In Forbes magazine (2/26/96) Paulist Father Robert Sirico, the president of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty in Grand Rapids, Michigan wrote a commentary on how the left makes the right look like mean spirited people when they attempt to cut back government programs. He begins by saying, "PICTURE THIS SCENE. In the midst of the budget battle, religious leaders from the National Council of Churches met with President Clinton in the Oval Office for 45 minutes. They 'laid hands' on him and prayed that God would 'make the President strong for the task' of fighting budget cutbacks."
"Now, imagine if that same group had come from the Christian Coalition and a conservative President had been tangling with a Democratic Congress. We would never have heard the end of it: a theocrat in the White House. As it happens, the praying at the White House was only the beginning of the liberal clergy's deep involvement in the budget debate."
"Religious leaders, including the Conference of Catholic Bishops, intervened with press conferences and studies to pressure Congress to back off welfare reform. No family caps on welfare payments, they said, and the Senate went along. Twenty years of scholarship providing the connection between illegitimacy, social breakdown and welfare was thrown out the window."
Father Sirico continues, "Pope John Paul II had just visited and admonished us with a message we need to hear: Don't forget those who are left out of society, including the poor, immigrants, the aged, the disabled. These sentiments were echoed by the clergy, but with a twist: Government policy should be responsible for this 'compassion.'"
"Republicans may have waged a valiant fight on behalf of reducing the size of government, but the moral high ground was stolen from them at the height of the battle. At issue most fundamentally is what Thomas Sowell has called a 'conflict of visions.'" He goes on to say we have a choice of centralized or decentralized government. He goes into the argument for private charity vs. public charity. Father wants the members to help the Washington Times fight the good fight against the liberal crusade for big government. I wish I could type the rest of Father Sirico's article. I can only encourage you to read libertarian literature and then get out and fight against President Clinton. We need to show the spirituality of decentralized government.
George Roche in Legacy of Freedom writes, "This blend of political stability and economic and social progress made possible through the diffusion and localization of power was noted as a basic American institution by Tocqueville well over 100 years ago. He pointed out that state and local governments had come first in America and that the national government had been designed later for special purposes. In his careful study of local government institutions in the United States he found that 'municipal institutions constitute the strength of free nations...[because] a nation may establish a free government, but without municipal institutions it cannot have the spirit of liberty .... However enlightened and skillful a central power may be, it cannot of itself embrace all the details of the life of a great nation. Such vigilance exceeds the powers of man.'" God's way is private and intimate, not public and bureaucratic.
One brother wrote to me saying he had been reading material from F.E.E. This is one of those great libertarian organizations out there fighting an uphill battle. Leonard Read was a long time president of the Foundation for Economic Education. It is "an educational champion of private ownership, the free market, the profit and loss system, and limited government." It's magazine is called The Freeman. Mr. Read wrote many books. In one of them called Elements of Libertarian Leadership he writes how libertarian economics is spiritual: "In the previous chapter I argued that a faith in the Creator as the endower of men's rights is an appropriate foundation for libertarian leadership. I repeat, one admits this concept or he is faced with the alternative of submitting to the idea that men's rights are endowments of the state. There is no third alternative."
"Faith, however, is only the down payment, the cornerstone of the foundation for libertarian leadership. Subsequent installments concern the acquisition of a fundamental premise oneself. This takes some difficult thinking -- quite a price to pay! But freedom is not cheaply bought!" He says, "freedom and spiritual faith are two parts of a Divine Principle and tend to rise and fall together." He capitalized the words Divine Principle.
Reagan was right in strengthening the military and standing up to communism, but he was wrong in not cutting back in domestic spending. He should have reduced the debt by abolishing or at least reducing entitlements. Maybe the new conservatives like Newt Gingrich will begin the tearing down of big government. A central theme of his is in his often quoted phrase, "It is impossible to maintain civilization with 12-year-olds having babies, 15-year-olds killing each other, 17-year-olds dying of AIDS, and 18-year-olds getting diplomas they can't read. Yet that is precisely where three generations of Washington-dominated, centralized-government, welfare-state policies have carried us."
Free to Choose
Milton Friedman begins his book, Free to Choose, with a quote that sums up how we must look at naive people whose good intentions pave the road to hell. Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, "Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficial. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greater dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding."
