In 1975 I was in Grade School
In 1975, Ronald Reagan ran for the Presidency and lost the Republican nomination to Gerald Ford. For some odd reason, this 5th grader was pulling for Ronald Reagan. His speeches were inspiring and his philosophy made sense to me. I loved his vision of freedom and free people.
I loved what he said about fairness and free markets. I was taught that America was the land of the free and I was seeing the opposite. Why was there so much government, so many rules, and why was their a 70 percent federal tax rate?
I do not fully understand my draw to liberty. Perhaps it was the summers I stayed with my 70- and 80-year old grandparents. Perhaps it was hearing my parents and relatives talk politics. But, to this 10 year old boy, America was about standing on one’s own feet. It was about being moral and free. It was about being honest and (personally) helping others. It was about keeping what you earned.
My parents were not political and if anything, they leaned with the Democrats. I heard the “Democrats were for the working man.” But I didn’t see it on television or in real life. To this “young man” as my dad and mother called me, the song of liberty rang strong in Ronald Reagan’s voice. It was what I thought America was suppose to be.
In 1976, Jimmy Carter took office and after four years of high inflation, price controls, more government, the 55 mile-per-hour speed limit, and an absurd foreign policy I was excited about the possibility of Ronald Reagan running for president again – and so was America. He was elected by a landslide in 1989 and took office a month later.
What Happened to the Shiny City on the Hill?
I don’t understand why I followed politics at such a young age. When President Reagan led the country, there was a sense of optimism, again. For many of us, we thought America’s days were over and we expected to be just another run of the mill country. I guess we were not so exceptional after all. But, Reagan changed all that.
He reduced taxes and regulation, and got out of the way of The People and business. In no time, we were the economic engine of the world again and the inspiration to liberty seeking people behind the Iron Curtain of Communist Europe.
But, as his second term ended, I began to feel a sense of unease. The outrage and disappointment of the voters during the 1970s seemed to have faded. Those concerned about America’s future went back to work, were raising families, and disengaged from politics again. They thought the crisis was over and America was back on track.
I had a foreboding that Americans were asleep. But, as Americas slept the forces against the “American way” were at work again.
The leftist in the universities, Washington, D.C., and in the state capitals continued to preach the benefits of progressivism, otherwise known as socialism and Marxism.
This despite the evident misery of the people of the Soviet Union, China, and the communist block countries of Eastern Europe, and those misguided in our own hemisphere and Southeast Asia. They could only see the wrong with our system of government and economic system. Forget the 20 million killed by the Soviet Union, 70 million killed in China, and the 11 million killed by NAZI Germany – all socialist! (Mass Killings Under Communist Regimes, Wikipedia – 2/13/2013; The Holocaust, Wikipedia – 2/13/2016)
The Progressives would say that they want the type of socialism they have in Sweden or Denmark. In Sweden, people are given government paid vacations, government health care, amble welfare, housing allowances, and the highest tax burden in the world. What you earn is not yours but your neighbors.
Government uses its power to take from the producers and performer to give to the non performer. The result: there are few incentives to improve one’s lot in life. There are few incentives left to invent in or dream about. In fact, one can say life there life is mediocre.
It’s sure they’ll not invent the next world changing technology in space, science, cyber space, or elsewhere.
Say what you will of capitalism and democracy (republican democracy), its implementation did not kill over 100 million people in the 20th Century and imprison its citizens behind the Berlin Wall and Iron Curtain. So, then, why do I keep hearing advocates of socialism say, “The problem with socialism isn’t its philosophy. It is its implementation.” Really?
Forget that socialism is the opposite of freedom and liberty. It’s a system that can only exist by the force of government. Freedom and free markets exist because of free people. It’s the natural state of human kind (read my article about it free markets ). However, because people lead and administer socialism and capitalism, its always at the will of fallible people. Which brings me to our founders.
If it weren’t for the abuses of Britain’s King George III and history’s other totalitarian leaders, we wouldn’t have our uniquely American republic.
It was the world’s lineage of despotism and the failures of civil government that necessitated our constitution, which limited governmental powers and pitted three equal branches of government against one another.
Our constitution protects the rights of the minority (those out of power) and makes sweeping legislation and power grabbing difficult. It’s why our founders did not simply choose democracy, but a republican form of government (elected representatives) and guaranteed individual rights.
So what’s the role of government? Today, what we expect from Washington, D.C. was supposed to be delivered by the state and local districts. However, through the years, our elected officials have turned the system upside down (literally).
The powers of the state have been taken by the federal government, but state government hasn’t subsided. So, instead we now have even more government.
At our founding, the role of the branches of government was to protect our liberty. When we think of government today, we see a federal government involved in social services, economics, science, education, and a variety of other “helpful” functions. However, this power was originally designed to remain with the states or to “The People.”
The constitution set the rules of the game and it was the three branches of government that were to “referee” the game. It was never expected to rewrite the rules and, to use an analogy, force football players to play soccer.
The Slow Rusting Away of our Rights
In August 1988, George H.W. Bush was the Republican Party’s nomination for president. As a high school freshman, I remember the theme of the of Republican National Convention: to become a “big tent” party. I felt perturbed by what I heard.
