Conservative Colloquium

An Intellectual Forum for All Things Conservative

Archive for the ‘Socialism’ Category

“What causes poverty?” is the Wrong Question!

Posted by Tony Listi on April 10, 2008

Watch http://www.isi.org/lectures/lectures.aspx?SBy=search&SSub=title&SFor=poverty

“What causes poverty?” is the wrong question! The real, more useful question we should be asking ourselves is “What causes wealth?” If half the world lives on less than $2 a day, we should naturally ask “What happened to the other half?” From these better questions, we can seek solutions rather than people to blame.

The question “What causes poverty?” seems to imply that wealth is the status quo and poverty is somehow a deviation from that norm. But even a cursory look at history shows this to be a ridiculous premise. History is not the story of how some people become poor but how some people escaped from poverty, the real human norm, and thus became wealthy. I think this a crucial difference of paradigm between the liberal/socialist/communist/Marxist perspective and the conservative/libertarian perspective.

So what causes wealth? Capitalism; free, competitive, and international markets. But that is not all and maybe not even the most important element. Capitalism cannot exist without certain supporting institutions (governmental, financial, social, religious, etc.) and cultural norms that have developed in the West.

Advertisements

Posted in Africa, American Culture, Economics, Foreign Aid, Free Trade, Government and Politics, Liberalism, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Poverty, Socialism, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Mandated Giving Doesn’t Come from the Heart

Posted by Tony Listi on March 11, 2008

My fellow Christians, take heed!

http://www.acton.org/publications/randl/rl_174article04.php  

By Robert A. Sirico

It seems that some Biblical fallacies never go away, especially as regards redistribution and the poor. Hardly a day passes when I don’t hear some version of the following: The Gospels speak clearly on the issue of the poor. They must be cared for. Special obligation falls to the rich who have the resources to care for them. This country has programs in place that are designed to do just that. Therefore, Christians have an obligation to politically support these programs.

The problem here is the slick move from personal ethics to public policy. What is required of us as individuals may or may not translate into a civic policy priority. In the case of the welfare state, it is possible to argue that it does great good (though I would dispute that). Whether it does or does not, however, a government program effects nothing toward fulfilling the Gospel requirement that we give of our own time and income toward assisting the poor.

The reason has to do with matters of the human heart. If we are required to do anything by law, and thereby forced by public authority to undertake some action, we comply because we must. That we go along with the demand is no great credit to our sense of humanitarianism or charity. The impulse here is essentially one of fear: we know that if we fail to give, we will find ourselves on the wrong side of the state.

Remember that the government has no money, no resources, of its own. Everything it has it must take from the private sector, which is the engine of wealth creation. If we can imagine a world in which there is no private sector at all, we can know with certainty that it would be a world of bare subsistence at best: universal impoverishment.

Wealthy societies today can afford to create large welfare states while avoiding that fate. But let us never forget the funds that make it possible do not appear as if by magic. They are taken from others without their active consent except in the most abstract sense that people might vote for them.

I cannot see how this method of redistributing wealth has anything to do with the Gospel. Jesus never called on public authority to enact welfare programs. He never demanded that his followers form a political movement to tax and spend. Nor did he say that the property of the rich must always be forcibly expropriated. He called for a change in the human heart, not a change in legislation. There is a massive difference.

There are other grave dangers in confusing the welfare state with personal charitable obligation. The more people hear that the welfare state discharges their moral mandate to give, the more these programs crowd genuine charity. “I gave at the office,” becomes the attitude. This is essentially what was behind the comment by Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol when he dismissed his need to be charitable. “Are there no poorhouses?”

There are further problems. The programs are not effective over the long term. They generate dependency and bureaucracy. They create upside-down incentives. But leaving all that aside, the core message here is that, from a moral point of view, they do not fulfill the criterion that the Gospels specify for generosity, which must come from within and cannot be imposed from the top down.

