by John Galt
May 14, 2009
“We stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the Lord.”
-Theodore Roosevelt, August 6, 1912 final line from the speech “A Confession of Faith” before the National Progressive Party convention
I wish to begin this editorial with special thanks to Glenn Beck for re-stimulating my interest in this era of American history. I have always found the period from the 1907 Panic through the creation of the Federal Reserve Bank to be instructive as well as fascinating as the ideals expressed in that time period created the foundation for this era, and problems we now are encountering in our society. The theories about evolutionary law, not Darwinism mind you, economic Progressive thought, and the revision of the traditional ideals of our Constitution via the adoption of the 16th and 17th Amendments all should give one pause to reflect. Thanks to Mr. Beck, I have done so again and found another culprit which aided and abetted the destruction of our traditional American values and system, intentional or unintentional as it may have been.
Thus I say, “Blame Wisconsin” and in this somewhat wordy historical opinion piece, I shall attempt to tie together the idealism of the Progressives with the current era of what I call “PSD” or ‘Progressive Socialist Disorder’, which infests our nation’s major political parties and has created a nightmare scenario for our future.
Progressive Socialist Disorder
America’s evolution from a balanced form of republican representative government into a dominant state subscribing to the ideals of Federalism or a strong centralized national government did not occur overnight. The end of the Civil War created the time line of change which has extended to our current period where the sponge known as centralized government absorbed more and more power and economic dominance because that system of managing our nation’s affairs and of the people was determined by an unelected elite to be the most practical solution.
“Unelected” might seem puzzling to the reader as many of us and our fellow citizens vote every two years in Senatorial, Congressional, Presidential, and statewide elections yet thanks to the Progressive idealists in Wisconsin and the Socialists of our past, the true concentration of power was removed from the electorate in many cases and delegated to the appointed and recruited technocracy known as American bureaucracy. For example the link to the speech from Theodore Roosevelt at the top of this piece could have come from this location, at www.theodoreroosevelt.com but in fact I elected to demonstrate the desires of our bureaucratic origins; the link at the top of the page comes from our own Social Security Administration which not only highlights the Progressive agendas of Theodore but of course his fifth cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Ah the apple does not fall far from the tree when it comes to destroying Constitutional principles.
The historical references and data with this government sponsored bureaucratic nightmare are worthy of taking your time to read and review at your leisure as it demonstrates the glorification of clerical unity and bureaucratic power when you read the SSA website.
So what is “Progressive Socialist Disorder” (PSD) and why is it an affliction that could quite possibly destroy not just the United States Constitution, but the concept of America itself?
First we have to transport our frame of reference to the era where the debate began. Shortly after the Civil War concluded in the United States a book was printed in Germany in 1867 that created a shudder throughout the modern industrialists mindset titled Das Kapital by Karl Marx. While the notions presented in this book were dismissed out of hand by most Americans and many within the traditional business community worldwide, the idea that wealth was not a creation of the individual or business endeavor but the result of labor, the group effort or one portion of the industrial process became popular among those within the trade unionist movements and the leaders of the lesser, or lower economic stratus in societies worldwide.
The consequences of the Marxist movement throughout history from that day forward can not be dismissed nor ignored by capitalists as the Progressive movement has served the purpose of the ‘useful idiot’ which has enabled many of the programs which Marx and Engels advocated and now are considered a “necessary” part of modern American society. I shall reflect further on in this piece as to the acquiescence of these useful idiots and their purpose which has the current generation of our nation and quite possibly the next two generations unless drastic changes occur immediately; a highly unlikely prospect considering the mindset of our citizenry.
The Marxist movement created a conflict within American society where socialism was viewed with disdain by many and un-American in its concepts and origins, a sort of European societal aberration of which its principles were not just foreign but objectionable to the emerging Progressive movement of the late 1880’s. Professor Richard Ely, PhD, the Associate Professor of Political Economy at John Hopkins University, wrote a book in 1889 titled An Introduction to Political Economy where he outlined not only the traditional views of American society but also added his views of the Socialist movement and why it will not succeed within the American system. In Chapter V. titled ‘Socialism’ on page 245 he correctly identifies the most glaring weakness of the Socialist idealism:
“The danger to freedom appears to be a very real one. It is frankly admitted that up to a certain point there is a tendency on the part of government to improve as its functions increase. But would this hold with the indefinite extension of the sphere of government? Let us admit that s our livelihood would depend on the efficiency of government all the force and energy which now go into private services would be turned into public channels. But what would happen if, in spite of all precautions, some unscrupulous combination should secure the control of government?”
This analysis of the glaring flaw which shines above all else in the Socialist movement was confounded though a few paragraphs further where he warned of the dangers of Mercantilism, which he viewed equally as dangerous. It is wise to keep this conflict in mind as we review the impact of Professor Ely on the state of Wisconsin and by extension the early Progressive movements which emerged within the Republican and Democratic Parties at the turn of the century, which I will discuss within the era of Van Hise, Roosevelt and Wilson.
