The American Welfare State

Shortly after the Bolshevik revolution and consolidation of power in Russia came the Great Depression and the opportunity for a charismatic American politician to introduce his own version of a planned economy, fiat money and social programs funded by deficit financing.

American Welfare State  

“My father was a true liberal as it was defined prior to World War II. He was also a highly regarded and respected liberal, in the forefront of his profession of journalism. At that time, most of those in the newspaper field were staunch supporters of the Constitution as originally adopted; that is, they believed that the role of the federal government was quite limited. And they also believed in the free enterprise system. There were few leftists in their midst.

Since then the term “liberal” has undergone a radical change in meaning, and now means almost the reverse of what it meant when my father was practicing his profession before World War II. Under the present-day meaning of the word “liberal” my father would now be called a conservative. In addition to his strong views about the superior qualities of the free enterprise system and the need for a diminished role for the federal government, he was a firm believer in high standards of morality for the family, and for the communities in which the families lived and raised their children.

In his later years he was subject to heavy criticism, much of it slanderous, but I never heard anyone questioning his integrity. In his search for the truth as a journalist, he had great respect for all obtainable facts and information required for reaching judgmental decisions.

The passage in 1913 of the Constitutional Amendment to tax income greatly increased the power of the federal government to control and regulate the economy, but the exercise of this power was quite modest until the New Deal and World War II. This power, together with the gigantic demands of the war, resulted in an enormous involvement of the federal government in the total economy of the nation.

And with it came much more sympathy by the general public and the media for socialistic and planned governmental programs. Support for these programs also prospered in colleges, universities, and religious groups. The Welfare State was beginning to get a firm foothold on our shores.”

(Forgotten Lessons: Selected Essays of John T. Flynn, Gregory P. Pavlik, editor, Foundation for Economic Education, Inc., 1996, excerpt pp. v-vi)

No Diversity in Illinois

The fall elections of 1862 witnessed severe setbacks for Lincoln’s party due to several factors. Resistance to arbitrary arrests, illegal suspension of habeas corpus and homeless slaves moving northward all accounted for Democratic victories at the polls. But the emancipation issue and its ramifications were paramount, with Senator John Sherman of Ohio contending that the “ill-timed [emancipation] proclamation contributed to the general result.” The Republican party was never “anti-slavery,” and knew victory at the Northern polls depended upon confining black people to the South.

No Diversity in Illinois

“Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton . . . committed a blunder that partly undermined Republican candidates in the Midwest. Throughout the summer [of 1862] Union troops operating in the Mississippi Valley channeled hundreds of Negro refugees and freedmen to the federal commander at Cairo, the southernmost town in Illinois.  On September 18, 1862, to alleviate this pressure, Stanton authorized the commanding general at Cairo to turn Negro women and children over to committees which would provide them with employment and support at the North.  

This order, which violated the Illinois Negro exclusion law, was greeted with dismay. [Midwestern] Democrats took full advantage of their political windfall. Abusing the black “locusts” from the South and describing them as “the first fruits of emancipation,” they portrayed the emancipation proclamation and the colonization of Illinois as parts of a Republican plot to Africanize the entire Middle West.

Frightened citizens held mass meetings denouncing Stanton’s action and the black inundation. Retreating pell-mell, the Republicans explained that the freedmen would only be in Illinois temporarily and that emancipation offered the best hope for getting the Negroes out of the State.  After the war was over, they would “skedaddle back to the sunny clime of Dixie.”

Leonard Switt, a personal friend of Lincoln and a Unionist candidate for Congress, hastened to say that he was and always had been opposed to the introduction of free Negroes into Illinois. A supporter of the Union party wrote Governor Richard Yates that the “scattering of those black throngs should not be allowed if [it] can be avoided . . . and with confirmed prejudices and opinions of our people against the mingling of the blacks among us we shall always have trouble.”

On October 13, 1862, Yates wired the President, telling him of the damage being done to their cause in Illinois. The next day David Davis, a close friend of Lincoln, advised the President that it was essential that no more Negroes be brought into the State while the elections were pending.” There is danger in the Election here,” he added, “growing out of the large number of Republican voters, who have gone to the war . . . and of the Negroes, coming into the State.”

But Stanton, presumably with Lincoln’s approval, had already acted on October 13 by forbidding further shipments of blacks out of Cairo. Republican journals now happily announced that the Democrats had been deprived of their sole issue.”

