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Socialist takeover of the US government – how?

By Larry Fedewa Ph.D.DrLarryOnline.com

 Last week’s column attempted to illustrate how a new feudalism can occur under the guise of a Socialist takeover of the government. The are many moving parts to this movement, and a number of the key elements are already in place. The trap is nearly ready to be sprung. The only obstacle in the new Republican Party of Donald J. Trump. This is why such frantic efforts are continually sustained to defeat him.

In order to more easily understand how this takeover will work, the key pieces of the puzzle will be presented here in a notebook format. (More detail can be seen in last week’s column, “How the new feudalism will happen” (See DrLarryOnline.com)                    

  1. The underlying issue 

The underlying issue of this entire movement is the wealth gap which exists in the United States between the mega-billionaires who constitute about 1% of the population and who soon will own about 80% of the financial and real assets of the United States of America and the rest of us. The reasons this trend constitute such a threat to the Republic are several: first, 68% of the US Gross National Product (GDP) – that is the sum of all the economic activity in the entire country – depends on consumer spending. But if the consumer cannot afford to buy those products and services, the economy will shrink, jobs will be lost, more people will be on welfare, and only the wealthy will continue to thrive.

This is true, because the very rich do not do as much purchasing of goods and services as the majority of people do. For example, how many shirts can one man wear? He will spend his money on stock, buying other companies and other investments, thus increasing his wealth. Eventually he and his peers will own or control everything, and everyone will be working directly or indirectly for the billionaires.

This trend has been going on for a long time, aided by the digital revolution and internationalism. The reason I have called this trend “feudalism” is because this kind of economic system was called “feudalism” in the Middle Ages. The nobility owned all the land and all the “serfs” worked for them. Although the serfs were called “free”, they were in fact as tied to their master and his land as any slave.

So, the second reason why the new feudalism is such a threat is the reversal of the Western world’s march toward freedom and equality most notably, and the United States of America most notable of all. The lighted city on the hill would be darkened, its beacon extinguished, its spirit crushed.

  1. Goal: Take control of the US Federal government as the instrument for control of the nation
  2. The strategy

The basic strategy is for the billionaires to form what I have called “an unholy alliance” by which they would pool resources and secure the levers of power (the “players” below). The main obstacle to  this alliance besides Trump is the reluctance of some major players to join the group. There hasn’t yet been a room big enough to hold all the giant egos. But it will soon come.

  1. The players
  • The billionaires who will finance everything as needed
  • The High-Tech industry which will regulate all personal and commercial communications electronically
  • Next is the public press, both broadcast and newspapers – most already owned by the billionaires
  • The Alliance buys a political party undertaking all campaign expenses and dictating all positions as needed
  • The Deep State is the main enforcer, with the judiciary as needed.

Clearly, much of this agenda had already been achieved. The only remaining task is to bring together  all the players under one tent. The winning of the 2020 elections with sufficient positions to control the federal government should convince all the players to join the Unholy Alliance and take over the country.

The observation has been made that the takeover of the new oligarchy will be a “soft revolution”, meaning without violence or bloodshed. It will be done through automation, With the communications of the entire nation under the control of High-Tech, the citizens will not be able to communicate except in person or through “Big Brother” as George Orwell predicted in his book, 1984, (he may have been early in his timing, but his description of ordinary life was very revealing!).

From last week’s column, “Most of this scenario has already taken place. The 2016 election was a trial run for the future. The planners believe that the mistakes of 2016 have been analyzed and corrected. The only obstacle is Donald J. Trump. He should have been one of the oligarchs but instead chose to defy the entire alliance, so they tested their system by using the press to neutralize him by a hate campaign, used their bought House of Representatives to impeach him based on their enlistment of the Deep State to provide false evidence.

“They came within one Senate vote of succeeding.

“But still he stands – between total power and secondary status of the Unholy Alliance. He had better beware – if he wins the pending election, he may be walking around with a target on his back.

“The table is set by the Unholy Alliance to take over the country. All that is lacking is a Biden victory in the coming election. The only force standing in the way is Donald J. Trump.

Unless we stand with him.”


How the new feudalism will happen

Will the unholy alliance prevail ?

By Larry Fedewa Ph.D.DrLarryOnline.com

The events of last week showed us how the new oligarchy will work. The tip-off was the censorship of the New York Post story about the corruption of the Biden family.

As this column presented the findings of the U.S. Senate Committees on the Judiciary and Homeland Security concerning the activities of Hunter Biden and his successful sale of his Vice President father’s influence on behalf of foreign countries for billions of dollars. The Post story presented in convincing detail a collaboration of the Senate Report.

The Tweeter note of this story was taken down by the Alphabet Corporation, which owns Google, and quickly followed by Facebook – both owned by billionaires who have signed on to the Biden campaign.

Social media, in the form of these two companies plus Microsoft, LinkedIn, and several others, have become the major source of new for much of the country and the world. For example, You Tube (also owned by Alphabet) is the primary source of news for 26% of the American population. That is more than any broadcast programming in America.

In order to understand this situation, we will approach its various aspects separately as 1) the basis of this attempt to set the USA on the road to socialism; 2) the National Security crisis which identified the players in this attempt to take over the country; 3) the unholy alliance and how it works; 4) the fallout from the crisis.

1)   The basis of this attempt to take over the Government is the familiar problem of contemporary America, namely the wealth gap which now exists. In summary, the 80% of the country’s wealth will soon be controlled by 1% of the population.

The results of this disparity are potentially catastrophic to America because it means that the buying power of the middle class is fast disappearing in an economy which depends (68%) on consumer spending.

Secondly, it means that most of the population will depend on a few billionaires, who will employ most of these individuals.

Thirdly, all that has to be done is for these billionaires to band together in support of the politicians who are indebted to them for their financing and whose votes are therefore controlled by the oligarchs.

There are only three ways to rectify the wealth gap: the (rising water rises all ships – called the Reagan economy – which is also the Trump economy, which has never worked in re-distributing the wealth; give the extra money to the government through taxes, which then distributes it to the 68%, usually through welfare, thus turning independent citizens into an ever expanding welfare class, totally dependent on government.

The third way is a free market re-distribution of wealth. This is a recent movement which is based on a re-definition of capitalism, best exemplified by a new movement called Conscious Capitalism.

2) The National Security crisis which identified the players in this attempt to take over the country

This is the crisis concerning Hunter Biden and his successful sale of his father’s influence to foreign countries and individuals for billions of dollars.

This past week provided a treasure trove of emails and pictures from the younger Biden’s computer hard drive, which clearly identified the work which Hunter Biden was engaged in as well as evidence in his father’s complicit role in this corruption.

Since China was the biggest source of the Biden family take, it is clear that the Democrat nominee is unfit to serve as the Chief Executive of the United States. If true, he is a traitor to his country.

3)  The unholy alliance and how it works

The next act in this drama was the withdrawal of the New York Post tweet announcing its story on the Biden’s, soon followed by Facebook. This incident brought to light these firms and the immense power they have accumulated by abusing the federal law exempting them from libel laws.

This was the identification of the final players in the unholy alliance. The observation has been made that the takeover by the new oligarchs will be a soft coup d’ tat, this without violence or bloody revolution.

It will be done though automation. With the communications of the entire nation subject to the control of the billionaires, the people cannot communicate except though “Big Brother” as George Orwell predicted in his book 1984 (he may have been off in his timing, but his description of ordinary life was vey revealing).

So, this is the way it works: The billionaires (player #1) unite to supply and direct the press (player #2), use high technology to control all personal communications (player #3), buy a political party (player #4), fund all its candidates ( player #5) which in turn funds the Deep State (player #6) and BINGO! The Socialist America is born.

Most of this scenario has already taken place. The 2016 election was a trial run for the future. They believe the mistakes of 2016 have been analyzed and corrected, they believe. The only obstacle is Donald J. Trump. He should have been one of the oligarchs but instead chose to defy the entire alliance. So they tested their system by using the presss to neutralize him with a hate campaign, use of the bought House to impeach him based on the enlistment of the Deep State to provide false evidence.

They came within one Senate vote of succeeding.

But still he stands – between total power of the unholy alliance and secondary status. He had better beware – if he wins the pending election, He may be walking around with a target on his back.

4)  The fallout from the crisis.

a. The FBI held the Hunter Biden evidence for a whole year, including exculpatory evidence which would have proven that the president was innocent prima facie Leads to the probability that the Deep Sate is still active in the FBI.

b. The Justice Department has filed suite against Twitter and Facebook for obstructing justice (The grounds for the lawsuit are not yet public knowledge.)

The table is set by the unholy alliance to take over the country. All that is lacking is a Biden victory in the coming election. The only force standing in the way is Donald J. Trump.Unless we stand with him.


Can Macron stem the tide of Islamism in France?

By Ayaan Hirsi AliThe Spectator

Just over a week ago, Emanuel Macron said he wanted to end ‘Islamic separatism’ in France because a minority of the country’s estimated six million Muslims risk forming a ‘counter-society’. On Friday, we saw yet another example of this when a  history teacher was decapitated in the street on his way home in a Paris suburb. Samuel Paty had discussed the free speech in the classroom and shown cartoons of Mohammed. Some parents had protested, leading to a wider fuss – and, eventually, his murder. M Paty was murdered, Macron said, “because he taught the freedom of expression, the freedom to believe or not believe.” The president is now positioning himself as the defender of French values, determined to drain the Islamist swamp.

That Macron even gave an anti-Islamism speech was itself a sign of how fast the debate is moving in France. Five years ago, when Fox News referred to ‘no-go zones’ in Paris, the city’s mayor threatened to sue. Now we have an avowed centrist like Macron warning that the ‘final goal’ of the ‘ideology’ of Islamism is to ‘take complete control’ of society. Anyone making such arguments just a few years ago would have been condemned by the left as an extremist. Macron is promising a law on ‘Islamist separatism’, restricting home-schooling of Muslims and demanding that Islamic groups in receipt of French state funding will have to sign a ‘secular charter’.

But if he’s serious, why stop there? A week before his speech, for example, there was a stabbing outside the offices of Charlie Hebdo, which France’s interior minister described as an ‘act of Islamist terrorism’ and a ‘new, bloody attack against our country’. It would be brave and powerful to put up a monument in memory of people who were killed by the Islamists while fighting for freedom of speech: perhaps a statue of the Charlie Hebdo team or my late friend Theo van Gogh. At the statue’s unveiling, Macron might refute the false notion — increasingly widespread today — that scrutinising Islamism and Islamists is an act of ‘Islamophobia’. Defending universal human rights is an act of compassion, not a ‘phobia’; failing to make this point only leaves an opportunity for the real bigots of the far right.

