Paying Homage to the Architects of the American Welfare State

by | Jan 26, 2004

Would-be defenders of individual rights and liberty, the fundamental ideas of the founding fathers who created the United States of America, have recently decided to pay homage to the Presidents who created the modern American welfare state. I refer of course to people like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, scions of the “New Right,” who […]

Would-be defenders of individual rights and liberty, the fundamental ideas of the founding fathers who created the United States of America, have recently decided to pay homage to the Presidents who created the modern American welfare state. I refer of course to people like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, scions of the “New Right,” who have recently been unabashed in their admiration of men like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, and John F. Kennedy.

This is problematic not only because these three presidents are unworthy of any praise whatsoever, but also because people like Hannity and Limbaugh profess to champion capitalism and limited government, and are often looked to in the media as voices for these two ideas. Even if the praise they heap is not for the economic policies these presidents promoted (though this is not the case) and it is merely because they were “strong on defense” then this too is wrong, for all three were quite the opposite.

Franklin Roosevelt engineered the New Deal in the 1930’s, which was a whole series of works programs, wealth redistribution schemes (Social Security), and new regulatory bodies, all of which did nothing to end the Great Depression. If anything, they and the Federal Reserve kept the recession going far longer than any previous recession in American history. The New Deal was predicated on the belief that it was the government’s right and responsibility to tax and spend the country out of economic woes rather than getting out of the way to let individuals voluntarily interact and cooperate through what ought to have been a relatively short recession.

As to his defense credentials, they are atrocious. Franklin Roosevelt maintained an ambiguous and dishonest foreign policy, declaring neutrality while secretly (a poorly kept secret) supplying countries on the eve and then during hostilities. I don’t disagree with the supply of Great Britain; however the President should have gone to congress to call for the open and proud defending of an ally, rather than maintaining an official lie, as if it were shameful to help England against Hitler’s Germany.

Franklin Roosevelt also paved the way to give the Soviet Union and Joseph Stalin all the aid and comfort they could ask for including advanced T-series tanks, food, industrial equipment, and all sorts of other provisions for the Soviet Union to stay alive and threaten the world for forty years after the war’s end.

Finally, Franklin Roosevelt instituted a whole series of unconstitutional rationing, sedition, production, and draft laws which showed everyone, if they weren’t already aware of it, that he was no better than the petty dictators of the world, only he was restrained by congress and an independent legal system. To praise this man for anything, be it defense or his domestic agenda is a slap in the face to all who have ever fought to preserve or secure individual rights and liberty.

The fact that the United States prevailed in the war has nothing to do with Franklin Roosevelt. In spite of his best efforts the United States was still the freest country with the freest and most productive industrial base in the world; the only way the United States could have lost would have been for the governments of Moscow and Washington to switch places.

Harry Truman, looking for something to do after the war ended, began a whole new series of economic regulatory programs which he called the Fair Deal. These programs did not stop the recession that happened when the war ended.

His defense credentials are hardly better than his predecessor when you look at the missed opportunities that his limited vision and muddled philosophy let slip by. While it was realized that the Soviet Union wasn’t our friend and shipments of most goods and military equipment ended, the United States had a nuclear supremacy window of three years and a massive army in Europe with which to destroy the Soviet Union, but nothing was done. Instead the United States worked out the Marshall Plan, a mass welfare program for the defeated countries (the idea was that the opposite of the reparations imposed after World War I, in other words the United States paying reparations to the instigators of the war, would be the best way to deal with the defeated opponents) instead of just leaving their economies alone. Truman also worked to set up the United Nations, a body that includes all “legitimate” governments without any rational definition for what that is and without any rational definitions for human rights or international law and letting the worst killing machine the world has ever seen, the Soviet Union, not only into the UN, but into the important of the two bodies that make it up, the Security Council.

To praise this man for anything he did, domestic or foreign, is to ignore his actions and accept the rhetorical propaganda of friendly historians or those who served in his administration. Or it merely means that the people who praise him accept the things he did and reject the ideas of individual rights, limited government, and national defense.

John F. Kennedy deserves more praise than the others because he was forced to deal with all their mistakes. But he created some of his own problems. The Bay of Pigs invasion, while having the admirable goal of getting rid of Fidel Castro’s Communist regime, was poorly thought out and executed even worse. This invasion led Castro to ask for nuclear weapons from the Soviet Union to deter any further acts against him, which he received and became known in history as the Cuban Missile Crises. Luckily Kennedy got himself out of that mess unscathed. Unfortunately, thanks to Roosevelt and Truman, the Soviet Union had nuclear weapons, so the fact that Kennedy didn’t fight them is understandable, but he did begin an escalation of hostilities in Vietnam in which U.S. troops started to participate in active fighting. This wouldn’t have been bad had there been some sort of objective, such as conquering the whole country as opposed to fighting a limited war with spheres of operation where the only goal was to stop communist infiltration of South Vietnam. So while not as terrible as Roosevelt and Truman, Kennedy’s foreign policy was muddled and blunder-filled and it would only get worse under his successor, Lyndon Johnson.

For anyone who claims to represent the ideals and founding principles of the United States, a person who would have to proclaim the inviolability of individual rights, the morality of capitalism, and the reasonableness of limited government; for that person to hold up Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and John Kennedy as great presidents, whether in foreign affairs or domestically, is to deny everything the founding fathers stood for and risked their lives to win. It also cheapens the cause of the founding fathers in modern America, to be grouped with the architects of America’s welfare state, something that is antithetical to what they created and the things they believed.

There are two choices for those on the “New Right.” Either condemn these three and all others like them, regardless of party, as the thieves, charlatans, and statists that they are, or give up the ideas of capitalism and limited government, for the two cannot go together. To force them into a union only ruins those which are good and aggrandizes those which are evil.

Alexander Marriott is currently a graduate student of the early republic at Clark University in Worcester, MA. He earned his B.A. in history in 2004 from the University of Nevada - Las Vegas, where he was an Op-Ed columnist for the UNLV Rebel Yell. Marriott grew up in Chicago and lived in Saudi Arabia for four and a half years and has resided in Las Vegas since 1996.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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