-to-door to confiscate all food, utensils – even pets – before starving six million Ukrainians to death in the Holodomor. Had Detloff been writing 100 years ago, he may be deemed gullible. But with a century of history to draw on, it is hard for Detloff – a Ph.D. candidate at the Institute for Christian Studies – to plead ignorance.

Yet in his telling, “Catholics and communists have found natural reasons to offer one another a sign of peace.” Detloff’s cites as proof the fact that numerous Communist organizations (all of which he helpfully links for America readers) allow Christian fellow travelers to work toward Marxist ends,“Christians have been passionately represented in communist and socialist movements around the world,” and some Marxist leaders were former seminarians. (Was Josef Stalin less murderous because he was once an Orthodox seminarian, or Khrushchev because he memorized virtually all four Gospels?)

This is rather like the seductress who estranges a man from his family, then boasts about her connection to his ex-wife. Marxism lured Catholics away from the Christian faith into a false religion.

The Roman Catholic Church’s unbroken teaching condemns all forms of Marxism and Communism. Pope Pius XI wrote in Quadragesimo Anno that “no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist.”

“See to it, Venerable Brethren, that the Faithful do not allow themselves to be deceived!” he wrote. “Communism is intrinsically wrong, and no one who would save Christian civilization may collaborate with it in any undertaking whatsoever.”

Nonetheless, Detloff argues that Catholics should promote Marxism (and, implicity, that they should ignore the Magisterium), because “Communism has provided one of the few sustainable oppositions to capitalism,” which is – he asseverates – “an economic system based on avarice, exploitation and human suffering.”

“Sustainable” may not accurately describe an economic system that collapsed in an ash heap after 70 years of bread lines and mass starvation. The economic implosion of every Marxist experiment in human history seems to have passed him by. So does its concentration of all wealth into the hands of state functionaries, its endless class warfare, its history of assigning jobs irrespective of individual choice, and its requirement that all curry the good favor of the political class for (a better chance at) survival.

Presumably, those were “not real socialism.” Yet contemporary Marxists believed the regimes were socialist at the time. One can only tell a regime is not practicing “real” socialism after it fails, the same way that Puritans could only tell a woman was innocent of witchcraft after she drowned.

The free market brings people from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds together in harmonious relationships. It requires people to serve others by providing goods or services they want to buy. Capitalism indisputably generates more wealth and better living conditions for the poor than those living under socialism. And it leaves the worker the fruits of his or her labor and, with it, choice and dignity.

The America piece ends with a call to overthrow this system – and replace it with the greatest system of oppression ever devised – and contains a possible incitement to violence. Detloff’s press release began by quoting a Dorothy Day article, “It is when the Communists are good that they are dangerous” – because she warns their humanitarian-sounding lead Catholics astray, persecute the Church, and even kill protesters by throwing bricks. Detloff concludes by saying, “It is when the communists are dangerous that they are good” – an apparent call to revolution in the pages of America. After all it was Karl Marx, not Lenin, who wrote that “there is only one way in which the murderous death agonies of the old society and the bloody birth throes of the new society can be shortened, simplified and concentrated, and that way is revolutionary terror.” The fact that this violates Catholic doctrine seems, also, to have eluded America. Otherwise, the editor may have challenged any one of these violations of Catholic social teaching or inversions of reality.

Detloff is counting on the historical ignorance of his readers, and he likely counts right. Communist atrocities are not taught in public schools or universities. That class time is reserved for the evils of national socialism and the depridations of America’s founders.

But Detloff also assumes ignorance of Catholic teaching, with whichAmerica‘s editors should be conversant. There is scant evidence that they are, given the publication of this dishonest puff piece about the most murderous ideology of the twentieth century.

communism, corruption, economics, government, history, ideology, liberalism, progressive, religion, socialism

Filed under: communism, corruption, economics, government, history, ideology, liberalism, progressive, religion, socialism

Socialism ethically compromised

original article: Unitarian leftist: Socialism is not ethically superior to capitalism
April 26, 2019 by REV. BEN JOHNSON

Socialism has made a resurgence in this generation, not least because of its deceptive moral appeal. Secular Millennials join liberal priests, pastors, and rabbis in saying that profits corrupt, unequal outcomes are immoral – and perhaps even Jesus would have been a socialist. Yet numerous people, secular and faithful, have weighed collectivism in the balance and found it wanting.

One of the people who found socialism ethically inferior to capitalism came from an unlikely source: the Unitarian Church.

His verdict? Socialism “is the necessary outcome, not of religion but of irreligion,” he said. Redistribution of wealth slows moral development and creates evils worse than capitalism.

The minister in question, A. Powell Davies, was once one of the most influential church leaders in the United States. He crusaded for civil rights as pastor of All Souls Church in Washington, D.C. He counted Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black among his friends, and Justice William O. Douglas edited a book of his sermons. The Religious Left leader was honored by the liberal Americans for Democratic Action posthumously.

Reverend Arthur Powell Davies (1902-1957) was a British-born Methodist who converted to Unitarianism – if “convert” is the proper noun for such a change. Davies embodied William F. Buckley Jr.’s caricature of the Unitarian who believed in “at most” one God. “This ancient God of miracles and interventions … is really dead,” wrote Davies, who styled himself a “theological radical,” in his 1946 book The Faith of an Unrepentant Liberal. “There is no God in the sky,” he wrote in another context. “There is no army of angels, no hosts of seraphim and no celestial hierarchy. All this is man’s imaginings.” Any belief in the supernatural, he believed,“represses growth. It keeps the mind always childish.”

However, his lack of faith (from a traditional perspective) underscores the point. Although there is a high correlation between secularism and socialism, Davies revealed at least a few of socialism’s failures.

Davies, who provided weekly analyses of national issues from his pulpit, turned his glance upon socialism in an address titled “Is Socialism More Ethical Than Capitalism?” which was delivered on October 16, 1949.

Despite the title of his address, Davies actually explored only the morality of compulsory wealth redistribution as was practiced by Labour government-era Britain. But even a radical non-theist found that the welfare state did not pass muster as a moral economic system.

“Socialism is not an ethical advance; socialism is an ethical compromise,” he said.

First, Davies rejected Marxism because of its belief that human nature could not be improved. Socialism compels people to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor, something Davies supported. But compulsion “is not ethically nobler” than choosing to give one’s own goods to the poor. “[E]thically they are better for what they do voluntarily than for what they are compelled to do, even though they themselves consent to the compulsion,” he said.

The very decision to turn to the state implies that people cannot be trusted to exercise their freedom responsibly. Socialism comes about “not because of idealism, but because of despair.”

Davies also denied socialism is more ethical than capitalism for a second reason, which echoed the most famous dictum of Lord Acton:

From the viewpoint of religion, there is no more evil in the profits of a capitalist than in the vanity of a socialist politician. The one seeks money, the other, notoriety. … [H]uman nature under either system would exploit the weaknesses of that particular system, and I fear the weaknesses of compulsory systems more than those of voluntary ones.

In 1949, the Unitarian lamented that Americans “would even give away a part of their freedom because they could not trust themselves and each other to act fairly on a voluntary basis.”

But collectivism’s greatest harm is its view of human character, Davies said.

Ultimately, socialism retards humanity’s moral progress:

[C]apitalism leaves more room for liberty and encourages ethical maturity and voluntary righteousness. Compulsory systems, paternalistic and authoritarian, foster attitudes which are ethically not grown up.