In his speech, Macron also said that the ‘challenge is to fight against those who go off the rails in the name of religion… while protecting those who believe in Islam and are full citizens of the republic’. If he really means this, perhaps he could provide security and support to those French Muslims courageously speaking out against radical Islam? He could also support those French Muslims who seek to modify Sharia, historically contextualise the Sunnah (traditional Muslim practices) and establish a meaningful boundary between religion and state by challenging doctrinal purity. In the effort to combat the extremists, it is vital to distinguish the Muslims pushing for real change from the Islamists with silver tongues. A great many French Muslims are fighting against the Islamists, and Macron could do far more to support them.That he even gave an anti-Islamism speech was a sign of how fast the debate is moving in France

The battle of ideas against Islamism will, of necessity, be a long one and if he hopes to succeed Macron must ensure that French civil society and philanthropic foundations are fully engaged in this effort. He should disband subversive Islamist organisations that lay the ideological groundwork for violence, while calling on his fellow European leaders to do the same. It’s amazing how many of them, even now, prefer to avoid the topic.

He might also strengthen immigration laws to ensure that French civic values are taken into account in admission decisions. Those admitted to the Republic from abroad should be told to embrace the French notion of social cohesion, which means they cannot embrace separatism or Islamism, or belong to organisations that do.

Existing laws should be used more too. Not so long ago, an Algerian woman who refused to shake hands with male officials at a French naturalisation ceremony was denied citizenship as a result. Islamists can, in this way, be served notice that France is not their natural home.

French law allows the government to reject naturalisation requests on grounds of ‘lack of assimilation, other than linguistic’. So in the spirit of this law, Macron should start to repatriate asylum-seekers who engage in violence or the incitement of violence — particularly against women. 

In foreign policy, he could tackle the ideological extremism that is disseminated by the governments of Qatar and Turkey — among others — through their support of Islamists, Islamist foundations and communitarianism in Europe (including France). He could take a much stronger stand against the Iranian regime — bilaterally as well as at the EU level — for its hostile activities on European soil, its vicious cruelty towards its own population and its efforts to export revolutionary Islamism throughout the Middle East. This would also mean further strengthening France’s ties to Israel, the UAE and Egypt and demanding that Saudi Arabia stop funding Wahhabi extremists abroad.

France’s corps diplomatique still possesses exceptional historical and linguistic knowledge of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. This could be used to counter the activities of groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Tablighi Jamaat, Hezbollah, Hizb ut-Tahrir and their many branches and offshoots. Macron says his Bill will ‘dissolve’ Islamic groups whose principles clash with those of the French Republic. He can do so by cutting off the financial flows from foreign powers to the Islamist organisations within France.

Macron is right: Islamic separatism does indeed threaten to turn France into two nations. But if the problem is to be addressed, the French people need to be shown that the President has the guts not just to call out radical Islam — but also to take real, practical steps to defeat it.


Destroying the Institutions We Inherited

Anywhere ideology trumps science, public service, history, art, and entertainment, ruin surely follows.

By Victor David HansonNational Review

rews prepare the hall for the first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee President Joe Biden in Cleveland, Ohio, September 28, 2020. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

In the 21st century, hallmark American and international institutions have lost much of their prestige and respect.

Politics and biases explain the lack of public confidence in organizations and institutions such as the World Health Organization, the Commission on Presidential Debates, the Nobel Peace Prize, the Pulitzer Prizes, and the Academy Awards.

The overseers entrusted with preserving these institutions all caved to short-term political pressures. As a result, they have mostly destroyed what they inherited.

The World Health Organization’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is the first person without a medical degree to hold that position. Why? No one really knows.

In the critical first days of the rapidly spreading COVID-19 pandemic, almost every statement issued by Tedros and the WHO about the origins, transmission, prevention, and treatment of the virus was inaccurate. Worse, the announcements predictably reflected the propaganda of the Chinese government.

The bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates was formed in 1987 for two purposes: to ensure that during every presidential campaign, candidates would agree to debate; and to ensure that the debates would be impartial and not favor either major party.

Unfortunately, in 2020, the commission so far has a checkered record on both counts.

Conservatives have argued that the moderators of the first presidential debate and the vice-presidential debate — Chris Wallace of Fox News and Susan Page of USA Today — were systematically asymmetrical in their questioning.

The moderators asked both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to explain prior controversial quotes and then to reply to critics’ accusations. The moderators did not pose the same sort of gotcha-type “When did you stop beating your wife?” questions to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden or vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris.

Although the vice-presidential debate was conducted with proper social distancing, along with screens and testing to protect the candidates, the commission abruptly canceled the second live presidential debate for safety’s sake and insisted it be conducted remotely.

Yet White House doctors have cleared Trump, who recently contracted COVID-19, as both medically able to debate and no longer infectious.

The public perception was that a remote debate would favor the frequently teleprompted Biden, who has been largely ensconced in his home during the last six months, and would be less advantageous to Trump, who thrives on live, ad hoc television.

Susan Page is currently writing a biography of Trump’s chief antagonist, House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.). The designated moderator of the now-canceled second president debate, Steve Scully of C-SPAN, once interned for Vice President Joe Biden.All Our Opinion in Your Inbox

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The Nobel Peace Prize has been subject to criticism over the years for failing to adequately recognize either diplomatic or humanitarian achievement.

Yasser Arafat of the Palestine Liberation Organization won the prize in 1994, despite conducting lethal terrorist operations. He allegedly gave the final order to execute U.S. Ambassador to Sudan Cleo Noel and two other diplomats in 1973.

In 2009, the Nobel Peace Prize went to President Barack Obama, despite the fact that Obama had only been president for eight months when the prize was announced. Many felt the award was a political statement — aimed at empowering Obama and criticizing the policies of his then-unpopular predecessor, George W. Bush.

Much later, Geir Lundestad, the longtime director of the Nobel Institute, confessed that the prize committee had indeed hoped the award would strengthen Obama’s future agendas and wasn’t really in recognition of anything he had actually done.

“Even many of Obama’s supporters believed that the prize was a mistake,” Lundestad lamented in his memoir. “In that sense the committee didn’t achieve what it had hoped for.”

Earlier this year, New York Times reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for her work on the 1619 Project. She has argued that 1619, the year African slaves first arrived on North American soil, and not 1776 marked the real founding of America.

Almost immediately, distinguished American historians cited factual errors and general incoherence in the 1619 Project — especially Hannah-Jones’s claim that the United States was created to promote and protect slavery.

Facing a storm of criticism, Hannah-Jones falsely countered that she had never advanced a revisionist date of American’s “real” founding. Yet even the New York Times — without explanation — erased from its own website Hannah-Jones’s earlier description of 1619 as “our true founding.”

The annual Academy Awards were once among the most watched events in America. In 2020, however, Oscar viewership crashed to its lowest level in history, due in large part to backlash against the left-wing politicking, sermonizing, and virtue-signaling of award winners.

Recently, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which oversees the Oscars, announced that it will adopt racial, gender, and sexual identity quotas for nominees — refuting the ancient idea of “art for art’s sake”

Such ideology has also infected, and thus tarnished, the Grammy and Emmy awards, and left-wing virtue-signaling has also become part of the NFL and the NBA.59

The lesson in all these debacles is that anywhere ideology trumps science, public service, history, art, and entertainment, ruin surely follows.


If We Let Big Tech Strangle The Press, Say Goodbye To Your Freedoms

Generations before Facebook or Twitter, Tocqueville warned that censoring the press would endanger the survival of freedom and democracy in America.

By Joshua LawsonThe Federalist

With the recent suppression of a New York Post story damaging to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, many Americans have finally had enough of the one-sided censorious behavior of tech giants. Less than three weeks before one the most contentious and fraught elections in American history, Facebook and Twitter users were alarmed when it became clear they were prevented from sharing the Post’s article detailing the sordid dealings of Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.

Both citizens and lawmakers justifiably fear the enormous influence wielded by entities like Facebook, Google, and Twitter; the rise of an unchecked tech-tyranny where one side of the political aisle has its views promoted while the other side has its views punished. Nearly two centuries ago, the author of one of the most penetrating insights on American life shared similar fears of what would happen should a free press remain free in name only.

A Dark Scenario — Foretold 190 Years Ago

Traveling across America in the 1830s, young French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville saw a nation filled with both promise and peril. Amidst boundless opportunities, an economically vibrant workforce, and an ever-increasing equalization of conditions, the potential for tyranny lurked underneath an otherwise promising future. Tocqueville feared some of the forces at work in the young republic could lead to despotism.

To prevent this future, Tocqueville sung the praises of two essential safeguards: a free press connected with freedom of association. Armed with these two weapons, Tocqueville argues the United States can help prevent a tyranny of the majority as well as the chilling and repressive effects of a nascent soft despotism. Yet, of the two, Tocqueville’s principal solution for America is a free press.

Unfortunately, as Tocqueville noted — and we’ve now witnessed — the free press he prescribes functions as a double-edged sword. To be sure, the press and modern media can help cultivate liberty. It can do a marvelous job of keeping the people informed of politics, sustaining their activity in local government, and helping to make their voices heard. In doing so, it can help train the populace in the necessary exercise of freedom. Liberty, after all, is like a muscle: if it is not used regularly it will atrophy.

On the contrary, an unhealthy, ill-functioning press can create problems rather than prevent them. If the press or powerful media organs can influence such a vast number of people at once; if there isn’t enough volume granted to dissenting voices; if the levers of media and press control are too tightly concentrated, a deadly homogenization of the American mind may occur.

When this happens, the former sovereignty of the people is transformed into something both helplessly docile and malevolent — worse, something deadly to liberty. These were the stakes back during the time of Andrew Jackson. Today, the situation is all the more dire.

Having an Avenue to Sound the Alarm

In “Democracy in America,” Tocqueville writes Americans should strive to be continually “making liberty emerge from within the democratic society in which God makes us live.” One of the most effective avenues to pursuing this is to give some degree of local administrative power to bodies of private citizens such as would be found in newspapers, periodicals, or pamphlets — and today’s social media platforms.

A free press made up of numerous varied newspapers fulfilled this role in 19th-century America. In the 21st century, websites and social media should — hypothetically — join traditional print publications to prevent the dangers of the tyranny of the majority. When operating fairly and nobly, they provide a way for every voice to be heard.

Of course, a free press and media aren’t just useful vehicles for spreading ideas or forming associations, but for ensuring that new associations can connect their ideas over large distances. Furthermore, in a free nation, the press can and should help to disperse power — not concentrate it within itself. The answer to ideas some citizens disagree with is not to stifle, curtail, or limit such speech, it is to encourage more of it.

Beyond this, protecting freedom of the press is vitally important because it can often serve as an individual’s best or only means of appeal. Tocqueville writes:

A citizen who is oppressed has therefore only one means of defending himself; it is to address himself to the whole nation, and if it is deaf to him, to humanity; he has only one means to do it, it is the press. Thus liberty of the press is infinitely more precious among democratic nations than among all others; it alone cures most of the evils that equality can produce. Equality isolates and weakens men; but the press places beside each one of them a very powerful weapon, which the weakest and most isolated can use.