The impact of this debate created a conflict where Progressives emerged with the kinder, softer Americanized democratic (not the party) version of Euro-Socialism without the hard core Marxist tinge. As American society emerged from the turn of the century, the romanticism was spread about that era by the very education system designed by the Progressive movement and by default, the glorification of their actions at that time. The American citizen has no reason to doubt that conservationism, clean water and pure food were programs which were meritorious in their achievements, as I also have no desire to have a worm pop out of my burger and say “howaydoin” while munching on my Vidalia onion topping. Yet the benefits of that era are somewhat outweighed by their negative accomplishments which have been twisted into positive outcomes as witnessed by Hillary Clinton’s declaration that she was an active Progressive much like those politicians of that era as she stated during the 2007 portion of the Democratic Party debate series.
Now without revealing the thrust of this article at this time, let us say that Hillary and Obama are the poster children for PSD. During the turn of the twentieth century, nothing would offend a supporter of President Roosevelt or the Progressive movement more than accusing them of engaging in stealth socialism. Fast forward to the current administration and once again, if you wish to raise the ire of the “Progressives” point out the activities and outlines of the policies and politics they engage in as “Socialist” or “Marxist” and you win the “right wing extremist” tag and a free phone tap from the Department of Homeland Security should you dare to visit a gun show or send money to Ron Paul.
The reality is that this disdain for the use of proper terminology when applied to the activities the Progressives support and engage in, which are the same positions of Socialists and Marxists alike is the root of PSD or Progressive Socialist Disorder. They wish to engage in the activities of the Socialist ideal but refuse to acknowledge the roots of their activities as such. The self-delusion of their propositions and protestations makes one wonder if they are genuine but the mindset introduced with Roosevelt, Wilson and the Professors behind Progressivism always believed the ends justified the means. Thus you must understand that PSD is not a myth; it is a propagandist proposition to mask the reality of their actions under the flowery ‘Patriotic’ activities of two over-glorified Presidents in the early 1900’s. Thus you now have the understanding that these activities and the individuals who engage in them suffer not from a delusion, but wish to impose that delusion on the citizens of this nation, to create a fog of war which will allow them to complete the task initiated some one hundred and twenty years ago.
The Wisconsin Idea
“The people must be given full power to make their action effective, and at the same time the educational institutions of the commonwealth must be built up in such shape as to give the people the opportunity to learn how to use their power wisely. Nor must political reform stand by itself. it must accompany economic reform; and economic reform must have a twofold object; first to increase general prosperity, because unless there is such general prosperity no one will be well off; and, second, to secure a fair distribution of this prosperity, so that the man of the people shall share in it.”
- Theodore Roosevelt, Introduction pages ix and x to The Wisconsin Idea by Charles McCarthy, The Macmillan Company, 1912
After you read this section, you, the reader, will either despise the state of Wisconsin, wish to move out of that state or sell it to Canada for a few loonies. I’m just sayin’.
The University of Wisconsin has played a disproportionate role in American history which if taken as a whole over two hundred plus years of history, makes one realize that since their declaration of statehood in 1848 the Cheeseheads and dairy farmers sure suddenly look like stealth commies instead of Brett Favre loving all-American football fans. The reality is that the “Wisconsin Idea” in summary was a belief that the Professorial community and the State University system had an obligation and duty to serve the people of the state because the “educated” had a superior perception of the problems facing the future and the intellectual ability to disseminate solutions. The integration of the educational programs of the university system and administration of state government responsibilities to the people was believed to be the solution to the perceived and real problems of an expanding American society and population. Considering the time period that the initiatives began, it is not hard to see the evolution of the Wisconsin Idea into a national Progressive movement with subtle undertones of the ideas of Karl Marx within.
The influences of Europe are inescapable as the Germanic, Polish, Norwegian and Jewish populations migrated from their homelands to Wisconsin before and after the American Civil War in large numbers, eventually spreading into Minnesota as American territories expanded. What was the most interesting idea was that of Compulsory Education, a systemic program encouraged by the Marxist movement under the guise of “Free education for all children in public schools” which created a massive stir not just in the farming communities of Wisconsin but on the tribal lands of the Indian population when the Bennett Law was first passed on February 28, 1879. This act created the basis for a program which was carried through the state university system headquartered at the University of Wisconsin in Madison where a belief that taxpayer programs that funded the programs in administration and civil service served a greater purpose than the education of citizens to become entrepreneurs and leaders in the business community; a belief that appears to be consistent with the program of higher education in many colleges and state universities today.
Germanic administrative modernization was admired by the professors and educators at the University of Wisconsin and the idealism of European socialism had appeal to the more radical elements within the state. Yet those radicals, disguised as Progressives, were admired as Theodore Roosevelt stated in the same introduction as mentioned from the book above on page viii:
“It is a well reasoned and thoughtful exposition of how sane radicalism can be successfully applied in practice.”
