The Failings of Liberalism, Part I

by John Eberhard
05/16/04

This begins a new series of articles for me, specifically on the flaws of liberalism.

In this series, I will talk about the various liberal ideas and policies, and how they affect society.

I will show, step by step, that every single plank of the liberal agenda, although dressed up in pretty clothing (arguments), either penalizes production and rewards non-production, or attacks one of the social institutions that strengthens and holds civilization together.

It is my hope that these articles will cause some liberals to possibly rethink their positions, show the "moderates" that the liberals have little positive to offer, and also give conservatives more ammunition in discussions and debate. And at the end of the series, I will give my own ideas for how to solve all of these problems for good.

Defining Our Terms

I’m going to define "Liberalism," in terms of what it currently means today (because these terms and their meanings change over time), as:

A political philosophy and movement largely devoted to the principles of Socialism as outlined by Karl Marx, plus Cultural Marxism.

Reading The Communist Manifesto, which I did recently, gives one a good idea of what Marx was all about. Marx saw all of history as based on class struggles between the oppressor and the oppressed, the haves and the have-nots. And let’s be clear here. Marx saw any employer as "oppressing" his employees. And he believed that anyone who had lots of money, got it unfairly by oppressing those who didn’t. So a strong component of socialism and liberalism is the Robin Hood concept, taking from the rich and giving to the poor, or income redistribution.

Cultural Marxism is an ideology that sprang up after Marx, which says that not only the poor should be given money, but that certain ethnic and other types of groups within society (such as blacks, Hispanics, women, gays) have been unfairly victimized, so that we have to give them special treatment or money or favors. Affirmative action grows out of Cultural Marxism.

Liberal causes include today:

  1. Welfare and redistribution of wealth
  2. Progressive taxation, i.e. taxing higher incomes at a higher percentage
  3. Affirmative action, i.e. giving special privileges or favors to certain ethnic groups
  4. Pro-abortion
  5. Pro-feminism
  6. Environmentalism (sometimes radical)
  7. Attacks on religion, specifically Christianity
  8. Open borders and against enforcement of Federal immigration laws, plus supporting easy welfare programs and benefits for illegals
  9. Pro-gay rights including gay marriage
  10. Against gun ownership and for gun control
  11. Many prominent liberals are anti-military and have voted consistently against military and intelligence funding.

That’s a snapshot of what liberals stand for today. Conservatives are typically on the opposite side of all the issues above.

Redistribution of Wealth

"From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs!"
– Karl Marx, 1874

The whole idea of redistribution of wealth, on which welfare, progressive taxation, and to a lesser extent, affirmative action policies are all based, comes from Marx.

Although we made some reform progress in this area in the 1990s, with the welfare reform act and the repeal of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (one of the worst and most destructive forms of welfare ever), welfare in other forms is still very alive and well in America. Progressive taxation, welfare programs for illegal immigrants, and affirmative action programs, are just a few examples of income redistribution that are still going on in the US. Such programs are much more extensive in Europe and other countries.

There are a number of problems with redistribution of wealth. It hurts both the person with "abilities," from whom the money is taken, and in a more sinister way, hurts those with "needs," to whom the money is given.

First let’s take a look at the system of capitalism as it has now evolved, with its system of rewards, motivations and incentives.

In our capitalist system, someone can be at the poverty level, and take action themselves to move out of that level and improve their condition. This happens all the time, and in fact a recent government study showed that few people remain at the poverty level for more than a few years. They typically move up out of poverty by a) getting an education, particularly college degrees, b) learning skills which are more valuable and allow them to demand and receive a higher salary, or c) starting their own business.

Someone working at a job can work hard, produce superior results, receive on-the-job training, and study information resources about their job or industry outside of work time, to make themselves more valuable to an employer.

Someone who does these things and thus produces superior results on the job, can expect raises and promotions, better working conditions and more benefits. Plus he has the option, if he doesn’t feel adequately compensated and appreciated, of seeking employment elsewhere, negotiating better compensation.

But what makes a person want to go this route? What motivates him to work hard? What motivates him to read books on selling or marketing or computer programming at night or on the weekends? What motivates him to sign up for free company training on his off-hours? What motivates him to get a good high school education and go to college? What motivates him to take real responsibility for zone of control for his job, rather than just showing up and punching a clock?

Very simple. The motivation is that by doing these things, it helps the company, the group to which he belongs, and it will help him. Because the way the system works is that the more valuable you are to an employer, the more he needs you and the more he is willing to do to keep you. He is then willing to pay you more, give you more benefits, promote you, and so on.