Since socialism is an ethical retreat from free moral action, it cannot embody the goal of any religion:

When therefore, churchmen draw closer to socialism and say it is the necessary outcome of religious idealism, they are mistaken. It is the necessary outcome not of religion but of irreligion; that is to say, it is the necessary outcome of the evils of the human heart which prevent us from doing voluntarily what we are therefore obliged to do from compulsion.

Traditional Christianity taught for millennia that believers should diligently cultivate wealth so that we can freely distribute it to those in need. Almsgiving, a pillar of all three Abrahamic religions, benefits the giver by freeing him from greed and allowing him to express love for the recipient.

The notion that it is morally superior for Christians to ask the government to forcibly redistribute others’ possessions is so fatuous that it was once exposed by a non-believer in the pulpit.

capitalism, christian, culture, economics, ethics, government, ideology, left wing, philosophy, progressive, socialism

Filed under: capitalism, christian, culture, economics, ethics, government, ideology, left wing, philosophy, progressive, socialism

How a committed socialist gave up the faith

original article: The Bolivarian God That Failed
February 1, 2019 by Clifton Ross

The day after Venezuela’s National Assembly voted to declare its president, Juan Guaidó, interim President of the Republic, I received a text from a former friend. “If the U.S. topples Vz [Venezuela],” he wrote, “I will hold you responsible.” I would have been happy to accept this responsibility had I done anything important enough to deserve it. But the idea was absurd and he knew it. If the Venezuelan regime falls—and I hope that it does—it won’t even be possible to credit (or blame) the United States. It is the Venezuelan people who finally are taking their destiny in hand and rejecting an intolerable status quo.

The message was not a serious attempt to apportion responsibility for Venezuela’s current upheaval; it was an attempt to shame me for my treacherous betrayal of the Bolivarian cause. An early supporter of the Revolution, I had traveled to Venezuela in 2013 to cover the April presidential elections. By the time I returned to the US, I was disillusioned and depressed. I decided I needed to start writing and speaking about what I had seen there. In an article I wrote for the radical magazine Counterpunch around that time, I argued that “the so-called ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ is bankrupt: morally, ideologically, and economically,” and I asked what we, as leftist solidarity activists, should do in response. “Should we continue to make excuses for incompetence, corruption, and irresponsibility and thereby make ourselves accomplices?” I asked. “Or should we tell the truth?”

I had resolved to tell the truth. Having been so wrong about something so consequential, I felt it was the least I could do. By then, Venezuela was already in a terrible mess. Many of those I had helped to convince of the possibilities offered by Bolivarian socialism were deeply suspicious of the mainstream media and deserved to hear what was going on from a writer they trusted. But, as it turned out, the people I wanted to reach didn’t want to hear such things. And the people I asked to publish my articles didn’t much want me to write about them either. As a result of my voltafaccia, former comrades and friends contacted my editors and publishers in (occasionally successful) attempts to have my articles spiked. I was denounced and slandered online and in print. Phone calls and emails to people I had thought of as friends now went unanswered. On those occasions when I encountered one of them in public, they looked the other way. Abruptly, I found myself excommunicated, and people I’d known for 30 or 40 years made it clear that they no longer wanted to be part of my life.

*     *     *

I’d originally come to California from the Bible Belt in the mid-’70s in search of enlightened neighbors. I knew what it was to live an isolated life. It had been lonely on my father’s farm in Southern Oklahoma. I had endured farm life for five years but, having grown up in the military, I longed for the company of diverse, worldly-wise people one often found among military brats. Having become a Christian a few years before, I hoped Berkeley would offer a deeper faith than I’d found in fundamentalist churches.

I hitchhiked west and in Berkeley I joined the “radical Christian” community of the House Church of Berkeley that had grown out of Christian World Liberation Front (CWLF). From the margins of that community I gradually found my way, through liberation theology, into the secular Left. For nearly a decade I did solidarity work with the Sandinista Revolution until that process came to a halt when its “vanguard” Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) was removed from power in the elections of 1990.

Following the collapse of communism, I ended up with the other “dead-enders” in Berkeley, scratching around in the depleted soil of radical politics for any worm of hope that might emerge. Those were desperate years. I soon hitched a ride on the Redwood Summer bandwagon, the joint IWW (Industrial Workers of the World, “Wobblies”) and Earth First! project to protect the last stands of old growth redwoods in Northern California from logging companies. I played a very minor role in that campaign, printing the flyers announcing the actions, but I was quickly drawn into working in the IWW. I was briefly an editor for the Bay Area Branch Bulletin and a co-editor of the Industrial Worker, and then I spent ten years in an IWW union job shop (New Earth Press) where my partner and I did a lot of ecological printing for local community organizations.

After we sold the business, I went to graduate school at San Francisco State University for a couple of very dismal years in academia. Then, after graduation, I spent the summer of 2004 in Nicaragua interviewing ex-Sandinistas who were now in opposition to the FSLN, the “glorious revolutionary vanguard,” which had been reduced over time to the status of a populist party serving the caudillo (strongman) Daniel Ortega. During the years of the Nicaraguan Revolution (1979-1990), I had translated and published the revolutionary poetry and writings of Sandinista militants—mostly farmers, low-ranking militia members, and even young children. As I was a poet, it seemed appropriate work to help spread the word about a process I found hopeful, and endangered by the hostile policies of the Reagan administration. I knew very little at the time of the Sandinistas’ responsibility for generating the war that would eventually tear their country apart. Most of us on the radical Left distrusted the media, and it was only recently that I returned to that period (in Chapter 11 of my 2016 memoir) to uncover details I had ignored during the years of that brutal civil conflict.

Foremost among the poets I’d translated during the years of the Sandinista Revolution was Ernesto Cardenal, a revolutionary priest and the Sandinista Minister of Culture. Cardenal and other “liberation theologians” were preaching a synthesis of Marxist revolutionary ideology and Christian theology, and they were my inspiration back then. By 2004, I no longer identified with Christianity, and my faith in Marxism was also in doubt. Nevertheless, I still considered myself some kind of socialist, and I thought Cardenal might be able to reassure me that there were embers of socialism still burning somewhere in Latin America. He duly obliged. Towards the end of our interview, when I asked him to name the projects in Latin America today which gave him hope, he didn’t mention (as I thought he would) the Zapatistas. “The Bolivarian Revolution,” he announced. President Hugo Chávez was doing some very interesting things down in Venezuela, he thought, and he encouraged me to visit and see for myself.

So, that December, eager to learn more, I flew down to Venezuela on Christmas break from Berkeley City College where I had been working as an adjunct English instructor. I immediately fell in with like-minded leftists in the small Andrean city of Mérida, who introduced me to a good part of the Bolivarian community there. I was so inspired by what I found that I decided to take a year off from teaching so I could follow the Bolivarian process first-hand.

It is as difficult as it is uncomfortable to enter into a previous state of mind from a later, more “evolved” or developed state. I don’t like to admit that I once believed Jesus rose from the dead, but I did. I also believed that socialism would make everyone brothers and sisters and end what my comrades and I called “capitalist oppression.”1 The available scientific and statistical evidence (not to mention common sense) weighs strongly against belief in bodily resurrection from the dead. History has delivered a verdict of comparable finality about socialism. This verdict is routinely dismissed on the grounds that only corrupted iterations of socialism have been tried; if socialism is designed to unite mankind, but all previous versions of socialism have failed to do so, then it follows that true socialism has yet to be successfully attempted.

