Will We Learn From History?

As a historian, I have this faith that people might actually learn something from history. What a quaint notion.

The first requisite, of course, is that people know some history. Those kinds of people are becoming a rare commodity.

Please excuse the seeming air of resignation in this post. It’s just that some lessons from history are so easy to find that it boggles the mind that mankind continues to repeat all the old errors.

Take socialism/communism, for instance. It’s never worked anywhere, yet it continues to beguile and beckon with its siren song of equality, fairness, and brotherhood.

You know, like in the Soviet Union where, under Stalin, everyone was so friendly.

It was such a wonderful success that they continued to promote those Five-Year Plans for 70 years. Don’t ask if they ever worked. Well, you could ask all those nations that adopted socialist economies; I’m sure they have a story to tell. Come along with me to one such country.

Britain went all agog for socialism after WWII. Rationing continued for years after the war, ensuring “equality.” Here’s how Winston Churchill described what he witnessed:

Yet the current generation is being wooed once again by this false philosophy. Take Bernie Sanders and his minions, openly advocating the policy. In fact, most Democrats are on this bandwagon; they just are more discreet by not calling it what it is. They couch it in the language of “caring.” And voters lap it up because they are rather ignorant:

Someone needs to write this book:

But would anyone read it who actually needs to read it?

G. K. Chesterton nailed it:

Forgive my cynicism today. If not for my steadfast faith that this world ultimately is not my home, cynicism would prevail. However, I can see past the blindness; I know where Truth resides. I want to live in that Truth today and continue to do what God has called me to do. I will be faithful and leave results up to Him.

Lewis & Socialist Britain: His Critique

c-s-lewis-2C. S. Lewis always claimed not to be interested in politics. To be sure, it was not a primary interest. Yet he often engaged in commentary and/or questions with his American correspondents over the state of American politics and government.

As the 1952 presidential election approached, Lewis turned to Vera Gebbert for her opinion on what was transpiring, asking her if even Americans really understood what was happening on their political scene. He told her about another American correspondent who had sent him eight pages of political analysis “so hot that they nearly burnt my fingers.” That correspondent had concluded that the Democrats should really be known as the “Dumbocrats” and were “a sort of mixture of Hitler, the Russian secret police, and the inmates of the village lunatic asylum.”

One cannot truly evaluate a person’s views of another nation in a vacuum.
Comparisons are necessary. What better way to evaluate Lewis’s views on
America than to look also at his views on the Britain of his day? If he entertained
a low opinion of British government and culture, would we say he was anti-British? Or would he merely be pointing out the problems that needed to be corrected?

When Nathan Comfort Starr sought to bring Lewis to America and Lewis had to decline, he did invite Starr to Britain, but not with a sterling recommendation, referring to Britain as “this luckless country.” In offering the same invitation to Warfield Firor, the image of Britain he used in the letter was “this bleak island,” and he wondered why Firor would even want to visit it. Why the bleak state of affairs?

For Lewis, the blame fell on the Labour government and its socialist policies, which not only ruined the nation economically but was siphoning off its liberties and making Britain a less-than-stellar partner for the United States. As he explained to Firor, the government always seemed to be thinking of ways to take more liberties from the people. “Try not to judge us by our rulers,” he pleaded.

vera-gebbertBy 1954, rationing in Britain finally came to an end, thanks to the new Conservative government. He informed Vera Gebbert he wouldn’t be needing her gifts anymore, but there was a possibility, if she really missed sending him all those items, that she might be able to begin anew, noting that if the Socialists ever regained the majority, she could once again show her kindness “by supplying us, not with little luxuries, but with the necessities of life!”

He continued to sound the warning, such as when Gebbert was thinking of moving permanently to Britain. While they would be glad to welcome her, she needed to know the truth: there would always be the threat of a revival of a government ruled by the Socialists, “which would finish us off completely.”

cover-on-ws-pageLewis also contrasted the blessings Gebbert had in America with the current state of England, saying, “Try living in ‘free’ England for a bit, and you would realize what government interference can mean! And not only interference, but interference in a ‘school marm’ form which is maddening.”

Then he added this quip: “There are times when one feels that a minister or two dangling from a lamp post in Whitehall would be an attraction that would draw a hard worked man up to London!”

So for those who think C. S. Lewis had nothing to say about politics and government, I offer these excerpts from my book as a counterbalance.

Lewis’s Attitude Toward America

C. S. Lewis 4My upcoming book, America Discovers C. S. Lewis, deals with that famous author’s interactions with Americans and his attitude toward America as well. Early in his life, judging by comments in his letters, he had some prejudices against America and its citizens, but once he began exchanging views with American academics and receiving an abundance of letters from Americans who loved his books, one can see a decided shift in attitude.

While he did critique some aspects of American society and government, one cannot truly evaluate a person’s views of another nation in a vacuum. Comparisons are necessary. What better way to evaluate Lewis’s views on America than to look also at his views on the Britain of his day?

