Tuesday, April 6, 2010

On Conservatives "Rewriting" History

Steven Thomma of McClatchy Newspapers has written an important piece that requires a lengthy blog post to fully analyze. That is not my intention here.

Let me just briefly state that Mr. Thomma makes some good points, such as regarding the conservative fantasy that the Founders didn't intend to separate religion and state. In other areas, he is all wet, and apparently hasn't given much thought to the exact nature of socialism.

I left a comment relating to one of the ways that Mr. Thomma falsely claims history is being "rewritten" by conservatives. On President Teddy Roosevelt, he writes:

Fox TV commentator Glenn Beck, however, says that Roosevelt was a socialist whose legacy is destroying America. It started, Beck said, with Roosevelt's admonition to the wealthy of his day to spend their riches for the good of society.

"We judge no man a fortune in civil life if it's honorably obtained and well spent," Roosevelt said, according to Beck. "It's not even enough that it should have been gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it only to be gained so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community."

Actually, Roosevelt said, "We GRUDGE no man a fortune ... if it's honorably obtained and well USED." But either way, Beck saw the threat.

"Oh? Well, thank you," Beck said with scorn during his keynote speech to the recent Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. The presidential suggestion that the wealthy of the Gilded Age should contribute to the good of society was a clear danger that must be condemned, Beck said.

"Is this what the Republican Party stands for? Well, you should ask members of the Republican Party, because this is not our founders' idea of America. And this is the cancer that's eating at America. It is big government; it's a socialist utopia," Beck said.

"And we need to address it as if it is a cancer. It must be cut out of the system because they cannot coexist. ... You must eradicate it. It cannot coexist."

I believe that TR was America's first anti-capitalist president, as his trust-busting attacks on the alleged "robber Barons" attests. But I focussed on the crucial points made by Glenn Beck, that rare conservative who takes fundamental ideas seriously. Here are the brief comments I left at the site.

I am no conservative. But on Teddy Roosevelt, they (and Beck) are essentially correct.

The TR quotes, either way, and his policies tell the story - wealth is owned, not by right, but by permission. TR introduced the essential fundamentals of socialism into American politics – that the greater good (“the good of society”) is supreme over the individual (collectivism), and that the good of others (“society”) is the only justification for allowing private fortunes (altruism, the ethical base of collectivism).

Never mind that it’s only the rich who were his targets. If you deny the right of a single American to his property, you demolish that right for all. TR may not have been an explicit socialist. He was something much worse, as anyone who understands the power of ideas in human affairs knows. He laid the philosophical groundwork, in the political sphere, for the ongoing, century-long evolution toward totalitarian socialism in America.

To reverse the trend, and save freedom in America, TR’s words must be repudiated right down to their altruist-collectivist philosophical roots.

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