This chapter is about politics -- how we organize power in society. I believe there will eventually be a world government in an ideal world.
It's been a long time since Father said these words and still we have a church organization with a hierarchy of leaders. John Morris was one of those leaders for many years. The Morris' are taking Father's comments too far. He does not mean that there will not be a chain of command in this world or any future perfect world. Families, businesses, and governments will always exist and always have power. In the ideal world there will only be the power of persuasion, but everyone will do whatever the world government asks them to do because it will be the best thing for the whole. For example, suppose some entrepreneur discovers a chemical and uses it to build a product, and it is found to be dangerous after millions of people have bought it. The World Government consisting of a few elders will announce this to the world and everyone will immediately stop using the product and dispose of it as they are told to. As I discussed in the chapter on Patriarchy men will always lead their families. Businesses, organizations and groups will always have a leader.
What Father means in the above quotes is that he does not like bureaucracy. He loves leadership. He desperately wants us to be leaders of this world. He also wants the leaders in the church to respect members and treat them as grown ups because he hates socialism. He has always pushed members out into the field. Father wants power but he is for decentralizing power. And anyone who has power in leadership is supposed to be the most serving and sacrificial of all and never thinks he owns anybody. Father loves grass roots, not powerful big shots in beautiful offices high in some Manhattan skyscraper. Tell him how somebody did something creative, and he'll send everyone there to study it. He hates armchair leaders.
Father hates bureaucracy
Father abhors bureaucracy. Tocqueville explained eloquently how top-down leadership destroys people and bottom-up leadership builds people. When America realizes that God is for grass roots power, then they will achieve the greatness that Father keeps asking for.
Tocqueville would be saddened to see that his prophecy of socialism/feminism making men "weak" and women "disorderly" came true.
This century is wrapped up in top down organizing, but the 19th century was correct in seeing all society's problems can and should be handled locally. Before socialists like Marx and Engels and Feminists had power, Americans helped each other in very personal ways. When America became socialist/feminist in the 20th century it broke the spirit of community in America.
Local vs. national government
Tocqueville saw America's strength was in its local government -- not the national. God is seen most at the local level. He writes, "It is not by chance that I consider the township first. The township is the only association so well rooted in nature that wherever men assemble it forms itself. Communal society therefore exists among all peoples, whatever be their customs and laws. Man creates kingdoms and republics, but townships seem to spring directly from the hand of God."
"It is in the township, the center of the ordinary business of life, that the desire for esteem [and] the pursuit of substantial interests ... are concentrated; these passions, so often troublesome elements in society, take on a different character when exercised so close to home and, in a sense, within the family circle .... Daily duties performed or rights exercised keep municipal life constantly alive. There is a continual gentle political activity which keeps society on the move without turmoil."
He writes perceptively against socialist elites who don't believe in decentralized power because they want people "docile": "The difficulty of establishing a townships independence rather augments than diminishes with the increase of enlightenment of nations. A very civilized society finds it hard to tolerate attempts at freedom in a local community; it is disgusted by its numerous blunders and is apt to despair of success before the experiment is finished." And again: "The institutions of a local community can hardly struggle against a strong and enterprising government." And yet again: "If you take power and independence from a municipality, you may have docile subjects but you will not have citizens."
Tocqueville was perspicacious in seeing that big government emasculates instead of empowering people. He saw the danger that unfortunately America has been blind to: "Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratification and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?"
Big government weakens men
"After having thus successfully taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd."
Father makes hundreds of associations, including the HS(Association) in the same spirit the Victorians made tens of thousands of associations to solve problems locally. Tocqueville was amazed how many and how effective Americans banded together to solve problems. It is a myth America was individualistic in the past. Socialism makes people individualistic and uncaring. He writes, "These Americans are the most peculiar people in the world. You'll not believe it when I tell you how they behave. In a local community in their country a citizen may conceive of some need which is not being met. What does he do? He goes across the street and discusses it with his neighbor. Then what happens? A committee begins to function on behalf of the need. You won't believe this, but it's true; all of this is done without reference to any bureaucrat. All of this is done by private citizens on their own initiative!"