As Tocqueville observes in “Democracy in America,” opening and running an American newspaper in the 19th century was both relatively inexpensive and unregulated. As such, this meant a truly free press was an accessible weapon available to the common man to beat back the tyranny of the majority and the homogenization of the mind.

Thousands of newspapers operating throughout the country and representing various individuals, associations, and interests, was both a way of protecting divergent opinions as well as checking against the rise of despotic or tyrannical forces. In the current climate of Big Tech censorship, men and women of all political stripes should be asking themselves if this can be said of America any longer.

A Final Bulwark Against Tryanny

A healthy and truly free press is one of the mechanisms that can help prevent the public from being manipulated into having one set of “approved” opinions. Freedom of the press, says Tocqueville, does not just hold important influence over the success or failure of political parties, it makes its power felt “over all of the opinions of men”; not only that, it modifies both the laws and the mores of a society.

Indeed, if laws can affect the mores of a society, and the mores of society can affect the laws, something that can simultaneously change both is a weapon capable of either awe-inspiring good or tremendous evil. Tocqueville argues a free press has the power to do just that.

What happens if this power is used to stifle speech rather than spread it? The result, unfortunately, is not good for any polity featuring democratic institutions. As University of Oklahoma professor Donald J. Maletz puts it: “Tocqueville associates democracy with freedom of the press as a matter of principle.” As one goes, so goes the other. Forebodingly, Tocqueville calls the issue of how to handle a free press “the greatest problem of modern societies.”

Due to its non-institutional nature, a free press is unique in its role in helping prevent tyranny because it exists apart from the governmental arena. Separations of power and varied institutions are not enough to prevent tyranny if all interests involved are the same — you need associations or organizations outside of government as well.

Press Censorship Leads Down the Road to Serfdom

Ultimately, the freedom of the press may well be the final bulwark of liberty against a rising tide of corruption. By Tocqueville’s reasoning, once the press ceases to be free, it’s hard for any society wishing to regain freedom for its citizens to do so, as the best avenues for opposition will be closed. Because of this reality, those who love liberty and value an open society must guard against any censorship of the press.

Tocqueville acknowledges in “Democracy in America” that an unfettered press can create problems, and is only so virtuous because it prevents more problems than it creates. Even so, Tocqueville goes on to powerfully proclaim one cannot be “moderate” in support of a free press. For Tocqueville, there’s no sustainable or workable “middle ground” when it comes to press censorship.

To “reap the inestimable advantages” brought by the freedom of the press, society must learn how to handle its potential pitfalls. This much is clear, however: liberty starts to evaporate the moment powerful entities within society start to censor its press or suppress the work of reporters and writers.

As historian Thomas G. West points out, James Madison saw free speech as a natural, retained right, not a privilege created by the government. West puts it in clear terms:

There is an absolute right to freedom of speech, just as there is an absolute or inalienable right to liberty in general. … For the founders, speech is simply a part of the overall natural right to liberty, which it is the main job of government to secure.

Indeed, the 1780 Massachusetts Declaration of Rights went so far as to say: “The liberty of the press is essential to the security of freedom in a state: it ought not, therefore to be restrained.”

In her analysis of “Democracy in America,” the University of Notre Dame’s Catherine Zuckert believes Tocqueville saw freedom of speech as an “essential part of liberal democracy.” She’s right. Tocqueville warned stifling press freedom, even a little, will lead to a chilling silence, and society will find itself “under the feet of a despot.”

The Most Important Battleground

The publication of Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” shows the power of a free press during turbulent times. Paine’s pamphlet, which sold around 100,000 copies in 1776, is called by historian Grant S. Wood “the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire revolutionary era.” It is an exemplary case of a political tract in layman’s language that shaped the future of a continent — all made possible by the press.

Freedom of the press, when combined with associations, acts as an incentivization to participate and be active in politics. For Tocqueville, the relationship between newspapers and free associations is symbiotic and correlative: “newspapers make associations, and associations make newspapers.”

Properly functioning and free, the press can encourage debate instead of hindering it. It can foster statesmanship instead of leading to the rise of despots. The exchange of ideas and the proliferation of the best new civic and societal notions can be a chief tool in preserving the essential balance between liberty and virtue in America.

While the left’s current stranglehold on corporate media is formidable, Tocqueville would at least be partially hopeful that the rise of conservative voices on the internet, new media, and outlets like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter will at put up a fight to uphold liberty — that is, as long as they aren’t silenced in turn by the very platforms that are supposed to aid in the spread of ideas.

The “press” may look a lot different than in 1831, but it remains pivotal in the struggle to preserve freedom. Until enough Americans unite their voices and demand that tech giants like Facebook and Twitter stop their oppressive censorship of the very press and media outlets essential to the health of our republic, things will only get worse, and Tocqueville’s worst nightmares will inch closer to becoming reality.


What’s Really at Stake in 2020

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Supreme Court, and the future of American democracy

By Matthew ContinettiThe Washington Free Beacon

The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has clarified what is at stake in the 2020 election. It is not, as some believe, democracy itself. Nor is it, as others assume, our continued existence as a nation. Democracy will survive Donald Trump, and the United States of America will outlast Joe Biden. The question that 2020 will help to answer is what sort of democracy, and what sort of nation, America will be as it prepares to enter the second quarter of the 21st century.

The reaction to Ginsburg’s death, and to Republican plans to fill her seat on the Supreme Court, underscores the choice before the electorate: Does it prefer to live in a democratic republic ordered toward the principles of the Founders and the constitutional structure they designed to protect individual liberty? Or would it rather dwell in a plebiscitary democracy where the original meaning of the Constitution, when it is not explicitly repudiated, is politely overlooked in order to satisfy ever more radical egalitarian demands?

Needless to say, the answer is up in the air, and has been for some time. But we may be nearing a settlement, one way or another. The civil unrest of the past several months has made unignorable the existence of a large body of opinion that holds something is terribly wrong with America as founded, something that cannot be redeemed, and that American history and American institutions must be drastically revised to atone for the injustices committed against racial minorities. President Trump, in his inimitable way, has made the opposite argument, and called for a renewed appreciation of the American story and a resurgence of national pride.

Ginsburg’s passing heightened the tension. Suddenly an abstract cultural debate was transformed into a concrete political-legal struggle, and the prospect of lasting victory for one team (Trump and Mitch McConnell’s) looked real. The fight over the Supreme Court vacancy Ginsburg left behind also illuminated the lengths to which some progressives are prepared to go to make real their vision of the future. And it is in their openness to institutional upheaval that the real import of this election may be found. If enacted, the measures these Democrats propose would warp our constitutional system. They would turn the American government into a creature far different from the one the Founders made. This would be the upshot of the “structural reform” that, until the last week, lived mainly on Twitter and in the heads of policy wonks.

These Democrats say that, if President Trump’s nominee to replace Ginsburg is confirmed, and next year brings a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate, then the first order of business for the new government, in the middle of a pandemic and a troubled economy, will be abolishing the legislative filibuster and packing the Supreme Court by adding anywhere from two to four justices. Such a move, which even the greatest president of the 20th century was unable to achieve, would polarize this country even more than it already is, and delegitimize the Court in the eyes of millions. But it is just the start of what some on the Democratic left would like to accomplish.

The Electoral College has been on the chopping block since 2000. If it goes the way of the dodo, presidential campaigns thereafter will be determined by who has the greatest allegiance in the biggest cities of the largest states. To override the supposed Republican advantage in the Senate, where every state enjoys equal representation, some progressives would grant statehood to Washington, D.C., and to Puerto Rico, and maybe Guam and American Samoa while they’re at it. These changes would make it much easier for Congress to eliminate private health insurance, enact universal vote by mail, “decarbonize” the economy, grant citizenship to illegal immigrants and voting rights to noncitizens, suppress political speech, resume taxpayer funding of abortion, and cross out the Second Amendment. The sheer number of bad ideas in play would be overwhelming.

Now it is true that at least the first item on this agenda would be debated according to the present rules. And the multiple veto points within the American kludgeocracy would no doubt interfere with, and sometimes upend, the boldest plans of the progressive Democrats. It is also the case that incorporating new states gives rise to challenges both constitutional (are we really willing to grant the remaining residents of the federal District of Columbia—the first family—three electoral votes?) as well as political (does Puerto Rico even want to be a state?). But the very fact that we are having this conversation at all—and that Biden, at this writing, has neither ruled out the court-packing scheme nor said whom he would nominate to the Court—ought seriously to worry defenders of the Founders’ Constitution.

In 1963, in the first chapter of The Conservative Affirmation, Willmoore Kendall offered his definition of American conservatism. Conservatives, Kendall wrote, oppose the “Liberal Revolution” that would replace representative government with majoritarian democracy:

Put an end, the Liberals insist, to ‘rural overrepresentation’ in the lower house of Congress and in the state legislatures—bringing them in line with the principle one-man one-equal-vote. And that principle, once adopted (it is French political philosophy, not American), must call finally for abolition even of the U.S. Senate as a check on majorities, and would in any case make the House the creature of numerical majorities at the polls. Abolish the electoral college, the Liberals insist further, and so make the President also the direct agent of the popular majority. Reform the party system, the liberals insist still further, so that each of our parties shall be programmatic, ideological—like those of the ‘real’ democracies in Europe—and that the two parties together shall submit, at election time, a genuine choice to the electorate. Abolish the filibuster—so runs the next point in the program—because it frustrates, serves no other function except to frustrate, the will of the majority. Rescind the seniority-principle in congressional committees, the program continues; it also obstructs the will of the majority. Now give the Liberal attackers their way on all these points, and the form of government explicated in the Federalist Papers will be no more.

That is what 2020 is about.


The China Challenge and America’s Founding Principles

By Peter BerkowitzReal Clear Politics

Between June 24 and July 22, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Attorney General William Barr, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a series of speeches on the China challenge. In mid-July — after the national security adviser’s and FBI director’s speeches but before the attorney general’s and secretary of state’s speeches — the State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights released a draft report

The report examines the implications of the American Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the place of human rights in American foreign policy. Focusing on principles rather than concrete policy controversies, the report provoked considerably more partisan rancor than the series of speeches by high-ranking administration officials about the need for the nation to address the Communist Party of China’s resolute efforts to marshal its dictatorial powers to undercut American interests and transform world order. 

Perhaps the relatively restrained reception of the four speeches is a good sign: It may suggest an emerging national consensus about the urgency of the China challenge. Yet awareness of a daunting problem does not guarantee the capacity to deal with it effectively. The controversy over the commission’s report — indeed, the indignation and scorn directed by many politicians, pundits, professors, and NGOs at the very idea of allocating taxpayer dollars to regrounding U.S. diplomacy in America’s founding principles and constitutional responsibilities — reflects the nation’s disunity, a disunity that thwarts the planning and implementation of foreign policy. 