Rarely do true believers stop to consider that there may be something wrong with the logic of socialism itself. In his 1993 book Post-Liberalism: Studies in Political Thought, the English philosopher John Gray wrote that Soviet socialism forced its subjects into a “vast Prisoner’s Dilemma, with each being constrained to act against his own interest and, thereby, directly or indirectly, to reproduce the order (or chaos) in which he is imprisoned. Thus Soviet subjects are compelled to compete with each other in climbing the rungs of the nomenklatura, pursuing the ordinary goods of life by party activism or, in extremis, by informing or denouncing one another, and so renewing daily the system that keeps them all captive.” These are not exactly optimal conditions for building community.

By 2004, I was already well aware of what Marxist-Leninist socialism had done to the twentieth century. So why did I fall for the socialism that Hugo Chávez proposed in Venezuela? The reasons were part push, part pull. The push came from the American invasion of Iraq less than two years earlier. After a rapid battlefield victory, the news from the Middle East seemed to be growing more dire by the day. A little over a month before I left for Venezuela, allegations began to emerge that the US military were committing war crimes in Fallujah. Surely a better way than this remained possible? As I wandered around Venezuela that December I was desperate for an alternative I could believe in, no matter how fragile.

The pull was what Hugo Chávez was proposing. He acknowledged the problems of  twentieth century socialism, and claimed to be offering something different—the Bolivarian version of “twenty-first century socialism.” This would be the “socialism with a human face” and quite unlike the repressive, totalitarian bureaucratic behemoth of Marxist-Leninism. As Chavista Gregory Wilpert insisted in his 2007 book Changing Venezuela by Taking Power, under Bolivarian socialism “ownership and control of the means of production must be collective and democratic.” Cooperatives were to play a large part in this and, after 2006, so would the local communal councils.

The money from the 2004 oil boom had saved Chávez from a recall referendum as he distributed the revenue flooding into the country among his followers. In this way, Chávez was able to fund his “revolution” from 2005 onwards. He ensured that the oil wealth would bypass the government, which he characterized as “corrupt” and (naturally) “counter-revolutionary.” Instead, money would be funnelled directly into a non-state-controlled corporate entity known as Fonden, the National Development Fund, over which, of course, Chávez personally presided. Fonden then parceled money out to cooperatives and the so-called “Missions” to the poor. During the oil boom, petroleum prices went from $10 a barrel to $100 and peaked at around $150 over the course of a decade. Given the astonishing amount of wealth generated, Chávez had a lot of money to throw at his pet projects. And, predictably, as the wealth trickled down, corruption increased since everyone had to get his or her piece of the patronage.

The cooperatives and community councils were among the many promising and inspiring initiatives dreamed up by Chávez in the early years of the boom. I witnessed these developments and documented them in my feature film, Venezuela: Revolution from the Inside Out. There really did appear to be great enthusiasm for these initiatives at the grassroots, especially as Hugo Chávez pushed them forward with massive funding. I quickly joined the chorus of supporters, first as invited poet to the Second World Poetry Festival of Venezuela in July 2005, then as a freelance (that is, unpaid) journalist for various left-leaning websites. When Chávez appeared on the scene, there were under 2000 cooperatives in the country. Once he came to power, that number skyrocketed to nearly 200,000, and I was there to document their ups and downs. I attended a few community council meetings and “political formation” training sessions, as well as a number of oil-funded projects like community kitchens, cultural events, and community development programs. It felt like something was really happening and that a fairer society was being built.

After the year I spent living in Venezuela (2005-2006), I returned as frequently as my schedule would allow, sometimes twice a year. Between 2008 and 2011, however, I became preoccupied with traveling across Latin America and conducting interviews with social movement activists for a book entitled Until the Rulers Obey that would be published in 2014. During that time, I was forced to become a “generalist” and didn’t have much time available to keep a close eye on what was happening in Venezuela. Nevertheless, from people who were watching, and from what I saw on my two visits there in 2011, I gathered that the situation was taking a bad turn. As even supporters were pointing out a few years later, by 2007 only about 15 percent of the 184,000 remaining cooperatives were active. If the distinction between earlier socialism and the Bolivarian version was that in the latter the “ownership and control of the means of production must be collective and democratic,” the new version wasn’t faring well at all.

Big questions began to arise about the financing of the community councils. Critics charged that these organizations were simply instruments that Chávez (and then Maduro) used to fund their supporters while denying access to the opposition. It was classic populism in the style of the Mexican PRI, which Mario Vargas Llosa once called “the perfect dictatorship.” By 2008, Chávez had suffered his first electoral defeat in a referendum that he had hoped would drive his socialist agenda forward. In response, he adopted a new approach to building twenty-first century socialism, and it looked very much like the twentieth century variety: nationalization of industries followed by the expropriation and redistribution of wealth and property. The “Bolivarian Revolution” was starting to look like any other rentier or petro-state—burgeoning corruption, a politics of clientelism, and a growing gap between the elite in control of the state (and, of course, the oil revenues) and the increasingly desperate mass of people at the bottom.

When the Arab Spring swept Gaddafi from power, I argued with my Venezuelan friends and felt the beginnings of a great divide opening up between us. I didn’t like the company Chávez was keeping—Gaddafi, Putin, Hezbollah, etc.—but neither was I ready to denounce him and his project as a fraud. Meanwhile, as my wife and I compiled the interviews with the social movement activists in Latin America, we began to notice themes and threads that confirmed what Raul Zibechi had told us when we visited him in Montevideo, Uruguay in the spring of 2012.

Zibechi was an astute analyst of Latin American politics with a focus on social movements. He explained that the so-called “Pink Tide” of leftwing governments that had risen to power on the wave of the commodities boom were in fact following the prescription of Robert McNamara, the former president of the World Bank and architect of the Vietnam War under Lyndon Johnson. In this scenario, moderately progressive governments were far more useful than their rightwing homologues to the world elite, because they provided a buffer between the transnational corporations and the social movements protesting the impact of resource extraction on communities and the environment. The testimony of our interviewees seemed to bear out Zibechi’s thesis. But surely this couldn’t be true of the more “radical” processes, like the one unfolding in Venezuela?

As I was writing the introductions to the Nicaraguan and Venezuelan chapters of our book, I investigated further, and what I discovered in the academic literature and reports by investigative journalists on both countries confirmed my doubts. By the mid-1990s, I’d already given up on the FSLN reforming itself. When I met Ernesto Cardenal again in 2004, he argued that there was no hope of any positive change from the “Ortega dictatorship.” My introduction to the Nicaragua chapter of our book was therefore fairly easy to write, since the direction the country was going under the Ortega mafia seemed clear. I quoted Dennis Rogers’s description of the Somoza dictatorship the FSLN had overthrown and remarked that it also described the present Ortega regime quite well: “A venal oligarchy run by a small elite satisfied to promote a form of what might be termed ‘hacienda feudalism.’” But Venezuela? Chávez? I had grown more critical, but I still believed in Chávez. As so many Chavistas in Venezuela had reassured me, “Chávez is clean, but all those surrounding him are corrupt.” This was a cult of personality—a One Man faith.

*     *     *

On the afternoon of March 5, 2013, I’d just finished another draft of my introduction to the Venezuela chapter when the phone rang and a friend told me that Hugo Chávez had died. I wrote a eulogy for Counterpunch that now, nearly six years later, I find embarrassing. I then decided to go back down to Venezuela for the elections. On the flight I caught up on my reading, including a fascinating biography of Hugo Chávez written by two well-known Venezuelan journalists, and some analyses of the massive problems in the Venezuelan economy, including the missing $29 billion dollars from the Fonden budget over which Chávez had presided.

