October 24, 1936 - Article - We Overtake Europe, by Garet Garrett
There is a kind of immune sedition among us, acting to produce a pernicious anemia in the blood cells of American democracy. Its first attack is to slur Americanism. Its second is to ridicule the simple rituals of patriotism and allegiance. Its third is to propagate here the social and political doctrines of the Old World.
The reason for this country to be in the beginning was that it rejected the Old World system of ideas and values. The final struggle to be rid of them opened with the Declaration of Independence and ended with the surrender of the British at Yorktown. At that moment a situation existed the like of which had never occurred before and may never occur again. It was this: A highly civilized people found themselves holding in their hands a possession they had been willing to die for - namely, liberty - complete liberty, and no national government. This liberty was not only a possession of the 13 colonial entities, each of which might now regard itself as a sovereign state; it was a possession in which every individual had an equal part.
What would they do with it? They were not aware of it at the time, but what they did with it was more than to found Americanism; it was to found a new world. They said: "Liberty without government is anarchy. On the other hand, government, as we know, tends by nature to devour liberty. Such is the problem. Now, therefore, we surrender as much of our freedom as is necessary for purposes of effective government - and no more. This government to which we jealously surrender only so much of our freedom as we deem to be necessary, shall be a limited government forever. By a limited government we mean one that shall be bound never to extend its power in any way except by the explicit consent of the governed, for we know that every extension of government, however righteous the intent may be, requires a further surrender of freedom. Moreover, this shall not be a government of men, who may forget the meaning of these articles and transgress them; it shall be a government of laws. Therefore, a limited, representative, constitutional government."
So it was done. There was no government in the world like that before. There was no other country free like this one, where government was limited by the liberty of the individual instead of the liberty of the individual being limited by government. All the old wisdom of Europe said it would not work; and never did the European mind quite comprehend how or why it worked. It was not because people were free that it worked. People were free because they understood freedom and knew the price of it and were willing to pay for it. The price is high. But since these were people who had been willing to pay their lives for it, they were not willing to weigh it against the grim realities of self-responsibility or against the comforts of social security with dependent status. There was no compromise in their minds. They would sooner be free to starve than not to be free. And that was Americanism. As it grew and its works became marvelous, European people tried to transplant parts of it. That is, they broke off an idea here and there, took it back and set it in the inoculated Old World soil to grow. The results were always disappointing. That is why lovers of freedom were obliged to come here to possess it. That was the first immigration. (pg. 23)
So, returning by the international road, we arrive at the New Deal and Old World in earnest. We are no longer content to embrace the European idea as it happens to come to us. We go looking for it. After 150 years we do not know how properly to tax ourselves, but must send our Treasury experts to study the British system. After 150 years we know longer know how to house ourselves properly, but must send other experts to study subsidized public housing of "the low-income groups" in Europe. After 150 years we get the thought that the European co-operative system may be exactly what we need, and send a commission to explore it.
Every piece of social legislation moved or enacted by the New Deal has been supported by the argument that in these matters we are a generation behind the advanced and civilized thought of Europe. Unemployment insurance was the defensive answer of Europe, of Great Britain especially, to the high-wage theory of Americanism. Now we adopt unemployment insurance, and if it works here as it does in Europe, it very probably will annul that natural law of rising wages that has been implicit in our free competitive system - the law, that is, by which the buying power of wages increased threefold in one lifetime.
The entire idea of social security with dependent status, involving compulsory thrift, is European. The extension of bureaucratic affairs of people, to say how they shall bargain with one another, to mind their hours and wages, their leisure and their recreation, what they shall do with their youth and their old age, even what they shall do with their own, as when it is proposed by the President that a farmer shall no longer be lord of his own land, as he was in the horse-and-buggy days - all this is very Old World. It is medieval. Government by decree and regulation, government self-extensible, government by taxation, exalting of the executive principle - these are not new ideas. They are as old as the beginning of the struggle to reconcile liberty with government. The democratic principle overturned them; it did not destroy them.
Thus we advance! We advance by overtaking Europe. In our social legislation especially, we are catching up.
It may be said that in following the examples of the Old World in economics and finance since 1933 we have been upon grounds of expediency, where you do not stop to ask whether you advance or not. The procedures are exigent. Nevertheless, it is humiliating to reflect that in the practical sphere, where American originality ought to have been eminent, we thought of nothing new, nothing for ourselves. Devaluation, a managed currency, the exercise of the sovereign power of government to repudiate with impunity the pledge engraved upon its bonds, manipulation of money and credit by the Government to affect prices, the attempt to control production and competition, the State Department laying its precise hands upon foreign trade to give it shape and plan and document - all this was in the Old World example. When Great Britain was obliged by necessity to devalue the pound sterling, the British Treasury was provided with a large stabilization fund to protect the value of the pound in the foreign-exchange market. We were not obliged to devalue the dollar, yet we did it; and then the United States Treasury, like the British Treasury, must have a stabilization fund, too, only a bigger one. Even the formula for spending our way back to prosperity was brought to this country by a British economist, who, by the way, never sold it to his own country. Great Britain managed her recovery without increasing the public debt. In that case, we could not wait for the example. We took the raw idea.
Have we lost our way?
If we had, it were not so important. It may happen to any people to lose their way. It has happened to us before. Never again did we expect to find it again by any light from the Old World.
What happened to the American who knew not the way and yet found it, who found it where it was not and made there the impossible first footprint? (pp. 62, 64)
Comments: The America that was once the great land of free labor is dead and gone. It will never be restored. Never again will the workers of America receive their wages free from income taxation and garnishments. The few who do will, in due time, be rooted out and forced into the labor cannibal system or face the penalties that the labor Cannibals impose upon them. Social security and free labor cannot coexist; one must live and the other must die. If FDR and the Democrats that were elected to Congress had kept their promises and reduced taxes and the cost of government by 25%, would it have resulted in recovery from the depression before World War II? Would we be better off today? What kind of wages would the free labor market be paying today? We'll never know, because all of the 1932 pre-election promises were broken.