The idea, if one thinks beyond the rhetoric, is that radical change has to be presented as a sane alternative to the American Constitutional history even if that change usurps or changes the stale ideals of the Founding Fathers who, after all, only wanted the best for the people of this nation and only intended for the Constitution to be a guideline or living document. When one reviews Charles McCarthy’s work on page 8, you realize that the perception of wealth and economic consequence is clearly biased towards a more Socialist ideal:
According to this diagram, the “American People” of 1912 were the majority in the middle with slightly more people in poverty and a small majority in the wealth category. The problem, as perceived from the ‘enlightened’ educators is that they failed to project that capitalism would succeed without government interference and that to maintain a balance the elite of society must act to preserve the Stage 2 level or Stage 3 could lead to violent revolution or worse no matter the structure of the body politic within the nation approaching the theoretical stage where great wealth was concentrated and the “impoverished” would be forever stuck with their lot in life.
For proof of this, one simply needs to refer to the chapter titled ‘The Reason For It’ on page 9 of McCarthy’s work:
“On the extreme right is Stage 3. It needs no comment. The sad history of many a country can be pictured by that little diagram because concentrated wealth means power, caste, privilege, corruption and decay of every ideal, whether of manhood, morals or patriotism. Are not the crumbled remains of what were once prosperous cities scattered in the waste places of the earth sufficient proof of all this? We need not exaggerate this picture, and we cannot.”
The problem with this line of thinking, as the modern “Liberal” or Progressive would have you believe, is that there is some sort of concrete ceiling which prevents the average citizen in American society from advancing and proceeding to the wealthy level without government assistance or “luck” as they call it. The Wisconsin Idea asked the question further down in the page:
“Will the slow grind of a hundred years or more lead to the inevitable decay which seems to come to all nations? Are the seeds sown and the causes for decay already with us?”
The seeds were sown after this book was written by Mr. McCarthy by his beloved Wilsonian and FDR administrations. The seeds though are not what the purveyors of the Wisconsin Idea had in mind though. If you refer to the mindset of these Progressives in this book with this statement on page 11:
“Because men forgot that prosperity exists for the benefit of the human being and for no other purpose.”
Granted, I take this out of context but the theory is the basis for the ‘greater good’ establishment in Progressive living law that has guided many a United States Supreme Court in the future. Prosperity is for the human being in their eyes and not the individual who creates it for himself and his family, so he or she should desire. McCarthy illustrates the alternate viewpoint on the same page:
“Our civilization, with its wealth and prosperity, must be made to exist for its true purposes – the betterment, the efficiency and the welfare of each individual.”
Read that again gang.
“Our civilization, with its wealth and prosperity, must be made to exist for its true purposes – the betterment, the efficiency and the welfare of each individual.“
I have added the bold to give you pause and perspective. The theory behind the Wisconsin Idea is that is must permeate itself not just at the university level, but this ideal must flow up to the executive, judicial and legislative branches of the state and by extension, Federal governments.
Are you starting to notice a pattern? The principles originated in action in Wisconsin by the Republican Progressives is now a part of both political parties and their goals, either stated or disguised as other actions, in current legislation and political action under the guise of “moderates” or those who wish to serve the average citizen.
To illustrate the current political dictum is almost identical to the political ideals expressed in the book of the same title, on page 46 and 47 of The Wisconsin Idea this one paragraph speaks to the modern issues which are diluting our freedoms. The idea in Chapter III titled ‘The Regulation of Business Affected by the Public Interest’ exposes the true visions within the Progressive movement and the basis for the logic behind the agenda of the supporters of the ‘idea’ in their own words:
“Running all the way through the regulative legislation is the same idea – the welfare of the state is the welfare of the individual. Real rights, not theoretical ones, must be guaranteed the individual. The position of the strong and the weak must be equalized by a powerful state intervention, if necessary to the attainment of quick and certain justice.
The state is always an interested party. It means merely that when a man is weak he has a big brother to whom he may turn, who judges his case and says to the strong one, “I am here not only as a judge, but also to protect the weak against the strong. The burden of proof is upon you to show that my rulings are unjust. This man cannot make any progress toward real justice in the face of all the difficulties which beset him.” And it is not always a single individual who is too weak.”
The book then proceeds to quote Professor Ely, a mentor to Professor Charles R. Van Hise, one of the architects of the Wisconsin Idea and bedrock idealists behind the programs that Governor and then Senator Robert La Follette (R-WI) and Theodore Roosevelt would follow. The theory behind this entire movement was the integration of the social idealism of the university system and “expertise” displayed by this section of society and the legislative and judicial branches of government. The program was designed not just to educate lawyers to become judges and legislators, but to create an enlightened bureaucracy to serve the role of benefactor administrators to insure that the poor citizens get what they “deserved” despite the legal obligations and actions of other strata in society. One only needs to fast forward in the same book to understand the logic:
“Can it be possible that a court would practically recognize the humanity, justice, right and necessity of a law prepared with the greatest care by the legislature and at the same time declare it unconstitutional?”
- The Wisconsin Idea by Charles McCarthy, 1912 The Macmillan Company, Chapter IX ‘The Law and Economic Progress’, page 233
The idea that administrative law, a recognized flaw in our current Federal bureaucracy, was better distributed and interpreted by a legion of lawyers and bureaucrats to be educated by a standardized university system for government education was to become the standard thus bypassing the judicial and legislative branches when possible to insure the minimum equality for the ‘average’ citizen. The creation of commissions or bureaus to oversee these ideas was highlighted on the very next page (234) in this statement:
“By instituting commissions we have established code law as understood in the old countries and at the same time have laid the foundations for what Roscoe Pound of the Harvard Law School calls “Sociological jurisprudence.” Are not the rulings, based as they are upon the police power, evidence enough of the fact that the old procedure of our courts, the old doctrine of precedent, is giving way to the newer doctrine of paramount necessity?”
