Monday, July 23, 2012

Do We Need A Second Bill of Rights?

Myself, I Like the First One Better
(c) 2012

I received an invitation from a friend in the Occupy movement to sign a bi-partisan "petition" to "Refocus National Debate on Economic Opportunity and Middle-Class Rights

So, I check out the website and lo and behold, to my great surprise, the whole deal was organized by AFL-CIO president, Richard Trumka, with the object of, as he put it, " insisting that the power structure in America pay attention to the needs of the men and women whose labor drives this country." This "petition" is linked to something called "America's Second Bill of Rights", which we are also invited to endorse.

So, I read the petition and the "Second Bill of Rights".  While as a conservative I share the concern for providing economic opportunity in America for all people, I disagree profoundly, however, with what lies buried in the fine language of these two documents.  There is a poison pill in them that makes these petitions anything but bipartisan.. 

The original bill of rights is a document which limits the power of government to interfere with the ability of its citizens to speak assemble, worship, write, conduct business and defend themselves. The president has called it a bill of "negative liberties" in that it tells the government what it cannot do. He does not like this. President Obama has called for a bill of positive rights that tell the government what it "must do".

This so-called second bill of rights, seems just what the president had in mind in that it instructs the government to provide a basic level of employment, education, health care, access to collective bargaining, voting and retirement to everyone whether they want it or not. 

The first bill of rights says the government can't interfere with you doing what you want to do.  This second "bill of rights" says the government must give you certain things whether you want those or even stir yourself to work for those things.  The documents my friend wanted me to sign are a baseline socialist model for the US government.

The document practically ossifies the social structure in America into a ruling class and a working class proletariat.
  Those who have a position in the ruling class will continue to have that position. Rather than creating a classless society, this unionized vision of America will create just two classes - workers and their rulers.  Those of us in the lower ranks of the working class will all be smoothed out and leveled so that we share a common level of misery with the other workers with precious little opportunity to rise above the pack and achieve success.  In socialist systems, workers bees never become queen bees.

What is hidden in the pretty language is a surrender of our freedom to pursue economic opportunity. In exchange we receive from the government, a guaranteed job, retirement, health care and union membership.  I'd personally like to have something rather better than a guaranteed job, government health care or a union pension. 

This scheme of guaranteeing a minimum standard of living for everyone has been tried before. The trouble is that what you get when the government "guarantees" you a job is a job you probably don't want or ask for, but which is assigned to you along with a shabby house just like the other 10,000 government homes in your town, inadequate healthcare, a poor education and a loss of all that freedom you were supposed to get when you accepted all those "guarantees" in the first place.

Does no one read history anymore? Do we not remember the Soviet Union, China's Cultural Revolution, Cambodia and all those socialist banana republics down in South America.  Once they start going bad because their economies collapse, then you get the goose-stepping "security" forces and the gulags and everything goes downhill from there. 

You see when the "smart people" who think they should run everything for everyone else's welfare discover the beautiful system they've created, based on a flawed core belief in the innate goodness of man, doesn't work, they have to go blame it on someone else, so they turn on the very people they were trying to help.

Sadly, though the belief about people behind the drive to socialism is altruistic, it is a false belief. The core belief is that, relieved from want and assured of all the basic necessities, people will be freed to be happy and creative and they will all work hard for the greater good.  And it is all very comforting to believe this noble altruistic thing.  People who believe this feel very good about themselves and think the rest of us are just plain cynical..

The competing belief about humanity is that we're all basically selfish barbarians that need a reason to do useful work and consistent negative consequences for bad behavior.  While admittedly a cynical view of human beings, it turns out to be a more useful one.  Christians recognize the utility of this darker view of people because we believe in original sin.  Since people are no damned good, for civilization to exist, we must either cajole, punish and reward (as capitalism does so well) or we must convert (as the Christian church does so well). 

Despite socialism's well documented enmity to Christianity, the irony is that Christianity does a better job than any other social system for making people into the kind of people the progressive socialists would like to believe we all are naturally. 

In a sinful world, socialism doesn't work.  The reason it doesn't is that it's based on giving power to government on the false premise that "power does NOT corrupt" and that smart people, given the power of government, would arrange society for the benefit of all and the socialist utopia would break forth.  But power does corrupt. And, as the old adage says, if it's absolute power, it corrupts absolutely.

Mr. Trumka and his ilk initially mean well.  The call for bipartisan support for workers rights seems essentially benign; something we can all get behind. Mr Trumka is, unfortunately, either deluded or power hungry. He believes, perhaps quite honestly, that smart people like himself, if given sufficient power, can arrange things so that everyone will be guaranteed, not antique ideas like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but jobs, housing, health care and a pension.  The Roman high society types called it "bread and circuses".  Instead of an idyllic society (where deranged mobs regularly rose up and murdered the swells in their beds), what the Romans got, instead, was a succession of brutal, corrupt and often insane emperors who used the Roman people like cattle.  

As one of the potential cattle in the socialist world the authors of this "second bill of rights" envision, I want neither to be fattened up nor to have my hide protected so people can make unblemished shoe leather out of it. I want to live, to be free and to find happiness the best way I can.  I want to choose my job, my home, my doctor and how I end my life.

It's unlikely the two sides will ever come together because of the fundamental distance between these two beliefs. It's too hard for either side to make the cognitive leap across the abyss. One says we are basically good and need no God. The other says that God is basically good and we aren't and that the only way we can be good is for God to change us.  There is a third version that Ayn Rand articulated - that man is a greedy barbarian period, there is no hope for us but a system of survival of the fittest.

Either say, sorry Mr. Trumka. I won't sign this. Not ever!

Just one man's opinion.

Tom King

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