Chávez, in the style of Latin American autocrats from time immemorial, had hand-picked his successor, Nicolás Maduro. Maduro was a fairly hard-core Leninist with a soft spot in his heart for Sai Baba, the Hindu guru-huckster accused of child molestation before he died in 2011. Compared to Chávez, Maduro is wooden and utterly lacking in the warmth and charm of his political “father.” But he had close relations with Cuba and was part of Chávez’s trusted inner circle and, most importantly, he was Chávez’s choice. Y punto, end of discussion.

Of the difficulties I faced over the next few days attempting to enter the country and cover the April 2013 presidential election between Maduro and Henrique Capriles, I have written elsewhere. Suffice it to say that I wasn’t granted entry until the day after the elections. Even then, due to the massive nationwide protests, I only managed to get to Mérida thanks to the generosity of oppositionists who gave me a ride. Over the course of the trip, they filled me in on the details of why Maduro had only won the elections by only slightly more than a single percentage point. This was despite using all the state resources at his disposal to (illegally) pay for and promote his campaign, including the state oil company PDVSA’s buses which drove state employees to the polls to vote for him. Chavistas simply hadn’t come out in large numbers to vote for him, and clearly many of the faithful had already gone over to the opposition.

Over the next few days and weeks, as I traveled through Venezuela, I began talking to the “counter-revolutionaries” and they offered evidence of their country’s deep problems to which my Chavista friends could only respond with rhetoric. In the industrial region of Guayana in the state of Bolívar, I interviewed union workers in the nationalized industries about the collapse of those industries. I was able to confirm their claims with secret footage shot for me by a worker using my own video camera, which showed the ruined interior of an enormous state factory where not a soul was to be seen on this particular work day.

In Caracas, I met with opposition human rights activists, union leaders, and leftwing academics for interviews. As the missing pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place, the reality of the Bolivarian catastrophe overwhelmed my resistance. Emilio Campos, then Secretary General of Carbonorca, the nationalized industrial coke plant, described the Bolivarian Revolution as nothing more than “a media show.” He called himself “a revolutionary for a plurality of ideas where a country seeks balance, not just for a party, or one sector of society. I believe in freedom of thought, in a diversity of ideas. But the hegemony of power makes you narrow-minded.”

The real turning point for me, however, was the interview I conducted with labor journalist Damian Prat, whose extraordinary book Guayana: El milagro al revés (Guayana: The Reversed Miracle) I had read over the two or three days it took me to get to Guayana from Merida by bus. The interview took place within a day or two of the shocking beatings of several prominent opposition National Assembly deputies by Chavista deputies during an official session. The state television cameras were turned off during the violence and afterwards, as the wounded were taken to the hospital. I was still shaken by the footage some brave parliamentarians had captured on their cell phones and leaked to the press.

I met Prat at his office at the Correo del Caroní, the Guayanesa daily paper. As I turned on my video camera, Prat smiled wryly. “Some of you in the critical, intellectual circles of Europe and the United States seem to think it’s fine that in the countries of our Latin America there are arbitrary governments and processes full of abuses that in your countries you wouldn’t consider allowing for a minute. No, in your own country you’d militantly reject the same things you seem to feel are perfectly fine to take place down here, so far away, where it’s exotic and interesting…” I felt my face redden with shame, and I suddenly felt my whole world capsize.

It would be months before I was able to return to Guayana to interview Rubén González, the former Chavista and Secretary General of Iron Mine Workers Union of the Orinoco (Sintra Ferrominera del Orinoco) about his own experience of imprisonment without trial “just for doing my job in the union and defending the rights of workers.” Referring to the claims of “sabotage” as the reason the industries were failing in the country, González told me that those in government “never thought of governing, but rather of enriching their little group in power. They never invested in these businesses, but totally bled them dry. They themselves are the saboteurs.” At the time of this writing, González is back in jail for organizing on behalf of workers in the state ironworks.

*     *     *

All of a sudden, I found myself in a strange world. I had drifted—at first gradually, but then definitively—into the camp of my former “enemies,” persuaded by their narrative and by the evidence before my own eyes. And, as I did so, I discovered that the editors of the news sites where I’d published my passionate defenses of the Bolivarian project for the past few years no longer responded to my pitches or my queries or my emails. As Venezuela disintegrated, I was lost and confused and alone.

And then, while I was grieving the loss of my innocent old life and its many friendships, something curious and unexpected began to happen. I discovered a great sense of excitement as I investigated “new” ideas for which I’d previously had nothing but contempt. I found myself reminded of Herbert Spencer’s quote at the end of the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book: “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance—that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”

For the next two years, I delved into the literature on Venezuela with renewed interest. Javier Corrales and Michael Penfold’s book, A Dragon in the Tropics, it turned out, was particularly well-researched and compelling. Since I could no longer get my writing published in any of the outlets for which I’d previously written, I redirected my energies into making a new film entitled In the Shadow of the Revolution with the help of a Venezuelan filmmaker and friend, Arturo Albarrán, and I wrote my political memoir for an adventurous anarchist publisher. But what preoccupied me more and more were the larger questions of socialism versus capitalism, and the meaning of liberalism.

I’d visited Cuba twice—in 1994 and again in 2010—and now, with my experience of Venezuela, I felt I’d seen the best socialism could offer. Not only was that offering pathetically meagre, but it had been disastrously destructive. It became increasingly clear to me that nothing that went under that rubric functioned nearly as well on any level as the system under which I had been fortunate enough to live in the US. Why then, did so many decent people, whose ethics and intelligence and good intentions I greatly respected, continue to insist that the capitalist system needed to be eliminated and replaced with what had historically proven to be the inferior system of socialism?

The strongest argument against state control of the means of production and distribution is that it simply didn’t—and doesn’t—work. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding—and in this case, there was no pudding at all. In my own lifetime, I’ve seen socialism fail in China, fail in the Soviet Union, fail in Eastern Europe, fail on the island of Cuba, and fail in Nicaragua under the Sandinistas. And now the world is watching it fail in Venezuela, where it burned through billions of petro-dollars of financing, only to leave the nation worse off than it was before. And still people like me had insisted on this supposed alternative to capitalism, stubbornly refusing to recognize that it is based on a faulty premise and a false epistemology.

As long ago as the early 1940s, F.A. Hayek had identified the impossibility of centralized social planning and its catastrophic consequences in his classic The Road to Serfdom. Hayek’s writings convinced the Hungarian economist, János Kornai, to dedicate an entire volume entitled The Socialist System to demonstrating the validity of his claims. The “synoptic delusion”—the belief that any small group of people could hold and manage all the information spread out over millions of actors in a market economy—Kornai argued, leads the nomenklatura to make disastrous decisions that disrupt production and distribution. Attempts to “correct” these errors only exacerbate the problems for the same reasons, leading to a whole series of disasters that result, at last, in a completely dysfunctional economy, and then gulags, torture chambers, and mass executions as the nomenklatura hunt for “saboteurs” and scapegoats.

The synoptic delusion—compounded by immense waste, runaway corruption, and populist authoritarianism—is what led to the mayhem engulfing Venezuela today, just as it explains why socialism is no longer a viable ideology to anyone but the kind of true believer I used to be. For such people, utopian ideologies might bring happiness into their own lives, and even into the lives of those around them who also delight in their dreams and fantasies. But when they gain control over nations and peoples, their harmless dreams become the nightmares of multitudes.

