Why Obama’s European-style socialism is a danger to us all

I’m still developing the same theme I’ve been hammering at for a week, because I think it’s important.  The ideas in this post should be familiar to you, but I’m trying to express them with more factual data and lucidity:

My mother, bless her heart, said something very important the other day. She said that Europeans are much more socially conscious than Americans and that’s why they have all those government programs (i.e., socialism or spreading the wealth). She was clearly trying to say that Americans are mean and selfish, and that’s why they’ve traditionally leaned to keeping their wealth, rather than allowing government redistribution. She’s completely wrong, of course, but wrong in a very interesting way.

What she neglected to consider with her pronouncement is that, traditionally, America and Europe had vastly different social and economic fluidity. While Europe has had an exceptionally rigid class system from which few escape, America has been since its inception a place in which people can “make it.” Every immigrant group (and such is the nature of America that all but the Indigenous Americans are immigrant groups), has managed to assimilate and rise economically.

Census records from the Lower East Side in New York, through which passed hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of immigrants from all over Europe, show that within two generations, all of the families that once lived there had moved into the working, middle or wealthy classes. Certainly, individuals may have suffered and failed but, en masse, the immigrants did well. They didn’t need to become the recipients of perpetual government largesse.

In Europe, however, there were no systems by which the lower classes (and that also always meant the poorer classes) could escape their stratum. Whether by accent, education, poverty, or tradition, they stayed there. (And, interestingly, even the educational opportunities socialism provided didn’t much change that. When I lived in England a couple of decades ago, after almost 40 years of free access to college education, most English people did not go on to college and people still gave away their class instantly just by opening their mouths.) Socialism, in other words, was just a totalitarian government substitute for the old noblesse oblige that saw the upper class (or, at least, the socially conscious ones) take care of the poorer orders, all the while ensuring that they stayed in their place.

The intense stratification of that system continues to exist with the new immigrants to Europe. Whether in Germany, Norway, Sweden, England, Italy or France, these new Muslim immigrants are instantly the recipients of government largesse that gives them housing and money — and that essentially tells them to get into their immigrant ghettos, and stay there, preferably feeling grateful to and voting for the government that was so good to them. Its a shock to the ruling class, and one that they can’t seem to understand, that these immigrants, rather than feeling grateful at being stuffed away into ghettos without any opportunities, loath the countries in which they live, and cheerfully envision their bloody overthrows.

My mother agreed with me on all of these points (how could she not?), but then produced her “a-ha!” to prove me wrong: “What about blacks in America (and, she could have added, Native Americans, too)?” To her, they proved I was entirely wrong in describing America’s social and economic fluidity. To me, though, they were just the extra evidence I needed to prove that when, as they do in Europe, a government provides too much for people, it consigns them permanently to poverty and social exile.

As you know, African-Americans (and Native Americans) differed from all other immigrant groups in America because the American system essentially imposed against them, for centuries (and in brutal and horrible ways) a European style stratification that prevented any upward movement. This is true whether one is looking at slavery, relocation, genocidal wars or Jim Crow. I’ll focus from here on out on what happened to blacks when Americans finally wised up to the error of their ways, but you can tell the same story about Native Americans.

Beginning in the 1940s (with the WWII economy) and continuing into the 1950s (with the Civil Rights movement), blacks started the same upward movement as other American groups. That is, once the nation began removing the artificial ceiling it had imposed on them, blacks too made social and economic strides. The strides were slow, because prejudice is slow to die, but they were real, and they created a rising black working and middle class composed of nuclear families. I have no doubt that, had the government continued to educate and police against discrimination, and otherwise left the market to do its work, African Americans would have joined other immigrant groups in realizing the American dream in a generation or two.

The death knell for this laborious, but real, social and economic ascent was the Great Society. The moment comprehensive welfare programs began (around the mid-1960s), government workers fanned out to black communities all over America and made huge efforts to tell blacks to stop working, because the government would pay for them. White guilt was at its apex, and government welfare was its expiation.

Being rational actors, blacks gave up bad, low-paying, often demeaning jobs for free money. And being rational actors, they gave up nuclear families and parental responsibility for even more free money. And so began the terrible slide of the African-American community. Even if you all don’t remember that time, you do remember what finally arrested this slide and helped put African-Americans back on the same, slow upward trajectory that existed before the Great Society: The fact that Clinton, under duress from a real Republican Congress, ended “welfare as we know it.” Once again, African-Americans, being rational actors, were given the incentive to shelter in the strength of the nuclear family and plug into the American Dream.

