No Sherman March for the Welfare State

May 10, 2011 08:52

The welfare state, like Communism in Soviet Russia and elsewhere, will simply collapse within itself. One day we’ll quite possibly wake up, and the big, parasitical government as we know it will simply have lost all credibility — not to mention financial solvency.

by Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D.

Just as an individual needs a reality-oriented form of psychotherapy, a nation or a culture needs a reality-based set of solutions to get out of any mess it finds itself in. Consider a bit of history. General William T. Sherman turned the tide of the Civil War, by his successful march through Atlanta on to the eastern shore of Savannah, GA. He also ensured Lincoln’s reelection at a time when Lincoln was almost certainly doomed to lose. All this was in 1864. Three years earlier, Sherman had bluntly told his superiors the number and kind of troops that would be required to win the war. Eventually, he was proven right. At the time, he was dismissed by everyone (except possibly Lincoln) as mentally unfit for duty and for all practical purposes insane. The man who won the Civil War for the Union three years later barely held on by a thread to his military career. This shows how people often don’t like the truth, and will typically react with great anger to it.

Are there any General Shermans in today’s equally distressing situation confronting the United States? The looming collapse of the federal government through bankruptcy, if not the entire economic system, surely qualifies as grave a crisis as the American Civil War. There may well be General Shermans today, speaking the truth about what’s required, but if they exist, they’re not in evidence. They’re surely not to be found in prominent positions in government. The Tea Party leaders in Congress don’t count, because they don’t even speak the truth. For example, they don’t say, “Medicare and Social Security have to be privatized. It’s the right thing to do, but it’s also the only thing to do. These programs will privatize themselves through bankruptcy anyway. We might as well start the process now.” Instead they say, “Medicare and Social Security are the greatest things known to mankind. They can and must be reformed. And they will be stronger than ever.”

This is like a raging alcoholic claiming, “I can moderate my drinking. And I can quit any time I want.” Or, this would be like General Sherman saying, “You can win the war without the troops required.” In fact, he said just the opposite, was labeled insane — and nearly thrown out of the military because of it. Of course, before long, as the war dragged on and Union casualties mounted, many began to see that Sherman was right. Subsequently he was given the latitude to go on and help win the war for the Union.

If you long for a modern-day Sherman to do the same for the U.S. in its hour of bankruptcy, you might be disappointed. Sherman was supported by Lincoln and other advocates of the Union who wanted to win. Today, it’s unclear that anybody wants to face hard facts. This includes the Tea Party and any of three dozen or so undeclared candidates who want to be the Republican nominee for President. All of these candidates and movements long for reform, not revolution, although reality dictates that sooner or later it’s revolution they’ll get.

Abraham Lincoln famously declared that government “of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. …” What he had in mind was a strong Constitutional Union respectful of individual rights, to the point that slavery would have to be abolished everywhere. In the many years since Lincoln said these words, the Union he helped save has morphed into a welfare state where the more productive are forced to pay for the less productive. The “progressive” income tax, Social Security, Medicare, alphabet soup regulatory agencies which protect government and government-friendly industries at the expense of everyone else? These all came after Lincoln. Some have argued that Lincoln’s administration was the beginning of Big Government in the United States. Whether you agree with that or not, the Civil War era was surely the beginning of the end of the original, Constitutional limited government established by America’s founders.

The sad truth is: In the years since the Civil War, the United States outlawed slavery only to insidiously replace it with another form of slavery. Instead of putting people of a certain race in chains, we now put people who are the most productive in chains. “The more money you make,” our government tells them, “the higher taxes you will pay.” Or: “If you’re working, you will pay taxes into a system so that those who qualify for welfare benefits or unemployment don’t have to work.” That’s what I mean when I say the productive are sacrificed for the unproductive, or for the less productive. It’s not hyperbole; it’s fact. You can like or dislike the fact, defend it or (as I do) fervently oppose it — but it is fact.

Slavery of any kind can only be upheld by a government. Black slaves were upheld as property of their “owners,” first by the original United States government and later under the rebellious Confederacy. Only when the government of the Confederacy was overthrown by a Union government that upheld the absolutism of individual rights (at least with respect to slavery) did slavery finally end.

The same applies to modern-day slavery. Unfortunately, there is no Abolitionist movement in favor of freeing the productive from the shackles of a parasitical, consuming Big Government welfare bureaucracy. There is no political party which even recognizes the underlying injustice of modern-day slavery; the two ruling parties, Democrat and Republican, fight mainly over personalities and phony numbers, not principles of any kind.

Since today’s morality and politics is based on the sacrifice of all to all, there’s really no comprehensible way for any transformational debate to take place. There is no present means by which to emancipate the productive from the slavery to which they’re submitted for the sake of the less productive or non-productive. Church, state and secular authorities all agree on the overriding issue of our time: The purpose of a man’s life, in principle, is to sacrifice and serve. In practice, this means the government decides who is to serve, and who is to be served.

Everyone, both productive and non-productive — Bill Gates and mooching welfare queens alike — all subscribe to the same code of morality. The equivalent of this at the time of the Civil War would be between a Confederacy which claimed, “Slavery is moral,” and a Union which argued, “Slavery is moral, but not practical, and should at least be cut back some.” What would have the outcome of the Civil War been by such a standard? Not only would the Union have lost, but the Confederacy would probably have taken over the North.

There won’t be another Civil War in the United States, at least not over this issue. It’s not a regional matter, but a moral and social one. The welfare state, like Communism in Soviet Russia and elsewhere, will simply collapse within itself. One day we’ll quite possibly wake up, and the big, parasitical government as we know it will simply have lost all credibility — not to mention financial solvency. That process has already begun and there’s no turning back given the current and widespread evasion of millions. Americans remain, at present, in denial, but sooner or later they will wake up. They’ll have no choice.

Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, life coach and author of Effective Therapy (New York: Dunhill, 1997) and Grow Up America! Visit his website at:

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