Capitalism, meanwhile, has dramatically raised the standard of living wherever it has been allowed to arise over the past two centuries. It is not, however, anything like a perfect or flawless system. Globalization has left many behind, even if their lives are far better than those of their ancestors just two hundred years ago, and vast wealth creation has produced vast inequalities which have, in turn, bred resentment. Here in California, the city of Los Angeles, “with a population of four million, has 53,000 homeless.” Foreign policy misadventures and the economic crash of 2008 opened the door to demagogues of the Left and the Right eager to exploit people’s hopes and fears so that they could offer themselves as the solution their troubled nations sought to the dystopian woe into which liberal societies had fallen. In his fascinating recent jeremiad Why Liberalism Failed, Patrick Deneen itemizes liberal democracy’s many shortcomings and, whether or not one accepts his stark prognosis, his criticisms merit careful thought and attention.

Nevertheless, markets do work for the majority, and so does liberal democracy, as dysfunctional as it often is. That is because capitalism provides the space for ingenuity and innovation, while liberal democracy provides room for free inquiry and self-correction. Progress and reform can seem maddeningly sluggish under such circumstances, particularly when attempting to redress grave injustice or to meet slow-moving existential threats like climate change. But I have learned to be wary of those who insist that the perfect must be the enemy of the good, and who appeal to our impatience with extravagant promises of utopia. If, as Deneen contends, liberalism has become a victim of its own success, it should be noted that socialism has no successes to which it can fall victim. Liberalism’s foundations may be capable of being shored up, but socialism is built on sand, and from sand. Failures, most sensible people realize, should be abandoned.

That is probably why Karl Popper advocated cautious, piecemeal reform of markets and societies because, like any other experiment, one can only accurately isolate problems and make corrections by changing one variable at a time. As Popper observed in his essay “Utopia and Violence”:

The appeal of Utopianism arises from the failure to realize that we cannot make heaven on earth. What I believe we can do instead is to make life a little less terrible and a little less unjust in each generation. A good deal can be achieved in this way. Much has been achieved in the last hundred years. More could be achieved by our own generation. There are many pressing problems which we might solve, at least partially, such as helping the weak and the sick, and those who suffer under oppression and injustice; stamping out unemployment; equalizing opportunities; and preventing international crime, such as blackmail and war instigated by men like gods, by omnipotent and omniscient leaders. All this we might achieve if only we could give up dreaming about distant ideals and fighting over our Utopian blueprints for a new world and a new man.

Losing faith in a belief system that once gave my life meaning was extremely painful. But the experience also reawakened my dormant intellectual curiosity and allowed me to think about the world anew, unencumbered by the circumscriptions of doctrine. I have met new people, read new writers and thinkers, and explored new ideas I had previously taken care to avoid. After reading an interview I had given to one of my publishers a year ago, I was forwarded an email by the poet David Chorlton. What I’d said in that interview, he wrote, “goes beyond our current disease of taking sides and inflexible non-thinking. I’m reading Havel speeches again, all in the light of the collective failure to live up to the post-communist opportunities. We’re suffering from a lack of objectivity—is that because everyone wants an identity more than a solution to problems?”

 

economics, foreign affairs, government, history, ideology, liberalism, poverty, public policy, reform, socialism

Filed under: economics, foreign affairs, government, history, ideology, liberalism, poverty, public policy, reform, socialism

This is socialized medicine

original article: Matt Walsh: Courts in Europe have sentenced a baby to death. This is socialized medicine.
June 28, 2017 by Matt Walsh

There’s a horrific case over in the U.K. that hasn’t gotten a ton of attention here, but it should. If we look closely, we may see our future — and our present.

Charlie Gard is a 10-month-old baby who suffers from a rare genetic disorder called mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. It’s a horrendous condition that leads to organ malfunction, brain damage, and other symptoms. The hospital that had been treating the boy, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, made the determination that nothing more can be done for him and he must be taken off of life support. He should “die with dignity,” they said. The parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, disagreed.

This is the very crucial thing to understand: they are not insisting that GOSH be forced to keep Charlie on life support. Rather, they want to take him out of the hospital and to America to undergo a form of experimental therapy that a doctor here had already agreed to administer. Chris and Connie raised over $1.6 million to fund this last ditch effort to save their child’s life. All they needed the British hospital to do was release their child into their care, which doesn’t seem like a terribly burdensome request. They would then leave the country and try their luck with treatment here. However slim the chance of success may have been, it was better than just sitting by and watching their baby die.

Here’s where things get truly insane and barbaric. The hospital refused to give Charlie back to his parents. The matter ended up in the courts, and, finally, in the last several hours, the European Court of “Human Rights” ruled that the parents should be barred from taking their son to the United States for treatment. According to the “human rights” court, it is Charlie’s human right that he expire in his hospital bed in London. The parents are not allowed to try and save his life. It is “in his best interest” to simply die, they ruled.

In Europe, “Death with dignity” supersedes all other rights.

In Europe, a mother may kill her baby but she is not allowed to keep him alive.

Again: barbaric.

I have heard many people rationalize this demented decision by saying “the doctors know best.” That may well be relevant and true in situations where family members are trying to force doctors to administer treatments that they, the medical professionals, know will not work. But that is not what’s happening here. The only thing these parents are trying to “force” the doctors to do is relax their grip so the child can be taken to different doctors in a different country. The doctors may be the final authority on what kinds of medical measures they personally should take, but they are not the final authority over life itself. It is one thing for them to say, “I will not do this treatment.” It’s quite another for them to say, “You are not allowed to have this treatment done by anyone. You must die.” The former is reasonable. The latter is euthanasia. This baby is being euthanized. By barbarians.

I’ve seen some on social media calling this case “unimaginable” and “mind boggling.” It is certainly awful, but unfortunately it does not boggle my mind or exceed the limits of my imagination. These sorts of cases are inevitable in Europe, and, unless we make a drastic change of course, they will soon become commonplace here. The stage is already set. Just consider these three factors:

(1) This is what happens with socialized medicine. 

If the State runs the health care system, ultimately they will be the ones who decide whose life is worth saving and whose isn’t. That’s not just a byproduct of socialized medicine — it’s the point. And it is especially risky to cede this sort of power to the government when you live in a culture that doesn’t fundamentally value parental rights or human life, which brings us to the last two points.

(2) This is what happens when parental rights are subordinate to the State. 

This case came down to the question of who should have the final say over a child. Should it be the parents, or should it be a collection of doctors, judges, and bureaucrats? And if the parents don’t take precedence in a life or death situation, can it really be said that they have rights at all? If I have no say when my child’s very life is at stake, when do I have a say?

The way things are headed in Europe, a parent may have some jurisdiction over the minor minutia of daily life, but when it comes to the major issues — how a child is to be educated, how he is to live, what he is to believe, when he is to die — it is increasingly up to the State to determine. As a “medical ethics” expert at Oxford put it, parental rights are “at the heart” of most big medical decisions, however “there are limits.” Chris and Connie apparently reached the “limits” of their parental authority and now must sit back obediently while their son dies in agony. “Limits,” you see. You’re only a parent up to a certain point, and then your relationship to your child doesn’t count for anything anymore. That’s how things are in the U.K. — and the U.S., as always, is close behind.

(3) This is what happens when human life is not considered sacred. 

But what really is the downside of taking the child to the U.S. for treatment? It may not work, OK, but why not try? They raised enough money to pay for everything, including an air ambulance to get the baby to the treatment facility. Nobody is being burdened here. Nobody is being forced to do something they don’t want to do. What is there to lose?