Obama wants to undo the American Dream and turn us into a European economy, where all benefits flow from the government, rather than individual effort. You can call it “socialism,” or “big government,” or “spreading the wealth,” or whatever else suits you, but the outcome will be the same: People will be locked into government induced poverty in perpetuity, the middle class will become slack, the economy will enter into stagflation, unemployment will rise, and service in every area of American life will fall as people lose their incentive (because they’ve lost the ability) to rise upwards and join in the American Dream.

(I’ve cross-posted this same article at Bloggers for John McCain (aka McCain-Palin 2008), which is a site that I urge you to visit.  It’s committed entirely to advancing McCain to the White House, and has smart, enthusiastic articles about all of the players in the upcoming election.)

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  • http://helenl.wordpress.com/ Helen Losse

    Bookworm, Do you really think that if you talk long enough that systemic racism will disappear? There are the old rich and the new rich, but there are no old rich among native Americans and African Americans. There aren’t the generations of people who know how to be rich with grace. The new rich treat money differently from the old rich, even when they “give back to the community,” which many new rich do. Take professional athletes, for example, who sign contracts for vulgar amounts of money and then build gyms in their old not-so-rich neighborhoods, because they remember where they came from.

    It seems from what you say (and what I’ve read elsewhere) that the problem with government social programs is that they dole money out like an allowance for children. Adults with money may well learn how to manage it and to share.

    Americans will not become Europeans if we share the wealth, any more than we will if we don’t.

  • Mike Devx

    Helen says,

    >> Americans will not become Europeans if we share the wealth, any more than we will if we don’t.>>

    I don’t know, Helen. What is ‘metrosexual’ but another word for ‘French’?

  • Deana

    Helen –

    Are you saying that we should force people through the imposition of taxes to share what they earn so that others MIGHT learn how to better manage their money?


  • Ymarsakar

    Helen’s ideas are literally out of this world except for the fact that they exist in people’s heads and people exist on this world. I suppose that is what war is for in the end: deciding what ideas in people’s heads get to exist by whether the people get to live or die depending on how effective their ideas are when translated into reality.

    After world wars disputing various many things, including Communism and Nazi Socialism, eventually we will have to fight the same fight over again.

    This enemy you cannot defeat; you can only push it into the depths of the ocean and teach your children to watch the waves in vigilance.

  • Tiresias

    There are no “old rich” among anybody in this country, Helen; not in the terms in which you seem to be thinking.
    The oldest of American “old wealth” is only about 150 years old, which by European standards is really quite new. America has had only a few dozen families that have managed to endure that long, (which means: “have the money endure that long”), and that’s about it. “Old money” is held by few enough in this country that you need a microscope to see them.

    “Endurance” is the key word. Plenty of people made tons of money for their times – P.T. Barnum, Bob Hassler, Jay Gould, Otto Kahn, Watson Webb, etc. – but for one reason or another it didn’t endure in the multi-generational sense. Of the hundreds of mansions and manor houses built on, for example, Long Island’s north shore (Gatsby country) and fitted out with whole rooms, chapels, etc. physically brought from Europe and re-erected – there are about three that remain lived in. (And none that remain lived in, in the style for which they were built.) 99% of them have been torn down; most of the few survivors are club houses, corporate meeting venues, a few schools, a couple of consulates, a few town or county parks.

    The vast majority of these places were built by and lived in, fairly briefly, by families with names of which you have never heard. They came and went: they did not endure. You don’t know their descendants either, because their descendants are generally not wealthy enough to be meaningful or noticeable..

    So the concept of “old rich” – a real enough concept, though I don’t know how you define it (I know how it’s defined: I say I don’t know how YOU define it) isn’t a terribly meaningful one. There aren’t enough of them to make a visible difference. Of the Forbes 400, 390 made it in the last twenty-five or fewer years – it isn’t “old” by any definition.

    Easy enough to blame things on “systemic racism,” I suppose, but that doesn’t explain why 99.8% of the world’s supply of WASPs isn’t rich. Nor are 99.8% of the world’s Irish Catholics, or Hasidim, either. The evidence would seem to indicate that “systemic racism” has less to do with who becomes rich than does some other factor we just haven’t nailed down yet. (If we had, we’d all be rich.)

