Sympathy for socialism and secularism


By: Robert E. Meyer

I write a monthly column for a local arts and entertainment tabloid with a decidedly liberal slant. A fellow columnist, who I’ll call Mr. N panned a new book in another editorial venue, written by Newt Gingrich. The book is titled “To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular-Socialist Machine.”

Mr. N made two criticisms of Gingrich I’d like explore in this piece. First of all…

“Newt should be made aware of the fact that America is a secular country already. The founding fathers did that in 1787 when the Constitution was written. People are free to be religious or not religious as they may choose. We are not a theocracy.”

Secondly…

“As for what Newt calls socialism, is this what western Europeans have wrong for Americans: six-week vacations, universal medical care, free university education, one-year maternity leave for pregnancies, unemployment compensation lasting for nearly four years? Is this what Newt and the Republicans want to save us from?”

Mr. N says we are a secular nation, and he might as well put the word “secular” in all capital letters.

Frequently people ask the rhetorical question as to why God is never mentioned in the U.S. Constitution until the closing sentence. A better question would be to ask why he didn’t appear there, but was alive and well in all the state constitution preambles at the same time. Figure that out, and you’ve learned something valuable about federalism and whether acknowledgement of God by government official violates the concept of church/state separation from a historical perspective.

Now if I woke up feeling a little feisty, I might exercise the same rhetorical ploy and ask Mr. N where in the Constitution it discusses the formation of a “secular government.”

Of course, I would agree with Mr. N, if by “secular” he merely meant non-ecclesiastical or non-sacred. But, unfortunately, as evidenced from his numerous editorials on the topic, he is seldom that benign. Mr. N has in mind a government that is demonstrably anti-theistic, and a public square that exhibits something parallel to affirmative action for atheists. And yet he worries about a shadow theocracy?

N, of course, is an advocate for freedom of religion, at least by his own profession. But “freedom of religion” for him enshrines the concept that one has the right to be unexposed to public displays of religious profession. This is, of course, antithetical to religious freedom itself. The conflict of a negative right and a positive right. It amounts to something parallel to affirmative action for atheists.

The First Amendment also deals with free speech and freedom of the press. Can you imagine freedom of speech limited to private exercise, or freedom of the press that is not permitted to broach the topic of government policy? Why is it when the topic is religion, free exercise is given such a narrow scope? In order for any First Amendment right to be “free,” it must be exercisable publicly or it is worthless.
Now to get on with the second comment Mr.N made about the virtues of socialism.

It would be no political slur to say Mr. N is a sympathizer of Fabian European Socialism. In an interview a few years ago he revealed that he even ran for a state office under the banner of the Socialist Labor Party. But calling somebody an advocate of socialism doesn’t prove socialism is bad.

Here Mr. N makes an embarrassing departure, extolling the virtues of the European system: “six-week vacations, universal medical care, free university education, one-year maternity leave for pregnancies, unemployment compensation lasting for nearly four years? Is this what Newt and the Republicans want to save us from?”

Yes, Mr. N, these things would be nice, but who pays for it all? One word that ought to put fear in the hearts of all with sentiments similar to Mr. N: Greece. That’s a warning about where we are heading.

Universal health care? Of what quality and at what price? We’re going to find out. But two predictions: Few will like it, and it will be far more expensive then their projections misled us to believe.

Free university education? What is higher education worth if it is just handed out like lollipops? Some people might be better suited for trades than a university experience.

Unemployment compensation for four years? Is Mr. N being facetious or does he think laziness is a virtue? No wonder the unemployment rate is so high in Europe. How eager would you be to find a new job if you could be supported for being a couch potato for an entire presidential term? How do you assimilate back into the work force after such a lengthy layoff? New job training at state expense? It brings new meaning to the old bromide that the system works for those who don’t. Is there not a moral stewardship issue at stake with being fiscally prudent?

It brings to mind an observation attributed to Margaret Thatcher: “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” Once you mortally wound all the geese laying the golden eggs, how do you fund your programs?

Socialism falsely deifies the state. The role of voluntary charity gets stood on its head. Once we had a moral obligation of conscience to voluntarily help those in need. Today, those who have less, no matter what the reason, have benefit rights to receive wealth transfers from your pockets as mandated and even coerced by the federal government. The 19th century economist Frederic Bastiat referred to this process as legalized plunder.

If that were not enough, we must take note of how this system perpetuates incumbency for those politicians who give out the bacon, in exchange for a growing class of people almost totally dependent on government subsidies

A recent letter to the editor from Mr. N printed in a local editorial venue points to abuses that occurred in the 17th century, due to a patronizing government controlling religion. Has he considered the possibility that conservatives don’t want government controlling de facto charity for the same reason?

It may take substantial tax reduction to stimulate this economy. Suffice it to say that not everyone will be excited about tax cuts if nearly half of Americans pay no income tax. Some folks will keep demanding more until they saw off the limb they’re sitting on.

An unsourced quotation probably says it best: “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury.”

We’re a long way down the slippery slope and sliding fast.

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