Understanding the nation’s founding principles along with its governing structures and its international obligations is crucial to developing a prudent appreciation of the nation’s vital interests and the practicable means for achieving them. In a time of severe political polarization, moreover, such understanding can contribute to the reinvigoration of the social cohesion and political consensus, the civic concord, on which developing and executing a demanding foreign policy has always depended. 

The administration’s recent series of speeches about China stresses the connection between governing ideas and foreign policy, for China as well as for the United States.

In his June 24 speech at the Arizona Commerce Authority in Phoenix, O’Brien ascribed “the greatest failure of American foreign policy since the 1930s” — the failure “to understand the nature of the Chinese Communist Party” — to the refusal to “pay heed to the CCP’s ideology.” The CCP’s ruthless indoctrination of its own people and promulgation of deceitful propaganda abroad, along with its purchasing and stealing of personal data about Americans and hundreds of millions around the world, flows from communist convictions: “Under communism, individuals are merely a means to be used toward the achievement of the ends of the collective nation state,” said O’Brien. “Thus, individuals can be easily sacrificed for the nation state’s goals.” In contrast, the United States, “will stay true to our principles — especially freedom of speech — which stand in stark contrast to the Marxist-Leninist ideology embraced by the CCP… and above all, continue to proclaim that all women and men are entitled by right of God to liberty, life, and the pursuit of happiness.” 

In his July 7 remarks at the Hudson Institute in Washington, Wray focused on the threat posed by China’s counterintelligence operations and economic espionage. American citizens, according to Wray, “are the victims of what amounts to Chinese theft on a scale so massive that it represents one of the largest transfers of wealth in human history.” By means of a “whole-of-state effort,” China uses technology to steal personal and corporate data “to become the world’s only superpower by any means necessary.” Because communism erases the distinction between government and party, public and private, and civilian and military, the CCP can concentrate prodigious resources to exploit U.S. freedom and openness to erode American competitiveness and prosperity. The United States, maintained Wray, must redouble its commitment to enforcing criminal laws and upholding international norms: “The FBI and our partners throughout the U.S. government will hold China accountable and protect our nation’s innovation, ideas, and way of life — with the help and vigilance of the American people.”

In his July 17 speech in Michigan at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum, Barr summarized the predatory commercial practices by which China has cornered markets, induced economic dependence, and transformed the international order to advance its hegemonic interests. In particular, Barr emphasized that Beijing has impelled American enterprises to toe China’s party line. Hollywood alters the content of its films to avoid offending the CCP. Apple removed a news app from the phones it sells in China because of CCP displeasure over the app’s coverage of the Hong Kong democracy protests. Under pressure from Chinese influence campaigns threatening the loss of access to China’s enormous markets, American business leaders of all sorts “put a ‘friendly face’ on pro-regime policies.” And American higher education and research institutions face, and in many cases have succumbed to, China’s determined efforts “to infiltrate, censor, or co-opt.”  To counter the China challenge, Barr calls on corporate and academic leaders to appreciate “that what allowed them to succeed in the first place was the American free enterprise system, the rule of law, and the security afforded by America’s economic, technological, and military strength.”

In his July 22 capstone speech at the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in California, Pompeo distilled the China challenge: “China is increasingly authoritarian at home, and more aggressive in its hostility to freedom everywhere else.” Stressing that America’s quarrel is with the Chinese Communist Party, which governs dictatorially, and not with the Chinese people, whose human rights the CCP systematically violates, Pompeo maintained that the United States must change China’s behavior. To do so the U.S. must fully understand Chinese communism, which drives the regime’s quest for global hegemony. To be sure, “the only way to truly change communist China is to act not on the basis of what Chinese leaders say, but how they behave.” But how Beijing behaves becomes intelligible in light of what the CCP says at party gatherings and in official documents about the imperatives for totalitarian rule at home and the establishment beyond China’s borders of a worldwide tributary system with Beijing at the center. Because of China’s hegemonic ambition, formidable economic power, and unremitting military buildup, Pompeo asserted, “securing our freedoms from the Chinese Communist Party is the mission of our time, and America is perfectly positioned to lead it because our founding principles give us that opportunity.”

But will we seize that opportunity? Can an angry and divided nation draw on its founding principles and constitutional traditions, as the secretary of state asked the Commission on Unalienable Rights to do? Can citizens across the political spectrum take pride in, preserve, and carry forward America’s great achievements in respecting the nation’s founding principles while learning from the country’s flagrant deviations from them? Can people throughout the nation recover the conviction that the practice of American constitutional government and the belief that inspires it — that all are by nature free and equal — provide the common ground on which citizens of diverse persuasions can air their differences, accommodate competing perspectives, make their cases, and instruct and be instructed, and so rededicate themselves to the shared enterprise of self-government? 

To rise to the China challenge, we must.


Open Letter To The American People

By Dr. Miklos K. RadvanyiFrontiers of Freedom

Dear Fellow Americans,

Please allow me, a naturalized American, to share with you my deep concerns about the current state of affairs in the country in which I am humbled to be a citizen. 

 Today, a small minority has embarked upon an irresponsible adventure to terrorize the overwhelming majority of Americans.  This small minority mostly consists of a heap of confused and insufficiently educated youth,  who have been force-fed by their ideologically biased teachers, from kindergarten to graduate school, a visceral hatred for America as well as a discombobulated version of Marxism.  Combined with a peculiar kind of sub-mediocrity, self-aggrandizing vanity, and outright disdain, they convinced themselves that they have nothing more to learn, and that they are the utopian perfection itself.  

None of these pseudo-political, quasi-philosophical, or deceptively ascetic groups are neither intelligent nor earnest.  Hastily conceived of by individuals who have had a great deal of ambition but very little of real life experience, their overwhelming passion has been to acquire wealth by taking it away from people who legitimately earned it.  Equipped with the slogans of white supremacy, racism, political correctness, and the myth in victimhood, this small minority wants to set the nation ablazed by fabricating a homicidal revolution.  During the present misery of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a precipitous rush.  Every protester or rioter has opinions that are rather fickle, impulsive, superficial, and arrogant to the point of absolute hatred toward the United States of America, its constitution, its institutions, its elected officials, its morality, and its traditions.  To add insult to injury, none of these great dividers has any genuine empathy for the poor and the weak, or a real understanding for the greatness and the future of this beautiful country.

Now, the majority is gripped by momentary cluelessness mixed with irrational fear.  Cowed by sheer intimidation and burgeoning violence, this majority has failed to realize the gigantic hoax inherent in the minority’s fraudulent revolution.  Those of the Democrat Party and a visible number of its office holders assist the minority to weaken and destroy the constitutional order of the Republic.  Even some Republican elected officials have joined those who short-sightedly kowtow to a mob-like small minority.  This heterogeneous minority thus far have failed to comprehend that as soon as the political and legal systems of a nation are destroyed, even if such destruction may be reasonably justified by past vices and misguided actions, chaos and anarchy would take over and reign, unchecked.

The United States of America has risen to become the greatest nation on earth because for 240 some years it has been able to unite all the living and also the dead.  Humiliating the dead by murdering the past would only lead to irreparable divisions and surely not a more perfect union.  Destroying monuments and denigrating the notable ancestors would merely result in self-debasement of the nation. Disrespecting the flag, kneeling down to the national anthem, defacing painting, torching historic structures are gestures of humiliation and not symbols of unity.  

The single true legacy that the Founding Fathers bequeathed on all the successive generations is that democracy is a system of government in which the majority elects the President and everybody who gains his or her legitimacy through properly executed elections. Shamefully, since 2016, when the Democrats lost a presidential election that they believed they should have  won, the opposition have consisted of politicians who know that they are bereft of a vision that would attract the majority of the voters.  Therefore, they have come to the destructive conclusion that their only chance to claim power is to overthrow the elected President and his administration by defamation of character and fake-legal manipulations.  Hence, the spectacles of the “Russia Collusion” and the pointless impeachment charade.My fellow Americans!  It is time to wake up and reassert the majority’s rule by restoring the Constitution and the Judeo-Christian-guided democratic character and sustainable future of the United States of America.  Simultaneously, policies and ideas fundamentally hostile to the historic traditions, the rule of law and the spiritual realm of the nation must be fought decisively without undue apologies and prostrations.  We, as free and proud citizens, have a responsibility to uphold and steadily improve the foundational realms of this great nation.  Otherwise, a small and unelected mob would destroy our inheritance forever. 


When in the Course of Human Events

By Peter RoffNewsweek

With the anniversary of our independence from Britain just around the corner, the social strife now appearing ubiquitously on social media has many of us questioning what is happening to America. From those whose lineage goes back to the original European settlers to those who earned their citizenship in just the last few years, we’re wondering, some of us, if the nation as we’ve known it can survive.

It can—and it will. We’ve been through worse and come out the better for it. We are not perfect and never have been. We are, however, still what Lincoln called “the last, best hope of earth.”

Are there inequities? Sure, just as there are in any country. Here we have freedoms guaranteed to us by our Founding documents that allow us wide latitude—some would say too wide, these days—to express our concerns about our leaders and about the policies that shape the nation. This is not the case in China, Somalia, Cuba, Venezuela or any of the other dictatorships that many of the young Americans now protesting only know as dots on a globe or listings on Wikipedia. Yet few of them, given the chance, would swap our system of government, the rights we enjoy and the economic realities of living in those countries for life in the United States.

Some are nonetheless cheering on those who’ve chosen violence. Most of us still abhor the rioting and looting and the assaults and murders of police officers and others seeking to keep the peace. We can see no justification for it, no matter how serious the perceived injury might be. That speaks well of the majority. We are not yet the kind of animals those who would bring the entire system crashing down, though some would like to get us there on the fast train.Ads by scrollerads.com

Some of them believe, and they’ve made this abundantly clear, that the social contract has been broken. That the government we have now lacks the consent of the governed and, according to Locke and other Enlightenment philosophers, the people have the right to seek a replacement by any means necessary.

They’re within their rights to think that and to proclaim it. To most of us, though, this is nonsense. And it will continue to be nonsense as long as peaceful means remain available to bring about change in government.

Are we perfect? No, and we never have been. Are we better than every other country? Many would say yes but, to be fair, let’s agree that we at least consistently rank in the top ten. Rather than feel we are inexorably stained by our slaveholding past—a past not unique to this country, and a practice that still exists in other parts of the world—and that there is no way to overcome it, let us celebrate how far we have come. As Independence Day approaches, let us remember how America has consistently led the world, how we have been a haven for the oppressed, how our sons and daughters have given life and limb in the fight against tyranny in many parts of the world and how we remain a beacon to those longing for freedom and as close to a true meritocracy as any nation that has ever existed.

