Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Big Lie: Liberty today is "Economic Liberty"

In "The New Democracy", by Walter Weyl, the following is written: (page 163-164)
All the inspiring texts of democracy fall into nonsense or worse when given a strict individualistic interpretation. "Government should rest upon the consent of the governed" is a great political truth, if by "the governed" is meant the whole people, or an effective majority of the people; but if each individual governed retains the right at all times to withhold his consent, government and social union itself become impossible. So, too, the phrase "taxation without representation is tyranny," if interpreted strictly in an individualistic sense, leads to the theory that government should be in the hands of property owners, that they who pay the piper (in taxes) should set the tune, that they who are without "a stake in the country" should not participate, or at least not equally, in a government designed to raise money and to expend it.

First, we have the watering down of the actual struggle of liberty and tyranny that individuals have faced. Then we have the watering down of "democracy" by qualifying it and re-categorizing it as "social democracy":

In the socialized democracy towards which we are moving, all these conceptions will fall to the ground. It will be sought to make taxes conform more or less to the ability of each to pay; but the engine of taxation, like all other social engines, will be used to accomplish great social ends, among which will be the more equal distribution of income. The state will tax to improve education, health, recreation, communication, "to provide for the common defense, and promote the general welfare," and from these taxes no social group will be immune because it fails to benefit in proportion to cost. The government of the nation, in the hands of the: people, will establish its unquestioned sovereignty over the industry of the nation, so largely in the hands of individuals. The political liberties of the people will be supplemented by other provisions which will safeguard their industrial liberties.

We have the continued watering down of Liberty by re-categorizing it as "industrial liberty", and then we see how it all fits together:

To-day the chief restrictions upon liberty are economic, not legal, and the chief prerogatives desired are economic, not political. It is a curious, but not inexplicable, development, moreover, that our constitutional provisions, safeguarding our political liberties, are often used to deprive us of economic liberties. The constitutional provision that "no one shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law" has seldom prevented an Alabama Negro from illegally being sent to the chain gang, but it has often prevented the people of a State from securing relief from great interstate corporations. The restraints upon the liberty of the poor are to-day economic. A law forbidding a woman to work in the textile mills at night is a law increasing rather than restricting her liberty, simply because it takes from the employer his former right to compel her through sheer economic pressure to work at night when she would prefer to work by day. So a law against adulteration of food products increases the economic liberty of food purchasers, as a tenement house law increases the liberty of tenement dwellers.

This bastardization of reality and the language itself comes right out of The Road to Serfdom. Because Progressives hid themselves so well, it's a sad fact that Hayek's Road to Serfdom is all about progressivism, without ever properly calling them out by name. From Chapter 14 of Hayek's Road to Serfdom: (page 207, chapter 14)

The "End of Economic Man" bids fair to become one of the governing myths of our age. Before we accept this claim, or treat the change as praiseworthy, we must inquire a little further how far it is true. When we consider the claims for social reconstruction which are most strongly pressed it appears that they are almost all economic in character: we have seen already that the "re-interpretation in economic terms" of the political ideals of the past, of liberty, equality, and security, is one of the main demands of people who at the same time proclaim the end of economic man.

Again, at the beginning of chapter 9: (page 123)

Like the spurious "economic freedom", and with more justice, economic security is often represented as an indispensable condition of real liberty. In a sense this is both true and important. Independence of mind or strength of character are rarely found among those who cannot be confident that they will make their way by their own effort. Yet the idea of economic security is no less vague and ambiguous than most other terms in this field; and because of this the general approval given to the demand for security may become a danger to liberty. Indeed, when security is understood in too absolute a sense, the general striving for it, far from increasing the chances of freedom, becomes the gravest threat to it.

All of this is easy to understand, especially when you throw wealth redistribution into the mix. (which Weyl plainly calls for in what I quoted) If the government has the power to steal the wealth of some, it has the power to steal it from all. In that, there is not a free citizen in the society with which you are discussing. All are slaves under a regime capable of redistribution.

Weyl writes one more relevant passage: (page 164-165)

In two respects, the democracy towards which we are striving differs from that of to-day. Firstly, the democracy of to-morrow, being a real and not a merely formal democracy, does not content itself with the mere right to vote, with political immunities, and generalizations about the rights of men. Secondly, it is a plenary, socialized democracy, emphasizing social rather than merely individual aims, and carrying over its ideals from the political into the industrial and social fields.

Because of this wideness of its aims, the new spirit, in a curiously cautious, conservative way, is profoundly revolutionary. The mind of the people slowly awakens to the realization of the people's needs; the new social spirit gradually undermines the crust of inherited and promulgated ideas; the rising popular will overflows old barriers and converts former institutions to new uses. It is a deep-lying, potent, swelling movement. It is not noiseless, for rotten iron cracks with a great sound, and clamor accompanies the decay of profit-yielding privileges. It is not uncontested, for men, threatened with the loss of a tithe of their pretensions, sometimes fight harder than the wholly disinherited. It does not proceed everywhere at equal pace; the movement is not uniform nor uninterrupted. And yet, measured by decades, or even by years, the revolution grows.

These progressives know exactly what they are doing. Abusing the language, completely re-working society in their own image. It's not accidental, it's systematic.

This idea that today's liberty is economic is a very important foundational cornerstone, and it's something that most if not all progressives believe. What is an "Economic Bill of Rights" if not a testament to the belief that liberty today is economic in nature? FDR's new bill of rights is something that progressives have salivated over since he proposed it.(And as Weyl's 1912 book makes clear, they salivated over this before he proposed it) Richard Trumka has called for the Second Bill of Rights, Cass Sunstein claimed that Obama is a fan if it, and he himself favors it as well.

"Economic liberty" is what enables a large portion of the progressive programme. In order to have class warfare, you have to harbor the belief of economic liberty. Why are the rich evil? They threaten liberty by hoarding it all. See how this works? You never have to even entertain the concept of "earnings" with this, because liberty is greater than earnings. Economic Liberty enables wealth redistribution, in FDR's own words: "Necessitous men are not free men". You have to steal from one and give to another, in order to make sure that the necessitous stop needing, he even went further than "need" and proclaimed a "freedom from want". And of course, from here, the door is opened to the welfare state and all of this which is currently bankrupting our society.

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