    Uncertain about that phrase “giving back.” Who would be owed? I don’t think any community ever “gave” anybody a damn thing, except perhaps an opportunity – which had to be recognized, grabbed with both hands, and worked at endlessly. I don’t think Pittsburgh “gave” Henry Phipps anything – except the opportunity to go to work at the age of twelve. His success might be – and is – something for which his descendants might in thanks “give,” (they do), but they aren’t “giving back:” they don’t owe anybody, except him.

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  • Danny Lemieux

    An interesting difference between Americans and Europeans is as follows: if you looked at the floods that ravaged Germany and France in the recent past, you would have noticed how few of the citizens were out on the hustings filling sandbags and trying to stem the damage. That is because in their view as “subjects”, it was the government’s role to fulfill that function. Here in the U.S., we “citizens” recognize that we all have a shared responsibility and you will regularly see citizens contributing to saving their communities.

    Similarly, most Americans are quite generous in contributing their own funds to charitable causes. In Europe, the dominant ethos believes it’s government’s role to do that. Interestingly, you see the same trend with Democrat millionaire politicians like Kerry, Gore, Biden and Obama – they don’t believe they need to donate to charity because it is government’s role and, frankly, it is some much easier simply to forcibly yank those funds out of our pockets than out of their own.

  • Allen

    You know this time around my will to make a difference has finally been sapped. Let’s see, “paying higher taxes is patriotic,” which means if I decide to make less income I become a “wrecker.” I know exactly what the Soviet Union meant by that.

    Then there is, “we need to spread the wealth around,” which is the glamorization of mediocrity. If the majority of my fellow citizens wish to embrace this idea so be it. I for one will no longer oppose it, or more importantly support it.

    I have been contemplating shutting my business down for some time; I have what I need to live on. They have hit the trifecta this time, which has provided the final impetus. I have been villified as a conservative, an owner of a successful business, and making too much money. Regardless of what that has provided the employees, and in some part to society.

    No more SSA contributions from the company.
    No more corporate tax.
    Much less income tax for me.
    No more business for my suppliers.

    I hope those folks enjoy their economic justice.

  • Ymarsakar

    I hope those folks enjoy their economic justice.

    Historically this has lead tyrants to tighten their grips. Look at Hugo Chavez when his policies destroyed the economy. He just tightened the fist more and used military power to force people to set low prices.

    The tyrants are also never the people who suffer. First the people will suffer until somebody stages a coup de tat.

    All the checks and balances in the US Constitution were designed expressly to prevent such a scenario from occurring. The final fail safe should such a situation happen would be the 2nd Amendment.

    It’s amazing how stupid people are when they try to chip away at their own protections thinking it will net them some short range benefit.

  • Deana

    Now, now, Allen. You are just being greedy.

    (You know that is what the left will say.)

    But I understand what you are saying about exhaustion. It takes tremendous energy to oppose these people because logic and reason simply don’t work.

    As I’ve said before: it appears that an awful lot of folks in this country need to see disaster up close and personal.


  • rockdalian

    For what its worth, the small business that employs me has deferred all major purchasing decisions until the election. The company has also configured a layoff plan in the event of Obama winning.
    The owner is even contemplating selling the business and retiring, just as Allen has suggested.

  • expat

    Something else happened in the sixties besides the Great Society welfare expansion: the radicalization of blacks, to the applause of the radical chic. So poor blacks were getting a mixed message. On one hand, greater educational opportunities were demanded. On the other hand, the young were told that in taking advantage of these opportunities, they were abandoning their heritage and acting white. Middle and working class blacks risked being called Uncle Toms, even by their own children. Potential role models were discredited.

    I don’t know how many remember that when The Bill Cosby Show first aired, it was attacked for not representing the way most blacks lived, except that some blacks actually did live that way (except for the usual TV embellishments). I won’t say that they never suffered from racism because I’m sure they did. But they were educated and they valued education. They did not think that learning to read was acting white. Cosby was essentially removed from the possibilities open to blacks because he wasn’t authentic. He had lived in a Phiily housing project, went on to educate himself and establish a successful career in entertainment, and then went back to get a PhD in education. He has never really been forgiven for going his own way.