America is the place where you can rise above the circumstances of your birth to accomplish and acquire. It is also where you can fall from great heights, sometimes spectacularly, and lose everything. Elites and establishments do exist in just about every walk of life, but they are more open and democratic here than in most other parts of the world. Meanwhile, we have become the place where, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said so many years ago, the sons and daughters of former slaves and former slave owners can meet together over the table of brotherhood.

To some, none of that matters. They want to remake America according to what they feel and follow the dictates of largely ill-considered contemporary truths that have failed as governing principles in the other nations that have tried to implement them. They ignore at their peril the eternal truths expressed and refined through thoughtful debate by the Founders who, while not perfect, should be judged by history and by us for the body of their accomplishments and the sum of their lives. “If men were angels,” James Madison said, “no government would be necessary.”

Well, men are not angels and those who conceived and wrote the governing compacts still in force today should be praised for their vision and for their belief that what “this new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” had to offer, has to offer, and will have to offer in the future. It is superior to what any other nation on earth at the time could do. Lincoln Steffens was wrong. The future did not work.

Life. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness. The American story is just as much about the ongoing struggle to secure these for everyone, generation after generation, as it is about anything else. Some things have come easier than have others. The struggle endures but shall not end until those objectives have been achieved. Freedom is the aim and always, God willing, shall be.


Democracy Versus the Pandemic

The Coronavirus Is Emboldening Autocrats the World Over

By Larry DiamondForeign Affairs

A protest against a bill to give Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte additional powers, Quezon City, the Philippines, June 2020
Eloisa Lopez / Reuters

In late March, Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte rammed a bill through his country’s parliament that granted him vastly expanded emergency powers, ostensibly to fight the novel coronavirus. The bill authorized Duterte to reallocate the national budget as he saw fit and to personally direct hospitals. “Do not challenge the government,” he bellowed in a menacing televised address. “You will lose.” Six days later, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban pushed even more expansive emergency legislation through his rubber-stamp parliament, enabling him to suspend existing laws, decree new ones, and arrest individuals deemed to be peddling “falsehoods” about the pandemic or “obstructing” the government’s efforts to fight it.

Duterte’s and Orban’s COVID-19 power grabs were especially brazen, but they were far from the only attempts by authoritarian leaders or parties to use the current health crisis as an excuse to curtail civil liberties or undermine the rule of law. Authoritarian regimes in Bangladesh, Belarus, Cambodia, China, Egypt, El Salvador, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, Venezuela, and Vietnam have all detained critics, health workers, journalists, and opposition members during the pandemic. Democracies that have lately come under assault, meanwhile, such as Brazil, India, and Poland, have seen populist leaders or ruling parties seize on the crisis to remove checks on their power or weaken the opposition.

It will be some time, probably years, before the pandemic’s full impact on democracy around the world can be judged. The extent of the damage will depend on how long the health crisis lasts and how badly it harms economies and societies. It will also depend on how democracies fare compared with autocracies in containing the health and economic effects of the virus, on who wins the race to a vaccine, and more broadly, on who—China, the United States, or democratic countries collectively—is seen as the most generous and effective provider of global public goods to fight the pandemic. How carefully democracies monitor and circumscribe the enormous increases in governmental power that come with national emergencies will also factor into the equation, as will the ability of established democracies to summon the collective resolve to defend freedom globally in a time of rising danger.  

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So far, there is little reason to be reassured about the global outlook for democracy and plenty of reason to worry. The pandemic hit during the hardest period for democracy since the end of the Cold War, and authoritarian and would-be authoritarian regimes wasted no time in exploiting it to enlarge and harden their power. More danger could lie on the horizon as democratic governments weigh the dilemmas of using new surveillance technologies to fight the virus and holding regular elections in the midst of a pandemic. The downward democratic spiral can still be reversed, but it will require mobilized civil societies, effective democratic management of the health crisis, and a renewal of American leadership on the global stage.

A DEMOCRATIC RECESSION

Democracy was faltering globally even before the pandemic. For each of the past 14 years, according to Freedom House, more countries experienced an erosion of political rights and civil liberties than strengthened political rights and civil liberties, reversing the pattern of the preceding 15 post-Cold War years. While blunt military and executive coups have become rarer, more and more elected leaders have gradually eviscerated democracies from within. Politicians who initially came to power via democratic elections—such as Orban in Hungary, Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, and Sheikh Hasina in Bangladesh—have packed courts; co-opted other independent institutions; squeezed the press, political opposition, and civil society; and sought to subvert or prevent the elections that might otherwise remove them. As a result, the rate of democratic breakdown worldwide has risen sharply in the last decade to nearly twice that of the preceding two decades. At the same time, fewer countries have transitioned to democracy. 

Democracy was faltering globally even before the pandemic.

The democratic downturn has been particularly steep in the last five years (2015 through 2019), the first five-year period since 1975 in which more countries transitioned to autocracy than to democracy—twice as many, in fact. In January 2020, the proportion of countries with populations over one million that qualified as democracies fell below 50 percent for the first time since the end of the Cold War. Just as worrying has been the significant decay of democratic institutions and norms in democracies that were thought to be consolidated, such as India, and also liberal, such as Israel and Poland; the more subtle and little-noticed degradation of democracy in South Korea; the steady decline in the quality of democracy in the United States; and the rise of xenophobic populism and political polarization in Europe’s liberal democracies. According to Freedom House, democracy has declined in 25 of the 41 established democracies since 2006.

In short, COVID-19 attacked a world in which democracy was already under threat. The resulting public health crises enabled some leaders (such as Erdogan and Orban) to consolidate authoritarian powers they had already been accumulating and others (such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in India) to intensify their illiberal campaigns against critics, independent news media, and opposition parties. In other words, the pandemic has mostly reinforced existing negative democratic trends, supplying illiberal governments with an incentive and an excuse for repressive tactics. Human rights defenders have paid the price in arrests, killings, and extended jail terms. The virus has cut a particularly deadly swath through prisons, furnishing cynical and murderous autocrats with a perfect weapon to use against indefatigable activists who try to hold them to account.

SURVEILLANCE CREEP, ELECTORAL LAG

Still more damage may lie in store for democracy before the pandemic is done. In the name of managing the disease, governments are already implementing surveillance and tracking systems that could result in permanent losses of privacy. The apps generally work by gaining access to a phone’s GPS location and its range of Bluetooth communication. When someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 comes into contact with other people, the software alerts those contacts and advises them to self-isolate. With the proper democratic oversight and restraints, these apps can be powerful weapons in the fight to control the virus. But without such limits, they can be used to spy on private citizens and expand social control.

In India, for instance, many fear that a new tracking app rolled out in April could become a tool of mass surveillance for a government already bent on trampling civil liberties. Since Modi was first elected prime minister in 2014, his government has been assaulting venerated pillars of Indian democracy: press freedom, religious tolerance, judicial independence, and respect for dissent. Most alarming has been the Modi administration’s escalating campaign against India’s Muslim minority, which, at about 180 million, is the second-largest Muslim population of any country in the world after Indonesia. The narrative—pushed most blatantly by Modi’s extremist followers but condoned by the prime minister with the same wink and nod that U.S. President Donald Trump gave to neo-Nazi demonstrators in Charlottesville—is that Muslims (and sometimes Christians and other non-Hindu minorities) are “internal enemies” with allegiances to lands and peoples outside India. That narrative has grown only stronger during the pandemic, fueled by a vile stream of disinformation that blames Muslims and Dalits for deliberately spreading the virus. Modi has used the COVID-19 crisis to centralize authority over revenue at the expense of India’s states and parliament and to wrest control of state governments from opposition parties. Many rights activists and cyber experts fear that his government will enlist the disease-tracking app, called Aarogya Setu, to compromise privacy and monitor opponents. 

Aarogya Setu was initially voluntary, but as the government eased lockdown restrictions in early May, it made the app mandatory for public- and private-sector employees as well as for people in so-called containment zones, areas with particularly high rates of COVID-19 prevalence. It also required anyone traveling by train to download the app. Later, the government took the positive steps of prohibiting the storage of individual data beyond 180 days and enabling individuals to seek deletion of their data within 30 days. To alleviate concerns about privacy and security, it also eventually opened up the app’s source code to public scrutiny (and improvement). But reasonable suspicion persists, and it may abate only if India does what all democracies should do—appoint an independent ombudsman to ensure that rules on privacy, data gathering, and use are respected.

To comply with international human rights norms, disease-tracking apps and technologies must be grounded in law, publicly deliberated, transparent, limited to the duration of the emergency, and restricted to the specific requirements of combating the virus. The MIT Technology Review has initiated an important effort to study and rate government tracking appsaccording to five criteria, such as whether or not they are voluntary, whether the data they collect can be used only for public heath purposes, how quickly that data is destroyed, and the transparency of the policies and the code that underpin them. By these measures, Aarogya Setu rates only a single star (for data destruction).

Election delays should be limited in time and proportionate to the danger the virus poses.

Privacy is not the only democratic precept under threat in the time of coronavirus: holding regular elections has become a logistical conundrum. Many democracies are left to decide which poses the greater threat: holding elections on schedule, when the opposition cannot campaign, poll workers and monitors may not show up, and large numbers of people don’t feel safe going to the polls; or postponing elections and perpetuating in power unpopular governments that voters might have otherwise ejected. The choice is straightforward in established democracies that have the time and resources to alter election procedures so that voters can vote safely from a distance, ideally by mail, or at least at fully staffed poll stations that have been disinfected and updated to accommodate physical distancing. But even in the United States—five months away from a general election—some Republicans, led by Trump, have turned voting by mail into a fiercely partisan issue, despite convincing evidence that it won’t give either party an advantage. Imagine, then, how much more fraught elections could become in countries with weaker institutions and less widespread postal services.

According to International IDEA, an intergovernmental organization that supports democracy around the world, more than 60 countries and territories have postponed elections at the national or (much more often) subnational level due to the pandemic. In many cases, doing so may have been the least undemocratic course of action. To avoid enabling authoritarian power grabs, the Kofi Annan Foundation has recommendedthat any decision to postpone elections be guided by rules that the government and the opposition agree upon, that are clearly communicated to the public, and that ensure the inclusion of vulnerable groups. As with the use of potentially invasive tracking apps, election delays should be limited in time, grounded in law and technical expertise, and proportionate to the danger the virus poses.

A DEMOCRATIC RENEWAL?

To protect rights, privacy, and the integrity of elections during a pandemic is a daunting task, but it is not impossible. It will require politicians, bureaucrats, and members of civil society to restrain their partisanship, adhere to sound expert advice, and submit all emergency measures to disinterested monitoring and oversight.

