Man-Made Utopias: A Lewisian Assessment

The Almighty Mind of Man can do anything, we’re often promised. Every age has its share of utopians who believe that societal perfection lies at the other end of that proverbial rainbow (if only we could ever find the location of the “end”).

Karl Marx was positive that his scheme would usher in the perfect society where there would be no more government, no more religion, no more philosophy, and no more family.

The Age of Aquarius, that illusion of the generation in which I grew up, is no closer to reality now than it was when the Fifth Dimension sang about it so enthusiastically.

Dreams of a man-made utopia have always been with us, and I feel sorry for those who put their faith in those wisps of smoke. A more sober assessment, one based on Scripture, needs to take root. C. S. Lewis, in his superb essay, “Is Progress Possible: Willing Slaves of the Welfare State,” offers such an assessment:

[By] the advance, and increasing application, of science . . . we shall grow able to cure, and produce, more diseases—bacterial war, not bombs, might ring down the curtain—to alleviate, and to inflict, more pains, to husband, or to waste, the resources of the planet more extensively.

We can become either more beneficent or more mischievous. My guess is we shall do both; mending one thing and marring another, removing old miseries and producing new ones, safeguarding ourselves here and endangering ourselves there.

The Christian message is clear and forthright: all have sinned; sin destroys; mankind will never save itself; there will be no human utopia; salvation comes through One only; the genuine utopia is a place called Heaven, which will be established by God, not man.

While we work to make our existence on this small planet better, we must never lose sight of those Biblical truths. There are limits to what will be achieved, and we must understand those limits.

Each emerging generation seems to think it can achieve what no other generation has achieved, yet the message of the book of Ecclesiastes still rings true: there is nothing new under the sun.

Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

Income Inequality, Faulty Reasoning, & Bad Policy

Barack ObamaWe’re hearing a lot of talk again lately about income inequality. President Obama, in what I believe is an attempt to take the focus off the failure of his signature healthcare law, has come out swinging against those who succeed too much. The impression he wishes to leave is that the reason some are doing poorly is because others are too successful.

This is an old ploy. It goes back to Karl Marx, at least, who theorized that the rich would get richer and the poor get poorer over time, with the rich achieving their high status on the backs of the poor. Marx, by the way, was a terrible prognosticator. He predicted all wealth would end up in the hands of a few, that the workers’ situation would get worse, and then there would be an uprising of workers to throw off the capitalists. In fact, entrepreneurship thrived, with small businesses doing most of the hiring yet today; workers’ standard of living steadily rose through the decades, and no mass uprising occurred. He was flat-out wrong. It’s amazing he still gets any favorable press.

Others took up the same theme, while not as starkly. The New Deal of the 1930s and the Great Society programs of the 1960s were extensions of the idea that the government had to step in to provide enough to ensure success for everyone. Think about that: what happens to the definition of success when you don’t allow failure? Well, no need to worry; the War on Poverty has been a complete bust, at least for the poor:

Improving Lives

Good intentions are not enough. Good policy must follow in the wake of those intentions. When all you do is trap people in welfare dependency, what have you really done to help them? You can count on one thing, though, if you criticize the welfare state: you will be accused of not caring for the poor. You will be be labeled as hardhearted and callous:

Really Mean

And don’t mention the national debt; we’re not supposed to notice it has ballooned more in the Obama administration than in all other administrations combined. Neither are we supposed to bring up the embarrassing fact that on Obama’s watch, that income inequality he says he’s so concerned about has gotten worse. Could it be the fault of his policies? No, of course not; he’s not to blame for anything.

Bottom line: Obama operates with a faulty economic vision that sees our economy as a pie that has to be cut and distributed properly. His “pie” is static, never growing. The reality, if he would humble himself enough to recognize it, is that an economy is a dynamic thing that can grow and benefit everyone at all income levels. But to ensure that happens, policies need to allow growth without penalizing those who are the engineers of that growth.

President Obama either doesn’t believe that or he has an unstated goal of suppressing real growth as an excuse for more government control. Either way, his path forward is full of pitfalls and speed bumps. We’ll never turn the corner to genuine prosperity again until he and his cronies are no longer calling the shots.

Honoring Karl Marx: Is That Really What We Want to Do?

Since April 15th came on a Sunday this year, today is the filing deadline for federal income taxes. This has become so much a part of life that most Americans probably don’t realize it wasn’t always this way. The federal income tax didn’t exist for the first 137 years of the republic [except for a short time during the Civil War]. Then in 1913, the Sixteenth Amendment was added to the Constitution [the ratification of which is still suspect historically] allowing taxes to be collected for all incomes derived from whatever source.

The amendment itself didn’t establish an income tax; it merely permitted it. Congress, later that year, in a bill that reduced tariffs—which was a good move—decided, in its wisdom, to make up for “lost revenue”—a line used repeatedly over the succeeding decades—by adding to that bill a provision for the first national income tax.

It wasn’t an intrusive tax at the time. The rates ranged from 1% to 7%, the latter being only for what today would be called multi-millionaires. So it didn’t bother too many people. Yet only four years later, in 1917 in the midst of World War I, the highest rate jumped from 7% to 77%, as a means to help pay the costs of the war. That truly is astounding.

Once the camel has its nose in the tent, it wants to come the rest of the way in.

After the war ended, and a Republican administration replaced Woodrow Wilson, the top rate was cut back to 25%. That certainly was better, but we never again got close to the 7% where we started. The value of having this progressive tax became evident to politicians of all stripes: anytime the government needs more money, just open the spigot and take more. At one point, after World War II, the highest marginal rate was over 90%. Can you imagine what that does to incentive to earn money and be productive?

Where did this wonderful idea of taxing citizens progressively—the more you make, the higher percentage of your income you have to pay—come from? Well, one of the originators of this policy in the modern era was Karl Marx. He set forth his plan for the progressive income tax in his Communist Manifesto in 1848. So Marxist ideology is behind the bright idea, and we continue to “honor” Marx today by propagating his class-envy program. Why should the government have first say on what we earn? Why should it demand so much? God requires a tithe; the government requires more than God.

Proposals to alter our taxation always fall short of support. An entire industry has arisen to bolster the current system, and an even higher percentage of citizens no longer pay any income tax at all, thereby putting the onus for financing the government on the middle and upper classes. And what do we receive for all our sacrifice? Obamacare??? Trips to Las Vegas for federal employees??? The list of abuses is virtually endless.

It’s time to rethink the entire tax code, not merely tinker with the edges. The income you earn is your money, not the government’s. That is the first perception that needs to change. Then perhaps we can find a way to appreciate that basic truth while still supporting the essential services of the government.

Worldview Does Matter

A person’s worldview does affect how he sees everything. I’ve commented often on what I believe Obama’s worldview is: non-Christian, anti-Western, and heavily influenced by Marxist philosophy. Take a hypothetical classroom where economist Adam Smith and Karl Marx might be under the tutelage of Prof. Obama:

There are ramifications to the rejection of free markets and the adoption of government control of the economy:

President Obama, though, refuses to take any responsibility for any of our economic woes. He continues to deflect criticism and blame others—one person in particular:

I’ve ordered George Bush’s book; I hope I never have to order the other one.