Paul Krugman, once a Nobel laureate, has been for some years one of the most rabidly partisan opinionistas of the New York Times. For every problem, he has but one solution: tax, spend, and regulate more, and in the most intrusive way possible. The products of his once impressive intellect have become a joke.
All is not entirely dead within his cranium, though; in a recent article he spoke the truth with a blinding clarity that should make us all fall back in awe - and fear.
One side of American politics considers the modern welfare state — a private-enterprise economy, but one in which society’s winners are taxed to pay for a social safety net — morally superior to the capitalism red in tooth and claw we had before the New Deal. It’s only right, this side believes, for the affluent to help the less fortunate.
The other side believes that people have a right to keep what they earn, and that taxing them to support others, no matter how needy, amounts to theft. That’s what lies behind the modern right’s fondness for violent rhetoric: many activists on the right really do see taxes and regulation as tyrannical impositions on their liberty.
There’s no middle ground between these views. One side saw health reform, with its subsidized extension of coverage to the uninsured, as fulfilling a moral imperative: wealthy nations, it believed, have an obligation to provide all their citizens with essential care. The other side saw the same reform as a moral outrage, an assault on the right of Americans to spend their money as they choose.
This deep divide in American political morality — for that’s what it amounts to — is a relatively recent development. Commentators who pine for the days of civility and bipartisanship are, whether they realize it or not, pining for the days when the Republican Party accepted the legitimacy of the welfare state, and was even willing to contemplate expanding it.
In the first article in this series, we explored how the South's overreaching defense of the institution of slavery caused the previously-tolerable to become intolerable, and directly caused the Civil War. The myth that Southerners fought to defend "states' rights" in the form of slavery in their own states, is a lie; instead, they fought to destroy the "states' rights" of other citizens not to have to support slavery on their own territory.
With the misbegotten, evil, and unwise Dred Scott decision, the North's nose was forcibly rubbed in a horror that previously had been out of sight and mostly out of mind. Northerners were required by the forces of law to personally support and pay for an abomination; what other result than war could be expected? As Lincoln rightly observed:
I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.
By obtaining a judicial decision that, in effect, declared abolitionism unconstitutional, the South thought they'd won once and for all. They couldn't have been more wrong; all they'd accomplished was driving the slavery issue outside the realm of ordinary politics and into the domain of armed force. That turned out to be bad for them, and dreadfully bad for the country.
Why was the South so insistent that the North toe their line? Because the Southern economy and the personal wealth of Southerners depended on taking property which they believed was rightfully theirs, but which actually wasn't - namely, the escaped slaves.
Prof. Krugman's article explains that the conflict between leftist-liberal-statism and Tea-Party-conservatism is of precisely the same nature. Just as the Southerners viewed escaped blacks as their natural property which they had a right to demand that the North hand over, so does the socialist Left believe that they have a moral right to the earnings of the productive which they can demand that earners hand over.
Of course, the Left generally claims that the enforced high taxes are to benefit "the needy" - but are not the salaries of government officials, bureaucrats, and community organizers paid from the same tax dollars as welfare checks? Unlike slavery, a certain amount of taxation and government activity is essential for civilization - but we have gone far, far beyond that point, and the overrun is viewed as theft by the Right as Krugman makes plain.
For many decades, the Left has controlled certain states known far and wide as high-tax regimes - California, New York, Illinois, the "People's Republic of Taxachusetts." The glory of federalism has been that people fed up with losing half their paycheck can simply move, as millions of newly-minted Coloradans, Texans, Arizonans, and New Hampshirites have done.
Now the socialist states are circling the drain. Past liberal governments have promised more in union wages, featherbedding, and pensions than they can ever pay, yet the public-sector union bosses who are the paymasters of the Democratic party refuse to even consider any cuts.
The union-dominated states will demand that the federal government bail out the failing states using funds stolen from the better-run states; Democratic desperation for national health care can be viewed as a hidden bailout of state and unionized-company health care excesses. As the Supreme Court once ruled that Northerners had to arrest escaped slaves and return them to their Southern masters no matter what their conscience dictated, so we are in grave danger of laws or court decisions doing the same with money properly belonging to states, localities, and individuals.
It's not entirely unheard of for people to go to war over nothing more than money. Usually, though, there's a moral element to firing up the red rage, and the Left has been providing that too.
Religious conservatives are well-known for considering abortion to be murder and homosexuality an abomination. However, the four-decade-old Roe v Wade decision didn't lead to war, any more than did the loosening and elimination of anti-sodomy laws.
Again, though, slave states and free states coexisted for a long time and got along mostly OK as long as they left each other alone. The devout have known about San Francisco's Castro Street and New York's Greenwich Village for a long time; they may preach against them, but they don't go there and they know that none of their money goes there either.
Recent court decisions are bringing Castro Street to them, nationwide. California's voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 8 which enacted a constitutional amendment banning homosexual marriage. In a stunning Dred-Scott-esque display of judicial arrogance and moral debauchery, Judge Walker claimed that the voter-approved constitutional amendment was somehow itself unconstitutional and struck it down. In Massachusetts, another extralegal judge ruled Federal policy against recognizing homosexual marriages to be, again, unconstitutional - despite earlier unconstitutional actions by the Massachusetts legislature to foil the opposition of voters.
