Note to Reader: I Know It’s Pavlov’s Dog

Several weeks ago, I wrote a letter to the editor in Carson City’s rag The Nevada Appeal aimed at Dr. Eugene Paslov’s editorials and his out-dated 1960’s LBJ liberal cries for expanded government. Imagine to my surprise when I, joe citizen, found out that in his editorial The Destructiveness of Anti-Government Mood has Run Amok, dated September 3rd, 2001, he quoted a portion of my letter to editor.

While shamelessly flattered for being important enough to be included in his editorial,  I object to his critique of my statement that “very few of humanity’s problems are solved with more money or government programs…the last 50-80 years bears this out.” Dr. Paslov speciously agreed with my observation about money and government programs and their inability to solve’s humanity problems, but then did an about-face in his next statement describing my version of history as a revisionist. He further went on to claim that history showed the opposite: that in fact more money and more government programs like the New Deal (not a government program), Civil Rights, Anti-poverty programs,  Social Security and Medicare worked and they “all made this nation great”.

Dr. Paslov’s assertion that government programs made this nation great characterizes is top-down view about how to solve this nation’s problems. Government programs have never made and never will make this nation great, “…the record of big government in the twentieth century–even when it has not degenerated into vicious totalitarianism–shows it does little good in the long run and frequently harms those it seeks to help.”–Robert P. George, On the Moral Purposes of Law and Government, p.2.

What makes this nation great is its people and the constitutional freedoms guaranteed to us from our farsighted Founding Fathers. Freedoms that allow individuals to develop and maximize their divine potential.

To be fair to Dr. Paslov, the free market doesn’t make this nation great, either. Again its the moral quality of individuals participating in the free market that make it great, good, bad or indifferent. Artificially construed concepts don’t make things happen therefore cannot make a nation great.

Dr. Paslov’s alleges that my statement “that the last 50-80 years of history” show that money does not solve humanity’s problems was revisionist history. If we are talking about Dr. Paslov’s fanciful version of history that heavily discounts anything that happened after 1960 and ignores the present state of things, then I would say yes I was trying to improve upon the accuracy of his interpretation of historical events. The culmination of the past (history) is in the present. To accurately represent the state of government programs we need to judge them from their beginning to the present day. We don’t judge them solely for what they did in on a particular day in a particular month in 1935 or 1952 or 1964. History is not stuck time, Dr. Paslov, but is continuously being made.

Even if you choose to believe Dr. Paslov that government programs like Medicare, not individuals, make this nation great. It would be difficult to present a rational argument that all is well.  You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or stick a pretentious title like “Dr.” in front of your name to know that there is no nuanced intellectual wordsmithing that can undo the reality that these programs have done very little to improve the socio-economic environment of the individuals they purport to serve. If there has been any benefit it has not been worth all the massive debt incurred by this nation to maintain these programs at the expense of the future of others. For all the progressive cries for justice, this independent voter asks: Where is the justice of burdening present generations and robbing future generations with huge debts for programs that by every standard are failures?

My experience is that government programs like the ones initiated by the New Deal, that Paslov referenced, maintain people at certain tolerable artificial standard of living, but in general they themselves do not raise individuals to any sustainable financial independence nor do they, on the whole, lead to massive job growth that benefits everybody. In fact, the longer the exist they eventually become a socio-economic burden that outweighs any value they might have initially had.

Civil Rights was an interesting program for Dr. Paslov to cite. Although I am unaware of a government program called “Civil Rights”, there are a couple of things that I can say about the Civil Rights movement. One, is it got its start and momentum from the actions of many brave individuals, one of them Martin Luther King never held any political position.  The government did not begin the Civil Rights movement and apart from passing the Civil Rights Act, it can be argued the government has done more harm than good to these movement. The black community had a fairly healthy middle class in many communities at the time the Civil Rights movement began, a middle class that did not trust the government. Where is this healthy middle class today?

Apart from rewarding a small few with huge payoffs, this current stronghold of the rapper/gangster culture seems to hold many of its own down and appears that at least spiritually this movement has regressed more than progressed. Tarnishing the greatness of it’s original accomplishments.

Another program or programs he refered to were anti-poverty programs.  I don’t how you can judge this programs as a success when poverty over the last 50 years has remained steady. Let’s face it there is only one path to overcoming poverty and that is through education (including a vocation) and job opportunity. Do these programs provide an education? No, not really, and not what anyone would consider an education that provides any marketable skills. These programs rarely create jobs and when we compare the ratio of jobs created by these programs versus those created by the private sector is not even worth talking about.

It difficult to say these programs over time have been successful when you judge them against criteria of marketable education and job opportunity. Financial independence does not even appear to be an afterthought when you look at these programs.

These programs when initiated back in the Depression did provide some meaningful, albeit temporary, help. However this was because  the dire circumstances that existed at their initiation guaranteed at a minimum certain level of success. Or at least appeared to have done something even the facts show that even in the short-term they did not help.

For example, in the 12 months following the 1929 stock market crash the highest unemployment ever got was 9 percent and by June 1930 unemployment has decreased to 6.3 percent. After the Smoot-Hawley tariff unemployment’s decline reversed and by November 1930 it had reached 11.6 percent.  After a series of other large federal interventions into the economy, unemployment stayed at double digits for the remainder of the decade.–The Power of Fallacy, Thomas Sowell, Basic Books 2007, New York, N.Y., pg.9.

It seems the longer anti-poverty programs have been in place the less effective they have become and more and more they have become about supporting their advocates and their service providers than they have become about solving poverty.

Because the failure of Social Security and Medicare past, present and future, is a very time-consuming and involved discussion. I will save that for another day.

Well, Eugene, its time to go. May God bless you and keep you despite our differing viewpoints.

Dale Hansen