If he entertained a low opinion of British government and culture, would we say he was anti-British? Or would he merely be pointing out the problems that needed to be corrected? In fact, Lewis’s comments on his native country appear to be far harsher than anything he said about America.

When American university professor Nathan Comfort Starr sought to bring Lewis to America and Lewis had to decline, he did invite Starr to Britain, but not with a sterling recommendation, referring to Britain as “this luckless country.”

In offering the same invitation to Warfield Firor, a famous surgeon at Johns Hopkins, the image of Britain he used in the letter was “this bleak island,” and he wondered why Firor would even want to visit it.

Why the bleak state of affairs? For Lewis, the blame fell on the Labour government and its socialist policies, which not only ruined the nation economically but was siphoning off its liberties and making Britain a less-than-stellar partner for the United States. As he explained to Firor, the government always seemed to be thinking of ways to take more liberties from the people. “Try not to judge us by our rulers,” he pleaded.

C. S. Lewis 5By 1954, rationing in Britain finally came to an end, thanks to the new Conservative government. He informed Vera Gebbert, another regular American correspondent, that he wouldn’t be needing her gifts anymore, but there was a possibility, if she really missed sending him all those items, that she might be able to begin anew, noting that if the Socialists ever regained the majority, she could once again show her kindness “by supplying us, not with little luxuries, but with the necessities of life!”

He continued to sound the warning, such as when Gebbert was thinking of moving permanently to Britain. While they would be glad to welcome her, she needed to know the truth: there would always be the threat of a revival of a government ruled by the Socialists, “which would finish us off completely.”

When Mary Van Deusen wrote to ask him what he thought of the concept of loving one’s own country, his reply indicates a man striving to find the balance between nations and individuals. Love of country, he theorized, was primarily love for those with whom one had a lot in common.

He cautioned, “Mind you, I’m in considerable doubt about the whole thing. My mind tends to move in a world of individuals not of societies.” That tendency in Lewis’s mind to “move in a world of individuals” and “not of societies,” would also lend itself to a tendency not to wed oneself to stereotypes, whether of good traits in a people group or less-admirable ones. Whatever prejudices he may have had at the outset were set aside as he came to know more Americans.

If you find this subject of interest, there is more in my book. I’ll be sure to let you know when it is available.

The Redistributionist President

Barack Obama was in full socialistic, redistributionist mode yesterday. At a speech before an audience at the “progressive” Center for American Progress, he called income inequality a “defining challenge” for the U.S. Memories of his comments to Joe the Plumber flood the mind. First of all, one must ignore the fact that income inequality has only increased on his watch; so if that’s what he calls a defining challenge, he’s obviously failed at meeting it.

For someone like Obama, it is a fundamental tenet that some people just have too much, and it’s the government’s job to take from the wealthy and give to those further down the economic ladder. This recalls comments he made back in 2010, when he argued, “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.” Well, is it his responsibility to determine who has reached that point, if indeed such a point exists? There are some rich people I would like to see making even more money because they use it to promote the Gospel. Should the government step in and stop them? Let’s go back to a basic Scriptural principle—it’s not money that’s evil, but the love of money that leads us astray.

The president’s speech yesterday was full of all the progressive buzzwords and hobby horses: education spending; collective bargaining; minimum wage; Social Security; Medicare; and of course the omnipresent Obamacare. The progressive vision of how to create prosperity for all is for the government to shift the wealth around and get more of the wealth for itself so it can help us spend our way into prosperity. If that sounds a trifle contradictory to you, it only means you can think clearly:

Buck Would Stop Here

And don’t expect this administration to be honest about how its policies are working. We now know they fudged the unemployment numbers right before the 2012 election to make it appear things were rosier than everyone thought they were:

Fabricated Lie

Trust is not the hallmark of this White House. Honesty and transparency are in short supply. Why should we ever believe anything that emanates from that source? And given the progressive ideology that dominates, why would we want to give them even more funds to carry out their income inequality project?

Obama began his term of office with a national debt of $9 trillion; it’s now more than $17 trillion. How’s that spending-our-way-into-prosperity approach working out?

My Contribution to the International Socialist Movement

It’s time for me to confess. I’m a member of the international socialist movement. I must be because I’ve now written for the movement’s website. Are you surprised? No more so than I. The bizarre facts to follow.

I’ve been on Twitter now for a few months. You never know who is going to retweet you or how connections are sometimes made. I discovered last night through the “connect” section that the American Socialists were trumpeting their online site, complete with stories. For some reason, my Twitter name was linked to it. Curiosity naturally overcame my surprise, so I clicked on the URL. Up came the The International Socialist.

Eager to know why my name had been prominent in the tweet, I began to scroll through the site. A little ways down, under a section titled “Society,” was a link to my blog from yesterday. In bold letters, I read “The Obamacare Rollout: Pondering Principles.” It listed my name as the one sharing this “story.” By clicking on it, I was immediately transferred to my own website.

