[ 1 ]
The full quote reads, "We’re saying that for American to get back on track,
we’re going to cut [the Bush tax cuts] short and not give it to you.
We’re going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good."
So spoke Hillary Clinton on the record in a 2004 fundraising speech to
wealthy supporters in San Francisco. In the modern parlance of social
welfare governance, the "common good" is often spoken of but a clear and
limiting definition of it is never forthcoming. How much of the balance
between public and private is public? Ten percent, as was the first concepts
of tithes, as taxation to run the Israelite tribes? 40-50 percent, as is
common throughout the US and Europe? Is there an upper limit to what
constitutes the common good, or might one expect government to require
"more" of its citizens?
Some might complain that it is unfair for place a quote by a sitting US
senator alongside the campaign lies of Hitler, but the truth is that a great
many well-intentioned Germans of so long ago believed a campaign's rhetoric
-- for peace, for equal rights and for disarmament. And for this, they
supported him with their vote; this included Jews and Christians,
homosexuals, and many others who were unprepared for what came next.
Moreover, it is important to remember -- or learn anew -- that the "common
good" was often a lure dangled by totalitarians, as one sees throughout
history: "If we are to go forward we must move as a trained and loyal army
to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because, without such
discipline, no progress is made, no leadership becomes effective. We
are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and property to such
discipline because it makes possible a leadership which aims at a larger
good." (Italian dictator Benito Mussolini)
And lest we forget its American roots, we should revisit the
following quote: "Conformity will be the only virtue and
any man who refuses to conform will have to pay the penalty."
(Woodrow Wilson) Within this range of expression about the
"common good," Senator Clinton's remark is neither unusual nor
[ 2 ]
The full quote reads, "The truth is, in order to get things like universal
health care and a revamped education system, then
someone is going to have to give up a piece of their pie so that someone
else can have more."
So spoke Michelle Obama, as reported in
The Charlotte Observer (a McClatchy Company) in April 2008
during campaigning for her husband's candidacy this year. I find
it amusing and ironic that so many well-spoken politicians urge
social welfare from those less fortunate than themselves, when
in fact they could easily live in less expensive homes or travel
economy class in order to "give" to the poor.
Not surprisingly, they do not for their privilege and connection
to power will not allow them to be equal, when they can be
than equal. As has been darkly observed, Washington, D. C.,
is filled with the "rich" of both parties working each year on
the problems of the poor only to become even wealthier through
it -- in part by voting themselves raises in salary and perks as
well as tax benefits which do not apply to the average "Joe."
[ 3 ]
This well-known quote comes from the works of Karl Marx. Marx spent most of
his life, essentially, as a welfare recipient, pleading often with Friedrich
Engels to send him money. Even with this continuing stipend -- let us call
them welfare payments -- he did not fully conclude the terms of his
agreement with Engels, which was to complete a far larger work than
[ 4 ]
In German: "Mit Adolf Hitler 'Ja' für Gleichberechtigung und Frieden."
[ 5 ]
It is first and foremost not an economic philosophy, but rather a political
one. It is about governmental power over an economy, which is utterly
different than an economic philosophy of how transactions between provider
and consumer function and are conducted.
As we are now seeing in the liquidity and credit crises
throughout the world as of 2008, social welfare demands have
become massive debt as socialist-led borrowing from "tomorrow"
to fund "today" is simple coming due for payments which likely
many nations will not easily make. Were a nation an individual
and such a credit crisis was to be dealt with, simple credit
counseling would be in order, a sort of fiscal "tough love" in
which the avenues of credit would be closed, credit cards
canceled and a regime of rigorous repayment advised, and even
So will it turn out to be for the various social welfare
schemes, I believe, which are spending through deficits and
borrowing. What is most amusing to note, therefore, is that
socialism has a greater reliance on growth and capital than does
orthodox capitalism per se; this Marx never foresaw.
The notion of socialism begins with high sounding words. "From each
according to his abilities to each according to his needs" resonates with
many as a sensible and even Judeo-Christian concept. But charity --
voluntary giving -- is a far different thing than compensatory taxation for
Oddly and perhaps not surprisingly, many of the most ardent
proponents of socialism fund themselves out of the "public
trough," such that politicians might acquire greater wealth than
those in the private sector, while the truly super rich of the
private sector are susceptible to the power which wealth
influences over them. One can look to the majority of
politicians and see wealthy people emerging from a career in
public service, generally far better off than the average worker
in the private sector.
One saw this in the recent bankruptcy of the City of Vallejo in
California, a small city of 120,000 citizens which was spending
most of its taxes on the costs of government alone, especially
salaries and unfunded pensions in perpetuity. This is equally
true of the new class of super-politicians in Europe, with the
rise of the European Union which requires more funding for its
new clusters of politicians than were necessary before its
creation. How long can a population afford through taxation to
fund a wealthier class? How long can a population afford the
debt service on borrowing from tomorrow's as yet unpaid taxes to
fund today's government programs and costs? I suspect not long.
Therefore my own personal definition of socialism is
not the opposite of capitalism, but rather the opposite of
small, less powerful government. It is not a definition of fixed borders,
but of degrees. On a sliding scale from no government to massive, invasive
and powerful government, there is a range of great latitude. It becomes
therefore important to note where on this sliding, gray scale one finds
one's self and one's politics.