Well, the court answers, it’s just not worth the trouble. They’ve weighed all the variables using their various formulations, and they’ve decided that it makes no sense to go through all this trouble on the slim hope of saving this one measly life. Yes, they’ve used the excuse that the baby is “suffering,” and I’m sure he is suffering, but that doesn’t explain why the parents should be prevented from pursuing every option to ease that suffering. Death is not a treatment plan for suffering. Death is death. Death is the destruction of life. We all must experience it some day, but the inevitability of death does not negate the value and dignity of life.

What this really comes down to is that the Powers That Be don’t see the fundamental value in life. That’s why you’ll hear these people speak more often of the “dignity” of death than the dignity of life. They preach about the “right” to die but not the right to live. And the laws in Europe reflect this emphasis on death instead of life. Over there, they kill children in the womb and euthanize them when they come out. They even euthanize alcoholics and depressives and other people who are by no means terminally ill. Once the right to die has been placed over the right to life, death will continue claiming new ground and eating into life more and more. Death is a destructive force. What else can it do but consume?

It’s not quite as bad here yet, but we’re getting there. We already kill hundreds of thousands of children in the womb, and we often speak with admiration of people who make the “brave” decision to commit suicide. And we already, in many instances, place the authority of the State over the rights of parents. Our education system is built around that philosophy.

So, as I said, the stage is set. Prepare yourself for what’s to come.

And pray for Chris and Connie tonight.

 

babies, bureaucracy, children, civil rights, crisis, elitism, ethics, eugenics, extremism, government, health care, ideology, law, medicine, nanny state, progressive, public policy, scandal, socialism, tragedy, unintended consequences

Filed under: babies, bureaucracy, children, civil rights, crisis, elitism, ethics, eugenics, extremism, government, health care, ideology, law, medicine, nanny state, progressive, public policy, scandal, socialism, tragedy, unintended consequences

Oregon readies its death panels, starting with the mentally ill

original article: Oregon Senate Committee Passes Bill to Allow Starving Mentally Ill Patients to Death
June 6, 2017 by TEVEN ERTELT

Yesterday the Oregon Senate Rules Committee passed out Senate Bill 494 on a party-line vote. Touted as a “simple update” to Oregon’s current advance directive, this bill is designed to allow for the starving and dehydrating to death of patients with dementia or mental illness.

Senate Bill 494 is little more than the state colluding with the healthcare industry to save money on the backs of mentally ill and dementia patients. This bill would remove current safeguards in Oregon’s advance directive statute that protect conscious patients’ access to ordinary food and water when they no longer have the ability to make decisions about their own care.

“It’s appalling what the Senate Rules Committee just voted to do,” said Gayle Atteberry, Oregon Right to Life executive director.  “This bill, written in a deceiving manner, has as its goal to save money at the expense of starving and dehydrating dementia and mentally ill patients to death.”

“Oregon law currently has strong safeguards to protect patients who are no longer able to make decisions for themselves,” said Atteberry. “Nursing homes and other organizations dedicated to protecting vulnerable patients work hard to make sure patients receive the food and water they need.  Senate Bill 494, pushed hard by the insurance lobby, would take patient care a step backwards and decimate patient rights.”

“Oregon Right to Life is committed to fighting this terrible legislation every step of the way,” said Atteberry.  “We have already seen the outrage of countless Oregonians that the Legislature would consider putting them in danger.  We expect the grassroots response to only increase.”

SB 494 was amended in committee yesterday.  However, the amendments did not solve the fundamental problem with the bill.  To learn more about what SB 494 will do, please watch testimony made to the Rules Committee on behalf of Oregon Right to Life yesterday by clicking here.  SB 494 likely heads to a vote of the full State Senate in the coming weeks.

Three additional bills (SB 239, SB 708 and HB 3272) that also remove rights from vulnerable patients were introduced this session.

“There is a clear effort to move state policy away from protecting the rights of patients with dementia and mental illness and toward empowering surrogates to make life-ending decisions,” Atteberry said.

Senate Bill 494 makes many changes to advance directive law, eliminating definitions that can leave a patient’s directions left open to interpretation. SB 494 would also create a committee, appointed rather than elected, that can make future changes to the advance directive without approval from the Oregon Legislature. This could easily result in further erosion of patient rights.

budget, corruption, crisis, culture, Democrats, eugenics, extremism, government, health care, ideology, left wing, legislature, liberalism, nanny state, political correctness, progressive, public policy, reform, relativism, scandal, socialism, tragedy, victimization

Filed under: budget, corruption, crisis, culture, Democrats, eugenics, extremism, government, health care, ideology, left wing, legislature, liberalism, nanny state, political correctness, progressive, public policy, reform, relativism, scandal, socialism, tragedy, victimization

College students furious after they’re tricked into rejecting socialist ideal

original article: Davidson College students furious after they’re tricked into rejecting socialist ideal
May 24, 2017 by WILLIAM NARDI

Many students at Davidson College recently responded in anguish and outrage after some conservative students filmed a video asking people on campus if they would sign a petition to redistribute GPAs for the sake of “education equality.”

Many students refused to sign the petition, saying it wasn’t fair for a variety of reasons, including that people who earned their As should keep their As, and that students who are given good grades without hard work might not be inspired to improve.

But after students discovered later the petition was a hoax played on them by conservative students in an attempt to illustrate the unfairness of wealth distribution, they hastily called a teach-in at the campus union at which they denounced the effort and vented their frustration.

Some students said the fake petition made them struggle with feelings that they do not belong at Davidson, while others aggressively attacked the video, calling it “oppressive,” “illegally filmed,” and “inflammatory bullsh*t,” according to a video of the April 27 teach-in on Facebook.

Multiple students at the teach-in also made comments supporting both income redistribution and GPA redistribution, saying “life wasn’t always fair” and it’s “the right thing to do.” Others suggested that not forcibly redistributing income would give rich people the power to decide who lives and dies based off their charitable donation whims.

One student who spoke identified herself as the daughter of undocumented immigrants from Mexico, and lamented that her parents are unable to get jobs available to American citizens.

The GPA petition was distributed by students in the Young Americans for Freedom chapter at the North Carolina-based Davidson College, a small liberal arts school. Young America’s Foundation had run a nationwide video contest asking its chapters to film students’ reactions when asked if they would voluntarily redistribute their good grades to a failing student in the name of “fairness.”

MORE: At Davidson College – a top-ranked elite N.C. school – only six percent of professors are Republican

“The hypocrisy is obvious. Liberals embrace socialist policies when their own property is unaffected, but when socialism affects them personally, watch them become advocates of free enterprise instantaneously,” the foundation stated on its website in announcing the contest.

In the Davidson video, members posed as “Students for Educational Equality,” and recorded themselves asking people on campus whether they would sign a petition to “redistribute the top 10 percent of GPAs at Davidson to the bottom 10 percent.”

Many did not sign, although a professor and a couple students did.

At the end of their video, the conservative students say: “Ask yourself this question: If it’s unfair to say that the people with the highest GPAs didn’t deserve it, why is it suddenly fair to say that successful people don’t deserve the money they earned.”

Despite the backlash the effort received, Young Americans for Freedom at Davidson College stood behind it, stating on Facebook it “serves as an analogy, not an equivalency.”

“It is simply an illustration of fruits of your labor and your being able to decide what happens with those fruits,” the statement continued. “Regardless of your level of income or academic achievements, what is relevant is that the fruit is yours and you should be able to decide what you do with it. Davidson Young Americans for Freedom stands for limited government and free enterprise, and we stand by our video.”

