Sunday, September 18, 2011

Progressivism and The Moral Equivalent of War

In 1906, William James wrote an essay titled "The Moral Equivalent of War". Here's an excerpt of what he has written: (Audiobook)

I spoke of the "moral equivalent" of war. So far, war has been the only force that can discipline a whole community, and until and equivalent discipline is organized, I believe that war must have its way. But I have no serious doubt that the ordinary prides and shames of social man, once developed to a certain intensity, are capable of organizing such a moral equivalent as I have sketched, or some other just as effective for preserving manliness of type. It is but a question of time, of skilful propogandism, and of opinion-making men seizing historic opportunities.

Teddy Roosevelt's moral equivalent of war - war on the trusts. Wilson's moral equivalent of war - the war on alcohol. FDR declared war on the great depression in his first inaugural. We've had the war on poverty, a war on illiteracy was declared, the war on drugs, the war on cancer, and the war on energy dependence. When Jimmy Carter declared this war, he even went so far as to use the exact name of James' essay:(Carter speech April 18th, 1977)

The most important thing about these proposals is that the alternative may be a national catastrophe. Further delay can affect our strength and our power as a nation.

Our decision about energy will test the character of the American people and the ability of the President and the Congress to govern. This difficult effort will be the "moral equivalent of war" -- except that we will be uniting our efforts to build and not destroy.

I know that some of you may doubt that we face real energy shortages. The 1973 gasoline lines are gone, and our homes are warm again. But our energy problem is worse tonight than it was in 1973 or a few weeks ago in the dead of winter. It is worse because more waste has occurred, and more time has passed by without our planning for the future. And it will get worse every day until we act.

Progressives have used for generations this 'moral equivalent' of war in order to steal our liberty away from us. The Patriot Act was written by our current vice president, then a senator. Is it any wonder that out of the war on terror we've gotten our very own American Комитет государственной безопасности​? That's Russian for The Committee for State Security. Sounds eerily like the Department for Homeland Security, doesn't it? And now they're going so far as to grope us at airports. What's that got to do with the war on terror? Well, nothing, if your goal is to keep Americans safe from terrorists. But if your goal is to take the liberty away from Americans, then groping Americans has more to do with the war on terror than any military operation we've conducted over seas. How are you looking at this? As William James originally wrote, "war has been the only force that can discipline a whole community". Have we been disciplined to accept groping at the airports? Disciplined to accept wealth redistribution under the guise of helping the poor? Disciplined to accept energy policies that result in less resources and higher prices instead of the opposite? Not all of us have, sure. But enough Americans are at a minimum just going along with it so as to keep the program going. Long term, that will condition people to get used to it.

The moral equivalent of war works after all. Just as William James knew it would. And in all cases, we see the same thing. You and I lose our liberty, government gains more control. And it's important to keep all of this in perspective. Using the moral equivalent of war as a ploy works so well because these are all such noble causes. Nobody wants their families destroyed by the scourge of drugs. Nobody wants more planes flown into buildings, or to see school busses and shopping malls targeted by suicide bombers. Cancer is no good, neither is illiteracy. But the last couple of decades have shown without a doubt that more government intervention makes things worse, not better. The more the planning fails, the more the planners plan. These are issues that we the people need to solve.

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