Thursday, November 15, 2012
The Harm that Intellectuals Do
By Alan Caruba
I have a university degree. I read a lot of books. I write about often complex topics, but I am not an “intellectual”. That’s because I live in the real world and I am inordinately fond of facts over theories. For example, I actually believe the Constitution means what it says.
Our Presidents were educated men and a lot of them came from the ranks of the military where the reality of the battlefield taught them about the need to either avoid war or embrace it as the only solution to a threat. From Truman until Clinton our Presidents have served in the armed forces. Bush41 and 43 both served. Clinton did not. Barack Obama did not.
Many of the problems afflicting the nation were the result of “intellectuals” in the Oval Office and those former times were most especially affected by Woodrow Wilson, the ultimate intellectual who served as president of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910.
I was reminded of Wilson while reading an excellent new book by Larry Schweikart and Dave Dougherty, “A Patriot’s History of the Modern World: From America’s Exceptional Ascent to the Atomic Bomb – 1898-1945.”
“Wilson and his progressive allies had no scruples about reinterpreting the Constitution for their own devices, and recognized no limitations on government (particularly executive) authority.” Who does that remind you of?
Like most progressives—liberals—Wilson believed that the Constitution was a “living thing” that should be adjusted to changing times. The Founders had included an amendment process for that, but wisely made amending the Constitution a difficult process to avoid changing fads and fancies such as Prohibition. In sum, the Constitution is all about limitations and all about making the legislative process a process that required a lot of debate, dividing it between Congress and the President with oversight by the Supreme Court.
Wilson believed that Americans must abandon their “blind devotion” to the Constitution and he was very wrong despite his academic credentials. Quoting Jonah Goldberg, “Wilson, was the first president to speak disparagingly of the Constitution”, mocking ”Fourth of July sentiments” Liberty, Wilson thought, had “different meanings in different epochs.” No, it doesn’t.
Wilson, like Obama, “had no regard for the opinions of others” and thought “men are as clay” to be molded to the policies of a leader.” That’s not how it works in America. Those in public office work for us.
Not surprisingly, Wilson admired Germany’s Otto von Bismark who believed that government should determine the actions of citizens, not the other way around. Wilson called his creation an “admirable system…the most studied and most perfected in the world.” Not surprisingly, Wilson staffed his agencies with economists trained in German universities. And Wilson, who campaigned under the banner “He kept us out of the war”, would lead the U.S. into World War I, relishing the notion “that war would force Americans to ‘give up much of our economic freedom…we shall have to lay by our good-natured individualism and march in step.”
It was during Wilson’s tenure that the U.S. passed the 1916 Revenue Act that introduced income taxes. American supported it only because they believed the rates would be low and that many, they were told, would be exempt from them. During the war Wilson’s Treasury Department raised taxes again in 1918, “this time to an astonishing top rate of 77 percent.” If this reminds you have Obama’s constant hectoring of “millionaires and billionaires”—already paying some sixty percent of tax revenues—you would be right.
“Redistribution of wealth”, the authors wrote, “constituted one of the three Progressive planks that the reform of war could provide, heavy regulation of business and massive centralized planning being the other two. War gave the Progressives the excuse they needed to remake the American economy.”
If this history reminds you of Obama’s stated intent to “transform” America, you’re right. America does not need transforming. It is in great need of the reform of many of the agencies and policies that Wilson and other Progressives—liberals—have introduced since his time in office, 1913 to 1921. Other programs introduced by Franklin D. Roosevelt and Truman now devour half of the entire U.S. budget and are facing collapse without reform.
Recall, too, that the last century was a bloody slaughter of millions in wars and by the introduction of communism, an intellectual theory of wealth redistribution. The last century’s intellectuals introduced the theory of eugenics that advocated killing the unborn and various other groups deemed “life that is unfit for life.” It started well before the Nazi Holocaust and was popular in both Europe and less so in America.
President Obama selected a number of intellectuals for his cabinet and for his many czars. All have displayed an indifference to the Constitution, to the limits on the federal government, and the ultimate welfare of the nation as they pursued various environmental, energy, and other “theories.”
The November elections provided an opportunity to elect men and women who would have undone the damage done by Progressives, but a majority of voters did not grasp what was and is being done to the nation. We must not continue down the path of liberalism that has led to 23 million Americans being out of work and more to come as companies react to the penalties of Obamacare and an anemic economy.
As the Heritage Foundation recently noted, “Roughly 100 million people—one-third of the U.S. population—receive aid from at least one means-tested welfare program each month. Average benefits come to around $9,000 per recipient. If converted to cash, means-tested welfare spending is more than five times the amount needed to eliminate all poverty in the United States.”
Jobs are the best remedy for poverty. The result of the election says that Liberals prefer to keep a third of all Americans on the dole. That is unsustainable and the path to collapse.
© Alan Caruba, 2012