In other words, the establishment of case law, wherever applicable and preferably in the “old country” (Translation: Europe) along with the paramount necessities of society should supersede the case, common and Constitutional law of the United States to insure that the common man retains the equal opportunity to succeed in our society. If anyone can find that right as outlined, dictated or spelled out in our Constitution, I would love to read that portion and remind Wisconsin that it did not and still should not apply to our nation. Although I fear that I am too late to raise that alarm.
Sadly, I have decided to allow my eyeballs to bleed over the last two weeks and read voracious amounts of material on this subject. On page 236 of the same book and chapter, you will see how the current approach to jurisprudence in our society has been applied via The Wisconsin Idea:
“A new procedure has been needed, but that does not excuse the courts from making every effort to meet the matter halfway by dispensing with a large part of the useless load of precedent and dilatory and costly practices adverse to the poor man. They can be blamed for that needless conservation and justly so. They must take even a broader notice of sociological factors or they will be discredited.”
Further down the page:
”Even statute law lags far behind public opinion, but as Judge Dicey says in his book “Law and Opinion,” – ‘If a statue….is apt to reproduce the public opinion not so much of to-day as of yesterday, judge-made law occasionally represents the opinion of the day before yesterday.”
The Wisconsin Idea sets the stage for the principle of judicial interventionism and since the early 20th Century under Progressive Republican Governor Robert La Folette and his successors, the judges appointed or nominated must believe in the living law and activism in the name of judge made law to correct injustice was a secret yet obvious qualification. This ideal was cemented in the statement on page 249:
“The laws must be adapted to the economic, industrial, and social conditions of each community, for the different communities vary in America.”
Basically speaking the rule of law must be adapted not for the crime, the civil injustice or violation of Constitutional principles but must meet local criteria based on political and economic conditions. Thus America, thanks to the leadership of Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, FDR and numerous other legislators since has carried out a policy of judicial activism not outlined by the Founding Fathers, not prescribed by the Constitution, but interpreted by the perceived “needs” of society based on the feelings of a judge, with little if any foundation in the historical legal precedents of our nation.
Now that you understand the basics of this economic and political philosophy, I hope the impact has not numbed the reader. Because the indoctrination of our eduction system, political elites and torturous forced submission of America’s capitalist ideals was just beginning in the early 1900’s.
The Reform Program of Socialism and Implementation of the Wisconsin Idea
”To the modern Socialist, as to Marx, social revolution is not so much of a method as a result.”
- Elements of Socialism, John Spargo and George Louis Arner, PhD., The Macmillan Company, 1920; Chapter XXIII page 323
“10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc. “
- The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels
The ideals and theories of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels are nothing new to the American reader who has more than a basic understanding of history. While the flowery droning of an embittered failure might bore the average reader when attempting to read Das Kapital, if you take the time to read and understand the view points presented, it begins to bear fruit as to the dialectic inferred and used by the authors to present and twist illogical conclusions into points of fact. The justification for opposing the capitalist system has been nurtured and expanded far beyond those original writings as the elitist viewpoint, that first introduced into American society via Wisconsin and the ‘idea’ so to speak and then expanded across our lands with a twisted anti-capitalist Progressive movement carried forth by leaders of both major American political parties.
The methodology contrived to create an alternative, a government managed system of workers where they could independently select where and to whom to offer their labor including the ideal of ‘government capital’ as a reward for their services was developed within the Wisconsin University system. Under the leadership of Charles R. Van Hise, the University of Wisconsin expanded its influence upon state politics by offering numerous courses strategically designed to fulfill the needs for various commissions and administrative positions created by the new found power of the Progressive wing of the Republican Party. In the early 1900’s course began to appear beyond the traditional agricultural and sciences focused beyond the classical liberal arts education and into various aspects of civil service, administrative law and judicial training for the purposes of serving the needs of an expanding state bureaucracy. This bureaucracy was needed, according to the Progressive movement, to counteract the invasive monopolies of large corporate interests, especially the railroads who’s oligopolies of the time could destroy a state’s economic well being according to the thinking of this movement.
The reality was that the Progressive movement in Wisconsin via the educational reforms created the socialist reforms by demanding and expanding its own power base with a large centralized state government overwhelming the local authorities and coercing corporations, counties and individuals into new power structures under the threat of a broadening administrative legal system. The complexities of the new rules and regulations along with a reformed judicial power structure often prevented corporate legal entities from challenging the rulings and regulations with any degree of success, further stifling competition within the state but insuring services delivered on a schedule and cost basis with profits to the corporations acceptable to a nameless, faceless bureaucratic commission or administrator.