(Free, But Not Equal: The Midwest and the Negro During the Civil War, V. Jacque Voegeli, University of Chicago Press, 1967, excerpts pp. 60-61)

Prosperity Through Armaments

To underscore the following excerpts, author George Thayer states that “We live in an age of weapons. Never before in the history of mankind have weapons of war been so dominant a concern as they have been since 1945.” Thayer writes that after the second war to end all wars, the US “had given away $48.5 billion worth of arms and military supplies to 48 nations.” One of these was the Soviet Union of Josef Stalin, who Roosevelt had armed to the teeth and who immediately became the US’s postwar primary adversary.

Prosperity Through Armaments

“In the twenty-four years since 1945, there have been fifty-five wars of significant size, duration and intensity throughout the world. This means that mankind faces a new and violent conflict somewhere in the world slightly more often than once every five months, any one of which is capable of provoking a holocaust.

If one adds to this total all the coups, large-scale riots and clashes of unorganized, low-order violence, then the total of postwar cases of armed conflict that have had significant impact on the course of history would number in excess of fifteen score – more than one per month.

Today we are far along the way to losing our sense of proportion, for by any definition many of these wars have been quite large. For instance, bombing tonnage in the Korean War exceeded all the tonnage dropped by the Allies in the Pacific Theater of World War II. In the “small” six-day Sinai War of 1967, more tanks were committed to battle than by the Germans, Italians and Allies together at the crucial twelve-day battle of El Alamein in 1942. And from July 1965 to December 1967, more bomb tonnage was dropped on Vietnam than was dropped by the Allies on Europe during all of World War II.

Consider some of the political consequences that today’s arms trade have produced:

The fall of Germany’s Erhard government in 1966 can be blamed in large part on Bonn’s purchases of American military equipment which it could not afford and did not need.

The cancellation of the Skybolt missile by the United States in 1962 was one of the contributing factors that led to Prime Minister MacMillan’s resignation in 1963.

The Pakistan-India War of 1965, in which American equipment was used on both sides, produced two results adverse to United States interests: it forced Pakistan to take a more neutral position in world affairs, and it forced India to consider manufacturing nuclear weapons.

Had there been no large infusion of American weapons into the area (ostensibly as a defense against communism), the war would not have taken place.”

(The War Business: The International Trade in Armaments, George Thayer, Simon and Schuster, 1969, excerpts pp. 17-21)

Jul 5, 2020 - Carnage, Lincoln's Revolutionary Legacy, Sherman's Legacy, Targeting Civilians, Uncategorized    Comments Off on “Now I Am Become Death”

“Now I Am Become Death”

Only hours after the Pearl Harbor attack on 7 December 1941, US naval commanders in the Pacific were ordered to “execute unrestricted air and submarine warfare against the Japanese.” This, ironically, is the very policy which brought the US into the First World War, though it would not be until September 1943 that US submarines in wolf packs would decimate Japan’s shipping. Also, Claire Chennault of “Flying Tigers” fame was urging the firebombing of Japan’s cities well before Pearl Harbor. General Curtis LeMay, architect of the firebombing of Japanese cities, commented after Hiroshima that he thought the nuclear bomb unnecessary as nothing of military value remained to be bombed. It was purely of terror value.

“Now I am Become Death”

“Americans had entered the war violently opposed to the bombing of civilians, and during the campaign in Europe had generally opposed British terror bombing in favor of the costly but less indiscriminate technique of daylight “precision” air raids.  [With the order of 7 December], this changed in principle almost immediately in the Pacific.

Even a month prior to Pearl Harbor, George Marshall had instructed aides to develop contingency plans for “general incendiary attacks to burn up the wood and paper structures of the densely populated Japanese cities.”  

Three years later, with the arrival of the very long-range B-29 heavy bomber, the M-47 and M-69 napalm bombs, and General Curtis LeMay to command the Twentieth Air Force, these plans came to fruition.

On the night of 9 March 1945, 334 B-29s armed only with incendiaries would attack Tokyo at low levels, and in the ensuing fires 267,000 buildings would burn and over eighty-three thousand people would die. Japanese air defense against such night attacks was almost nonexistent, nor would it improve. By June, over 40 percent of Japan’s six most industrial cities had been gutted and millions dehoused.  Yet the Americans had a better way.

It is clear that the primary motive for the program was fear that Nazi Germany would develop nuclear weapons first. However, Ronald Powaski points out that, as early as November 1944, American officials were aware that Germany had no viable nuclear program, and the surrender in May 1945 made this a certainty. Despite this, work on the Manhattan Project not only continued but accelerated.