Rev. Robert A. Sirico is president of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Posted in American Culture, Budget, Spending, and Taxes, Christianity and Politics, Economics, Government and Politics, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Poverty, Socialism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Inequality Myth

Posted by Tony Listi on March 10, 2008

http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_ID=15682 

While figures from the U.S. Census give some substance to the fears of widening inequality and middle-class stagnation, the situation is not nearly as clear-cut, says Brad Schiller, a professor of economics at American University and the University of Nevada, Reno.

In its latest report, the Census Bureau tracked changes in incomes all the way back to 1967.  Two observations grabbed the headlines.

First:

  • The data indicate that the top-earning 20 percent of households get half of all the income generated in the country, while the lowest-earning 20 percent of households get a meager 3.4 percent.
  • That disparity has widened over time; in 1970, their respective shares were 43.3 percent and 4.1 percent.
  • These income-share numbers buttress the popular notion that the “rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer.”

Second:

  • The median household income in 2006 was $48,201, just a trifle ahead of its 1998 level ($48,034).
  • That seems to confirm the Democrat candidate’s claims of middle-class stagnation.

Demographic changes in the size and composition of U.S. households have distorted the statistics in important ways, explains Schiller:

  • All the Census Bureau tells us is that the share of the pie consumed by the poor has been shrinking (to 3.4 percent in 2006 from 4.1 percent in 1970); but the “pie” has grown enormously.
  • This year’s real gross domestic product (GDP) of $14 trillion is three times that of 1970. So the absolute size of the slice received by the bottom 20 percent has increased to $476 billion from $181 billion.
  • Allowing for population growth shows that the average income of people at the bottom of the income distribution has risen 36 percent.

They’re not rich, but they’re certainly not poorer.  In reality, economic growth has raised incomes across the board, says Schiller.

Source: Brad Schiller, “The Inequality Myth,” Wall Street Journal, March 10, 2008.

For text:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120511125873823431.html  

For more on Economic Issues:

http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_Category=17

Posted in Government and Politics, Poverty, Socialism | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Democracy as a Form of Capitalism (and vice versa)

Posted by Tony Listi on March 5, 2008

It is no coincidence that democracy (or democratic republicanism to be precise) and capitalism have been joined at the hip throughout history, especially in the West. Democracy is the political formulation of capitalism; capitalism is the economic formulation of democracy. They arose together and they will fall together.

Whether one is talking about politics or economics, the key fundamental question will always be: who is in control? Who has the power? And there will always be only two possible answers to this question: either many people have power or very few have power.

In a democracy, many people have power. They vote in elections and choose their leaders or approve legislation be referendum. Power is diffuse and divided among all the people. There is accountability: government officials who do not serve well are replaced by someone else at the next election. In all other forms of government, power is more concentrated because it is in fewer hands, and they are the hands of government officials or those who can control government officials.

Under free market capitalism too, many people have power rather than a few. Consumers (which is all of us) have the freedom of choice to buy something or not. Similar to political power in a democracy, economic power under capitalism is diffuse and divided among all consumers. Like democratically elected officials who must satisfy their constituents, producers (from small businesses to corporations) who want to prosper must meet the needs and desires of consumers. In all other economic systems (e.g. socialism), those with political power (or just the power of the sword in general) seize the economic power and freedom of the people and dictate production (i.e. quotas) and consumption (i.e. rationing) to the rest of society, just as a tyrant would dictate laws to his subjects.

The common denominator between democracy and capitalism is freedom, freedom from centralized power and control. What many Americans don’t seem to realize is that political freedom and economic freedom cannot be separated. In order to take away your economic freedom to give you a false sense of economic security, the government necessarily usurps more political power to itself as well so that it can actually be able to enforce its economic dictates. The equalizers are never equal in political power to those they equalize. This means less political power for you. Power is a zero sum game; there is only so much political power to go around, so that one person’s gain is another’s loss. But wealth is not a zero sum game; the pie can grow under a system of freedom, so that one person’s slice is not at another’s expense because value is always being voluntarily exchanged.