Before the pandemic, democracy-minded people in countries that had slid toward electoral autocracy showed that it was still possible to make democratic inroads through organized political campaigns. A campaign of “radical love” carried the opposition to a stunning victory in municipal elections in Turkey last year, and opposition parties won municipal elections in Prague in 2018 and in Budapest last October.  Even in the absence of a national electoral upset, similar municipal campaigns that engage practical issues and transcend political divisions can limit the ability of autocrats to consolidate power in the pandemic’s wake. Public opinion can also help defend the frayed boundaries of democracy. The original emergency powers bill that Duterte’s office sent to the Philippine Congress in March would have enabled the president to temporarily take control of any privately owned business or utility. But congressional and public resistance forced Duterte to accept much narrower language, involving only the budget and hospitals.

Global democratic recovery will require much of the United States.

Ultimately, the pandemic’s effect on global democracy will be shaped in large part by its effect on the advanced industrial democracies and most of all, the United States. At a time when China and other autocracies are using the pandemic to trash the efficacy of democratic governance and tout their superior capacity to deal with public emergencies, free governments must show that they are up to the task. Some have already done so. Ironically, the “other” Chinese society—Taiwan—has vividly exposed the lie that competent governance in a pandemic requires the extinction of freedom. Australia, Germany, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea have also performed well in containing the virus. The successful governments responded early and vigilantly, with widespread testing and contact tracing, and they communicated with their publics in a transparent, coordinated manner that put health professionals at the forefront. Sadly, few major countries have performed worse than the United States, whose president has routinely flouted such elementary imperatives as wearing masks, respecting science, trusting the public health leadership, and not promoting voodoo cures. The damage has been incalculable—not only to American lives but to global esteem for American democracy and hence, for democracy itself.

Global democratic recovery will require much of the United States. But first, the country must get its own house in order. Fortunately, supplies of ventilators and protective gear have rapidly increased. But national leadership, with discipline and strategic vision, is still lacking. The U.S. government must not only galvanize its people to act responsibly but also spearhead the international effort to distribute protective equipment and—as they become available—vaccines and medicines. Then, when the coronavirus has been vanquished, the United States must resume its leadership of global democracies in defense of liberty and against authoritarianism, corruption, and bullying.


Sanders’ Socialism

Everybody gets a free ride!

By Dr. Larry FedewaDr. Larry Online

Recent polls show that a large plurality of Americans prefer socialism over capitalism. On its surface, such a preference is shocking. Digging beneath the surface, however, we find a somewhat less alarming reality. So, let’s dig a little.

The first question is, what do most of those Americans think “socialism” means? To many of our fellow Americans, “socialism” has been defined by Bernie Sanders, the socialist Senator from Vermont. He describes socialism in terms of an expansion of “human rights” into services, notably health care, higher education, and income parity, if not equality. He advocates free delivery of these services to every American. He also believes that the USA should have open borders, inviting anyone who wishes to become an American citizen to come at will.

Then there is the other side of his views. He also believes that Americans’ access to gun ownership should be severely restricted. He says that climate change is “an existential threat” to the world and adopts the “green agenda”. That agenda includes the elimination of fossil fuels, and the substitution of renewable forms of energy (even though no such energy sources exist) and the re-entry of America into the Paris Accord, which obligates the USA to pay the bill for converting the major polluters of the world (China and India) to renewables. These are samples of the price we would pay under a Sanders idealized world-view for all the “free” services.

The Sanders followers tend to be one of three types: 1) inexperienced and idealistic youths, 2)people who see themselves as victims of life because of poverty or rejection or discrimination, and 3) the educated idealists who long for a perfect world, frequently from the safe perch of academia. They are not the people who have to pay the price of this fantasy. It is therefore not hard to understand why this vision has attracted so many followers that it now dominates the Left Wing of the Democrat Party.

While this description of socialism consists principally of concrete policies, there is an underlying theory on which these policies rest, and which is not much discussed by Mr. Sanders and his followers. That theory in a nutshell is that the rich and privileged of society occupy their elevated position due to their oppression of the poor and neglected people in that society. Justice therefore demands that the elite be rejected in favor of the underclass and the wealth of the society be spread equally among all its members. Essentially, that means the riches of the elite be taken away and be distributed to the poor. The only instrument which could accomplish this feat is government. But, in the end, the means by which the upper class retains its power over the underclass is force through police and army. The shorthand for this is “whoever has the guns rules”.

Revolution is therefore inevitable. To this point the description of socialism follows the views of Karl Marx, a 19th century German philosopher. It was his works which were the basis of the Communist revolutions of Russia and China, among others. Marx’s ideas led to dictatorships because, the revolt of the proletariat (i.e. the oppressed) took military force to achieve, and the strong leaders of these armies were not about to give up power as soon as they won the war, especially since the transitions to new leadership were long and bloody. Once established, the leaders became dictators, and in the name of the revolution, the new State took over virtually everything. Personal freedom was no more available to the Communist society than it had been under the royalty.

Another version of socialism evolved in Europe and other areas, such as Canada, Australia, and South America. This version maintained the supremacy of the State and its obligation to provide free services to the masses, but it recognized private property as well as democracy in the form of elections of government officials. Some countries found this system very unstable, with frequent changes of government, e.g. Italy and Greece. For others, it was stable and productive, e.g. Germany and France. Many of these nations adopted strong strains of capitalism (i.e. free markets and independent judiciary). Some of these countries cannot be called “socialist” in the 21st century (e.g. Denmark, Iceland).

It is reasonable to assume that Bernie Sanders is talking about this form of socialism, which he calls “democratic socialism”, although he does not speak in ideological terms. The issue then becomes, what is the difference between “democratic socialism” and “democratic capitalism”?

There are two major differences: 1) Government responsibilities versus individual responsibilities; and 2) Restrictions on government versus restrictions on individual freedoms.

Responsibilities: government and personal

  • Socialism: the government is held responsible by socialists for providing virtually everything an individual may need – a list that keeps changing as new needs arise. This list currently includes health care, unemployment insurance, retirement, and a host of regulations including housing, working conditions, vacations, sometimes wages, etc. These regulations are generally the result of government-controlled central planning which attempts to control all the economic forces which combine to make up the economy. All of these efforts are funded by taxes on privately owned company profits. The problem is identified when taxes get so high that companies cannot pay them. As one-time Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher, once said, “Socialism is fine until other peoples’ money runs out”. Then there is a Venezuela, Greece or a bankrupt Detroit or Puerto Rico. In extreme cases, people starve. The government thus has absolute authority to fulfill all these needs through taxation.
  • Capitalism: the government is responsible for justice, foreign affairs and defense, and law enforcement. Beyond those minimal responsibilities, all other responsibilities are undertaken only with the specific consent of the people.

Restrictions: government and individual

  • Government: the only restrictions on government – not to be underestimated – are those imposed by elections of officials to run the government. This works both ways, namely, new benefits that are advocated by the candidates for high office become mandatory under pain of losing the next election, and the same goes for new limitations on government power. Generally, that means greater benefits for the population and higher taxes on the businesses which earn the money in the first place. That situation eventually results in the loss of incentive to work hard and creatively in order to pay the fruits of one’s labor to the government.
  • Individual: In a capitalistic society, the individual is required to provide for oneself and his or her family’s health, safety and welfare. These responsibilities require a great deal of personal freedom from government control. These same freedoms and responsibilities, however, encourage reliability and creativity, because of the competitive atmosphere which prevails in a capitalistic society. This drive has created wealth in the United States beyond the wildest dreams of our ancestors.

In the 21st century, however, our experience is that many of the characteristics of capitalism are also evident in socialist countries. The differentiator is the trajectory into the future which each form of government is on. Socialism leads invariably to dictatorship (China, Russia, Venezuela, Cuba) or bankruptcy (Greece) and capitalism leads to resilience and prosperity (USA).

For now, Americans must follow their instincts – freedom forever!


AG Barr: ‘Remarkably Monolithic Press’ Aids Progressives In Making Us All ‘25-Year-Olds Living In The Government’s Basement’

By Kylee ZempelThe Federalist

Attorney General William Barr noted America’s slide toward despotism during remarks at the National Religious Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, Wednesday. He highlighted changes in three institutional “bulwarks” that have long preserved liberty: “religion, the decentralization of government power, and the free press.”

Most notable was Barr’s calling out of the “remarkably monolithic” press as a vehicle for pushing Americans toward a secular progressive program and a “soft despotism,” wherein everyone is converted “into 25-year-olds living in the government’s basement, focusing our energies on obtaining a larger allowance rather than getting a job and moving out.” Barr described this progressive dream as a use of the “public purse to … build a permanent constituency of supporters who are also dependents.”

Barr noted the press, having become less like objective journalists and more like political activists, maintains massive influence in directing public opinion to “mobilize a majority” toward progressive goals.

When the media becomes a viewpoint monolith, “Not only does it become easier for the press to mobilize a majority, but the mobilized majority becomes more powerful and overweening with the press as its ally,” Barr said. “This is not a positive cycle, and I think it is fair to say that it puts the press’ role as a breakwater for the tyranny of the majority in jeopardy.”

The relationship among journalists, politicians, and the American people has shifted since 2016 and the run-up to Donald Trump’s presidential election. The president has repeatedly referred to the press as the “enemy of the people” producing “fake news,” for which he has received much criticism. A September 2019 Gallup poll revealed only 41 percent of Americans have “a great deal” or “fair amount” of faith in the mass media. Public mistrust in the press cannot be attributed wholly to Trump, however. The media’s track record speaks for itself: blatant lies over the Russia collusion hoaxTrump’s impeachment, the Jussie Smollett hoaxthe Covington Catholic high school students story, and grossly mischaracterized pro-life legislation, among countless other errors. The media has even mocked Trump supporters as “credulous boomer rube[s].”

The press wielding its power in such a way is consistent with the attorney general’s assessment of progressives, however. According to Barr, progressives prop up politics as religion, taking a no-holds-barred approach — including weaponization of the press — to achieve their desired goals, which are “earthly and urgent.”

Totalitarian democracy, says Barr, “requires an all-knowing elite to guide the masses toward their determined end, and that elite relies on whipping up mass enthusiasm to preserve its power and achieve its goals. … [It] is almost always secular and materialistic, and its adherents tend to treat politics as a substitute for religion. Their sacred mission is to use the coercive power of the state to remake man and society according to an abstract ideal of perfection. The virtue of any individual is defined by whether they are aligned with the program. Whatever means used are justified because, by definition, they will quicken the pace of mankind’s progress toward perfection.”

Barr’s Wednesday remarks are reminiscent of his November 2019 speechto the Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention, where he said, “[S]o-called progressives treat politics as their religion. … [T]here is no getting around the fact that this puts conservatives at a disadvantage when facing progressive holy war, especially when doing so under the weight of a hyper-partisan media.”


FROM BREXIT TO TRUMP, THE PEOPLE DESERVE TO GET WHAT THEY VOTED FOR

By Peter RoffNewsweek

It is a puzzlement whether the cottage industry of international election observers populating the American commentariat really understand what is at stake in the upcoming British parliamentary election. It should be more widely discussed than it is. And analyses should focus on what is motivating voters, rather than whether the Tories or Labor are more likely, according to the polls, to come out ahead.