The Bennett Law of 1889 insured that all students, be they of Nordic, Germanic or Native American Indian descent would be educated in English and this controversial law requiring compulsory public education was the tip of the iceberg. The education requirements soon expanded to create government funding for scholarships to universities and of course to expand public education programs statewide. Thus the creation of a progressive income tax, property taxes and fees relating to the conduct of business transactions within the state were initiated under Progressive Republican Governor La Follette. The theory under his three terms became very obvious; that the scientific and educated minds were the best to consult with regards to the needs of the people and that their understanding of those needs superseded the basic rules and regulations established under prior precedent for the citizens and business community. Their wisdom was a basis for a model that modernized the rural civil service landscape of Wisconsin but in the process, lit a fuse for a national movement that was viewed by some as socialism and others as the new idea for all of America.
The goals of the Socialist movements under their reform programs did not differ from the Progressives as much as many who protest the “Teddy was no commie” scream as one would like to think. If you review the basics of what Socialist reformers desired of that time and the goals they have achieved and still wish to today, you must ask; is there a difference?
1. Socialists desire to make political democracy a reality by establishing universal suffrage, direct legislation and proportional representation, and by abolishing the upper houses of parliaments.
2. They demand the free administration of justice and the abolition of the powers of the courts which protect class privilege.
3. They demand State protection for the working class by abolishing child labor, restricting the working period, and establishing State insurance.
4. They desire the extension of public health legislation, and are generally interested in the promotion of temperance.
5. They wish to substitute direct for indirect taxation, and to bring about the collective ownership and operation of the principal means of production and exchange. They generally favor some form of compensation to the expropriated owners of industry.
- Summary from – Elements of Socialism, John Spargo and George Louis Arner, PhD., The Macmillan Company, 1920; Chapter XXIII page 353
Let’s see where we are today.
1. The first two were completed quickly in America and the final part can be summed up with the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution where the state’s powers were finally diluted by the use of the direct election of Senators. Senator Robert La Follette was critical in the passage of this amendment and it was long believed it was a reward for his dropping his opposition to the establishment of the Federal Reserve.
2. The public defender system is but one aspect but when one looks deeper, you can see the creation of various legal avenues designed to usurp common law and Constitutional Law via the new idealism of international and evolutionary law where precedents no longer matter and the feelings of the nation are taken into account over established legal precedent or interpretations.
3. While no modern man would agree that child labor is an acceptable foundation for any capitalist system now, the restrictions established, including workers compensation insurance, unemployment insurance and other fees, taxes and regulations have exceeded the wildest dreams of the Socialists of the early 20th century.
4. The temperance movement may well have been a failure in the 1920’s thanks to the shortcomings exposed with Prohibition, but the extension of the temperance movement to drugs of all types was expanded rapidly under the Democratic administration of Woodrow Wilson starting with the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914. Sorry to ruin your day hippies but it was not a Republican idea, it was a Progressive theory that a pure mind was essential to the society as a whole. The other section, an extension of public health legislation for the indigent was deemed necessary as massive outbreaks of fatal disease was still a common occurrence at that time in American history. The Medicare, Medicaid and Prescription drug programs though far outstrip any wild fantasy Socialists of that era could have dreamed of.
5. I.R.S. Need I say more?
Without even drawing the Communist Manifesto into the discussion or lengthy philosophical propositions about the end results of these programs, I think the reader can draw from basic deductive reasoning that the integration of Socialist idealism into Progressive legislative agendas was no secret. If you refer to the same book, the program for reform correctly assessed the modern programs being introduced by the declaration of how compensation for the acquisition of private property for the public good would be completed:
“Accepting the view that in the vast majority of cases, the transformation of capitalist property to social property will be peacefully accomplished, the expropriated owners being compensated, we are at once confronted with a new difficulty. If bonds are issued for the purchase of the properties as they are socialized, will not unearned incomes continue to exist? Will not all the heavy stockholders simply become rich bondholders?”
The Bush and Obama administrations solved that problem. Ask the Chrysler, Bear Stearns, and Washington Mutual stock and bond holders how this dilemma worked out for them and if they feel the temporary conditions of perceived wealth were fulfilled in the long term.
The last portion of how the Wisconsin Idea somehow coordinated via its higher education elites with the Socialist ideals can best be summed up in the theory of Distributive Justice. If one looks at the previously mentioned concepts of dealing with corporate monopolies and oligarchies it could be surmised that the Progressive movement in fact believes strongly in the idea of Distributive Justice. The popular definition of the time again from An Introduction to Political Economy by Richard T. Ely was explained on page 341:
“The central aim of socialism, the pivotal point, is distributive justice. It proposes to distribute products justly. The ideas of socialists are, however, not harmonious as to what constitutes justice. Some say equality is justice; others, distribution in proportion to real needs, so that each may have the economic mans for his completest development. Still others say justice means distribution in proportion to merit or service rendered – but the service of the individual, not of his ancestors. Request and inheritance, except of articles of enjoyment, like pictures, old family plate, books, household furniture, possibly the use of a house as a home, must be abolished. Socialism allows no inheritance which renders labor needless.”
Without continuing this discussion ad infinitum, the reader begins to realize that the policies we see endorsed by the Wisconsin Idea, the Progressive Party of the earliest twentieth century and the current era of two party Progressivism are similar if not harmonious to the theories and wishes of Socialism over one hundred years ago. This doctrine, where service to society above the desires of the individual are now taught if not implanted in the education system from start to finish and the leaders of this era like the Roosevelts and Wilson are glorified for their accomplishments.