No one considered the Japanese a threat to develop a bomb. Rather, the bomb was being built to be used. On 1 June President Truman accepted recommendations that it be dropped on Japan as soon as possible – “without specific warning,” he recalled in his memoirs. “When you deal with a beast,” Truman wrote several days after, “you have to treat him like a beast.”

Less than a month earlier, the bomb’s chief designer, J. Robert Oppenheimer, as he watched its first test, remembered some lines from the Bhagavad Gita: “Now I am become death, destroyer of worlds; waiting the hour that ripens to their doom.”

(Of Arms and Men: A History of War, Weapons and Aggression, Robert L. O’Connell, Oxford University Press, 1989, excerpt pp. 293-295)

Jul 4, 2020 - Economics, Equality, Pathways to Central Planning    Comments Off on Anarchy Plus a Constable

Anarchy Plus a Constable

“It is amazing how otherwise intelligent people still imagine that, in our complex modern society, public order can be maintained by having certain elementary rules of conduct appropriate to simple rural communities followed by millions of individuals.

These latter are in fact grossly unequal in economic power, and each individual, or legal person, including the billion-dollar corporation, is left free to interpret the Constitution for himself, and to hire as many lawyers as his means will allow to champion through endless litigation his particular interpretations.

Only the lush opportunities of the opening of the earth’s largest and richest area for appropriation and settlement could furnish enough to be grabbed off by almost everyone to make it possible to maintain public order under such a regime, which Thomas Carlyle once characterized as anarchy plus a constable.

I find the ideal of a classless, stateless, government-less society of workers enjoying social order and material abundance fantastic and unattainable.  It appears unattainable for the reason that social order requires government and administration by a ruling class or power-exercising class which must always be an aristocracy of management, however selected, operating through some set of mechanisms of social control, economic as well as political.

There is something vicious in the wish to impose on future generations our scheme of values. The egotistical wish to define the values of future generations is common both to liberal constitutionalists and the communist believers in the classless society of the future. What right or logical reason can we possibly have to take it for granted that our values or ideals will be acceptable to future generations or appropriate to their material situation?

Only the belief that we have received a revelation of eternal truth can rationalize such a pretentious assumption.”

(The Coming American Fascism: The Crisis of Capitalism, Lawrence Dennis, Harper & Brothers, 1936, excerpts pp. 4; 7-8)

Jul 4, 2020 - Antebellum Economics, Antebellum Realities, Economics, Historical Accuracy, Race and the South, Slavery Worldwide    Comments Off on Feudal Lords, Modern Capitalists and the Dole

Feudal Lords, Modern Capitalists and the Dole

The feudal lord of the manor mentioned below could have been European, Asian, Arab or African owners of serfs or slaves.  A North German serf in Mecklenburg belonged to and worked the land of his lord, owning little more than his clothes and cooking utensils. But he and other serfs were essential to the lord for agricultural production, as in the American South and elsewhere in the world, and thus could not be abandoned.  

Feudal Lords, Modern Capitalists and The Dole

“The feudal lord of the manor was quite as much a property owner as the millionaire under modern capitalism. He had property rights in the tools of production, and often directed the processes of production. But unlike the man of property under modern capitalism, he could never make a decision in respect of his property rights, one of the results of which, would be widespread unemployment and destitution, for, as a practical matter, he could not expel the serf from the land or deny him the use of the land and some elementary capital for the production of food, shelter and clothing.

Modern capitalism is the first important system of property rights to allow property owners to make decisions which result in large scale unemployment. The much vaunted freedom of modern capitalism is largely a matter of the freedom of property owners from social responsibility for the consequences of their economic choices.  It is a matter of the freedom of property owners not to invest their savings if the profit incentive is not considered sufficient.

To say that it is also a matter of the freedom of the worker to abstain from work is to utter a shallow mockery of human necessity. The rich man is, in a practical sense, free to withhold his savings from investment. The poor man is never free in any but a legal sense and absurd sense to withhold his labor from the highest bidder, however low the bid, if, as the principles of sound capitalism require, so to withhold his labor is to starve.

At the present time, one of the fundamental rules of sound capitalism is being violated by the payment of the dole, which prevents a man from starving and thus enables him to withhold his labor from the highest bidder if the bid is not materially higher than the amount obtainable from the dole.”  

