REPUBLICAN CONSERVATIVES ARE ATTACKING
Hate big government? Sure you do. It's as American as apple pie. That's why you're a potential sucker for Rush Limbaugh's distorted views of what government is all about. He drags big government and its regulations into almost every program. By doing so, Rush can push virtually all the emotional buttons of frustrated, stressed- out, red-blooded Americans.
The problem is, it's easy to believe and to
support the politicians who promise a free ride—without
taxes and without government getting involved in our lives.
It's comforting to assume, as Limbaugh asserts, that time
and a magical free market, without controls, will cure all
The Nature of Free Markets
Free societies, just like free markets, don't simply "happen." They must be carefully monitored and defended. If they're not, they don't stay free for long. There are too many who would like to take control of them for their own materialistic benefit.
Americans cherish freedom more than just about anything else. That's why, when predators want to attack democratic capitalism, they always try to convince people that the government is unnecessarily regulating their lives. To some extent, because of the nature of government itself, that has to be true. But what's far more true, at least in a democracy, is that government takes away the freedom of predators to rape their fellow citizens.
At its imperfect best, true freedom occurs somewhere along a continuum between "total government control" and "no government control." It's a blend of freedom from governmental restrictions on individual behaviors, which we all dislike, and freedom from social and financial predators—which we dislike even more.
It looks something like this:
Total Control Freedom No Control
Dictatorship Democracy Anarchy
This is a theoretical continuum, because societies are always controlled by someone or some group. The right end of the continuum, "No Control," is pure fiction. Total "freedom" without any controls always results in anarchy, and anarchy always leads to something else: Communism, Fascism, or whatever system the most powerful and ruthless citizens prefer.
In democratic capitalism, elected officials do the controlling for the purpose of maximizing genuine freedom for its citizens and businesses. The checks and balances of separated powers ensure that all issues and interests are represented. When done ethically, its solutions to problems are designed to benefit the total society.
Democratic capitalism also tries to prevent special interest groups from subverting the system with their own controls. If government doesn't do its job, with monitoring and sensible regulations, then society—and its markets—become dominated by the most powerful and most immoral forces within it.
Plutocratic CapitalismIn some cases, it's Plutocratic Capitalism, as found in many Latin American countries. This brand of pretended capitalism is some sort of alliance among the most powerful politicians, businessmen, land owners, the military and the local police.
Plutocratic capitalists can control society and the markets as much as they do in communist or fascist countries, judging from the wholesale slaughtering of people with the wrong politics.
In the United States, the only predators who stand a chance of politically subverting the system are the wealthy and the formally educated. Their goal is to achieve (in their view, a rather benign) plutocratic capitalism: control of the markets and government by the wealthy elite.
Because of our traditions and our ideals, successful attacks on our system can only come from those who want to change, unofficially, to a plutocratic capitalism. Our wealthy elite have the necessary money, time, contacts and sophistication to study our political system for the purpose of manipulating it. They know that they can acquire more power and wealth by taking advantage of the system than they can by producing useful products or services.
The first step for those who wish to control a free, democratic society like ours is to attack the democratic process itself. The most common approach today is to attach the stigma of "communism" on legitimate governmental controls. This is easily done by unceasingly repeating a deliberately dishonest dichotomy.
It looks like this:
Capitalism Communism No Governmental Control Any Governmental Control of Business, Market Forces, Of Business, Market Forces, or Social Issues Or Social Issues
If powerful special interest groups can convince enough people that this continuum is valid, it opens the way for them to gain power unofficially.
In their propaganda campaigns to arouse public fears, they use loaded words, such as social engineering, communism, socialism, politics of envy, and class warfare. It takes a self-assured governmental official to reason with a public that has become persuaded that these false demons are the primary causes of our national problems.
Newsweek (Sept. 17, 1990) blew the whistle on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's plans for a nation-wide ad. In an effort to win a cut in the capital gains tax, it likened the United States Congress to China and Cuba. According to our highly principled Chamber:
In the 1980s, the whole world—except China, Cuba, and Congress—realized that communism and socialism don't work... We need to make sure Congress knows that other successful countries treat capital and business more fairly than we do in the U.S.
How's that for a blatant example of demagoguery?
In effect, the Chamber of Commerce calls a democratic attempt to tax capital gains at the same rate as a worker's earnings, "communism." They label the preferential treatment for their own kind, the businessmen and the wealthy, "capitalism."
This preposterous distortion of reality is the Chamber's version of the previous continuum:
Favored Tax Treatment of Capital Gains Taxed At Businessmen and Wealthy Same Rate As Actual Work U.S. Chamber of Commerce China, Cuba, Congress and the Unwashed Public
I can understand that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is charged with furthering the interests of its members, and fairness is not one of its concerns. But I still wish that any organization that calls itself "The U.S. (anything)" would have higher ethical standards in presenting its case.
Republicans even try to associate our desire to preserve our environment, of all things, with communism. Paul Craig Roberts holds the William E. Simon Chair of Political Economy at the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington. < /p>
Referring to the ecological disasters in the Communist Bloc, Paul presented the classic moth-eaten argument against government control of any kind (Business Week, March 12, 1990):
If nothing else, these events are a delicious embarrassment to that part of the U.S. academic Establishment that continues to teach that private property and a market economy are the source of all social and ecological ills.Roberts' conclusions are so hypocritical I'm embarrassed for him. No person in his kind of position can fail to know that pollution in the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc was caused by those who were responsible for production. In communist countries, they were members of the government, and there was no other power to regulate, monitor, or control their behaviors. As with other producers throughout the world, they kept costs of waste disposal as low as possible, and output as high as possible.
In the U.S., private industry controls production. It's common knowledge that, without the controls of our democratic government, pollution and the destruction of our environment would be much worse, possibly as bad as now found in the Communist Bloc. Even with our governmental regulations, many private businessmen —despite knowing better—continue to violate the environment.
The Race to Rationality
This isn't an argument against private property or a free market. It's just that that's not enough. Not all men are saints, and too many of them today would sell the souls of their mothers to the devil, let alone pollute a river, to make a million.
With deliberate distortions of reality—just like the ones mentioned here—Republicans have been able to rape our system of democratic capitalism, and our environment. And then they have successfully blamed the resulting problems on government regulations, poor people and liberals.
Someone once said that civilization is a constant race between disaster and education. In the present race, it's time for an educational blitz about some fundamental political and economic realities.