At an aggregate rate of taxation of fifty percent, one might
well define one's self as fifty percent enslaved. Government of
the avid Social Democrat would rage against this notion, of
course, especially as it often knows clearly how well it lives
for this fact being obscured from the general public.
What is more generally true than not is that the highest
political figures who have in the past advocated or now continue
to advocate various forms of "social justice" take out of the
social system far more than the "average Joe." One only need
research the median income and average individual wealth for a
citizen of any nation, and then compare it far above average
income and wealth of all the loudest proponents of "taking
things away from you for the common good."
If the common good was so truly appealing, then the greatest
proponents of it would be in the media of income ranges rather
than simply rich.
[ 6 ]
For this I wrote a short and most cynical poem, as below:
Modern Times and Charity
"I need your cash for charity,"
The upper crust
said to me.
"The more you'll give," they really
"'s the less
they'll want from me."
"We urge you to dig deeply down,
To pay the freight
It's how you'll stay just where you
And how we'll stay
Movie stars and moguls
Around the public forums
To wail and cry
"It's not too much for you to do,
(Though far too
much for us).
Dig deep from your percentage
The rich pay fancy wages
To charities they
To tell the middle class
They've more than
one should enjoy.
The upper crust is charitable
They'll do quite well with yours,
When upper crust is middle class,
Their riches will
To feed the poor and needy
Which most they prey upon.
When rich folks give a little,
And counsel you to
Consider for a moment
Just how it is
Millions, billions seems a lot,
For those in the
Such numbers in one's bank accounts
Defines the upper
With so much ardor, so much class,
Why aren't they
less than rich?
And why the press relations
and why the
The rich are rich because they give
Far less than we
That's how the wealth is spread above
And not spread
[ 7 ]
One notes the newest of the modern-day socialist heroes, Hugo Chavez, has
managed to spend much of his nation's wealth on military armament, exactly
as did the Nazis, all the while he and his family have been documented to
have benefited from the "land reform" by acquiring ranches which they
theretofore did not own.
Venezuelan socialism seems to profit -- think, "greed" -- its
elite very well indeed.
From one article, "Venezuela's National Assembly opened an
investigation Wednesday into a congressman's accusations that
two of President Hugo Chavez's brothers acquired 17 ranches in
recent years if true a potential stain on the image of Chavez's
socialist movement. Lawmaker Wilmer Azuaje detailed his
allegations in a closed-door committee session, presenting
documents that he says show how an assortment of ranch lands
were obtained by Chavez's brothers Argenis and Narciso."
socialism has served the wealthy -- and to make many more
wealthy -- is not arguable; it is both historical and ongoing
fact, one of the many "inconvenient truths" about this
political philosophy which has masqueraded for more than a
century as an economic theory.
[ 8 ]
"The working class is revolutionary or it is nothing." (Karl Marx) It is
another historical fact that the working class has been used and then
generally tossed aside when an elite has ascended to power. One notes the
Nazis leaned on the support of "workers" only to ultimately enslave many for
work; "Arbeit macht frei." In a similar vein, the Soviets under Stalin did
much the same. The "little guy" is expendable, except in a world of
protected individualism, the antidote to the enforced collective.
[ 9 ]
"The budget should be balanced, the treasury should be
refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should
be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be
curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work,
instead of living on public assistance." -- Cicero, 55 BC. It is
interesting that such seemingly modern sentiments have a progeny millennia
[ 10 ] Adam
Smith, in The Wealth of Nations (1776). Smith has been called
the "father of capitalism."
In no way has enlightened capitalism ever argued for complete abandonment
of the commonweal, but rather quite the opposite. But as a set of
economic principles, capitalism never proposed government become the main
arbiter of social funding, whereas socialism, a political philosophy
masquerading as an economic theory, has always proposed the use of
government power, which many critics rightly suggest is not "use," but
Certainly the twentieth century history of socialist governance
gives credence to this argument, from the National Socialism of
the Nazi Party to the Soviet Socialism of the now-failed USSR,
to the political governance of nations such as North Korea,
Zimbabwe and Cuba, wherein complaints about their populations'
low standard of living is somehow the fault of other nations'
investment in capitalism, rather than their mismanagement -
for that it what it has been -- of an economy through the
ultimate one-party politics of socialism. Yet unsurprisingly,
the elite in such seemingly impoverished nations live lives of
wealth and status. Where is the "common good" in this? Where is
the "common good" in millionaires and now even billionaires
taking ruling positions in politics?
[ 11 ] For
those who find the notion of government coercion somehow passé in the modern
Western world, it is not. From the "universal" service of the
Mitgleider of the Hitler Youth to the United States'
compulsory draft which manned the Viet Nam war there has been the notion of
compulsory service which continues to this day.
One reads, "We propose universal civilian service for every
young American. Under this plan, All Americans between the ages
of eighteen and twenty-five will be asked to serve their country
by going through three months of basic training, civil defense
preparation and community service."
The Plan: Big Ideas for America, p. 61, by Rahm Emanuel
(Barack Obama's choice for chief of staff) and Bruce Reed.
The notion of "compulsory service" is the antithesis of freedom,
for among other things "universal civilian service" is not
service, but coercion. "Service" implies the freedom to choose
to serve, while "servitude" implies the opposite. And this "new"
idea is certainly not new, but reflects the pop sentiment, "meet
the new boss, same as the old."