When Churchill saw America’s principles of liberty, constitutionalism, and limited government, threatened with the rise of the welfare state, he admonished America to resist this soft despotism. In “Roosevelt from Afar,” Churchill admits that the American economy was suffering when FDR took office, but FDR used this crisis as an opportunity to centralize his political authority rather than to bolster the free market through decentralized alternatives. Churchill commends Roosevelt’s desire to improve the economic well-being for poorer Americans, but he critiques Roosevelt’s policies toward trade unionism and attacks on wealthy Americans as harmful to the free enterprise system. Drawing on Britain’s experience with trade unions, Churchill understood that unions can cripple an economy: “when one sees an attempt made within the space of a few months to lift American trade unionism by great heaves and bounds [to equal that of Great Britain],” one worries that result could be “a general crippling of that enterprise and flexibility upon which not only the wealth, but the happiness of modern communities depends.” Similarly, redistribution of wealth through penalties on the rich harms the economy: “far from depriving ordinary people of their earnings, [the millionaire] launches enterprise and carries it through, raises values, and he expands that credit without which on a vast scale no fuller economic life can be opened to the millions. To hunt wealth is not to capture commonwealth.” Ultimately, attacks on the wealthy only serve as a distraction from other economic issues.
We can readily recall Churchill’s foresight in foreign affairs—his warnings about appeasing Hitler and the rise of the Soviet Union—but we forget his warnings about America’s welfare state. Unlike the progressives in America and abroad, Churchill recognized that tyranny is still possible—even with a well-intentioned welfare state.
When people get used to a welfare state, their worst instincts come to the fore:
In England, youths are rioting. In Portugal, labor unions staged a national strike last Wednesday. A little over a month ago, France and Greece were subjected to large, violent demonstrations and riots. A common thread? In each of these countries, the unrest was engendered by economic austerity measures proposed and/or enacted by government. A far more salient common thread? The morally corruptive nature of the progressivist ideology.
As the four recent examples, along with others occurring all over the world illustrate, a group of like-minded "thinkers" is emerging. It is a group composed in equal parts of economic illiteracy and pathological self-entitlement. Only an utter fool—or a dedicated progressive—would riot or strike because someone else can no longer afford to underwrite your lifestyle.
That is where liberalism leads. Sadly, though, it's not the end result. The end result is even worse.
Hat tip to NewsAlert, from which I got the two links above.