Failing To Learn From History… Yet Again

So one of Atrios’ new posters wants to compare social warfare today with the state-run welfare of Otto von Bismarck. It’s actually an apt comparison, as Bismarck realized that the best way to make a state that could control the people was to make a people who depended on the state for all their needs. Indeed, just about every fascist and authoritarian government were based on socialist principles – from Hitler’s arbeit und brot (work and bread) to the ancient Roman’s pane m et circusem (the famous "bread and circuses" of Imperial Rome).

As both Hayek and Friedman point out in their landmark works (The Road to Serfdom and Capitalism and Freedom respectively) it’s easier for an authoritarian state to remove freedom through government largesse than through force of arms – which is exactly why dependency on government is antithetical to a free and democratic socity – and why liberalism is so misguided in its attempts at using the state to fix social problems.

5 thoughts on “Failing To Learn From History… Yet Again

  1. Riiiight… so how would you fix said social problems? Or would you just not care? I’ll at least acknowedge the state can only do so much but it is quite a bit better than nothing.

  2. The best way is to use the power of the market rather than government to protect and aid citizens. For example, by letting someone invest a portion of the Social Security money in the market rather than the Social Security fund, over the long term they are virtually guaranteed to earn a small return on their money. That means not only will they have more when they retire, but they will be drawing less from the general fund, making that fund last longer for more people.

    Education is another example. School choice has been a key issue for reformers, even though Bush virtually surrendered on this issue. School choice would allow parents to have more choices for their children’s education, and the children would get a better education along the way.

    That’s why the market works. When people have choice, they will naturally choose what works best for them and their children. If people are locked into some government program, they not only have no choice, but they’re at the mercy of the federal bureaucrats who control the funding. A free society must be based on the ability to make choices, and our current crop of government programs leave many people without that key freedom.

  3. Excellent idea! It’s not like enough people lost thier retierment funds in the current recession, lets now gamble the one thing they had garunteed away! Hardly fits the definition of security to me…

    You think our schools would ever improve if we started undercutting them with vouchers? Never. Any incentive to do so would be gone. Before long the government would be putting everyone through private school, which may or may not be necessarily a bad thing. I’d have to see some numbers on this. Personally I’m not sure why you’re complaining, as we had it pretty good compared to most of the rest of the nation.

  4. My beef with school vouchers is severalfold- first off, private schools don’t work well in rural areas with small population bases. I think that a disparate group of private schools would have a tough time setting up the same sort of tech network in South Dakota that the public schools have, except in the unlikely event that a secular private school company actually managed to find a way to make a profit on it (highly unlikely, in our weak economy). On top of that, most private schools are religious- what are us atheists to do? Send kids to a rotting public school? Or a Catholic school where they teach moral ideas antithetical to our own? Or to a Protestant school that doesn’t teach the theory of evolution and forces students to pray to fictional deities?

    A big part of what built this country was it’s education system- one of the best and most egalitarian systems in the world, based on the German education system (which was responsible for that country’s extremely high literacy rate and technical prowess). Abandoning the system to religious authorities and careless companies is not the answer. Of course, to find the answer, you shall have to search out greater minds than mine…

  5. So many ridiculous ideas….so little time to disparage all of them.

    School choice is fundamentally a good idea. Ultimately, however, the market itself would have to drive its success, not the fanciful GOP “vouchers” concept which perfectly fits the definition of pipe dream and is essentially little more than corporate welfare. Why is it that the allegedly “free market” Republicans who spit fire whenever individuals receive assistance from the government can then completely support government financing of private enterprise related to business (preferably if that enterprise would be seen as an investment to the Republican party campaign coffers as vouchers would)?

    Providing financial aid to private colleges has been the worst thing to happen to private colleges since they now no longer have to operate within the marketplace. They would not be able to raise their tuition over $1,000 every year if they didn’t have government financial aid dollars being filtered through the vast majority of their student body. They would actually have to operate within the confines of the market, and will ultimately have to again because the public and lawmakers will be forced to put the brakes on financing their massive tuition bills now that they’re rising to $30,000+ annually. This same sort of out-of-control educational inflation will happen at the elementary, junior high and high school level if vouchers ever become a reality, because the private schools that currently operate in accordance with the market will employ the same profligate spending practices that private colleges do now. The last thing we can afford now is to create another welfare state of private education institutions. Jay, buddy, you need to give the free market a chance 😉

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