Although many students at the teach-in voiced anger, at times the conservative students’ point was made, such as when one student named Helen called out her professor who signed the fake GPA redistribution petition: “There are students like myself who learned English as a second language and have to put in extra hours of work just to do readings, looking up words, phrases, so shouldn’t you get those GPA points for putting in that work?”

The professor responded later in the forum that he disapproved of the petition’s “methodology,” saying he felt tricked as he thought it was either a commentary on the ineffectiveness of standardized testing, or simply a joke. But he added he enjoyed the robust discussion the video created, calling the discourse good and necessary.

Dozens of students turned out for the teach-in, including Haley Hamblin, co-founder of Young Americans for Freedom at Davidson, who explained how she came from a low-income family and was only able to attend Davidson College by working multiple jobs as well as through scholarships the school offered.

“I don’t see that as any kind of disadvantage or something that keeps me from being successful here at Davidson, I think it just gives me more of a drive and love for the education that I have here,” Hamblin said. “The donors [who fund the scholarships] are willing donors and it’s all voluntary. I feel very blessed that the donors allow me to be here and if I ever have the chance to give back I would. But it’s important to understand that that’s voluntary and wealth redistribution isn’t.”

In a message to The College Fix, Kenny Xu, president of Young Americans for Freedom at Davidson, said some members felt frustration over what they believe is a “misinterpretation” of their petition effort, saying they were accused of not caring about low-income students.

“They feel like the video lacked nuance and failed to consider important differences in income vs. GPA,” Xu said in a message to The Fix. “I appreciate their legitimate concerns and criticisms, and wanted this video to be the centerpiece of that discussion (of which many positive and fruitful ones happened on campus). However, some of the concerns went too far as the picture some people tried to paint of us was one of not caring, not listening, and not respecting low-income students. This is categorically false.”

The Davidson video won the nationwide contest, earning the Davidson students free trips to YAF’s national conference.

capitalism, culture, education, public policy, socialism, video

Filed under: capitalism, culture, education, public policy, socialism, video

Students taught government is a caretaker that should be obeyed

original article: Students taught that government is ‘family;’ a caretaker that should be obeyed
September 1, 2013 by Police State USA

Pledge child
(Source: lannomworldwide.com)

SKOKIE, IL — A homework assignment was given to children at a public school which revealed the true nature of this nation’s education model: to condition impressionable young people to accept the paternal role of the state; trusting, accepting, and obeying the state’s wishes as you would your own family.  This familial role of the state has been formally advocated since the onset of public education in America.

Fourth-graders at East Prairie School in Skokie, Illinois, were distributed an assignment titled, “What is Government?”

The assignment was prefaced with a statement that caused a stir with some parents.  The worksheet stated:

“Government is like a nation’s family.  Families take care of each other and make sure they are safe, healthy, educated, and free to enjoy life.  Families encourage children to be independent, hardworking, and responsible.  Families make and enforce rules and give appropriate punishments when rules are broken.  Government does these things for its citizens, too.”

The worksheet goes on to make a series of analogies between the state of families in the form of questions.  It can be viewed below.

Assignment given to children in compulsory government schools. (Source: TheBlaze)

This worksheet, while shocking to some, is completely in line with the foundation and intent of the American public education system.  To illustrate this, we must review some forgotten (buried) history.

Few people realize that the American Public Education System was directly imported from Prussia (modern day Germany).  This model of “free and compulsory” education was designed by the Prussian Emperor, in order to generate obedient workers and soldiers who would not question his authority.

The man most directly credited for the system we now know so well was an educator and lawmaker by the name of Horace Mann.  He is often titled the Father of American Public Education.

In the 1830’s, Horace Mann visited Prussia and researched its education methodology.  He was infatuated with the emperor’s method of eliminating free thought from his subjects and designed an education system for Massachusetts directly based on these concepts.  The movement was then eagerly spread by statists across the country.

John Gatto — a notable two-time winner of New York State’s “Teacher of the Year” award — has written some remarkable articles speaking out against the current education system.  In one analysis titled, The Prussian (German) Educational System, Gatto informs us of the model America adopted:

The educational system was divided into three groups. The elite of Prussian society were seen as comprising 0.5% of the society. Approximately 5.5% of the remaining children were sent to what was called realschulen, where they were partially taught to think. The remaining 94% went to volkschulen, where they were to learn “harmony, obedience, freedom from stressful thinking and how to follow orders.” An important part of this new system was to break the link between reading and the young child, because a child who reads too well becomes knowledgeable and independent from the system of instruction and is capable of finding out anything. In order to have an efficient policy-making class and a sub-class beneath it, you’ve got to remove the power of most people to make anything out of available information.

Harmony, obedience, freedom from stressful thinking, and how to follow orders.  These are the pillars of the Prussian — now American — public education system.  Its American founder, Horace Mann, said, “The State is the father of children.”

It should come as no surprise when that same system blatantly promotes the government as some kind of paternal entity that cares about your health, safety, and education.  And of course, something that makes rules that should always be obeyed.

children, culture, education, elitism, government, ideology, indoctrination, left wing, liberalism, marxism, nanny state, pandering, political correctness, progressive, propaganda, socialism

Filed under: children, culture, education, elitism, government, ideology, indoctrination, left wing, liberalism, marxism, nanny state, pandering, political correctness, progressive, propaganda, socialism

Government worship and deferred compassion

original article: Meals On Wheels Desperately Needs To Get Cut, And We Shouldn’t Stop There
March 23, 2017 by Robert Tracinski

Hey, everybody, the Trump budget guts everything!

Except, of course, that it doesn’t. It cuts about $54 billion from next year’s budget out of a total of $4 trillion in spending—a reduction of a little over 1 percent. It’s kind of a drop in the bucket.

But as part of their program to grow all spending for everything all the time, Democrats have had to find something that makes Trump’s budget cuts look totally radical and draconian, so they have seized on Meals on Wheels, a program that uses volunteers to deliver food to the elderly.

Not only is this factually wrong, but the really radical and dangerous position is the idea that programs like Meals on Wheels have to be part of the federal budget and must never be cut in any way.

First, the facts. Meals on Wheels is supported by volunteers and overwhelmingly funded by private charity. The national organization Meals on Wheels America gets only 3.3 percent of its budget, less than $250,000, from government grants.

Moreover, the money that is supposedly going to be cut doesn’t even come directly from the federal budget, and Trump’s budget doesn’t even mention Meals on Wheels. Instead, it eliminates Community Development Block Grants, some tiny fraction of which—nobody can say for sure exactly how much—is used by state and local governments to support local Meals on Wheels organizations. Apparently, nothing else done with these block grants is particularly defensible, so Democrats have focused all of their attention on Meals on Wheels.

In the meantime, all of the press attention has led to a surge of donations and volunteers. Did you know citizens could do that—take what they think is a worthy program and support it with their own time and money? Apparently, this is a surprise to everyone on the Left.

So the whole “Trump wants to cut Meals on Wheels” story line smacks of—what’s the phrase I’m looking for here?—oh yes, “fake news.”

Yet here’s why it’s important. The outrage over cutting Meals on Wheels from the federal budget implies that it ought to be part of the federal budget and that it ought to be getting more money. That’s the really radical idea here, and it explains why this country is in the deadly budget predicament we are.

Notice that the supposedly devastating Trump budget proposal says nothing about the largest and fastest-growing part of the budget, the big middle-class entitlements like Medicare and Social Security. If we have to fund Meals on Wheels, we definitely can’t make even the slightest changes to any of those programs. In fact, by this reasoning—if a small fraction of indirect support for a charitable venture is sacrosanct—then the assumption here is that anything good has to be funded by the federal government.

