Government Run Health Care and Robert Frost

robert_frost

What would Robert frost say about the present health care debate?  Well  –  he is dead – so it is hard to know exactly what he would say.

But one of my favorite poems of his,  “A Roadside Stand” contains these lines:

A Roadside Stand

While greedy good-doers, beneficent beasts of prey,

Swarm over their lives enforcing benefits

That are calculated to soothe them out of their wits,

And by teaching them how to sleep the sleep all day,

Destroy their sleeping at night the ancient way.

True,  Frost did not write this poem about Government-run health care.  But he DID write it about the difference in the proud, individualistic life of country people who refused to go into the city and live on “a dole of bread.”

Most think it the poem was a reaction to the New -Deal-ism coming out of Washington in the 30’s.

What strikes me is that Frost talks about something no one is talking about today in all the discussion of government-run health care, car-making, or government-run anything else. 

  • The loss of thinking individuals that takes place when the government forces its benefits on folk.
  • The loss of the independent spirit.
  • The loss of the beauty, the real life, and the drama of making your money the country way – even if not as slick as the way the city money is made.

It is in the news that all these pitiful kin

Are to be bought out and gathered in

To live in villages next to the theater and store

Where they won’t have to think for themselves anymore.

He seems to believe that it is better to eke out your existence with proudly earned dollars from the roadside stand and go to bed and sleep the honest way, worn out and having earned it.

I am with Frost – on any issue about stuff  pushed down by “greedy good-doers.”

(It was hard to find an online version of the poem – not a popular one at all.  Here is a PDF that has the lyrics and some good questions).

Tales from the Socialism side – are we becoming like Europe?

So much has happened so fast in recent months – government intervention in banks, insurance companies, possibly in the huge auto industry. What is next? What is happening? Are we becoming Social Democrats?

I have written several posts on the stark comparison between Republican-style free and unfettered business values and more historical communist societies. Now it is time to start talking about the more subtle nuances of a “Social Democrat” model like much of Europe has.  America has moved in that direction lately (under a Republican president). How far are we along? Where are we going? Do we want to go there?

Yesterday Brian Kilmeade of Fox News interviewed California governor Arnold Scharzenegger (R) and talked about this principle. There are things to be learned from this talk.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in interview where he discusses his experience with socialism in Europe

Arnold Schwarzenegger in interview where he discusses his experience with socialism in Europe

Click it to play.

As we know, governor Schwarzenegger was an Austrian before he came to America and later became a US citizen. He talks about his experience there with European socialism, why he left, how he hopes America does not go down that path, and how this ties in with what is going on today.

Here is a partial typed transcript of the interview above:

Kilmeade: You said you came to America because you wanted to succeed – you felt that Europe was too socialized. Here we are bailing out the banks, we’re bailing out the auto industry, we’re picking different investments, different insurance companies to bail out and not bail out. Are we becoming what you left?

Schwarzenegger: Not, not by any means, but there is always the danger and I have always promised myself that I will do everything that I can, not to become what Europe was four decades ago when I left it. Since then Europe has learned from America how to privatize things, not to have government own everything and run everything, not to have 70% of the people work for government – a lot of countries have changed. But a lot of countries, again, have not.

I don’t want that system in America.. That is the important thing for me”

Tales from the Socialism Side – Part 3 – crisis of capitalism?

I have been promising a joke the Russians used to tell, under their state-socialism (we called it Communism but they always reminded me they had not reached the Communistic ideal yet – it was just socialism).

An old man had been given the job of being a lookout posted atop Lenin Hills in Moscow, watching for the coming of the “Classless Society” (The communist ideal world). He was doing such a good job some Politburo people approached him with another job they thought was important, watching for the next crisis in the capitalist system.

“It sounds good, but no thanks,” he replied. “I don’t want to give up a permanent job for a temporary one.”

With over 50 years of experience in the experiment of state socialism (I heard this one in the seventies) the Russians of that era need to be credited at least with having learned something. To their great credit they could make poignant jokes about it.

But true.

Crisis has been a huge part of the strength of our economy, historically. Good business ideas thrive. Bad ones die. Life goes through cycles.