Yet one can not absolve the two party system of the guilt from this issue. Both parties, especially the Republicans, engaged in a historical distortion and revision of our Constitutional principles which allowed the current situation to evolve today.
Thanks again, Wisconsin.
The G.O.P. – Grand Old Progressives
“In regard to the question asked a moment ago in regard to the means of knowing whether or not full returns of income were secured in Wisconsin, Mr. Haugen might very well have added what the head of the income tax department of Wisconsin told me last spring, that after conferring with people about their income tax returns he was not only satisfied that in the main in the overwhelming majority of cases they were given honest returns, but was also satisfied that the people on the whole who were making them pretty cheerfully, with a sense of relief and satisfaction that they had at last got a tax law under which they could make honest returns. Now the statement is a remarkable one, because it is a statement of the first consistent attempt made in this country to carry through a comprehensive reform of personal property taxation.”
- Nils P. Haugen, Pioneer and Political Reminiscences, 1930, Chapter V, pages 160-161
The Great Panic and Depression of 1893 destroyed many of the perceptions that Americans had of their society, government and economic structure (sound familiar like oh, 2007?). This new reality allowed the burgeoning Progressive movement to align itself with the Republican party and in the process, picked up numerous Governor’s offices and state legislatures around the nation in the 1894 election. The key movement to have the greatest national impact though was the new insurgency created under the leadership of the Progressive Republicans in the state of Wisconsin. Under their leadership, the Republican Party expanded its dominance of state politics at every level eventually leading to Robert La Follette, long considered the key insurgent, to become governor in 1901 after a successful campaign against the “Stalwarts” or traditional Republicans who viewed the Progressive movement with a suspicious eye. During his administration the Progressive movement within the Wisconsin Republican Party working with what were considered radical Democrats (Classical Liberals were in dire opposition to the Governor), La Follette achieved a national celebrity with some of the causes he championed and got passed using the principles of the Wisconsin Idea and Progressive thought:
A Workman’s Compensation Act
Minimum Wage Laws
Commissions to oversee Railroads and industry
A Progressive Income Tax (Defeated in court the first time, eventually passed and validated by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1912)
An Open Primary Election system
Open Government provision via codified law
Without going through the entire laundry list, let me say that there is good, bad and ugly within the list of accomplishments of the Progressives in Wisconsin but these actions did not go unnoticed on a national level and President Theodore Roosevelt took note of the drastic reforms underway in Wisconsin and the rising star of Governor La Follette. If you think about what much of what was accomplished under the two terms of Roosevelt the haunting familiarity should strike a chord. America has never been the same since that era. The Republican Party, subverted with the Progressive movement was moved away from its historical Constitutionalist approach for decades to follow and failed to recover the beliefs and origins of its “Conservative” nature until Barry Goldwater took the lead for the party in the 1960’s and Ronald Reagan won two terms in 1980.
Sadly though, you can see the ideas that permeated from the Republican dominated state of Wisconsin and the numerous politicians they sent to Washington, D.C. to spread their Progressive idealism into the national scope. In 1906 Robert La Follette won the election as a Senator from Wisconsin and served there until his death in 1925. In 1911 he formed the National Progressive Republican League a splinter party where Progressives could flee the stalwarts as they were called and continue to carry of the Progressive movement but indicating their alliance still to some of the original Republican Party principles. La Follette made no secret of his bid to run for President in 1912 but that was usurped when Theodore Roosevelt entered into the race and the party dropped its identification with the Republicans to simply become the Progressive Party. This action all but assured the Democrats would win this election and of course, as they say, the rest is history and Wilson won the election.
La Follette never forgave Roosevelt for his actions and this division effectively ended the growth of a viable third party in the United States for decades to come. This splinter and reduction of effectiveness did not destroy the Progressive idealism as it was adopted by many in the Democratic Party and one of the key pieces of legislation which diminished the power of the states, the 17th Amendment, was ushered through the Senate as a tireless part of Senator La Follette’s efforts. With this history behind it, the complexities of the Wisconsin Idea and its expansion from the state level experiments to the national level is quite obvious with the passage of the Federal Reserve Act, the 16th, and the 17th Amendments to the Constitution. Progressivism has consequences, two of which we are reminded of every April 15th and every two years with the direct election of Senators. The other consequence is that the idealism behind the use of the education system integrated with economic, administrative and social decisions at every level of government is now a precedent which could take decades to properly segregate to save the Republic.
The Evolution of Progressivism and Corporate Interventionism: Cooperation, Concentration and Control
“The failure of the competitive system for the adequate control of the price and service for public utilities and quality for manufactures can not be gainsaid. The thesis is presented that commissions should be created to control industrial corporations affected with a public interest just as they now control the public service corporations, as they control quality in industry.”
- Charles R. Van Hise, Concentration and Control – A Solution of the Trust Problem in the United States, The Macmillan Co., 1912, Chapter V. ‘Remedies’, Section 4, “The Creation of Trade Commissions”, page 248
Who is Charles R. Van Hise and why is this particular quote from his book of such import to the events of the past 18 months involving Bear Stearns, Indymac Bank, Washington Mutual, Wachovia, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, etc.?