 (The Coming American Fascism: The Crisis of Capitalism, Lawrence Dennis, Harper & Brothers, 1936, excerpt pp. 22-23)

Locked in a Bloodbath

Lincoln’s stated goal in waging war against the South was to maintain the territorial union of States within the 1787 Constitution, which Southern States had withdrawn from. The South established its own union, sending commissioners to Washington to arrange a settlement of funds due that government and a treaty of peace between the two countries.  Lincoln’s refused to see the commissioners and secretly sent an armed expedition to reinforce Fort Sumter, by then a useless fortification as it was within South Carolina’s sovereign territory – and explicitly constructed with funds from all States for South Carolina’s protection.

Even if Lincoln reasoned that South Carolina could not withdraw from the 1787 union and it remained within, waging war against a State was treason as defined in Article III, Section 3 of the United States Constitution.

Locked in a Bloodbath

“Soon after hostilities began, the Model 1861 Springfield rifle, capable of killing fire at a thousand yards, would become standard issue for Union infantry, while Confederate troops were being equipped with small arms equally as good. The result was mass slaughter.

In eight of the first twelve big battles, Confederates assumed the tactical offensive, and lost ninety-seven thousand men in doing so. Altogether, the South suffered 175,000 battle casualties in the first twenty-seven months of fighting, a figure somewhat higher than the entire Confederate military establishment in 1861.

[Grant accumulated] sixty-four thousand casualties during the three months of his sledgehammer Wilderness campaign and taking as the major sign of his victory, in late May 1864, the fact that a battle with Lee’s troops “outside of entrenchments cannot be had.”

Yet the Confederates would remain unbeaten inside their trenches for almost a year more. And, in fact, a better indication of the true tactical situation was the spectacle of Union troops pinning their names to their uniforms shortly before the notorious frontal assault on Confederate positions at Cold Harbor on 3 June so that their corpses might be better identified after the battle.

Unlike their officers, foot soldiers drew an altogether more practical, if less heroic, conclusion as to the tactical significance of new weaponry, and sought cover and defensible positions whenever possible. Thus, by mid-1863 both sides were becoming addicted to trenches . . .

As far as they went, field fortifications were an entirely correct solution to the revolution in small arms, the long-range rifle having roughly tripled the advantage of defense over offense by putting attacking troops under deadly fire almost from the moment they became visible.  Yet trenches also prefaced a very static and inconclusive sort of war, as the siege of Richmond-Petersburg indicated. Thus at some point it became necessary for troops to physically overcome opposing trenches.

Cavalry, on the other hand, was deeply and permanently undermined. The fate of the saber charge was epitomized by the deaths of one Major Keenan and his adjutant, who jointly led a column of the Eighth Pennsylvania Horse in a desperate advance against Stonewall Jackson’s victorious infantry at Chancellorsville. Not only did the charge fail miserably, but after the battle the bodies of Keenan and his adjutant were found to have thirteen and nine bullet wounds, respectively.”

 (Of Arms and Men: A History of War, Weapons and Aggression, Robert L. O’Connell, Oxford University Press, 1989, excerpts pp. 197-199)

Jun 28, 2020 - Foreign Viewpoints, Historical Accuracy, Historical Amnesia/Cleansing, Slavery Worldwide    Comments Off on Slavery Way Up North

Slavery Way Up North

The Simcoe Compromise bill of July 1793 did not free any slaves in then-Upper Canada, but did forbid the importation of slaves into that Province. Ironically, once Michigan was incorporated as a US territory in 1805, slaves escaping from Upper Canada were fleeing across the border – by 1806 there were sufficient free blacks in Detroit to form their own militia unit, as would be the case in New Orleans and its all-black Louisiana Native Guards. Mustered into State service in May 1861, the latter was the first black unit to serve in the American Civil War.

Slavery Way Up North

“The history of legalized slavery in [Canada] stretches back to 1628, when the English adventurer David Kirke brought to New France a native of Madagascar. Kirke disposed of him quickly for a handsome profit, making him Canada’s first slave. [It is believed] that by 1760 there were approximately 1,100 slaves residing in New France, most of who lived near Montreal and were either house servants or farm hands.

In the treaty of capitulation [to Britain], 8 September 1760, clause 47 guaranteed the continued servitude of all slaves to their respective masters. This same clause was included in the Treaty of Paris, 1763, and it was left in force when French civil law was restored by the Quebec Act of 1774.

By 1784 there were more than 4,000 blacks living in the British colonies north of the United States, and among them could be counted at least 1,800 slaves. To encourage settlement in British North America, the home government passed the Imperial Act of 1790, which applied to all British subjects still resident in the United States. It allowed them to import “Negroes, household furniture . . . duty free” into the Bahamas, Bermuda, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and any other British territory in North America. [Author] Robin Winks claims that free blacks were discouraged from settling.