In reality, the future of representative democracy may be on the line, at least as far as the idea the people deserve to get what they voted for. It has been more than three years since 51.9 percent of those participating in a referendum on whether Britain should remain in the European Union took the position it should not. Yet, after three different prime ministers and one general election, the U.K. is still in the EU.

The why is easy to understand. The elites, including what has proved to be a majority of Parliament, think the people made the wrong decision and have done all they can to block Brexit from moving forward. But is that really appropriate?

Boris Johnson, the current prime minister, is a confirmed Brexiteer. He joined and later resigned from the government of his immediate predecessor when it became clear she had bollixed up the whole business. And he has pushed for this election in order to replace the anti-Brexit members of his own party with those who support his position and will vote with him to withdraw from Europe.

This is not a new issue. It has perplexed governments going back to Margaret Thatcher’s. Indeed, there are those who still believe her opposition to Britain joining the EU was the principal reason members of her Cabinet eventually plotted her overthrow. But the British elites—leaders in the permanent government, as well as the financial community, media, academia and foreign policy establishment—wanted in and, for their sins, they got their way.

The people were a different matter. Until the June 2016 referendum, it was conventional wisdom that it was only the cranky, fringe elements in U.K. politics who objected to EU membership on the grounds that British sovereignty was being impinged upon and for other reasons, those who populate the corridors of power found silly or unworthy of attention.

The referendum smashed that conception. To the shock of all the elites, a majority of the country ratified the “U.K. out the EU” position, believing they were setting out on a course to regain the nation’s independence. Yet the people’s choice has been thwarted, time and again.

First came the effort to discredit the vote, blaming it on anti-immigrant racism and fears of job loss in areas already economically depressed. That proved to be untrue. A survey of 12,369 voters in the United Kingdom conducted the day of the referendum found the No. 1 issue propelling people to vote to leave was their belief that the U.K. should remain a self-governing entity not responsible to some supranational body writing rules and regulations about the economy and other matters. Once that failed, the machinations began in Parliament and elsewhere to prevent the withdrawal agreement from ever being approved, which brings things to where they are now.

The election analysts who are part of America’s own elites have been strangely silent about all this. It may they are distracted by the ongoing congressional foofaraw over President Donald Trump’s interaction with the president of Ukraine to notice the global significance of events in the U.K. It’s not wrong to point out the similarities between Johnson’s effort to get a deal done and Trump’s effort to bring the American government to heel. Here, too, there seems to be considerable confusion, as Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman inadvertently confirmed to the House Intelligence Committee considering the impeachment of the president, about who makes policy and just who’s in charge.

In the end, if it is affirmed the people are in charge and that they exercise their authority by delegating it to their elected representatives, up to and including the president of the United States, then things will work out fine. The American writer H.L. Mencken, a friend reminds, once described democracy as being “the theory that the people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.”

Here in the U.S. and in Britain, there are those with power who believe it’s their job to keep the people from making what they regard as a mistake. If the battle over Brexit, which is one of those “mistakes,” goes the way they want, then all the small “d” democrats around the world have some serious soul-searching to do before we can regain the power we’ve apparently lost.


The Democrats Are the Socialist Party Again

Until recently, they had eschewed the S-word, but now they embrace it

By KEVIN D. WILLIAMSONNational Review

The unfinished business of the Democratic party is socialism. Don’t take my word for it — consult Bernie Sanders.

Senator Sanders gave a madcap speech in which he ridiculed past conservative critics, beginning with Herbert Hoover and Ronald Reagan, for characterizing the expansive welfare-state ambitions of the New Deal and the Great Society as movements toward socialism. And then he . . . characterized the expansive welfare-state ambitions of the New Deal and the Great Society as movements toward socialism.

“This is the unfinished business of the Democratic party and the vision we must accomplish,” he said. “These are my values, and that is why I call myself a democratic socialist.”

President Hoover, the prescient man, is owed an apology.

As my colleagues and I recently documented over the course of two special issues of National Review, socialism — not exactly progressivism, certainly not liberalism — is ascendant among Democrats, including Democratic elected officials, and on the American left more generally. Senator Sanders is a declared and avowed socialist, one who is attempting to posthumously recruit the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. to his cause. (King took a hard economic turn toward the left in his later years and spoke of socialism on a few occasions, but to deputize him on behalf of the gentleman from the whitest state in the Union is a bit much, and more than a bit unseemly.)

Senator Sanders is not alone in this. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the callow young Democrat from New York, is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), as is Representative Rashida Tlaib, the Jew-baiting strange-o from Michigan, along with about 40 other candidates who were elected as Democrats in 2018. “We are building a pipeline from local positions all the way to national politics,” the Socialists said in a statement after the 2018 elections. Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper was hooted and jeered at when he affirmed on the stage of the California Democratic convention that “socialism is not the answer.”

And yet . . .

Ronald Reagan, an FDR man, spent his entire career insisting that he was a New Deal Democrat estranged from his party: “I didn’t leave the Democratic party — the party left me!” Many conservatives see in the tax-cutting, Cold War–fighting John Kennedy a kindred spirit. Much of the Republican criticism directed at the hilariously misnamed Affordable Care Act asserted that it would undermine Medicare, the jewel of Lyndon Johnson’s so-called Great Society program — and some of those Republicans even meant it.

Richard Nixon insisted that by the 1970s we were all Keynesians. Are we all socialists now?

There are two important factors at play here: The first is ignorance of the past, and the second is ignorance of the present.

Socialism is an idea with a history. (And a body count of some 100 million human beings in the 20th century, but leave that aside for the moment.) The most ordinary and traditional kind of government spending is on public goods, which are defined in economics as non-rivalrous and non-excludable in consumption. Think of a missile-defense system: Missile defense is a non-excludable good in that a system that protects the civic-minded taxpaying citizens at No. 7 Main Street also protects the freeloading deadbeats at No. 9 Main Street, whereas a guy selling apples can exclude those who do not pay; it is non-rivalrous in that Smith’s enjoyment of protection from Nork nukes does not diminish Jones’s possible enjoyment of the same, whereas every apple Smith eats leaves one less apple available for Jones.

In theory, spending on such public goods as defense and law enforcement is most of what liberal governments are supposed to do, with some political disagreement over what counts as a public good. (Roads? There are both public and toll models.) In reality, most of what modern liberal governments spend their money on is social welfare, the public provision of non-public goods such as food and education, both of which can be (and historically have been) provided on an ordinary market basis. These are not public goods rigorously defined, but they are publicly provided in practically all modern democracies on the theory that a society as a whole is better off if there is guaranteed universal access to a minimum of them.

The public provision of non-public goods is sometimes described as socialism, but it is distinct in that socialism requires an additional factor: central planning, often but not necessarily in concert with state ownership of the means of production. Food stamps are social welfare, but government-run farms and groceries are socialism; housing-support vouchers are welfare, but government-owned housing projects are socialism. American conservatives spend a fair amount of effort trying to convert or partially convert such genuinely socialistic projects as the monopoly K–12 education system (in which the means of production are state-owned and the workers are state employees) into more conventional social-welfare programs by replacing or augmenting direct-provision models with vouchers or other market-enabling alternatives. There is a significant difference between government funding of services and government provision of services, which is why, for examples, most Republicans have made their peace with Medicare but resist a British-style socialist-monopoly model of health care.

But, then, most European countries resist that model, too, which is why there is no NHS-style national single-payer system in France, Germany, Sweden, etc., and no state-provided health care at all in happy, well-governed Switzerland. And this is where the ignorance of socialism as an idea with a history meets the ignorance of actual political and economic practice in the European states, particularly the Scandinavian ones, that America’s self-proclaimed democratic socialists claim to admire. Senator Sanders et al. point to countries such as Sweden and Denmark and conclude that the lesson to be learned from them is that the United States should do . . . exactly what Senator Sanders et al. always have desired and always will desire to do: enact punitive redistributive taxes notionally targeting the wealthy and corporations (as though middle-class workers, particularly in the public sector, were not major corporate shareholders through their retirement funds) while building new entrenched and centralized bureaucracies to be staffed by comfortable, highly compensated Democratic constituents.

This response to the example of Sweden — which is in many ways a well-governed and prosperous nation — makes sense only if you do not know very much about Sweden. Senator Sanders, for example, desires to radically increase the tax on inheritances for moralistic reasons. Sweden’s inheritance tax is 0.00 percent. Senator Sanders wants to centralize the provision of health care in a federally funded and federally administered cluster of bureaucracies; health care in Sweden is radically decentralized, funded and administered mostly at the local level. Left-leaning Democrats such as Senator Kamala Harris of California have criticized Republicans for not doing enough to cut middle-class taxes (Senator Harris, who does not seem to know how tax refunds work, blasted the 2017 bill as “a middle-class-tax hike”), but what in fact distinguishes the Scandinavian model (and most Western European countries) from the United States is not how they tax the rich but how they tax the middle class — which is to say: They do it. While about half of U.S. households pay no federal income tax, and middle-class households pay relatively little, middle-class earners in Denmark pay about 50 percent in taxes. Taxes in the United States are disproportionately paid by those with high incomes — disproportionately even when you take the income difference into consideration: The top 1 percent takes home less than 20 percent of total income and pays almost 40 percent of federal income taxes. Taxes in the Scandinavian countries fall heavily on the middle classes, which also are the main beneficiaries of the programs those taxes fund.

Senator Sanders is an ideologically blinkered man, and he is not an intellectually curious one. His views have been set since he was honeymooning in the Soviet Union as a young man, and his speeches and writing testify that he simply lacks the intellectual capacity for growth and change. Sweden has changed radically since the 1970s, but Bernie Sanders has stood still in time, an irritable red ant suspended in amber.

But the so-called intellectuals of the Democrats’ new socialist vanguard have no such excuse. Some of them are simply dim and poorly educated (poorly but expensively, in the case of Representative Ocasio-Cortez), but many of them are intellectually dishonest. A particularly dishonest young socialist writer with something of a following recently published an income-disparity ranking of countries that was supposed to show how the Scandinavians had cracked the inequality problem. And Northern Europe was well represented on the list, which also included France, Switzerland, New Zealand, and Estonia, among other nations, in the top ten. Which is to say, the top ten countries represented radically different modes of government, radically different health-care systems, different labor markets, and different tax systems (Switzerland, for example, does not tax capital gains, something our progressive Europhiles rarely mention), to say nothing of radically different cultures. (And many scholars of governance agree that culture is a key ingredient in the Scandinavian secret sauce.) But even among the Nordic countries, there are very large differences: Iceland, for example, has one of the world’s highest work-force-participation rates; Finland’s is down about where ours is, and ours is higher than the overall EU rate. There isn’t a single, unified policy story to be derived from all that diversity.