Charles R. Van Hise was the President of the University of Wisconsin from 1903 to 1918 and one of the proponents and designers of the Wisconsin Idea. His idealism about the conduct of corporate citizens within the state and nation differed greatly from the laissez-faire Republicans of old but his approaches were deemed pragmatic and innovative by the Progressive movement, thus his voice and writings carried great weight in the Progressive movement and thus the programs endorsed by Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. The fear of that time was the remnants of the monopolies banned under the Sherman Anti-Trust act of 1890 which emerged in operations under “Trusts” which were the scourge of all as price-fixing, resource hoarding and oligopoly trading practices continued to rule the day.
The solutions to this issue was outlined in the book by Van Hise titled Concentration and Control as outlined here:
1. Competition should remain a key portion of any program to insure competition in price, quality and for business as a whole.
2. Unfair practices are to be prohibited and unfair advantages are to be prevented.
3. Reasonable cooperation between corporations should be permitted. From Page 226: “Only by cooperation can the enormous wastes of competition be avoided.”
4. Corporations should be allowed to be of sufficient magnitude to give the highest economic efficiency in order that (a) they may be able to supply the needs of our own people at the lowest practicable rate, and (b) to secure an increased proportion of foreign trade. Van Hise’s theoretical threshold was that no company should control, on average, more than 50 percent of any product market.
5. Justice without cost to complainant.
6. For any business where there is any restraint of trade, reasonable or unreasonable, through cooperation, there should be full publicity.
7. Corporations should be required to conduct their business with oversight to conserve natural resources.
8. Cooperating corporations should be required to give just wages to laborers.
9. The businesses of the great corporations should be conducted under good social conditions.
10. Fair prices should be obtainable by individuals or groups selling to the great corporations.
11. Corporations should not be allowed to charge excessive prices to the consumer.
12. The scope of the powers of the United States and the states should be clearly defined in the control of commerce.
For those who wondered just how the hell the United States Congress and the current administration saw fit to take over Chrysler and force it into bankruptcy and fire the CEO of General Motors, Rick Waggoner, well, those twelve remedies from one of the originators of the Wisconsin Idea should give you a clue if not a terrified pause. Those areas that were not or have not been strictly defined or codified via judicial activism (another key component of the Wisconsin Idea) have either been assumed via the creation of a regulatory administrative law structure by bureaucrats, that’s right, trained in the model of the Wisconsin Idea and German Bureaucratic administrative law or declared via Executive Order by Presidents starting with Wilson and expanded exponentially ever since.
The remedies Van Hise outlined sound innocent and productive enough to work within a capitalist system until you pair them off with the bureaucratic system polluted with political corruption and graft which grew up with it.
The idealists like La Follette, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson failed to comprehend not just the reach of the legal class; they failed to understand that human nature can not be codified, structured or dictated to as free markets will seek just that, free, open markets to operate within. Yet their desire to insure a proper economic system demanded a small concentrated and efficient corporate system with profitability and management to be dictated by a bureaucratic overseer. The tighter or greater the restrictions, the more onerous the taxation, and the forced dictation on prices for the consumer, supplier and labor will always result in industrial production moving from that area which is engaged in these practices.
If you think that I am just whistling past the graveyard, look at this quote, again from the book Concentration and Control by Van Hise:
“Business of a Public Interest – The law should declare that businesses which restrain trade to such a degree as to control the market by the fact becomes of public interest.”
This means that a bureaucrat or Congress could dictate which corporations are of the “public interest” and by extension expand government control over these corporations. Now does the train of thought from 1900 to 2009 make since? The idealism of the Progressive movement now embedded as institutionalized portions of both parties has created the situation where any private citizen or groups own a corporation that develops a product within a limited competitive area, the government should have all of the rights to oversee if not take over control in the name of the public interest should that corporation behave in manner which it does not see fit for the greater good. As almost on cue, as if to fulfill the purpose of this essay and validate current Progressive thinking on the subject, Christine Varney the head of the Antitrust Division for the United States Department of Justice announced in a speech before a liberal think tank:
“The recent developments in the marketplace should make it clear that we can no longer rely upon the marketplace alone to ensure that competition and consumers will be protected,” Varney said in a speech at the Center for American Progress, a liberal-leaning Washington think tank.
Washington Post, ‘U.S. Clears the Way for Antitrust Crackdown‘ by Cecilia Kin, May 12, 2009
I could not have more validation for what has happened, will happen and the future of corporate enterprise in America. As the Socialists wished the means of capital creation will now be shared either by acquisition or force if necessary within the American system on those industries deemed necessary for the public interest and greater good.