    Helen–You say that the poor need a chance to learn to manage money. That is the wrong starting point. They need recognition for their personal accomplishments, even when these don’t include a pair of Ivy League degrees. They need an opportunity to think about their own lives and their desires and to feel pride in what they have achieved. That is not just a black thing; it is a human thing. And you can feel more pride at creating something from practically nothing than in having it easy financially and being judged on whether you are wearing or cooking the latest in thing. I speak from experience on this topic.

  • suek

    Rockdalian…maybe you’d like to pass this on to your friend:

    Papa B, who manages an M&A firm for small- and medium-sized businesses, writes, “Here’s a recommendation we received from one of our clients:”

    Dear Fellow Business Owners,

    As a business owner who employs 30 people, I have resigned myself to the fact that Barack Obama will be our next president, and that my taxes and fees will go up in a BIG way.

    To compensate for these increases, I figure that the Customer will have to see an increase in my fees to them of about 8 to 10%. I will also have to lay off six of my employees. This really bothered me as I believe we are family here and didn’t know how to choose who will have to go. So, this is what I did.

    I strolled thru the parking lot and found eight Obama bumper stickers on my employees’ cars. I have decided these folks will be the first to be laid off.

    I can’t think of another fair way to approach this problem. If you have a better idea, let me know.

    I am sending this letter to all business owners that I know.


    [Name and company redacted]

    I don’t think there are any federal anti-discrimination laws that would apply here.

    Also: (same site, different article)


  • suek

    >>for one reason or another it didn’t endure in the multi-generational sense>>

    A maxim I heard my mother use numbers of times was “Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations”. Interesting concept to consider. Some individuals make enough money that it takes more than three generations to dissipate, but it’s an unusual individual who lacking personal need as the motive to be industrious is industrious nevertheless.

  • suek

    >>Take professional athletes, for example, who sign contracts for vulgar amounts of money…>>

    These days, most of those professional athletes are black. I should think that would make you happy.

    “vulgar amounts of money”

    Oooh. So you’re above all that? It sounds like you don’t approve.

    Ah. I forgot. We’re supposed to “spread the wealth”. Even blacks aren’t supposed to make _really_ _ big_ _bunches_ of money. So crass.

  • Mike Devx

    >> Some individuals make enough money that it takes more than three generations to dissipate, but it’s an unusual individual who lacking personal need as the motive to be industrious is industrious nevertheless. >>

    If each generation is brought up well, and taught well, and learns the value of initiative and hard work, then personal need wouldn’t be necessary for industrious, would it? Otherwise, only the desperate would display initiative…

  • suek

    >>If each generation is brought up well, and taught well, and learns the value of initiative and hard work,>>

    By definition, you can hardly be wrong!

    By virtue of reality, we’ve seen example after example of how children of wealth and privilege are _not_ brought up well, taught well or learn the value of initiative and hard work.

    Children of the “not wealthy” may also not be brought up well etc. The fact of the matter is that it requires a set of moral values and practical experience in child raising to do the necessary job. In the past, the moral values were those of the Judeo-Christian work ethic, and families were large, meaning that boys and girls grew up tending to younger children in an extended family. Today, especially among those called “Yuppies”, Judeo-Christian values are disdained, and large families are non-existent. The have no values to pass on, and even if they did, they don’t know how to raise children because they have neither experience nor training. Marriage is passe, young men consider it macho to make babies, but make no effort to be fathers. Young women consider it image enhancing to either have multiple abortions, or have babies with no means of support and no means of establishing a family.

    So much for the modern method of bringing up children well etc.

    So…you’re absolutely right, but the response I’d have to give is “yeah…right”!

    I guess I’m discouraged.

  • Mike Devx

    I understand the pessimism, SueK! But there have got to be a decent number of people who raise their children responsibly. We just don’t hear about them.

    So don’t let your discouragement get you down! All around us, the people we meet day-to-day are on the average better people with better values than the average people we see on the TV, hear about in the news, see in theatres. The American people aren’t as terrible as you might think.

    I guess I’m optimistic (today!)

  • suek

    Have you ever watched “Super Nanny”?


    And then watch Caesar Millan’s “Dog Whisperer”…

    He states openly that he doesn’t train dogs – he trains their owners.

    Equally unbelievable.