He wrote, "The political associations which exist in the United States are only a single feature in the midst of the immense assemblage of associations in that country. Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions, constantly form associations. They have not only commercial and manufacturing companies, in which all take part, but associations of a thousand other kinds -- religious, moral, serious, futile, extensive or restricted, enormous or diminutive. The Americans make associations to give entertainments, to found establishments for education, to build inns, to construct churches, to diffuse books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; and in this manner they found hospitals, prisons, and schools. If it be proposed to advance some truth, or to foster some feeling by the encouragement of a great example, they form a society. Wherever, at the head of some new undertaking, you see the Government in France, or a man of rank in England, in the United States you will be sure to find an association .... A government can no more be competent to keep alive and to renew the circulation and feelings amongst a great people, than to manage all the speculations of productive industry. No sooner does a government attempt to go beyond its political sphere and to enter this new track, than it exercises, even unintentionally, an insupportable tyranny; for a government can only dictate strict rules, the opinions which it favours are rigidly enforced, and it is never easy to discriminate between its advice and its commands .... Governments therefore should not be the only active powers .... Amongst the laws which rule human societies there is one which seems to be more precise and clear than all others. If men are to remain civilized, or to become so, the art of associating together must grow and improve, in the same ratio in which the equality of conditions is increased." Vice-President Al Gore would think Tocqueville may have been right about the past but we face new challenges and times and now there is more value to the"art of government" than the"art of associating" which could never solve the great problems of society as well as government.
Tocqueville keenly saw that if you centralized power people will give up and let some headquarters do it, whether it is the White House or 4 west 43rd. Members should be given respect so they can tune into God. God knows best how to lead people. And people, as well as God, must be trusted. God expects His children to trust Him to be able to get things from Him. People are the same. People must be trusted if you want to get things from them. Elites in headquarters must let people experiment.
If America had perfected its limited government philosophy of its first 140 years and not gone to the welfare state in the last 70 years, Father would have dynamic brothers to be leaders and feminine sisters to create an atmosphere of love and tenderness. The Libertarian Party is trying to revive those political virtues of the Founding Fathers. Unfortunately, they don't believe in fighting outside our borders so they are not worth voting for, but domestically they are on target with well thought out arguments, like Milton Friedman does, of abolishing or at least privatizing most government agencies and leaving people alone to solve their problems and pursue their dreams without some patronizing elite from some headquarters telling them "no".
The key to it all is that we should always push for as much voluntary means to our ends as possible. Government is force, and it must not be used to try to make people do good such as Prohibition. That was called the "Noble Experiment". It didn't stop anyone from drinking, and it made things worse. Friedman, Hayek and others explain it well. I hope you read their books.
George Washington said, "Government is not reason, it is not eloquence -- it is force." He also said government is like "fire...a dangerous servant and a terrible master." The Founding Fathers respected the individual and were cynical about political power.
Milton Friedman in Capitalism and Freedom wrote: "Underlying most arguments against a free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself."
Rush Limbaugh says, "Socialism has never, ever worked. Usually the failures are measured in economic terms relative to capitalist societies -- but the largest cost has been borne in the trampling of the human spirit. It is an ideology of bondage .... Socialism means collective or government ownership, with central bureaucracies controlling economic planning -- instead of the brilliance that results from free people making millions of daily decisions in a free market. The socialist distrust and hatred of private ownership is not just a fatal flaw. It is also a serious misunderstanding of that yearning for freedom with which all human beings are endowed."
"Something happens when an individual owns his home or business. He or she will always invest more sweat, longer hours and greater creativity to develop and care for something he owns than he will for any government-inspired project supposedly engineered for the greater social good ....The desire to improve oneself and one's family's lot, to make life better for one's children, to strive for a higher standard of living, is universal and God-given. It is honorable. It is not greed." Robert Nozick in Anarchy, State, and Utopia wrote, "The minimal state best reduces the chances of ... takeover or manipulation of the state by persons desiring power or economic benefits...."
Warren Brookes in The Economy of Mind teaches that a flat-rate tax is better than a progressive tax that takes a higher percentage from those who are wealthy. He says almost everyone sees it is a proper and common sense that those who earn more money should pay a higher percentage. As usual this world is upside down in its thinking. People thought Jesus was crazy and killed him. For thousands of years people thought the earth was flat. Most people today think Sun Myung Moon has a dangerous cult. The twentieth century thinks the government is the messiah, and the government is not interested in taking a 10% tithe, it wants most or all of your money. The rallying cry is "soak the rich." It doesn't seem to make any sense, but penalizing the rich hurts the poor.