So there you have it. I am now a certified contributor to the international socialist movement. If you want to check it out for yourself, go to paper.li/socialistagenda/1333812019.

Bizarre is the right word. Who, responsible for that website, would ever place my blog there? Did they read it? I wrote about socialism, for sure, but what I wrote was hardly in agreement with their aims. If whoever decided to link to the piece had looked at it carefully, that person would have seen quotes like the one from Wes Pruden: “Obamacare is the work of Marxists—Groucho, Chico, Harpo,” and the one culled from Thomas Sowell: “Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it.”

My first response to seeing my blog on that site was shock. Truly, I was speechless. That was followed by a giggle [believe me, I don’t giggle often] and some satisfaction that by some mistake many socialists would be exposed to truth. Whether this was a mistake by an individual or a providential act of God is a pointless speculation. I’m just gratified I’ve found a new audience, so to speak.

However, for those of you who may begin wondering about my Christian conservative bona fides, I offer proofs of my true feelings about socialism and its effects:

Socialism Illustrated

Crony Socialism

Not Socialism

And for good measure, here’s an illustration of how I think socialism works:

Socialism

I wonder: Should I check the American Communist Party website later to see if today’s blog can be found there?

The Obamacare Rollout

Every once in a while, I get to a place where I would like to move on to a different topic in my daily commentaries, yet it would seem best to stay on the topic that dominates the news cycle. We’re at one of those places today. Obamacare is so central to what’s happening—or not happening, in this case—that I feel practically compelled to comment on it again.

The reason is the truly incompetent unveiling of the program. Not that I mind the incompetence, of course. The more incompetent, the better, in my view. Anything that can derail this is most welcome. But this rollout has been so incredibly incompetent, it could set some kind of record.

The Rollout

This massive failure is destined to be used in textbooks on business, management, and politics for years to come, all of which will point to the lack of planning [ironic, considering these people spend their lives trying to plan everyone else’s] and lack of testing beforehand. I haven’t tried to log on to the website, and would rather not have my name ever be associated with the program, but most who have tried have come away empty.

Website

Washington Times commentator Wes Pruden offered this: “Obamacare is the work of Marxists—Groucho, Chico, Harpo.”

The person directly responsible for the fiasco is HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius. She puts on a good front, acting like there’s nothing seriously wrong, but if she were really honest, here’s how she might want to appear in public:

System Error

President Obama is doing his best impersonation of Sebelius. On Monday, he held a sort of press conference to say everything is just fine:

Full Recovery

Byron York of the Washington Examiner reported, “Few expected an out-of-touch, in-denial pep rally. But that’s what happened.”

The administration refuses to say how many have successfully enrolled. It claims not to have the numbers. Does anyone really believe that? In reality, the numbers are so embarrassing, officials don’t want to release them. States are doing some reporting, though. Delaware signed up its first person a few days ago. New York apparently has no one signed up. This is far more than embarrassing; a new word needs to be coined to describe this.

What might we expect next?

Call Now

None of this should be all that surprising, though. Obama and his people have always been long on talk and short on performance. That’s also a pretty good description of socialism—always promising the world and delivering misery. As one of my favorite writers, Thomas Sowell, has noted, “Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it.”

Not to fear. If every excuse falls flat to explain its failure, there’s always a “card” that can be pulled:

Last Refuge

Principled Opposition to Obamacare

All the angst over the government “slimdown” and the debt ceiling has not completely overshadowed the Obamacare rollout disaster, but it hasn’t received the full attention it deserves. Three years after Democrats figured out a way to coerce 60 votes in the Senate to get this thing passed, it still isn’t ready for prime time.

The website for the program is a complete mess; when people are able to access it, they’re stunned by the sticker price of the options available. There’s really no good reason for any young person to sign up for it, yet their participation is the only way it can conceivably work. The whole enterprise has become laughable, showcasing how little competence exists in the administration. Once again, all we’re offered is hope and change.

Christening

We’re also seeing all the long-term effects begin to surface. Various medical clinics across the country are starting to lay off personnel. Reports of doctors planning to curtail their practice or retire are becoming more common. And of course we’ve already seen many businesses either drop employees, cut back their hours, or decide to stop offering insurance plans of their own. That means more people will be forced into the Obamacare monster:

A Beaut

Frankly, I don’t think “progressives”—and I use that term loosely—really are all that interested in people’s healthcare. They’re far more fascinated with the prospects of controlling people’s lives. What we’re seeing now with the Obamacare rollout shouldn’t surprise anyone. Principled people already knew it wouldn’t work as advertised, simply because socialism never works as advertised.

Those in Congress who are faithfully pointing out the principled reasons for opposition to this misnamed Affordable Care Act are routinely dismissed as obstructionists. Well, we have an obligation to do our best to obstruct policies that are bent on destruction. Obamacare is one of the most blatantly destructive acts ever passed by any Congress in our history. It needs to be dismantled while there’s still time to do so.