Thus political and economic freedom are intimately intertwined and thus inseparable. So don’t believe liberal Democrats when they tell you that you will have more freedom or security with more government intervention and mangement of the economy. You will have neither freedom nor security: freedom is our security because freedom allows for accountability through checks and balances.

I would like to end with the wisdom of Milton Friedman:

“Economic freedom is an essential requisite for political freedom. By enabling people to cooperate with one another without coercion or central direction, it reduces the area over which political power is exercised. In addition, by dispersing power, the free market provides an offset to whatever concentration of power may arise. The combination of economic and political power in the same hands is a sure recipe for tyranny. The combination of economic and political freedom produced a golden age in both Great Britain and the United States in the nineteeth century.”

“Majority rule is a necessary and desirable expedient. It is, however, very different from the kind of freedom you have when you shop at a supermarket. When you enter the voting booth once a year, you almost always vote for a package rather than for specific items. If you are in the majority, you will at best get both the items you favored and the ones you opposed but regarded as on balance less important. Generally, you end up with something different from what you thought you voted for. If you are in the minority, you must conform to the majority vote and wait for your turn to come. When you vote daily in the supermarket, you get precisely what you voted for, and so does everyone else. The ballot box produces conformity without unanimity; the marketplace, unanimity without conformity. That is why it is desirable to use the ballot box, so far as possible, only for those decisions where conformity is essential.”

“The economic controls that have proliferated in the United States in recent decades have not only restricted our freedom to use our economic resources, they have also affected our freedom of speech, of press, and of religion…. [F]reedom is one whole, that anything that reduces freedom in one part of our lives is likely to affect freedom in the other parts.”

“Ironically, the very success of economic and political freedom reduced its appeal to later thinkers. The narrowly limited government of the late nineteenth century possessed little conentrated power that endangered the ordinary man. The other side of that coin was that it possessed little power that would enable good people to do good. And in an imperfect world there were still many evils. Indeed, the very progress of society made the residual evils seem all the more objectionable. As always, people took the favorable developments for granted. They forgot the danger to freedom from a strong government. Instead, they were attracted by the good that a stronger government could achieve –if only government power were in the ‘right’ hands.”

“[N]o society that has ever achieved prosperity and freedom unless voluntary exchange has been its dominant principle of organization…. Wherever we find any large element of individual freedom, some measure of progress in the material comforts at the disposal of ordinary citizens, and the widespread hope of further progress in the future, there we also find that economic activity is organized mainly through the free market. Wherever the state undertakes to control in detail the economic activities of its citizens, whevever, that is, detailed central economic planning reigns, there ordinary citizens are in political fetters, have a low standard of living, and have little power to control their own destiny.”

“A society that puts equality–in the sense of equality of outcome–ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom. The use of force to acheive equality will destroy freedom, and the force, introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests. On the other hand, a society that puts freedom first will, as a happy by-product, end up with both greater freedom and greater equality. Though a by-product of freedom, greater quality is not an accident. A free society releases the energies and abilities of people to pursue their own objectives. It prevents some people from arbitrarily suppressing others. It does not prevent some people from achieving positions of privilege, but so long as freedom is maintained, it prevents those positions of privilege from becoming institutionalized; they are subject to continued attack by other able, ambitious people. Freedom means diversity but also mobility. It preserves the opportunity for today’s disadvantaged to become tomorrow’s privileged and, in the process, enables almost everyone, from top to bottom, to enjoy a fuller and richer life.”

Posted in American Culture, Budget, Spending, and Taxes, Economics, Government and Politics, Political Philosophy, Quotes, Socialism, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Obama’s Communist Mentor

Posted by Tony Listi on February 27, 2008

http://www.aim.org/aim-column/obamas-communist-mentor

 By Cliff Kincaid  |  February 18, 2008

In his biography of Barack Obama, David Mendell writes about Obama’s life as a “secret smoker” and how he “went to great lengths to conceal the habit.” But what about Obama’s secret political life? It turns out that Obama’s childhood mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, was a communist.

