I received an email from a friend a few days ago. It featured a political cartoon from April of 1934. The link above in the title will take you to a 2009 Newsbusters.org article featuring this cartoon along with explanations of the characters depicted therein.
I find this cartoon interesting as a result of my reading Hayak’s The Road to Serfdom. One of the reviewers for another of his books, The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism, points out that Hayak “requires engagement on a level other than simple dismissal; he does not merely call names, or indulge in superficial, supercilious rhetoric.” The reviewer is one who has spent a “lifetime on the left” expressed that exposure to Hayak had “tempered his youthful confidence in government dirigism. ” (That’s the word for the day! I love expanding my vocabulary.) I share that quote because I like it on two levels. The first is a clear expression of what Hayak does in his books. He presents his opinions and observations of the real world in a dispassionate manner. The second is that both an individual who purports to have a left-leaning world view AND an individual with an opposing world view are able to read Hayak and gain some wisdom.
I was also struck by his comment on the use of rhetoric. I had a discussion some time ago regarding one of the chain emails I was researching. I found the statement in question to be false. My friend responded that it was just the individual’s use of their particular style of rhetoric. I replied that I did not think we should consider a false statement rhetoric. We should consider it a lie. (I know, I know, I used that word “should” again, but sometimes it might be necessary.) At the wikipedia site discussing the term it states Plato’s view: “…it could be used to improve civic life, it could be used equally easily to deceive or manipulate with negative effects….” Plato’s view also expressed that: “the masses were incapable of analyzing or deciding things on their own and would therefore be swayed by the most persuasive speeches.” I guess he knew about the concept of “Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins” way before the book was written 🙂 So, I guess it comes down to the fact that “rhetoric” can be used to find truth or as a tool to deceive.
Now, back to the cartoon. It is difficult to actually confirm that this is legitimate. Even though the Newsbusters site takes you to a Chicago Tribune site where it was supposedly re-printed in 2009. The “plan of action for the US” includes: “Spend, spend, spend under the guise of recovery–bust the government–blame the capitalists for the failure–junk the Constitution and declare a dictatorship.”
This sounds familiar to me. After having read Burton Folsom’s New Deal or Raw Deal, being exposed to Cloward and Piven, reading a “disclaimer” at the beginning of a recent issue of our Constitution, and listening to the news it sounds very familiar. If the cartoon is not legitimate I do not understand why the creator did not just change some names and bring it into current times. It does, though, encourage us to look at history.
If history tells us that in times when there is a fierce hatred of anything capitalistic, individualistic, or profit-seeking along with a subtle or not-so-subtle praising of the collectivist forms of government and society the results have been catastrophic we need to consider these facts. Our information comes in tirades against the “corruption”, “crony-capitalism”, and despicable acts by some who are operating in our supposed “free market” system. I say “supposed” because I believe that our “free market” system has not been permitted to function as such for a very long time. Along with this are the subtle influences on the formation of favorable views of “collectivist ideals.”
This is most distressingly evident in the education of our youth. AmeriCorps training materials, for example, include a document titled, “Poverty in America” which presents an “Individualistic Wealth Paradigm” and contrasts it with a “Collective Wealth Paradigm.” The comparisons present the “rhetoric” that individualistic is selfish, greedy and everything benefits those “at the top” and the collective is basically a utopia. The statements sound true. Who wouldn’t want to end poverty? The problem is that it does not, in any way, present or encourage a legitimate debate on the benefits of each system. It also totally ignores the “unintended consequences” of each.
My question is this: “Do corruption, cronyism, and despicable acts somehow magically disappear in a collectivist system?” I do not believe that they do and I also believe that the majority of Americans don’t believe that either. (I’ve just finished reading Anchee Minn’s Red Azalea; her memoir of growing up in Mao’s China. I highly recommend it as a way to obtain information on the results of this collectivist mentality and where is has lead in the past.)
The term propaganda comes to mind at this point. Propaganda being the selective presentation of information in order to influence people’s opinions and behavior. It is usually used to produce an emotional rather than rational response.
To avoid totally emotional reactions we need to continue to seek out information from a variety of sources, make judgments on that information based on the character of the source, and be willing to question our long held beliefs about how various systems of government are supposed to work AND how they have actually worked in the past. One of the issues Hayak discusses in his book is that of the unwillingness for people to admit that what they believed is in reality not true, or at least, it is not everything they believed it to be.
We need to continue to encourage and facilitate civil debate. In order to do this we need to have information….lots of information, preferably from original sources. We need to then ask ourselves if the information we have can be reconciled with our real world experiences.
I believe that if we do this we will be helping to maintain the liberty we have all come to cherish, and for which many gave “the last full measure” to defend and preserve.