The same is true, even more so, of abortion. It's quite revealing to watch the screams of feminists and liberals when pro-life protesters hold up posters of exactly what is being aborted - namely, a baby. Nobody ever sees the aborted babies; they just vanish into the mist, so it isn't as sharp an issue as slavery was.
Nevertheless, those who care about abortion and sodomy care a whole lot. It's bad enough that murder is being done unhindered. With Obamacare, it is crystal clear that everyone's tax dollars will be used to promote this holocaust - stripping the last shred of a fig leaf from those who see abortion as murder but would prefer not to get personally involved if at all possible.
Senator Rick Santorum recently made the connection clear:
For decades certain human beings were wrongly treated as property and denied liberty in America because they were not considered persons under the constitution. Today other human beings, the unborn of all races, are also wrongly treated as property and denied the right to life for the same reason; because they are not considered persons under the constitution.
The end result will undoubtedly be exactly as the North once feared and fought to prevent. They were required to enforce the evil regime of slavery with their money and with the efforts of their officials. Today's objectors will shortly be required of even more: not just sheriffs, but all workers and employers will be obliged to honor homosexual unions, pay their benefits, fund abortion, and of course pay for whatever welfare benefits for the unproductive our rulers deem proper.
Like the abolitionists of a century ago, the people of the United States are being told that their moral opinions are not merely wrong, not merely irrelevant, not merely bourgeoise, backwards, and reactionary - as they've been told now for decades - but that they are entirely outside the realm of political debate altogether.
The ruling class hopes that by ruling the debate over, it will be over. Al Gore tried this with global warming - "The debate is over!" The Supreme Court tried it with Dred Scott and Roe v. Wade - We the almighty and all-intelligent Elite have made the Final and Binding Decision, now everybody just go home, shut up, and obey!
Americans aren't like that. They weren't in 1857; they weren't in 1973; and, as the Tea Partiers show, they aren't today.
The situation isn't quite the same, of course. Instead of one single overriding issue financial, emotional, and moral - slavery - we have today several separate issues related only by virtue of an all-powerful Big Government forcing them down our throats. Not everyone is motivated to the same degree by each of them.
Taken together, though, the elements of an impending civil war are now present.
There is the seriously massive financial vested interests on both sides - of the monstrous amounts of tax revenue sucked into the maw of government and used to fund liberal social change agents, which properly belong instead to the individuals who earned them.
There is the "ick" factor of moral repugnance, as employers and individuals are forced to stomach preening homosexuals claiming the same rights and honor of real marriages and families, when five thousand years of history and tradition screams that they are not.
Finally, there is the bloody savagery of abortion, as modern ultrasound imaging and even recent police action have made all too horribly clear.
Did Americans in 1857 seriously think that a full-scale national Civil War was just around the corner? Some of them certainly did.
How about in 1850? Far fewer.
As early as 1820, Thomas Jefferson warned that establishing a geographical line defining where slavery could and could not be practiced would eventually tear the nation apart - but for decades after, his warning seemed the pessimistic worries of an old man.
We read a great deal of political commentary and news reporting, and have for a long time. Up until about ten years ago, we had never seen any mention of even the remotest, faintest possibility of a new Civil War - even the conspiracy theorists thought that idea was too nutty. Now, thoughts of a new civil war, even if only rhetorically, are commonplace.
For the first time, though, a noted writer in a nationally-respected publication has as good as said that a new civil war is inevitable. As Mr. Krugman pointed out, there simply is no middle ground between the sides - there is no room for compromise.
Given that we've abandoned the principles of Federalism which could have kept us safe, as for a long time they did between slave and free states, the only possible end is for one view of government to have total and unchallenged victory over the entire nation.
Either America is to be ruled by the will of the people; or by the will of the elites who can override the people's will when they do something the elites consider to be uncouth.
Either Americans have a right to the fruits of their own labor and nobody else's; or, as Barack Obama once opined, there are things that the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf at the expense of your better-off neighbors.
Either Americans have the right to practice the beliefs of their chosen religion and cannot be forced to pay for or associate with actions they find morally vile; or we enjoy "freedom of religion" only so long as it never ventures forth from our private closet to affect our daily lives.
In short, either we are and will remain America and Americans... or we will, by force, be made something very different indeed, bearing no resemblance to what our Founders fought and died for.
The South never dreamed that their greatest victory, the Dred Scott decision, would lead directly to their ultimate destruction. The Left most likely cannot imagine that passing Obamacare, disregarding California's Proposition 8, enforcing Roe v Wade, and the rest of their un-American top-down tyrannies will be what destroys them - after all, "I won!"
Perhaps Krugman can imagine a coming holocaust. He's desperately arguing the transcendent rightness of his side, and why the Right truly isn't worthy even of being heard, just as Jefferson Davis once bleated that slaves were natural property and any other view was inconceivable - to not the slightest effect save firing up passions on both sides even further than they already were.
Those who would steal the freedoms of others never learn... but oh, the cost of reminding them!