This is a follow-up to my post on the desecration of the word “liberal,” starting with excerpts from the papers of a President who served only one term. A national calamity laid him low: Like Cassandra, some people get punishment they don’t deserve.
I could have emphasized a lot of it, but I’m pretty sure you will do that in your head:
“…Bureaucracy does not tolerate the spirit of independence; it spreads the spirit of submission into our daily life and penetrates the temper of our people not with the habit of powerful resistance to wrong but with the habit of timid acceptance of irresistible might.
Bureaucracy is ever desirous of spreading its influence and its power. You cannot extend the mastery of the government over the daily working life of a people without at the same time making it the master of the people’s souls and thoughts. Every expansion of government in business means that government in order to protect itself from the political consequences of its errors and wrongs is driven irresistibly without peace to greater and greater control of the nations’ press and platform. Free speech does not live many hours after free industry and free commerce die.
It is a false liberalism that interprets itself into the Government operation of commercial business. Every step of bureaucratizing of the business of our country poisons the very roots of liberalism – that is, political equality, free speech, free assembly, free press, and equality of opportunity. It is the road not to more liberty, but to less liberty. Liberalism should be found not striving to spread bureaucracy but striving to set bounds to it. True liberalism seeks all legitimate freedom first in the confident belief that without such freedom the pursuit of all other blessings and benefits is vain. That belief is the foundation of all American progress, political as well as economic.
Liberalism is a force truly of the spirit, a force proceeding from the deep realization that economic freedom cannot be sacrificed if political freedom is to be preserved. Even if governmental conduct of business could give us more efficiency instead of less efficiency, the fundamental objection to it would remain unaltered and unabated. It would destroy political equality. It would increase rather than decrease abuse and corruption. It would stifle initiative and invention. It would undermine the development of leadership. It would cramp and cripple the mental and spiritual energies of our people. It would extinguish equality and opportunity. It would dry up the spirit of liberty and progress…
The American people from bitter experience have a rightful fear that great business units might be used to dominate our industrial life and by illegal and unethical practices destroy equality of opportunity…
One of the great problems of government is to determine to what extent the Government shall regulate and control commerce and industry and how much it shall leave it alone. No system is perfect. We have had many abuses in the private conduct of business. That every good citizen resents. It is just as important that business keep out of government as that government keep out of business.”
The President was Herbert Hoover.
He was successor to Presidents Harding and Coolidge, and continued their defense of liberalism (he didn’t have to say “classical liberalism” to be understood circa 1928) against Al Smith and Franklin Roosevelt – advocates of Benito Mussolini’s approach to public policy.
The 1929 calamity was compounded immediately, as Hoover predicted, when Roosevelt’s statism deepened and prolonged the Great Depression. Worse, WWII cemented national industrial policy and government intervention in individual lives as “liberal.” American voters accepted this false definition, leading to many of our present discontents.
So. Today, rich and powerful social media companies -information barons- maneuver a willing government into undoing the 1st Amendment through ‘approved’ regulation of speech. Facebook and Twitter, et. al., seek government sanction for their private censorship.
Free enterprise capitalism is being overwhelmed by creeping corporatism: The merger of woke government with the rent-seekers. This is most obvious in the greenspace of pipeline cancellation, anti-fracking, plastic straw bans, anti-nuclear power cognitive dissonance, etc., by corporations who thrive on government subsidies.
The predations of bureaucracy are ubiquitous, but nowhere are these sanctions on liberty more obvious than in the enlistment of public health poobahs to bludgeon American citizens. Our teacher’s union owned public educational cartel is a close second, but to that we’re inured.
Freedom of conscience is targeted by the petty fascisti in academia, government, media, and the viciously tribal special-victims groups they empower. This is possible because equality of opportunity is now called racist and sexist.
Equal opportunity is replaced with demands for equality of outcome (“equity”). I seriously doubt FDR’s good intentions contemplated that outcome. Or the world that these totalitarian wannabes desire.
All because we don’t know what “liberal” means.
2 thoughts on “There’s nothing liberal about it”
However noble and appropriate Hoover’s defense of liberal thought, his policies in response to the crisis of 1930 were ill-advised. Like his successor he sought to deploy the “remedy” of National Government programs, albeit with neither the evil intent nor the massive scale of the New Dealers.
The crisis was the result of the rapid acceleration of money printing during the 20s. WWI needed to be paid for and the 1922 Treaty of Genoa kicked off a half-baked plan to get around that. The Fed under Ben Strong cooperated with Britain and flooded the system with fiat. The result was a bubble in U.S. housing and stock market. In 1928 the Fed decided to “remove the punch bowl”. The famous October crash ensued a year later. Had Hoover done nothing, the resulting recession would have been sharp and short. Rather, he expanded public works, propped us wages, and instituted price controls. (Sound familiar?)
So while Hoover was wrongly blamed for the Great Depression and his successor was wrongly credited for ending it, neither implemented the policy that worked for centuries the world over. What was needed was the monetary policy that had served the U.S. so well since its founding: Hard Money.
I much appreciate your comment, and agree with all of it.
I am not a Hoover fan. All you point out about him is true. And, he signed Smoot-Hawley.
He misapprehended his engineering education; convinced that a few experts could gather sufficient knowledge to optimize our economy like the bits of a machine, a task intrinsically no more difficult than the mastery of nature demonstrated by the Hoover Dam (the naming of which was an act of citizen comity, and/or political forgiveness we will not see again). Perhaps he even prepared Americans for Roosevelt’s implementation of such folly, though WWII deserves the most credit.
Hoover was arrogant enough to pull the socio-economic engineering levers. He may not have believed, or at least understood, what he was saying in those quotes. Why did he say them?
I think he could feel Silent Cal peering over his shoulder. Even a protectionist social engineer considered it a good electoral strategy to appeal to American’s understanding of the word “liberal” in 1928. That’s an indicator of the beginning of the unfortunate recalibration of the word “liberal.”