They were not talking about promoting and advancing the ideals of President Reagan, the constitution, and free markets. Instead of advancing what Ronald Reagan said, “Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem,” they were discussing how government could do more. They sounded like Democrats.
After eight years of Reagan, they forgot about Presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter and the the abuse of power, restricting regulations, price controls, and sky rocketing inflation of these administrations.
I remember thinking, they were going about it all wrong! To take up my earlier football analogy, it was like ending the first half of the Superbowl with two touchdowns ahead and suddenly changing the game plan to be more inclusive to the opposite side!
I remember thinking, “Ronald Reagan set back the forces of progressiveism for a generation, but they’re trying to bring it back.” President Reagan held two terms of office and was replaced by his Vice President, George H.W. Bush in 1989. Though a good man, President Bush was not cut from the cloth of Ronald Reagan and soon America would turn on him.
If it were not for Ross Perot in 1992, we would not have had a William “Bill” Clinton presidency. Which, altered the course of America to the left faster than the “establishment” Republicans were scheming to do.
Moreover, if it were not for the pressure of “those in power,” we may have had a President Ross Perot presidency instead. Had he not dropped out and returned to the race a few months later, Mr. Perot could have been president. Who knows where America would have been steered, but we know it would not have been toward Monica Lewinsky and the impeachment of President Clinton.
So with the election of Bill”Clinton, the nation forgot about the past and drove further away from the example of Ronald Reagan.
September 11, 2001
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, George W. Bush pursued a war-time footing and embroiled America into a decade-long war in the Middle East; and the American people shifted left and elected legions of left-leaning Democrats and Republican-lite progressives (from both parties).
As President Bush was occupied by war and Congress was occupied by the corrupting influences from Wall Street and lobbyist, crony congress and crony capitalism took hold of government, banking, and investing.
By 2008 the whole house of cards came crashing down. The Federal Reserve and Congress structured and stimulated America’s financial system toward crony government and capitalism, while people bought homes like partying college students with their parents credit cards. Congress and the president “abandoned capitalism” to save it and the United States entered an economic recession not seen since the 1930s.
As a result of the decay following the millennium, Americans fell for the undefined “hope and change” of Barrack Obama. He kept his promise and tried to “fundamentally change” America into a progressive country akin to Venezuela or Sweden. So after seven years of President Obama, 12 years of the Bushes, and eight years of Clinton, most young adults see Ronald Reagan as I did the World War II presidents, when I was a child and yound adult. Reagan like Roosevelt had a great reputation, but like today’s Millennials, that was way before they were born.
Can Government Really Fix the Problems they Created?
Today, Barack Obama wants to use more government to fix the problems government created in the first place. Obama and the Democrats prefer to ignore the results of free-market capitalism and limited government. The only proven system that pulls country after country out of poverty and despotism that embraces it.
He and the Democrats fail to look to the Russian and Chinese capitalist successes, the vary countries that led the socialist movements only a few generations ago. Though not perfect examples, their experience shows how well a free-er and more market-based economy can do.
Still there are better examples, such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and New Zealand. These three topped 2015’s ratings for freedom for the entire planet, as rated by the Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation.
In this same study, Barack Obama’s America comes in at eleventh, falling behind Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Chili, and seven other nations. It seems Obama and too many Americans prefer to ignore the facts of socialism and ignore the successes that made America the economic superpower of the world in the 20th century and much of the 19th century.
Do you want to know where Obama’s America is going? Google news reports about Venezuela. They are an oil rich South American nation that tried socialism, which led to government control of the news media and nearly all facets of life.
Today Venezuelans wait in line for toilet paper, food, water, and gasoline and shortages of electricity make daily blackouts a common part of life. Most international companies have fled the country, leaving behind high unemployment and desperation. Their late president led Venezuela into bankruptcy with promises of fairness and free stuff. The result is chaos, high levels of debt, more poverty, money printing, and an annual inflation rate of 808 percent (Forbes, Aug 28, 2015).
Recently, despite government control of the media, the people elected a more market-based legislature. The old guard is holding on while the new guard is trying to turn the country towards liberty.
Like a frog slowly boiling to death in a pot of water, Americans have slowly left the ideals of their founders. They are drawn to a social system that has proven, at worst, murderous and disastrous to its people and, at best robs them of their initiative and greatness. In its place, socialist politicians promises free stuff and a lifetime of babysitting at the expense of those who produced and earned it.
But like Margaret Thatcher said, “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money [to spend] ( Margaret Thatcher, Wikiquote – 2/13/2016).”
Like the people of the communist (socialist) Soviet Union and China, the people today are being slowly swayed by the promises of something socialism can never deliver. At its deceitful core, it robs individuals of meaning and purpose in life.
Liberty, freedom, an unlimited future, and the bility of all of us to live our lives as we see fit lie in the balance.
After America’s Revolutionary War, at the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, it is recorded that Mrs. Powell asked Benjamin Franklin, “…what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin responded, without hesitation, “A republic, if you can keep it (Benjamin Franklin, Wikiquote – 2/13/2016).”
What will it be? Totalitarianism or a socialist utopia which protects the ruling class and rewards those who do not desent. Or will we return to the the Constitution, limited government, and Liberty of our founder’s Republic?
Photo Credits: Pixabay.com