This statement by Ms. Varney is nothing original or new. Let us refer back to the book Concentration and Control by Van Hise:
“In view of these and similar facts regarding other corporations, it seems unsafe to believe, if cooperation be permitted, that the corporations will have so great a change of heart as to treat the public fairly. If cooperation be permitted, with this must go control, else the public will be without protection. It is perfectly clear under modern conditions that the determination of prices by legislation is an impossible task. However, as already indicated, under the clear legislative right to control prices, Congress and state legislatures may enact the rule that prices shall be reasonable and authorize administrative commissions to regulate prices under the rule. The reserve power to require modification of unreasonable prices should be placed with the commissions. “
(Page 259, Chapter V. ‘Remedies’)
“Also a commission need go no farther in a given case than to fix a maximum price or a minimum price, or both, as may be required by the situation, leaving competition to regulate further within the prescribed limits.”
(Page 260, Chapter V. ‘Remedies’)
With that breath of fresh air, are you, the American consumer ready to deal with the concept of Government commissions engaging in “antitrust” actions to insure fair prices via the processes outlined by the Obama administration, the Federal Reserve and the university theorists of the past one hundred years who have provided a guideline so radical that Theodore Roosevelt of that time called this “sane radicalism” and promoted more, not less interference in the free markets? This reach basically allows executive compensation, supplier pricing, labor compensation, wholesale and retail prices to be determined for goods and services as needed by and or for political purposes. If you think this is not happening already, may I introduce to you to the TARP concept for banking regulatory oversight and management.
With this reminder as to how the Wisconsin Idea expanded beyond a simple idea of compulsory education and modernizing a state government and into a national concept under the guise of Republican Progressivism, the power that is creates in centralized governments at the state and Federal level should give you pause to ask one question:
Can you honestly trust either political party at this time?
Thank you Wisconsin for the Obamanation, Can we Sell you To Canada Now?
“There is another irony in this situation. There was no Federal Reserve System in 1907. That is why Wall Street bankers like J.P. Morgan had to do their own heavy lifting with their own money.
Somehow that did not sit right with the Progressives of that era who, like today’s liberals, seemed to think that things should not be left to the market when the government can step in and make everything right”
- Thomas Sowell, Irony In Wall Street, April 1, 2008 Townhall.com
”The La Follettes dramatize politics. Progressives are engaged in a gigantic struggle, staged before their own eyes in words and scenes of convincing power. Their leaders are warriors. Their cause is the cause of the people.
No opportunity is lost to sharpen the outline. If a labor law is enacted it is another great victory. If the legislature approves a -cooperative farmers’ law the advance is properly celebrated. Speakers emphasize the state’s social obligations – to all who work, to dependents, to those harshly dealt with by the social order.”
- Milwaukee Journal, A Third of a Century of La Folletteism, October 21, 1930
Their leaders are warriors. Their cause is the cause of the people. Thomas Sowell identified the primary flaw in Progressive thinking and that is the concept that government can step in and make everything right. Yet they are warriors, their cause is just. Why? Because they say so. Because their willing dupes in the Wisconsin Idea influenced Colleges of Journalism who graduated to the national and major press said so. Does this have a familiar theme?
Perhaps with a PSD afflicted President named Obama?
The university elite who conceived with the Progressives the ideas behind the Wisconsin Idea have succeeded. The Constitutionalists are now considered dinosaurs to be mocked and despised for their primitive idealism and their voices to be silenced using whatever methods are necessary.
After all the greater good and the public interest are far more important than an advocate of the positions of Washington or Jefferson that are inconvenient to the current political class. Regulatory expansion is far more important to assure job creation for the allies who adore the cause or can contribute to the expansion of Progressive Socialism. The concepts I have outlined are not outrageous. If you reflect on the original Communist Manifesto, much of what Marx and Engels sought to spread throughout the world’s capitalist economies have been implemented in Europe and the United States while some of the same proposals are being deconstructed in Communist China.
America is at a crossroads and that intersection is wrought with danger. The capitalist must decide if he can tolerate a one and a half party system where the choices for political office will assure the continued destruction of his or her rights and freedoms as well as imposing crushing tariffs on his labors. The other alternative is to retire, or cease to produce for the state, leaving the complicated problem of survival in a country that was once admired by all men and women the world over, yet now has raised doubts about the dedication to the very magnet which brought millions to our shores. The choice is what I call the Great Restoration but it will not be easy and doubtfully be completed in our lifetimes. The trials we are to endure as the absorption of America into the great World-Euro Socialist model appears to be successful and will continue unabated.
The major corporations have chosen their alliances and lot in life and thus that of their employees in this conflict. The new found acquisitions of private corporations or shares of their companies by the Federal government lays the basis for a statutory envelopment of those companies that the administration deems necessary for not just our future, but that of the world movement. This is balanced by a need for the citizenry to have a basic existence and to sell the diminished standard of living to the populace as a necessary evil for the greater good. This will be attempted via the process of economic blackmail, security of the future for retirees, and the perpetual crisis, a concept enjoyed by Fascist governments throughout history to alleviate the pain as new restrictions on freedom are declared. America’s trials are just beginning, even though the elite would have you believe they began in the 1890’s with the banking crisis of that era and since.
Sadly, this crisis as all of the others since 1907 would be long over and resolved had the government stepped aside. Alas, it was not meant to be nor would it appear a celebration of 250 years of our nation as it was envisioned by the Founders.
Damn you Wisconsin.
We should have sold you to Canada for four loonies when we had the chance.
Yo, Canada, the offer stands.