Brookes writes, "The irony is that flat-rate tax of 16% (with an average $8,000-per-family basic exemption [this was written in the 80s] would actually have raised more revenues in fiscal 1980 ($256 billion) than the old system raised ($240 billion), even though the old system had top marginal rates of up to 70%. In other words, with a 16% flat rate, we could cut the marginal tax rates of all taxpayers and yet increase the revenues raised." He goes on to give details that I won't give.
He says we have a great challenge to teach Americans who are "steeped in the populist ideology of the progressive income tax despite the clear evidence that such a tax does very little to hurt the rich and very much to punish the rest of us."
"King Frederick the Great of Prussia once said, 'If I wished to punish a province, I would have it governed by philosophers.' For the past half century or so the U.S. economy has been punished again and again by too much social philosophy and too little common sense."
"It is ironic that during an address to the Urban League in the 1980 presidential campaign, immediately after the third heckler from the Communist Workers Party had been hauled from the room, Jimmy Carter launched a frankly Marxist attack on Ronald Reagan's tax-cut plan. Calling it 'rebates for the rich,' Carter vowed to 'turn the table on this trickle-down economics.'"
Brookes says people do not know the laws of economics. They use the pejorative term "trickle-down" when the reverse is the case. He writes, "the plain truth is that in any free society, through invention, creativity, and enterprise, a comparatively small part of the population still contributes the major share of economic growth. In this largest and richest of all industrial democracies, it is still safe to say that 80%-90% of the new jobs and economic growth is contributed by the efforts, imagination, energy, and initiative of less than 5%-10% of all individuals, through whose creativity the great wealth of this country still 'trickles down' to the economy."
"In the process, of course, this top 5%-10% has become very rich, and not always very nice .... Yet without those well-rewarded individuals who often have risked everything to create the one new enterprise in ten that succeeds, our economy would become stagnant, and trickle-down would quickly be replaced by dole-out, as it has in Poland, Russia, China, Cuba, or even England."
"This may sound very unegalitarian, and it is. Egalitarianism is an interesting ideal, but it is also a denial of human reality. Liberals like to scorn ...trickle-down, because it encourages the few who are entrepreneurs to generate growth and wealth more rapidly so that the majority of us can have better jobs and a higher standard of living. Yet trickle-down is really the natural order of things, not merely in economics and business, but in nearly every other facet of life as well. We are all blessed by the genius of relatively few." Sun Myung Moon is one of those geniuses. What has come from him has not been a trickle but a flood of truth and love.
"Many thousands of books are published each year, but only a few hundred survive the test of time. The world's greatest music is still the work of a comparative handful of great composers, and most of the world's great art is the product of a few hundred brilliant talents. The Bible is the compilation of the ideas and inspiration of a few dozen prophets, yet it enriches the lives of billions." I saw one headline in a newspaper on Father saying "Prophet for profit." Father is the most generous person who has ever lived. But he is also for economic success. He is not greedy, but he controls billions of dollars. Jesus taught that we are to invest our money and make it grow. Remember the story of the talents. He chastised the person who did not invest his money.
Brookes says, "So, of course, countries that have provided the most individual freedom and the greatest incentives tend to generate the greatest wealth -- economic, technological, cultural, and sociological. And the quickest way to dry up this flow of wealth is to take away both freedom and incentives. Anything that does that will surely turn the spout into a trickle."
"That is precisely what we have been doing in the United States, the historic center of economic creativity in the Western world -- and we have doing it primarily through our tax system, which, contrary to the rhetoric emanating from the left, has been getting steadily more punitive to the 'tricklers' and steadily more restrictive to the initiatives of today's budding entrepreneurs."
"True tax reform in the form of a genuine flat-rate tax system with a top rate of 16-25% would not only reindustrialize the U.S. economy quickly; it would turn trickle-down into a floodtide of individual economic growth and opportunity and make the United States the magnet for world-wide investment. Anyone who still doubts that simply hasn't studied history closely."