I was taught in economics that every ten years or so there would be a recession. That was part of the cycle. It has been pretty much true. I was born in 1950 and there have been 6 since then that I remember. This article lists nine.

Guess what? Every recession is a crisis in capitalism. People lose jobs. The value of stock shrinks. People’s retirements lose some of their paper value, if it is in stocks (advisors used to always say never put it all in stocks as you get older – what happened?).

But then what happens after this “crisis?” Businesses and the economy bounce back. People get smarter. Businesses get more innovative and more efficient. Some of the sludge has been burned out of the engine. It runs cleaner.

I know it is painful. Tell me about it. I lost a business in the early nineties partly die to the recession of 89-92. But guess what? I also started another one – one that is still successful. And I re-invented myself, and got ready for a new way of doing business. That is what got me primed for entering the Internet business world in 1995. If the crisis had not come, I would probably still be back there.

I was talking about this with a colleague and we were discussing the horrible years before Reagan was elected president in 1980 and the change that came after that. The economy was in shambles in the late 70’s. Inflation was near 15%. Unemployment meteoric. Business was stagnant. Energy crises were common. Worst of all, people were not starting small businesses.

Contrast that with ten years later – the late eighties. Entrepreneur-ism was everywhere. Businesses were exploding. The stock market had gone from under 1000 to almost 3000, a whole new revolution in Information and Communications was underway, led largely by entrepreneurs. Something clearly was going on.

It DID seem to be related to the Reagan years – the opening up of business opportunities, tax cuts, deregulation, just the “can-do spirit!” The whole world was led into an amazing new economy by the US – that is still going on! And the Democrats and liberals were shouting “Voo-doo economics” all the way!

In our discussion we wondered if, had things kept going under the more state-controlled systems of “The Great Society” years (started by Lyndon Johnson and carried through the Carter years), maybe Bill Gates would have been working for IBM, Steve Jobs have been an insurance salesman and Michael Dell, well, a college drop-out!

Take a look at the chart below and the web site that it links to.

Slice of stock market history

Slice of stock market history

What, exactly, did the approach to socialism that lasted from the mid sixties through the end of the seventies do for the economy? Look at the charts again.

Flat.

Do you see now why some are worried about a turn back towards socialism, of any kind? We can’t be scared by crisis! We also cannot be scared off by the fear mongers who try to push us back under the ‘comforting’ umbrella of state control.

Take a look at these words from the London Daily Telegraph – sober words:

“This is what socialist economics brings. The intervention, or rather interference, of the state in financial and economic matters can only lead to sclerosis, the suppression of enterprise, the raising of taxes, starvation of investment, lack of innovation, technological retardation and the rise of the power of organised labour…If you doubt this analysis, recall what happened in this country between 1945 and 1979, when such an ethos as we are now returning to existed unchallenged, even by Tory governments. The more the state intervened, the more it had to intervene: the appetite grew with eating….”

Then look what the Brits had to say about the truth of America’s example:

…We condemn America as the nation that used capitalism as a weapon against so-called “ordinary people”, but think back and compare America in the 1970s to Britain at the same time: no American had to wait three months for a telephone to be put in, or had only three television channels to choose from, or had to watch rubbish piling up in the streets, the dead going unburied or factories open just three days a week because of industrial action and the failure of the command economy….”

(This is, by the way, the best article I have read that explains what is really going on).

The lesson we need to draw? Take a look at history! learn from it. Do not give in to fear and foolishness.

Ben Franklin used to say:

Experience is a dear teacher; but fools will have none other.

There is another way. Choose it, America!

Tales from the Socialism Side – Part 2 – Sharing toys

This is a continuation from my last post about the real issue of Socialism and what that means.

Here is another story from my years in Europe. I was working in Vienna with a man who had been visiting churches in Eastern Europe (then communist) countries since the days of Stalin. He had a story he often told:

A man came up to me in Berlin who had just gotten out of East Germany, having escaped like many East Germans did. I was preaching in a church there and he wanted to make a comment. “Do you know what the difference is between Communism and Christianity?’ he asked? “No,” I answered. “Communism says – What’s yours is mine – Christianity says – What’s mine is yours.'”