    These are people who are incapable of raising children who are having children, and people who are incapable of managing dogs who own dogs. They are _idiots_. They let their children and their dogs run their lives. They don’t even have the sense (in the case of the dog owners) to get rid of the dogs when they’re unable to live normal lives because of abnormal dogs. Most of the ones with problem children are unable to say “no” and make it stick. In the SuperNanny shows I’ve seen, none of the children end up being abnormal kids in any way – just normal kids who have learned how to dominate their parents. The one thing I did notice is that not infrequently, there’s a relationship problem between the parents as well. Sometimes they just bit off more than they were able to chew and just didn’t know it.

    Of course, the tv shows feature people who finally realized that they had a problem and sought help…how many are out there who have similar problems and no help??

  • suek

    Additionally, it seems to me that the problem started when it became commonplace for mothers to work outside the home. You simply cannot expect someone else to raise your child and have the same results. Many of the “yuppies” are where they are financially because they have two incomes. They have two incomes because they can place their children in childcare. Childcare facilities do not instill moral and ethical values in children, they simply see to their physical well-being.

    Guess what…we need _Moms_ to get back in the child rearing business!

    Yeah I know Sarah does it all…but her husband is her partner, and picks up the load. I can live with that. Men are greatly underrated when it comes to child rearing. We need Dads too. What we actually need are _two_ parents – each doing his/her share. Society benefits as well as the kids.

  • Tiresias

    Well, just in the interests of fairness, Sue, there are other reasons. Personal motivation – or the lack thereof – was certainly part of the mix, but there were also a few market crashes along the way (between 1860 and now, I mean), some wars, some people who had no children or lost them in said wars, and the general vicissitudes of life. You know, stuff happens.

    A lot of the time, to climb to the hundred million dollar level prior to 1915, let’s say (thereby qualifying for designation as both “old,” and “rich” – $100 million in 1915 dollars is a couple of billion in the purchasing power of contemporary dollars) it took plenty of years, a lot of dedication, a lot of burnt midnight oil. A lot of these guys – probably a surprising (to us) number of them – never had the time or saw the need for kids, or at most had one and one only.

    I know of two gigantic “old rich” fortunes – one cereal, one automotive – that ended simply because there was no heir left. The automotive one was accumulated prior to 1912, and he didn’t have a child, though married thrice. A great enjoyer of life, he raced cars, climbed mountains, played polo, traveled extensively: had a fine time, but no time for kiddies. He gave the Palm Beach house to wife #2 and then when in his nineties (in the 1960s) gave the Long Island north shore Gatsby house to a convent, with an endowment sufficient to care for it, which it does to this day. (And will do for considerably more days, and decades, into the future. The nuns have added a school, over the years. It’s a nice place.)

    The cereal fortune hasn’t actually come to an end as yet, but will. The fortune had one child. That child had one child, the grandchild. The grandchild had the great-grandchild, who drowned swimming off Montauk. The grandchild is now a widow in her eighties, and when she dies there will be a whole lot of money dispersed somewhere, but it won’t be to the family: the family’s over.

    And then there is the tale the Arab oil magnates tell: “My grandfather rode a camel. My father drove a car. I was driven in a limousine. My son flies his own plane. His son will ride a camel.”

    The world changes, and industriousness may or may not have anything to do with it. But it isn’t fair to accuse all of them that failed to endure of being feckless.

  • suek

    >>A lot of these guys – probably a surprising (to us) number of them – never had the time or saw the need for kids, or at most had one and one only.>>

    Interesting stories. I’ve thought about this one, actually…and wondered about it…. Certainly there are many more childless families today than 50 years ago, and many more upper middle class or even marginally wealthy families among them. What is going to happen to their estates when they die? Either various charities are going to make out like bandits, or the State is.

    >>But it isn’t fair to accuse all of them that failed to endure of being feckless.>>

    I don’t think “feckless” would be my choice of words, but still…if a man’s entire life is so dedicated to his work/fortune that he has no time for children, there’s something missing, don’t you think? No children? what’s the point of establishing such a fortune with neither kith nor kin to inherit it? We’ve certainly all benefitted by it, but it seems a bit sad, don’t you think? I understand that maybe there’s no fault here – though three wives and no children kind of makes me a bit suspicious. STDs maybe? direct contraceptive action perhaps? we’ll never know, but that’s extraordinarily bad luck in a time where problems getting pregnant wasn’t a common issue.

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