In his books, Obama admits attending “socialist conferences” and coming into contact with Marxist literature. But he ridicules the charge of being a “hard-core academic Marxist,” which was made by his colorful and outspoken 2004 U.S. Senate opponent, Republican Alan Keyes.

However, through Frank Marshall Davis, Obama had an admitted relationship with someone who was publicly identified as a member of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA). The record shows that Obama was in Hawaii from 1971-1979, where, at some point in time, he developed a close relationship, almost like a son, with Davis, listening to his “poetry” and getting advice on his career path. But Obama, in his book, Dreams From My Father, refers to him repeatedly as just “Frank.”

The reason is apparent: Davis was a known communist who belonged to a party subservient to the Soviet Union. In fact, the 1951 report of the Commission on Subversive Activities to the Legislature of the Territory of Hawaii identified him as a CPUSA member. What’s more, anti-communist congressional committees, including the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), accused Davis of involvement in several communist-front organizations.

Trevor Loudon, a New Zealand-based libertarian activist, researcher and blogger, noted evidence that “Frank” was Frank Marshall Davis in a posting in March of 2007.

Obama’s communist connection adds to mounting public concern about a candidate who has come out of virtually nowhere, with a brief U.S. Senate legislative record, to become the Democratic Party frontrunner for the U.S. presidency. In the latest Real Clear Politics poll average, Obama beats Republican John McCain by almost four percentage points.

AIM recently disclosed that Obama has well-documented socialist connections, which help explain why he sponsored a “Global Poverty Act” designed to send hundreds of billions of dollars of U.S. foreign aid to the rest of the world, in order to meet U.N. demands. The bill has passed the House and a Senate committee, and awaits full Senate action.

But the Communist Party connection through Davis is even more ominous. Decades ago, the CPUSA had tens of thousands of members, some of them covert agents who had penetrated the U.S. Government. It received secret subsidies from the old Soviet Union.

You won’t find any of this discussed in the David Mendell book, Obama: From Promise to Power. It is typical of the superficial biographies of Obama now on the market. Secret smoking seems to be Obama’s most controversial activity. At best, Mendell and the liberal media describe Obama as “left-leaning.”

But you will find it briefly discussed, sort of, in Obama’s own book, Dreams From My Father. He writes about “a poet named Frank,” who visited them in Hawaii, read poetry, and was full of “hard-earned knowledge” and advice. Who was Frank? Obama only says that he had “some modest notoriety once,” was “a contemporary of Richard Wright and Langston Hughes during his years in Chicago…” but was now “pushing eighty.” He writes about “Frank and his old Black Power dashiki self” giving him advice before he left for Occidental College in 1979 at the age of 18.

This “Frank” is none other than Frank Marshall Davis, the black communist writer now considered by some to be in the same category of prominence as Maya Angelou and Alice Walker. In the summer/fall 2003 issue of African American Review, James A. Miller of George Washington University reviews a book by John Edgar Tidwell, a professor at the University of Kansas, about Davis’s career, and notes, “In Davis’s case, his political commitments led him to join the American Communist Party during the middle of World War II-even though he never publicly admitted his Party membership.” Tidwell is an expert on the life and writings of Davis.

Is it possible that Obama did not know who Davis was when he wrote his book, Dreams From My Father, first published in 1995? That’s not plausible since Obama refers to him as a contemporary of Richard Wright and Langston Hughes and says he saw a book of his black poetry.

The communists knew who “Frank” was, and they know who Obama is. In fact, one academic who travels in communist circles understands the significance of the Davis-Obama relationship.