Slave owning was widespread among the emerging political and social elite of Upper Canada. Peter Russell, a senior member of the Executive and Legislative councils and the province’s administrator in the absence of [Lt. Governor John Graves] Simcoe, was reputed to be the owner of ninety-nine slaves. Matthew Elliot, Russell’s close friend, may have owned upwards of fifty slaves, many of whom were war trophies taken in border clashes with the Americans.

(Slavery and Freedom in Niagara, Power & Butler, Niagara Historical Society, 2000, excerpts pp. 11-12; 18; 24-25)

A National Institution

The author of the 1928 source below notes that as of that date, “Liberia, the country of free Negroes, there are over two hundred thousand slaves. In Sierra Leone, the other freemen’s colony, slavery was abolished on January 1 of this year, by decree of the Legislative Council.”

A National Institution

“It would be a task of many pages if I attempted to give a full account of the origin and causes of slavery in Africa. As a national institution, it seems to have existed always. Africans have been bondsmen everywhere: and the oldest monuments bear their images linked with menial toils and absolute servitude.

England to-day, with all her philanthropy, sends, under the Cross of St. George, to convenient magazines of lawful commerce on the [African] coast, Birmingham muskets, Manchester cottons, and Liverpool lead, all of which are righteously swapped at Sierra Leone, Acra, and on the Gold Coast, for Spanish or Brazilian bills on London.

Yet what British merchant does not know the traffic on which those bills are founded, and for whose support his wares are purchased?  France . . . dispatches her Rouen cottons, Marseille brandies, flimsy taffetas, and indescribable variety of tinsel geegaws. Germany demands a slice for her looking-glasses and beads; while multitudes of our own worthy [Boston] traders, who would hang a slaver as a pirate when caught, do not hesitate to supply him indirectly with tobacco, powder, cotton, Yankee rum, and New England notions, in order to bait the trap in which he may be caught. It is the temptation of these things, I repeat, which feeds the slave-making wars of Africa, and forms the human basis of those admirable bills of exchange.

Such may be said to be the predominating influence that supports the African slave trade; yet, if commerce of all kinds were forbidden with that continent, the customs and laws of the natives would still encourage slavery as a domestic affair, though of course in a very modified degree.

A slave is a note of hand that may be discounted or pawned; he is still a bill of exchange that carries him to his destination and pays the debt bodily . . . Thus, slavery is not likely to be surrendered by the Negroes themselves as a national institution.”

(Adventures of a Slave Trader: Being an Account of the Life of Captain Theodore Canot, Trader in Gold, Ivory &Slaves on the Coast of Guinea: His Own Story as Told in the Year 1854 to Brantz Mayer, Garden City Publishing, 1928, excerpts pp. 126-128)

Jun 24, 2020 - Antiquity, Historical Accuracy, Historical Amnesia/Cleansing, Imperialist Adventures, Slavery Worldwide    Comments Off on Slavery Way Down South

Slavery Way Down South

In the Aztec culture, war and the priesthood were the only paths “toward prestige, honors and riches,” with free land and slaves given as rewards for valor while subjugating neighbors. In the century prior to Spanish conquest, the merchant class included “slave traders whose centers of operation were in some of the large cities, but who kept purchasing bases in the furthermost cities.”

Slavery existed in all classic period Mesoamerican cultures: in Maya culture, the condition of slavery was passed down from one generation to another, often as punishment for offenses against the ruling class. “The majority of slaves, however, were prisoners of war or foreigners bought from traders. The destiny of these slaves was uncertain, and many must have ended their days as sacrificial victims.”  

Slavery Way Down South

“Aztec conquests always had religious or economic motives . . . in the principal cities of the Aztecs and their allies lived an artisan group who were in constant need of raw materials for the manufacture of consumer goods which were traded among the Aztecs themselves or exchanged for products from their neighbors and tribute-paying subjects.

Equally important was the development of the quasi-feudal system with an increasing demand for agricultural land and serfs for the benefit of the growing nobility. Last but not least was the need for slaves to be sacrificed to the gods as state and religion merged into one unified system.

In the last years of their brief history, the Aztec nation included more than 300 vassal tribes which never amalgamated into a political or administrative entity.

While Aztec merchants traveled the trade routes, transacting business and paving the way for new conquests, the warriors and governors exercised dominion by exacting tribute and gathering the designated quotas of prisoners to be sacrificed to the many gods of the Aztec pantheon.”

(Pre-Columbian Cities, Jorge E. Hardoy, Walker and Company, 1973, excerpts pp. 124; 128; 228)

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