Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Democrats of '32

Once again, a heated debate was stirred up by my applying a historical quote to contemporary circumstances on my Facebook status. Here is what I said:

A key difference between liberals and conservatives is how they feel about this quote:
"The task of government in its relation to business is to assist the development of an economic declaration of rights... Every man has a right to life; and this means that he has also a right to make a comfortable living. He may by sloth or crime decline to exercise that right; but it may not be denied him."
- Franklin Roosevelt

This is the argument which ensued:

Jim Chambers
I don't think there's any question that either side would agree with the quote, but the interpretations would be very different.

Matthew Rozsa
The problem with conservatives who claim that they agree with that quote's message is that their policies blatantly contradict its objectives. How can you say that every man has a right to make a comfortable living and then oppose economic stimulus measures that create jobs? How can you recognize a right to survive through one's work and then oppose providing universal health care to those who put in a full day's labor and still cannot afford decent insurance? In short, what use is any economic declaration of rights if it does not entail the right to labor empowerment (by cultivating the growth of unions through the EFCA), the right to earn enough through forty hours of work to support both yourself and your family (by raising the minimum wage), and the right to not have one's very security undermined through the reckless cupidity of big business and Wall Street firms (such as would be prevented by the financial regulations that most Republicans oppose)?

Matthew Rozsa
Because America is a populist democracy, it is politically unproductive for any mainstream politician to openly denounce the principles articulated by Franklin Roosevelt in that 1932 campaign speech. That said, because the modern Republican Party thrives on the contributions of America's financial upper class - and because that upper class wishes to preserve its own disproportionate social and political power, as well as all maximize its wealth even at the expense of other people's fundamental economic rights - it consistently supports policies, pushed forth by the Republican Party it subsidizes, that go against our nation's most basic democratic ideals. Indeed, when the antecedents of the contemporary Republican Party advocated similar policies (in those days made manifest by its support of the Second National Bank), the founder of the Democratic Party, Andrew Jackson, responded with this immortal observation:

"It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes... There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses. If it would confine itself to equal protection, and, as Heaven does its rains, shower its favors alike on the high and the low, the rich and the poor, it would be an unqualified blessing."

To me, this battle for America's economic soul is fundamentally the same now as it was when Andrew Jackson and the liberals opposed Henry Clay and the conservatives in 1832, and as it was when Franklin Roosevelt and the liberals opposed Herbert Hoover and the conservatives in 1932. It's a struggle between the ideals of the Democrats of '32 and the conservatives who, though professing the same basic values, actively work against them.

Jim Chambers
Matt, I don't want to get into it again, but the pathology of your comments is astounding. For one, you are assuming that a right to life implies all sorts of other modern comforts, normally earned and chosen. Two, you are ignoring the fact that the left is responsible for the American holocaust of the unborn. Three, you are ignoring the inevitable corruptness of bureacracy after bureaucracy after bureaucracy. Unions? Seriously? Know anyone in any unions? Talk about wasted time, money and favoritism, not to mention a culture reminiscent of indentured servitude. Lastly, you are ignoring that the contributions of the wealthy is what supports both parties. Obama's campaign starts and finishes with support of the elites. Ask my family.

Charlie D Brill
I don't know you Jim, but as somebody who works for a union, I would disagree with your assessment. Why would you consider union workers indentured servants when they earn more in terms of wages and benefits than non-union workers? I think those who toil for companies without the benefit of union protection are the indentured servants or more aptly wage slaves in many cases.

Matthew Rozsa

1) If you actually read Franklin Roosevelt's comment (you know, the one with which you supposedly agreed), you would notice that he says people have a "right to make a comfortable living." It is not only logical, but morally and practically necessary, to include high quality health care, a sustainable income, and a secure job among those rights, since it's ridiculous to assert that anyone can have a "comfortable living" without those things.