Professor Gerald Horne, a contributing editor of the Communist Party journal Political Affairs, talked about it during a speech last March at the reception of the Communist Party USA archives at the Tamiment Library at New York University. The remarks are posted online under the headline, “Rethinking the History and Future of the Communist Party.”

Horne, a history professor at the University of Houston, noted that Davis, who moved to Honolulu from Kansas in 1948 “at the suggestion of his good friend Paul Robeson,” came into contact with Barack Obama and his family and became the young man’s mentor, influencing Obama’s sense of identity and career moves. Robeson, of course, was the well-known black actor and singer who served as a member of the CPUSA and apologist for the old Soviet Union. Davis had known Robeson from his time in Chicago.

As Horne describes it, Davis “befriended” a “Euro-American family” that had “migrated to Honolulu from Kansas and a young woman from this family eventually had a child with a young student from Kenya East Africa who goes by the name of Barack Obama, who retracing the steps of Davis eventually decamped to Chicago.”

It was in Chicago that Obama became a “community organizer” and came into contact with more far-left political forces, including the Democratic Socialists of America, which maintains close ties to European socialist groups and parties through the Socialist International (SI), and two former members of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), William Ayers and Carl Davidson.

The SDS laid siege to college campuses across America in the 1960s, mostly in order to protest the Vietnam War, and spawned the terrorist Weather Underground organization. Ayers was a member of the terrorist group and turned himself in to authorities in 1981. He is now a college professor and served with Obama on the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago. Davidson is now a figure in the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, an offshoot of the old Moscow-controlled CPUSA, and helped organize the 2002 rally where Obama came out against the Iraq War.

Both communism and socialism trace their roots to Karl Marx, co-author of the Communist Manifesto, who endorsed the first meeting of the Socialist International, then called the “First International.” According to Pierre Mauroy, president of the SI from 1992-1996, “It was he [Marx] who formally launched it, gave the inaugural address and devised its structure…”

Apparently unaware that Davis had been publicly named as a CPUSA member, Horne said only that Davis “was certainly in the orbit of the CP [Communist Party]-if not a member…”

In addition to Tidwell’s book, Black Moods: Collected Poems of Frank Marshall Davis, confirming Davis’s Communist Party membership, another book, The New Red Negro: The Literary Left and African American Poetry, 1930-1946, names Davis as one of several black poets who continued to publish in CPUSA-supported publications after the 1939 Hitler-Stalin non-aggression pact. The author, James Edward Smethurst, associate professor of Afro-American studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, says that Davis, however, would later claim that he was “deeply troubled” by the pact.

While blacks such as Richard Wright left the CPUSA, it is not clear if or when Davis ever left the party.

However, Obama writes in Dreams From My Father that he saw “Frank” only a few days before he left Hawaii for college, and that Davis seemed just as radical as ever. Davis called college “An advanced degree in compromise” and warned Obama not to forget his “people” and not to “start believing what they tell you about equal opportunity and the American way and all that shit.” Davis also complained about foot problems, the result of “trying to force African feet into European shoes,” Obama wrote.

For his part, Horne says that Obama’s giving of credit to Davis will be important in history. “At some point in the future, a teacher will add to her syllabus Barack’s memoir and instruct her students to read it alongside Frank Marshall Davis’ equally affecting memoir, Living the Blues and when that day comes, I’m sure a future student will not only examine critically the Frankenstein monsters that US imperialism created in order to subdue Communist parties but will also be moved to come to this historic and wonderful archive in order to gain insight on what has befallen this complex and intriguing planet on which we reside,” he said.

Dr. Kathryn Takara, a professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa who also confirms that Davis is the “Frank” in Obama’s book, did her dissertation on Davis and spent much time with him between 1972 until he passed away in 1987.