But that is beside the point, for the Democrats. What Senator Sanders stands for is the continuation of a very old and very dumb kind of politics: adolescent anti-Americanism. It does not matter that Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland have fundamentally different political and economic models: These countries are only rhetorical cat’s-paws deployed in the fundamental progressive project: establishing that the United States and its institutions are hopelessly corrupt, and that they may therefore be cleared away to make room for something new. In this regard, the energetically nationalistic Franklin D. Roosevelt is a poor model for them — their actual lineage traces to Woodrow Wilson, whose racism and warmongering make him an unattractive totem but whose frank rejection of the Constitution and the founding principles of the nation presages their own. In this way, the socialist renaissance may be understood as distinct from the broader progressive project but also subsumed within it. The overall economic model is essentially the Democrats’ health-care model writ large: Destroy and discredit what’s there, and then . . . improvise.

Senator Sanders, in his speech, gives some thought to the Constitution — and finds it wanting. What good is the Bill of Rights, he asks, when one must struggle so hard for mere material existence? “Are you truly free if you are forced to work 60 or 80 hours a week?” The median American work week is, as of this writing, less than 35 hours a week, significantly lower than it was in 1980. What in fact distinguishes low-income households is not on average that they have too many hours of work to do but that they have too few: Only 40 percent of the working-age poor (those below the federal poverty line) in 2014 worked at all. Among those who do work, many are involuntarily relegated to part-time or seasonal work. High-income households average more work hours, not fewer, than low-income households. The unemployment rate for those without a bachelor’s degree is twice that of those with one. The problem the poor face is not long hours at the salt mine but unemployment.

But what are a few inconvenient facts when there’s a utopia to be built?

And that is the proper context in which to understand what it is that Senator Sanders et al. stand for. They may, like Senator Elizabeth Warren, roll out 55 five-point policy proposals per hour, offering them with varying degrees of seriousness, but theirs is fundamentally a negative platform. What they hate and wish to liquidate is the system of markets, trade, law, regulation, and taxes that we call, for lack of a better term, “capitalism,” and their reasons are as much tribal (they resent the social status conferred by wealth as least as much as the political power attending it), moral, and aesthetic as they are economic. But their policy proposals are almost always the same: “Pillage the rich and create a lot of new public-sector jobs for me and my friends.” And that much has remained constant whether they call themselves liberals, progressives, or socialists.

Socialists used to care a great deal about history — “historical materialism,” they called their big metaphysical idea. Something for Senator Sanders to contemplate in his waterfront dacha.


America’s Best Defense Against Socialism

By: Matthew Continettifreebeacon.com

The United States of America has flummoxed socialists since the nineteenth century. Marx himself couldn’t quite understand why the most advanced economy in the world stubbornly refused to transition to socialism. Marxist theory predicts the immiseration of the proletariat and subsequent revolution from below. This never happened in America. Labor confronted capital throughout the late nineteenth century, often violently, but American democracy and constitutionalism withstood the clash. Socialist movements remained minority persuasions. When Eugene V. Debs ran for president in 1912, he topped out at 6 percent of the vote. Populist third-party candidates, from George Wallace in 1968 (14 percent) to Ross Perot in 1992 (19 percent) have done much better.

Keep this in mind when you read about the rebirth of socialism. Yes, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are household names. Membership in the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has spiked since 2016. Forty percent of Americans told Gallup last month that “some form of socialism” would be “a good thing for the country.” Media are filled with trend pieces describing the socialist revival. A recent issue of The Economist devoted the cover package to “Millennial socialism.” The current New Republic includes four articles about “the socialist moment.” In March, New York magazine asked, “When did everyone become a socialist?”

That question tells you more about the editors of New York than the country itself. As Karlyn Bowman of the American Enterprise Institute has observed, views toward socialism are stable. In 2010, 36 percent of respondents to the Gallup poll had a positive view of socialism. In 2018 the number was 37 percent. In 2009, 23 percent told the Fox News poll, “Moving away from capitalism and more toward socialism would be a good thing.” In 2019 the number was 24 percent. Fifty-four percent said it would be a bad thing. Gallup found that less than half of America would vote for a socialist candidate.

Socialism is in vogue because no one is sure what it is. The classic definition of abolishing private property, a planned economy, and collective ownership of the means of production no longer applies. More people today believe that socialism means “equality” than “government control.” Six percent told Gallup that socialism is “talking to people” or “being social.” The same Gallup poll that found 40 percent of the public has a positive view of socialism, however you define it, also discovered large majorities in favor of the free market leading the way on innovation, the distribution of wealth, the economy overall, and wages, and smaller majorities for free-market approaches to higher education and health care. Americans are very bad socialists.

And socialists know it. That’s why their most prominent spokesmen frame their domestic agendas in the language of the welfare state and social democracy, even as they celebrate, excuse, or defend socialist authoritarians abroad. Sanders told NPR in March, “What I mean by democratic socialism is that I want a vibrant democracy.” Okay, then—who doesn’t? The following month he told Trevor Noah that socialism “means economic rights and human rights. I believe from the bottom of my heart that health care is a human right. … To be a democratic socialist means that we believe—I believe—that human rights include a decent job, affordable housing, health care, education, and, by the way, a clean environment.” But this is not so different from FDR’s conception of the “four freedoms.” So what differentiates Sanders from a New Deal Democrat?

The less prominent socialists are somewhat more specific. Article II of the constitution of the DSA, to which Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib belong, states: “We are socialists because we share a vision of a humane social order based on popular control of resources and production, economic planning, equitable distribution, feminism, racial equality, and non-oppressive relationships.” That is closer to the traditional definition of socialism—a definition that implies a set of institutional arrangements that inevitably would limit freedom of choice.

“Our task is formidable. Democratic socialists must secure decisive majorities in legislatures while winning hegemony in the unions,” writes Bhaskar Sunkara, editor of Jacobin magazine, in his Socialist Manifesto. “Then our organizations must be willing to flex their social power in the form of mass mobilizations and political strikes to counter the structural power of capital and ensure that our leaders choose confrontation over accommodation with elites.”

Good luck with that. Before they seize control of the unions—which represent a paltry 11 percent of U.S. workers—today’s socialists will have to overcome the same barriers that thwarted their predecessors. Nowhere has “American exceptionalism” been more evident than in the fact that the United States has been the only country without a major socialist, social democratic, or Communist party. The articles celebrating the rise in DSA membership to more than 40,000 fail to mention that there are tens of millions of Republicans and Democrats. Socialist politicians, activists, and theorists neglect the shaggy-dog history of their persuasion in the United States. The historical examples in Sunkara’s book are almost entirely drawn from Europe. It’s as if history began with Sanders’s candidacy in 2016.

In fact, socialists have recognized the difficulty they face in the United States for over a century. In 1906 the German sociologist Werner Sombart devoted a monograph to answering the question, Why Is There No Socialism in the United States? Sombart noted the comparatively high and rising standard of living of American workers. “On the reefs of roast beef and apple pie,” he said, “socialistic Utopias of every sort are sent to their doom.”

American workers had won political rights earlier than their European counterparts, making them less likely to conflate civil rights with economic benefits. America’s liberal culture emphasized social mobility. The staggering racial, ethnic, and religious diversity of America made class-consciousness almost impossible. As Max Beer, an Australian socialist of the early twentieth century, wrote,

Even when the time is ripe for a Socialist movement, it can only produce one when the working people form a certain cultural unity, that is, when they have a common language, a common history, a common mode of life. This is the case in Europe, but not in the United States. Its factories, mines, farms, and the organizations based on them are composite bodies, containing the most heterogeneous elements, and lacking stability and the sentiment of solidarity.

When it comes to preventing socialism, diversity really is our strength.

The two-party system marginalizes small, independent parties and accommodates rising tendencies and programs within preexisting electoral coalitions. Most important of all, the Constitution decentralizes and diffuses power, making it extremely difficult to expand drastically the power of the state in the name of social justice.

In 1967, Daniel Bell offered an additional explanation for the weakness of American socialism: “At one crucial turning point after another,” he wrote in Marxian Socialism in the United States, “when the socialist movement could have entered more directly into American life—as did so many individual socialists who played a formative role in liberal political development—it was prevented from doing so by its ideological dogmatism.”

All of these various obstacles remain in place. In January, Gallup found that 77 percent of Americans are happy “with the overall quality of life in the U.S.” Sixty-five percent are satisfied with the “opportunity for a person to get ahead by working hard.” Fifty-three percent like the “influence of organized religion.” We have the best employment situation in half a century. Real disposable income continues to rise. Last year the Congressional Budget Office reported that all Americans have enjoyed an increase of post-tax income since 1979. “It’s doubtful that most Americans would prefer to revert to the world as it was in 1979,” wrote Robert Samuelson, “a world without smartphones, the Internet, most cable television, or laparoscopic surgery,” and with the Soviet Union.

The United States is far more heterogeneous than it was 40 years ago. The success of identity politics and “woke capitalism” underscores the difficulty of making the sort of class-based appeals Sanders learned at meetings of the Young People’s Socialist League. Americans put their familial, racial, ethnic, and religious attachments ahead of membership in an income or occupational group. Besides, some 70 percent of America considers itself middle class.

One of the reasons the socialist and socialist-curious candidates in the Democratic primary have been arguing against the Electoral College and for expanding the Supreme Court is they understand the challenge the Constitution poses to their dreams. The type of centralization and bureaucratic administration socialism requires is incompatible with a system of federalism, checks and balances, and enumerated powers. Fortunately, structural change is extremely difficult in our vast and squabbling country. It was meant to be.

The self-defeating tendencies toward radicalism and sectarianism are also visible. Expanding government to provide more resources to the poor is popular; eliminating private and employer-based insurance is not. Protecting the environment and reducing carbon emissions is popular; abolishing air travel and declaring war on cows is not. More money for teachers is popular; freezing support for charter schools, as Sanders called for this week, is not. DSA member Doug Henwood writes in the New Republic of a split emerging within the organization between “Bread and Roses” and the “Socialist Majority Caucus.” The narcissism of small differences has doomed such movements in the past.

Note also that Sanders has faded in recent weeks after Democratic voters encountered a viable non-socialist alternative in Joe Biden. Ocasio-Cortez’s favorability is underwater. Medicare for All polls well with voters in the abstract—when they assume it means simply more of the current Medicare program—but support falls as soon as they hear about the conformity and control it will entail.

The good news is America contains antibodies against socialism. As Seymour Martin Lipset and Gary Marks wrote in 2000, “Features of the United States that Tocqueville, and many others since, have focused on include its relatively high levels of social egalitarianism, economic productivity, and social mobility (particularly into elite strata), alongside the strength of religion, the weakness of the central state, the earlier timing of electoral democracy, ethnic and racial diversity, and the absence of feudal remnants, especially fixed social classes.” The title of Lipset and Marks’s book is It Didn’t HappenHere. And as long as we uphold and defend the political and cultural elements that make America exceptional, it won’t.


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