For many years it appeared that the principal domestic threat to our freedom was contained in the doctrines of Karl Marx. The collectivists -- non-Communists as well as Communists -- had adopted the Marxist objective of "socializing the means of production." And so it seemed that if collectivization were imposed, it would take the form f a State owned and operated economy. I doubt whether this is the main threat any longer.The Conscience of a Conservative, Sen. Barry Goldwater, 1960
The currently favored instrument of collectivization is the Welfare State. The collectivists have not abandoned their ultimate goal -- to subordinate the individual to the State -- but their strategy has changed. They have learned that Socialism can be achieved through Welfarism quite as well as through Nationalization. They understand that private property can be confiscated as effectively by taxation as by expropriating it. They understand that the individual can be put at the mercy of the State -- not only by making the State his employer -- but by divesting him of the means to provide for his personal needs and by giving the State the responsibility of caring for those needs from cradle to grave. Moreover, they have discovered -- and here is the critical point -- that Welfarism is much more compatible with the political processes of a democratic society. Nationalization ran into popular opposition, but the collectivists feel sure the Welfare State can be erected by the simple expedient of buying votes with promises of "free" federal benefits -- "free" housing, "free" school aid, "free" hospitalization, "free" retirement pay and so on... The correctness of this estimate can be seen from the portion of the federal budget that is now allocated to welfare, an amount second only to the cost on national defense.
I do not welcome this shift of strategy. Socialism-through Welfarism poses a far greater danger to freedom than Socialism-through-Nationalization precisely because it is more difficult to combat. The evils of Nationalization are self-evident and immediate. Those of Welfarism are veiled and tend to be postponed. People can understand the consequences of turning over ownership of the steel industry, say, to the State; and they can be counted on to oppose such a proposal. But let the government increase it's contribution to the "Public Assistance" program and we will, at most, grumble about excessive government spending. The effect of Welfarism on freedom will be felt later on -- after its beneficiaries have become its victims, after dependence on government has turned into bondage and it is too late to unlock the jail.
But a far more important factor is Welfarism's strong emotional appeal to many voters. And the consequent temptations it presents the average politician. It is hard, we have seen, to make out a case for State ownership. It is very different with the rhetoric of humanitarianism. How easy it is to reach the voters with earnest importunates for helping the needy. And how difficult for Conservatives to resist these demands without appearing to be callous and contemptuous of the plight of less fortunate citizens. Here, perhaps, is the best illustration of the failure of the Conservative demonstration.
I know, for I have heard the questions often. Have you no sense of social obligation? the Liberals ask. Have you no concern for people who are out of work? for sick people who lack medical care? for children in overcrowded schools? Are you unmoved by the problems of the aged and disabled? Are you against human welfare?
The answer to all of these questions is, of course, no. But a simple "no" is not enough. I feel certain that Conservatism can demonstrate and communicate the difference between being concerned with these problems and believing that the government is the proper agent for their solution.
The long range political consequences of Welfarism is plain enough; as we have seen, the State that is able to deal with its citizens as wards and dependents has gathered unto itself unlimited political power and is thus able to rule as absolutely as any oriental despot.
Ronald Reagan is a hero to Conservatives today. Reagan's hero was Barry Goldwater. Get the book. Read it. Implement it. Reclaim the America the Founders gave us.
The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.