In an analysis posted online, she notes that Davis, who was a columnist for the Honolulu Record, brought “an acute sense of race relations and class struggle throughout America and the world” and that he openly discussed subjects such as American imperialism, colonialism and exploitation. She described him as a “socialist realist” who attacked the work of the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Davis, in his own writings, had said that Robeson and Harry Bridges, the head of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and a secret member of the CPUSA, had suggested that he take a job as a columnist with the Honolulu Record “and see if I could do something for them.” The ILWU was organizing workers there and Robeson’s contacts were “passed on” to Davis, Takara writes.

Takara says that Davis “espoused freedom, radicalism, solidarity, labor unions, due process, peace, affirmative action, civil rights, Negro History week, and true Democracy to fight imperialism, colonialism, and white supremacy. He urged coalition politics.”

Is “coalition politics” at work in Obama’s rise to power?

Trevor Loudon, the New Zealand-based blogger who has been analyzing the political forces behind Obama and specializes in studying the impact of Marxist and leftist political organizations, notes that Frank Chapman, a CPUSA supporter, has written a letter to the party newspaper hailing the Illinois senator’s victory in the Iowa caucuses.

“Obama’s victory was more than a progressive move; it was a dialectical leap ushering in a qualitatively new era of struggle,” Chapman wrote. “Marx once compared revolutionary struggle with the work of the mole, who sometimes burrows so far beneath the ground that he leaves no trace of his movement on the surface. This is the old revolutionary ‘mole,’ not only showing his traces on the surface but also breaking through.”

Let’s challenge the liberal media to report on this. Will they have the honesty and integrity to do so?

Posted in Elections and Campaigns, Socialism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Marxism/Feminism/Liberalism and the Family

Posted by Tony Listi on February 25, 2008

It Takes a Family to Raise a Village: The Significance of the Family for the Free Society

http://www.isi.org/lectures/lectures.aspx?SBy=search&SSub=title&SFor=Social%20Significance

http://www.isi.org/lectures/text/pdf/t000212_morse_013008.pdf  

Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D. left a tenured position in the Economics Department at George Mason University to move with her husband and children to California in 1996. She is now the Senior Research Fellow in Economics at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.

Posted in American Culture, Feminism, Government and Politics, Socialism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pope Dissects and Denounces Socialism

Posted by Tony Listi on February 2, 2008

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Faith and policy

Benedict dissects problem with socialism

Fr. Robert Sirico

Pope Benedict XVI has delivered a wonderful — and oh-so-needed — reminder of what socialism was (and is), and why it went wrong.

Large swaths of American academia are in denial. So too are major parts of the American and European clerical class, which is still under the impression that socialism represents a gospel ideal that has yet to be tried.

Benedict explains this in his encyclical Spe Salvi(“in hope we are saved”).

The pope concentrates on Karl Marx in particular. Here was an intellectual who imagined that salvation could occur without God, and that something approximating the Kingdom of God on earth could be created by adjusting the material conditions of man.

History, in Marx’s view, was nothing but the crashes and grinding of these material forces. There was no such thing as a fixed human nature.

Marx said the expropriated working classes must take back what is rightfully theirs from the exploiting capitalist classes.

Benedict sums the fundamental error with Marx neatly:

“He showed precisely how to overthrow the existing order, but he did not say how matters should proceed thereafter. He simply presumed that with the expropriation of the ruling class, with the fall of political power and the socialization of means of production, the new Jerusalem would be realized. Then, indeed, all contradictions would be resolved, man and the world would finally sort themselves out.”

Having accomplished the revolution in Russia, Vladimir Lenin must have realized that the writings of the master gave no indication as to how to proceed. Marx had only spoken of the interim phase of the dictatorship of the proletariat as a necessity which in time would automatically become redundant.

What resulted is that millions of Russians died in famine and wholesale slaughter. It became clear to Lenin that he had to back away, lest there be no one left to rule. But the dictatorship continued. So too did the poverty relative to capitalist nations.