By that reasoning, we aren’t just forced to keep spending money for things the government already does. We will have to keep increasing our spending indefinitely, bring into the federal fold more and more programs and ventures. Anything that benefits anybody has to get government money. Not to support it would be monstrous.

If we can’t even say to any program, “You know that last 3 percent of your budget? We think you’ll be okay on that without the federal government,” then the result is going to be exactly what we have seen: vast, ever-increasing, unsustainable increases in government spending and government debt.

Do you know what happens if we carry this all the way to the end of the road? Take a look at Venezuela, which specifically focused its socialist programs on food banks for the poor, with government taking on an increasingly dominant role in the nation’s food supply. The result? People are starving and reduced to rummaging through trash bins to survive. But no matter how cruel that system ends up being in practice, nobody could ever advocate rolling it back, because that would make you reactionary and cruel and heartless and prove that you hate the poor.

The idea that the government must fund everything, that nothing can happen without it, that it must be the source and impetus behind every initiative, and that it must always expand relentlessly—that is the truly radical notion being pushed in this Meals on Wheels hysteria.

That’s why we have to take an axe to federal funds for Meals on Wheels. We have to do it just to establish that there is some limit, any limit to the scope and fiscal appetite of the federal government—before it yawns its throat open and swallows us whole.

budget, bureaucracy, corruption, culture, Democrats, economy, elitism, entitlements, false, funding, government, ideology, left wing, liberalism, nanny state, political correctness, politics, progressive, propaganda, public policy, reform, scandal, socialism, spending, unintended consequences

Filed under: budget, bureaucracy, corruption, culture, Democrats, economy, elitism, entitlements, false, funding, government, ideology, left wing, liberalism, nanny state, political correctness, politics, progressive, propaganda, public policy, reform, scandal, socialism, spending, unintended consequences

Harvard – look what happens when you give social justice warriors free rein

original article: Harvard’s anti-male committee wants to overturn campus democracy and a free press
February 28, 2017 by Greg Piper

When it became clear that faculty might vote to overturn Harvard’s punitive rules against members of single-sex organizations such as final clubs, the university created a faculty review committee rather than suffer an embarrassing defeat.

Some people thought it was purely “window dressing,” a way for Harvard to make professors feel like they had a say when they really didn’t.

The administration would still get what it wanted, the thinking went: the blacklisting of club members from elite fellowships (like the Rhodes) and leadership roles on athletic teams and student organizations.

But it looks like the faculty review committee might actually serve as a useful check on even worse recommendations coming from the implementation committee that made the original recommendations.

MORE: Harvard is ready to blacklist 1 in 4 students

The Harvard Crimson reports that the implementation committee now wants to ban fraternity, sorority and final-club members from “several more post-graduate fellowships,” not just those requiring the dean’s recommendation.

It’s also refusing to give out copies of the new recommendations, probably anticipating that they would go viral very quickly:

Implementation committee members did not receive copies of the report, developed over the course of last semester, according to several members of the body. Rather, committee co-chairs Douglas A. Melton and Kay K. Shelemay printed copies of the document and placed them in University Hall. Members traveled to the building at select times earlier this month to physically examine the report and offer feedback.

This is similar to the protocol by which members of Congress can review classified material, so you get a sense of how important this committee thinks it is.

MORE: Dean chickens out of blacklist on eve of risky faculty vote

But it’s not just post-graduate fellowships the committee wants to put off-limits:

In another section of the group’s final report, the implementation committee recommended that The Crimson and the Undergraduate Council be subject to the College’s policy, according to the three committee members. Such a step would aim to bar members of final clubs and Greek organizations from holding leadership positions on either The Crimson or the UC.

In other words: This big-headed committee is so determined to snuff out men and women spending time with their own kind, which is allegedly sexist and elitist, that it will destroy democracy and a free press on campus.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education sounds the alarm on this “super-blacklist,” which validates Harvard’s earlier inclusion in the group’s “10 Worst Schools for Free Speech” list.

MORE: Harvard punishes men’s team for crude comments of prior team

In earlier eras Harvard tried to out gay men and communists, and now it’s using the same tactics against people who like the platonic company of their own sex, writes FIRE’s Ryne Weiss:

[W]e really wish we could stop covering this car wreck. Unfortunately, Harvard keeps driving towards the wall.

He also notes the classified hush-hush procedure, and muses how the committee would even enforce these proposed rules against final clubs:

Maybe by calling the programs and warning them that the student applying had committed the unforgivable crime of throwing a “Headbands for Hope” charity fundraiser with Kappa Kappa Gamma? …

What is more democratic than a secret, authoritarian body telling you who you can’t vote for? There’s nothing troubling about that at all!

MORE: Harvard designates ‘open forum’ off the record to stifle criticism

The committee’s new recommendations are also a slap in the face to Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, a tinpot dictator who nevertheless had earlier promised The Crimson – which is totally separate from Harvard – that its leaders wouldn’t be ensnared by the rules:

To sum it up: Harvard administrators would purport to dictate who could lead an independent student newspaper, who students could vote for in their student government, and who could hire graduates of the university.

Harvard’s erratic behavior over the past month – creating the faculty review committee only two days after the implementation committee gave its (secret) final report to Khurana – makes more sense now, Weiss says:

Harvard was afraid that the new sanctions-on-steroids regime would leak to faculty, students, the public, and FIRE, and profoundly damage the regime’s public support. Harvard calculated that if it could keep the details secret until the last possible minute, it would give students and faculty too little time to do anything about it. And Harvard administrators really, really do not like embarrassing leaks. We’re talking a “we’ll-inspect-faculty-members’-emails-without-their-knowledge” level of hating leaks. …

MORE: Harvard promises special treatment to women-only club

It seems extremely unlikely that Dean Khurana just coincidentally announced the new panel two days after he was handed these recommendations. He probably saw these recommendations, was aghast, realized the faculty vote was nigh and that they would never go for this, and got a new group.

With this huge embarrassment stemming from her own illiberal impulses, maybe Harvard President Drew Faust will finally decide to zip her lips on how freedom of association is just another way of saying Jim Crow.

MORE: Hanging out with other males is like stopping blacks from voting

abuse, bias, bigotry, bullies, bureaucracy, civil rights, corruption, culture, discrimination, diversity, education, elitism, ethics, extremism, freedom, hypocrisy, ideology, intolerance, left wing, liberalism, political correctness, progressive, public policy, reform, regulation, relativism, scandal, socialism, victimization

Filed under: abuse, bias, bigotry, bullies, bureaucracy, civil rights, corruption, culture, discrimination, diversity, education, elitism, ethics, extremism, freedom, hypocrisy, ideology, intolerance, left wing, liberalism, political correctness, progressive, public policy, reform, regulation, relativism, scandal, socialism, victimization

Do you want government to practice compassion so you don’t have to?

original article: How the government has changed the way we value our neighbors
February 23, 2017 by Kate Dalley

Kate Dalley talks about how government programs have changed the way we look and value others in our society. She states that the more the government provides services for us the less we do for each other, and the less we reach out to each other.

Kate explains how back in the 1800’s we looked after each other and relied on each other, because there was no backup plan. She feels we don’t need the government to step in with programs for us as we gain character through service.

listen to the podcast

culture, ethics, government, ideology, nanny state, socialism, unintended consequences

Filed under: culture, ethics, government, ideology, nanny state, socialism, unintended consequences

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