Your response is probably "Well sure, everybody knows that."

But think about this. That guy who is doing all those things to improve himself and help his company be more successful, he is driven by the need to improve his station in life. And our system is set up in such a way as to usually reward that behavior, because the person is more valuable and more employable. Companies need qualified, intelligent and hard-working people in order to be successful themselves.

And by being more valuable and more employable, the person is more at cause over his life and more in control of his own destiny.

Parents are supposed to teach their kids the basics of this system:
a. Getting a good education will help you be more financially successful in life
b. The more skills you learn in school, the more valuable (well paid) you will be in the workplace
c. Conversely, if you go all the way through high school and still can’t read, write, spell, etc., competently, you will only be qualified for minimum wage or manual labor
d. Take advantage of your school years to learn the needed skills, because you will be too busy working later on

Ruining the Balance

But when you enter welfare into the picture, you actually tinker with and ruin this natural system.

Welfare and other income redistribution programs send a powerful, wrong message to people. It tells people that if they fail to play the game as outlined above, if they don’t bother to get an education, if they don’t bother to learn the skills needed in the business world, if they don’t work hard at a job, indeed, if they don’t bother to get a job, that’s OK. The government, funded by taxpayers that DO get an education, get a job, work hard, etc., will pay your way.

My mother taught junior high English in the Cleveland inner city schools for 20 years. She told me a story once of a conversation with a class in which she asked the students what they were going to do when they grew up.

One kid said he was going to "get high and get drunk." Mom reiterated that she meant what was he going to do for his living, and the kid reiterated that he was going to get high and get drunk. Turns out his parents had been on welfare for his entire life. Was it mere coincidence that he did no work in school? And he was far from the only one. This was a very common attitude my mother ran into with these junior high kids.

When you pay someone’s way – a person who has not played the game, not done anything to prepare themselves for the workforce, you are giving them a reward or incentive for behavior that is destructive. His behavior is destructive because he is not becoming a productive and contributing member of society – he’s becoming a parasite. And if you get too many of those, society can’t function at all.

I read somewhere recently that if you want to increase some activity, incentivize it. If you want to get rid of some activity, tax it! If you reward someone for not producing, he is not going to produce. And if you penalize people who work hard and make more money (by taxing them at a higher percentage) you discourage people from achieving better incomes.

And if you take that concept to its logical but painful conclusion, you end up with a starving, dead society.

The Way the System is Supposed to Work

Now let’s go back to the way this system is supposed to work, without socialist rewarding of that person who does not produce or prepare himself for life in the workforce.

Without socialist/liberal protectionism, that person would find himself either with no job, or with a job that didn’t pay very much. And that very fact would penalize him for behavior that was destructive.

In other words, the way the system is supposed to work, if you don’t protect or coddle the unproductive, is that they are penalized. If they goof off in school or drop out, and end up with no skills, then they can only get a minimum wage job. Or if they refuse to even work, well, they have no money at all.

And those penalties (low pay or no pay) work as a painful stimulus to the person, hopefully stimulating him to get off his butt and improve his situation and move out of poverty.

But if you remove that penalty, through welfare type programs, then you remove that painful stimulus. And in that way, you end up with more and more people on the dole, and these programs actually act to keep those people there. In other words, 1) it encourages more people not to work who otherwise would, and thus you get more people not bothering to work, and 2) it encourages the person to stay on welfare, because you’ve removed the penalty that should be there for not working. Either way, you’re not helping the person. You’re causing dependency, and if that’s not a form of slavery, I don’t know what is.

Summary

  1. Redistribution of wealth, a central aspect of all welfare type programs, comes from Karl Marx.
  2. Our capitalist system rewards someone for making themselves a more valuable employee, by getting a good education, working hard, and so on.
  3. Conversely, the system is set up to penalize a person for failing to prepare himself for the workforce. If he gets no education or doesn’t learn any workplace skills, he will only be able to get poor paying jobs.
  4. Socialist/liberal wealth redistribution, welfare type programs defeat this natural system, remove the penalties for poor or no job preparation, or for not working, giving the person a free ride. Such a system rewards destructive behavior (free money or other benefits for those who haven’t prepared for the workforce) and penalizes good behavior (the person who gets a good education and works hard gets taxed more heavily).

It’s important not only to understand the philosophical basis of liberal/socialism/welfare, but also to recognize it in all its myriad forms.

Part II coming soon.

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