So the pope has put the problems of economics exactly in the right light: The practical issue needs to be settled within a sound morality and understanding of human nature. Socialism fails because it has no system for pricing factors of production to make economic calculation possible. Prices come from the exchange of the very private property with which socialism dispenses.

And yet the moral problem with socialism is more profound: It exalts theft as an ethic and overlooks the human right of freedom.

Would that every Catholic interested in economics would read this encyclical. Some are getting the message already: The Catholic Church in Venezuela worked against Hugo Chavez’s dangerous plan for nationalization and regimentation of economic life. Someday, the world will come to learn the lessons that the history of socialism has taught.

Father Robert Sirico is president of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty in Grand Rapids. Fax letters to (313) 222-6417 or e-mail them to letters@detnews.com.

Posted in American Culture, Economics, Government and Politics, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Socialism | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Real Story of Thanksgiving: Thankful for Capitalism

Posted by Tony Listi on November 22, 2007

If you were like me, what we were taught in school was that the Pilgrims came over, and they were just overwhelmed; they were swamped; they had no clue where they were; they had no clue how to feed themselves; they had to clue how to protect themselves; they had no idea how to stay warm; they had no idea how to do anything.  They were just typical, dumb white people fleeing some other place they couldn’t manage to live in.  And then, out of the woods came the wonderful Indians, who had great compassion, they were at one with the land, they were at one with the spirits, and they saw these incompetent, dupe white people dressed up in these odd, stupid, black and white hats and suits, and they befriended us, and they taught us how to plant corn and how to catch beasts and how to skin beavers to stay warm, and Thanksgiving is where we give thanks to the Indians….

Of course the rest of the Thanksgiving story is that after the Indians saved the white people, who, after all, did what?  They brought syphilis, sexually transmitted diseases, gongorrhea, as had I high school health teacher pronounced it, racism, bigotry, homophobia, all these things.  Then what are we going to do to show our gratitude?  Then we had the guts to swindle ’em out of Manhattan for 24 bucks, and then we stole their land, and we stole their horses, and we moved ’em away from the various things that they had used religiously, peyote and so forth, and they got sick.  So then we put ’em in reservations, and after awhile we felt guilty and let ’em run all the casinos outside of Las Vegas and Atlantic City.  Well, that is not the true story of Thanksgiving….

How many of you believe that we actually swindled Indians when we bought Manhattan from them?  I’ve always thought that ’til I read this book.  It’s called Commissioner Roosevelt: The Story of Theodore Roosevelt and the New York City Police, 1895 to 1897, by H. Paul Jeffers.  And here is the relevant paragraph:  “A persuasive case can be made that the city of New York began with a swindle. For generations school children have been taught that a slick trick was played on unsuspecting Indians by the director of the Dutch West India Company, Peter Minuit. In 1626 he purchased the island of ‘Manna-hatin’ for sixty gilders worth of trinkets, about twenty-four dollars. What Minuit did not know at the time, however, was that his masterful real estate deal had been struck with the Canarsie tribe, residents of Long Island; they held no title to the land they sold to the Dutch. In due course, the intruders from Amsterdam who thought they had pulled a sharp one on the locals were forced into negotiating a second, more costly deal with the true landlords.”  So it was the Indians that pulled the real estate scam when they sold Manhattan because the ones that sold it didn’t own it.  We got taken….

Now, the real story of Thanksgiving: “On August 1, 1620, the Mayflower set sail. It carried a total of 102 passengers, including forty Pilgrims led by William Bradford. On the journey, Bradford set up an agreement, a contract, that established just and equal laws for all members of the new community, irrespective of their religious beliefs. Where did the revolutionary ideas expressed in the Mayflower Compact come from? From the Bible,” and this is what’s not taught. This is what’s left out. “The Pilgrims were a people completely steeped in the lessons of the Old and New Testaments. They looked to the ancient Israelites for their example. And, because of the biblical precedents set forth in Scripture, they never doubted that their experiment would work. But this was no pleasure cruise, friends. The journey to the New World was a long and arduous one. And when the Pilgrims landed in New England in November, they found, according to Bradford’s detailed journal, a cold, barren, desolate wilderness. There were no friends to greet them, he wrote. There were no houses to shelter them. There were no inns where they could refresh themselves. And the sacrifice they had made for freedom was just beginning. During the first winter, half the Pilgrims – including Bradford’s own wife – died of either starvation, sickness or exposure.