2) Although you claim that these rights have to be "earned" and "chosen", what you conveniently ignore is that millions of Americans DO choose to have these rights and DO earn them - or at least WOULD choose and earn them if they were given the opportunity to do so. Not everyone who genuinely seeks full-time work is able to obtain it, and not everyone who is employed earns enough through his or her job to provide the aforementioned economic rights to himself/herself and his/her dependants. When Roosevelt said that every American "may by sloth or crime decline to exercise that right; BUT IT MAY NOT BE DENIED", we liberals take note of the fact that far too many of our fellow citizens are having that right denied. In short, a key different between liberal and conservative economic thinkers is that the former recognize the inequities and injustices of our current system and wish to correct them, whereas the latter would rather blame the victims (for the time being, I will decline from speculating as to their motives for doing so)

3) I address your comment on abortion in an earlier blog post: http://riskinghemlock.blogspot.com/2009/09/quick-rebuttal.html

4) In response to what you say about bureaucracies, I re-quote Andrew Jackson:
"There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses."
Government programs that protect the economic rights of America's working class have a vital role to play in our national life. The fact that there can be inefficiencies and corruptions in these programs does not detract from their overall value, at least no more than the inefficiencies and corruptions of, say, some specific law enforcement agencies detracts from the overall value of having cops. While I do not deny that there are problems which need to be remedied in the manner with which we provide a whole host of social services, the solution is to take bold action in fighting for more efficient and honest government, not in throwing away the baby with the bathwater.

5) Mr. Brill does a fantastic job of rebutting your fatuous claim about labor unions. In the event that his arguments aren't enough for you, I can direct you to an article I wrote more than nine months ago: http://riskinghemlock.blogspot.com/2009/03/three-excerpts-that-explain-our.html

6) While both political parties accept contributions from wealthy donors (a problem that I agree is very real, and should be dealt with through aggressive campaign finance reform), it can't be denied that big business, Wall Street, and the American plutocracy in general has a distinct preference for the Republican Party over the Democratic Party. Indeed, to the extent that your criticism of Obama and the Democrats is germane, it only is so to the extent that it involves both of them BETRAYING their own principles by becoming more Republican in their policies. When the Democrats allow the siren song of campaign funds and well-heeled lobbyists to choose the elite over the people, then they do indeed commit treason against their own cause, and deserve our contempt and condemnation. The ultimate difference, though, is that Democrats who do this are guilty of behaving in an un-Democratic fashion, while Republicans who do this are acting in strict accord with the precepts of their organization.

Oh, and a friendly suggestion? Use a dictionary before tossing words like "pathology" into your comments. That'll save you embarassment in the future.

Jim Chambers
3. any deviation from a healthy, normal, or efficient condition.

That is what it means, and what I meant. Tell me how that is off point. If you disagree, that's one thing, but you can't say there's no use for that word. I don't know why you insist on trying to call me an idiot. I have yet to go after you personally, as you have now done numerous times.

I read your limp-wristed abortion defense before, and it fell as short of being adequate then as it does now.

And just see what happens when Buffett, Chambers, etc. can no longer bankroll the left. There would be no left.

Charlie D Brill
I agree with Jim no need to get personal Matt. Also, the rules regarding grammar and spelling need to be a bit more liberal in this arena especially when using an iPhone or blackberry. You don't need to take it to that level in order to make a persuasive argument. Now fight nice!

Matthew Rozsa
1) If you're going to call my defense of abortion "limp-wristed" and "short of being adequate", it would serve both of us better if you explained how and why that is the case. You aren't rebutting me, but simply expressing disagreement.

2) Do you really believe that there "would be no left" if it weren't for the contributions of wealthy progressives? Economic liberalism has a long and rich history. From the days of ancient Rome, when the Gracchi brothers fought for land reform on behalf of the plebians, to the early years of American history, when Andrew Jackson took down the National Bank and Thomas Dorr cast shame upon the laws that made property ownership a prerequisite to voting - in short, for as long as Western history has been chronicled, stories can be found of left-wingers fighting for full-time jobs, the means with which to support themselves and their families, political representation equal to that of the rich and powerful, and a fair opportunity to succeed or fail based on their individual merits regardless of the class into which they were born. If a magic wand was waved that caused Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, George Soros, Warren Buffett, and every other prominent economic liberal to vanish into thin air, the principles for which they fought and the vehemence of the battles they waged would not diminish in the slightest. If you do not believe this, then you have a lot to learn about human nature.

3) You're right about one thing, Jim - there is no reason for me to make jabs about your intelligence. For that, I am sorry.

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