I have often thought of that simple, profound statement, when sorting out any sort of Socialist agenda in government. It is a root issue, when you think about it.  It is all about control. It is also all about boundaries, who owns what, and who has rights to what.

The Socialists (and the Communists as well) often launch their campaigns with high ideals. “It is all about sharing!” They will say. “The goal is that those who have share with those who do not have!”

Noble words.

I am all for sharing. Christ Himself told us to give what we have to those who do not have and to take care of the poor. I have never seen more generous and effective people than those who believe and follow those words with their hearts.

But with Socialism, it is about more than that. It is about who makes the decision that I will share. Is it I that make the decision that I will share and how much I will share; or is it the state that decides I will share and how much?

That is the root issue.

Yesterday in North Carolina Barak Obama made a speech in which he said:

“He’s called me a socialist for wanting to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans so we can finally give tax relief to the middle class. I don’t know what’s next,” Obama said at a rally at the Halifax mall here.

“By the end of the week, he’ll be accusing me of being a secret communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten. I shared my peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”

Obama misses the point. When he was a kid HE decided to share his peanut butter sandwiches and his toys. That is noble. That is generous. But what if the school had MANDATED that he share his food and his toys? That would be different. That would be Socialism.

What if Obama had said, ‘When I was a kid, I shared Joe the Plumber’s peanut butter sandwiches and toys with the other kids in school?’ That is VASTLY  DIFFERENT.

Think about it.

On a side note, I promised yesterday to sare a great joke the Russians used to tell about Socialism and Capitalism. I’ll move that on to tomorrow. The Obama quote came up first and I couldn’t pass it up.

Stay tuned.

Tales from the Socialism side – Part 1

Since the political campaign season has finally gotten down to some real issues approaching underlying philosophies of candidates (and parties), the time has come for me to speak out on Socialism. There is a good chance our government and society might take an abrupt turn to the left in the next couple of years and we need to get ready.

Having spent a number of years living abroad and traveling in Communist and Socialist countries, I have seen a lot and heard a lot from those who already tried ‘the experiment’.

There is no better answer in a debate than real experience, is there?

You might argue that no one in this campaign has really come out and claimed to push socialist philosophy, but any student of history or philosophy will readily admit that one side is more prone, shall we say, to socialist leanings than the other. That this might be called ‘progressive socialism’ or socialism ‘light’ is not the issue. The real issue underpinning it is the underlying philosophy that leads to a socialist understanding of government, business, and cultural life.

Add to that the huge risk we just took as a nation by nationalizing a good part of our business infrastructure and the risk is suddenly enormous. It must be handled exactly right, or our children will inherit a government with huge control over business and economic life – hence – Socialism.

There is a lot to say here and this is just the first installment. Call it part 1.

One of my favorite succinct quotes is from Viktor Belenko (Виктор Иванович Беленко), the famous MIG pilot who piloted the Soviet MIG 25 from Siberia to Japan in a bold  (and successful) attempt to give the west an intimate look at the new super-fighter the Soviets had produced to challenge our air superiority at the height of the cold war (1976).

Belenko, like all top level Russian military at the time, had been raised and cultivated with the ideals of the “New Soviet Man,” nurtured in the values of state socialism and impressed with the rigorous studies of Dialectical Materialism, Hegelianism, and numerous other social and historical philosophies clung to by traditional communists and socialists (and most philosophical leftists of our day as well).

The conclusion it all drove him to, however, was that it simply DID NOT WORK.  Something was missing. In the process he decided to flee to the West and take a plane with him.

Enough on the background – here is THE QUOTE: – I love this one –

Belenko met President Ronald Reagan and told him :

“You should start an exchange program where you send 1 million American High School students to the Soviet Union for a year in exchange for 1 million Soviet High School students coming to the US for a year.  The Russian students will return to the Soviet Union incredibly impressed with the country, which will be a good thing. The 1 million American kids will return home as Republicans.”

(I could not find this online but I remember reading it in Guidepost magazine around 2001)

More coming tomorrow – stay tuned. Listen to one of the greatest jokes the Russians used to tell about the Capitalist system and the Socialist system – and so true!!