“When spring finally came, Indians taught the settlers how to plant corn, fish for cod and skin beavers for coats. Life improved for the Pilgrims, but they did not yet prosper! This is important to understand because this is where modern American history lessons often end. Thanksgiving is actually explained in some textbooks as a holiday for which the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians for saving their lives, rather than as a devout expression of gratitude grounded in the tradition of both the Old and New Testaments. Here is the part that has been omitted: The original contract the Pilgrims had entered into with their merchant-sponsors in London called for everything they produced to go into a common store, and each member of the community was entitled to one common share. All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belong to the community as well.” They were collectivists! Now, “Bradford, who had become the new governor of the colony, recognized that this form of collectivism was as costly and destructive to the Pilgrims as that first harsh winter, which had taken so many lives.

“He decided to take bold action. Bradford assigned a plot of land to each family to work and manage, thus turning loose the power of the marketplace. … Long before Karl Marx was even born, the Pilgrims had discovered and experimented with what could only be described as socialism. And what happened? It didn’t work! Surprise, surprise, huh? What Bradford and his community found was that the most creative and industrious people had no incentive to work any harder than anyone else, unless they could utilize the power of personal motivation! But while most of the rest of the world has been experimenting with socialism for well over a hundred years – trying to refine it, perfect it, and re-invent it – the Pilgrims decided early on to scrap it permanently. What Bradford wrote about this social experiment should be in every schoolchild’s history lesson,” every kid gets. “If it were, we might prevent much needless suffering in the future.” Here’s what he wrote: “‘The experience that we had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years…that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing – as if they were wiser than God,’ Bradford wrote.

“‘For this community [so far as it was] was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense…that was thought injustice.'” That was thought injustice. “Do you hear what he was saying, ladies and gentlemen? The Pilgrims found that people could not be expected to do their best work without incentive. So what did Bradford’s community try next? They unharnessed the power of good old free enterprise by invoking the undergirding capitalistic principle of private property. Every family was assigned its own plot of land to work and permitted to market its own crops and products. And what was the result?” ‘This had very good success,’ wrote Bradford, “for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.’ Bradford doesn’t sound like much of a Clintonite, does he? Is it possible that supply-side economics could have existed before the 1980s? … In no time, the Pilgrims found they had more food than they could eat themselves. … So they set up trading posts and exchanged goods with the Indians.

“The profits allowed them to pay off their debts to the merchants in London. And the success and prosperity of the Plymouth settlement attracted more Europeans and began what came to be known as the ‘Great Puritan Migration.'” Now, aside from this program, have you heard this before? Is this “being taught to children — and if not, why not? I mean, is there a more important lesson one could derive from the Pilgrim experience than this?” What if Bill and Hillary Clinton had been exposed to these lessons in school? Do you realize what we face in next year’s election is the equivalent of people who want to set up these original collectivists communes that didn’t work, with nobody having incentive to do anything except get on the government dole somehow because the people running the government want that kind of power. So the Pilgrims decided to thank God for all of their good fortune. And that’s Thanksgiving. And read George Washington’s first Thanksgiving address and count the number of times God is mentioned and how many times he’s thanked. None of this is taught today. It should be. Have a happy Thanksgiving, folks. You deserve it. Do what you can to be happy, and especially do what you can to be thankful, because in this country you have more reasons than you’ve ever stopped to consider.

Posted in American Culture, American History, Christianity and Politics, Economics, Politics and Religion, Socialism | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »