Should ‘Progressives’ Admire North Korea?

by Don Boudreaux on June 5, 2011

in Myths and Fallacies

Here’s a letter to the New York Times:

Nicholas Kristof says that Americans who want lower taxes and less government regulation should study Pakistan, which he describes as “a low-tax laissez faire Eden” – and which also, of course, is a decrepit economy and society (“Our Fantasy Nation?” June 5).  Never mind that, as University of Chicago law professor Todd Henderson notes, Pakistan ranks near the bottom of indices of economic freedom.*  Forget also that Pakistan is dominated by the military and benighted by liberty-suffocating superstitions.

Straw-man games such as the one Mr. Kristof plays are too easy.  Would anyone be persuaded, for example, if I wrote (paraphrasing his opening line) “With progressives and many Democrats balking at reducing the role of government, let me offer them an example of a nation that lives up to their ideals” – and then presented as a shining example of a ‘progressive’ society North Korea?  North Korea’s government, after all, offers cradle-to-grave economic supervision and protection of its citizens; incomes in North Korea are quite equal; and the government there actively directs the economy.

Would Mr. Kristof find the superficial similarities between some preferred policies of ‘progressives’ and the reality of North Korean society to be a serious reason to reconsider his ‘progressive’ beliefs?  Of course – and rightly – not.  And for the same reason no one should take seriously Mr. Kristof’s absurd equation of Pakistan with an America in which people would enjoy lower taxes and fewer government regulations.

Donald J. Boudreaux

* In a private e-mail to me as well as in a letter that Todd sent to the New York Times.

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Vance Armor June 5, 2011 at 6:06 pm

Somalia has virtually no taxation, if we define taxation as forced transfers of money to a central state authority. So I suppose Kristof’s idea of a “libertarian” society is Somalia, which is absurd, of course. The question is NOT the “amount” of taxation or the “amount” of regulation, most generally. The question is relative ability of the human person to act — with his/her labor and resources (which gets into the debate about property rights) — without arbritary coercion from anybody, and that “anybody” includes not only central state authorities but rival clans, the local mullah, or the pirates at the local port.

Dan June 5, 2011 at 6:26 pm

You can’t even assist the ‘poor’* in FL. with a sandwich without prosecution. I would say that govt is run amok with only that instance, amongst the many others. The relative ability of the human person to act……….I am forbidden from giving away my property without prior govt permission.
Problem is that many ‘headline’ readers are susceptible to such ridiculousness.

*understanding that the poor are usually in the situation from their own personal decisions and sustain their situation by continuing the poor choices.

Tim June 5, 2011 at 10:53 pm

We’re libertarians here. We don’t believe the poor are to blame for their own poverty, we believe labor-market corrupting government regulations are. Get it straight.

David Johnson June 9, 2011 at 3:16 pm

["*understanding that the poor are usually in the situation from their own personal decisions and sustain their situation by continuing the poor choices."]

This myth is every bit as wrong as its opposite that claims the wealthy all got there by exploitation. While there certainly are some poor who are in their position through their own poor decisions, to generalize this to all the poor is preposterous. Sometimes the choices one can make are limited, sometimes there is no choice at all. The goal of libertarianism is to increase choices, not to blame people for not making the “correct” choices.

Your statement also ignores the fact that poverty is largely a transient state. Individuals on average get wealthier over time. I myself was nearly destitute during my twenties, yet am now firmly in the center of the middle class. Back in my mid twenties I was told by the leftists that I was poor because of Reagan, which was just as boneheaded as my fellow libertarians at the time telling me I was poor because of my poor choices (your argument is hardly new). But the fact was I was poor because while I had a lot of education, I had few marketable skills at the time. As I gained the skills (and the experience and resume to demonstrate them) I moved out of poverty. Along the way I encountered numerous barriers erected BY THE STATE and not by my choices.

Ken June 5, 2011 at 6:35 pm

No worries, Vance, someone is all ready making that argument.

Dan June 5, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Ha! crazy, how the ‘lawless’, government-less Somalia is actually an improvement over the govt that they had.

vikingvista June 5, 2011 at 10:02 pm

Comparing Somalia to Florida, instead of comparing Somalia with government to Somalia without government. Typical statist intellectual rigor.

Dan June 8, 2011 at 1:35 am

The author wishes to compare minimalist govt with that of Pakistan and Don retorts with the opposite of maximizing govt to give us NK.
I am stating that in our govt, generally assumed, of all the practicing govt types to be the elite.
The author insinuated less govt=chaos, death, and destruction or just less freedom.
While more govt should equate to……..?
Well, in the good ole USA, with more govt, but not enuf (I assume for the author) , we enjoy more freedoms. REALLY?

Then why Will I be penalized for willingly giving my property to another such as a sandwich to person who is hungry(homeless) ?
Am I not free to relinquish MY property to another?
Nope! I cannot freely give my property to another as I deem their ‘needs’ to be met…… I am encouraging the lifestyle?
But govt can forcibly take property from me and give it to the homeless(poor) in forms of medical care, welfare, subsidized housing, etc.,….. Encouraging the behavior?
I cannot be charitable, but will be forced to part with my property under govt benevolence.
They want controls and accolades.

Dan June 8, 2011 at 1:45 am

I can appreciate the ferocity in which you advocate Libertarianism and how you easily handle the likes of Muirgeo or other Krugman characters, but relax. I wish the arguments or political discourse in America were more of the Jeffersonian/Madison/Adams Versus Libertarianism. I believe that would be a healthier debate and have ” the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” more wholly sought regularly. Buuuuuuuuuuuuuutttt…… A very large percentage of America have become dependent on govt and have succumbed to the forked tongue talk of courtroom orators into following their pretty, well-spoken, ambiguous populism straight out to the sea of misery.
Some issues can be set straight off into Liberty land and others must be incremental. I am not convinced of Your version of Libertarianism in regards to military. These things take time.
First, more education and convincing is needed.

vikingvista June 10, 2011 at 12:19 am


Rather you should reconsider. You can’t possibly map your trip from here to there, until you know where there is.

Gil June 6, 2011 at 1:40 am

Actually Libertarians have been saying government is the problem, period and not petty criminals and gangsters. With no central authority then you’re free to act as you will. If there are gangs harass you then there’s no one stopping you from defending yourself with any means you see fit. There’s no government therefore there’s no gun control whatsoever.

Slocum June 6, 2011 at 6:42 am

No. Libertarians want the government to perform a limited set of functions and perform it well. Arresting and jailing gangsters is one of those jobs. Limited government does not mean no government.

Gil June 6, 2011 at 8:06 am

Libertarianism equals anti-government. Most Libertarians take offence that the government can be set to an ideal minimum and stay that way.

crossofcrimson June 6, 2011 at 10:13 am

There are many flavors of libertarianism (some almost directly opposed to one another) – it’s better to qualify which group you’re talking about.

brotio June 6, 2011 at 1:03 pm

it’s better to qualify which group you’re talking about.

Why? Then he couldn’t misrepresent as effectively.

A. June 5, 2011 at 6:10 pm

Thank you, this childish argument is both common and stupid. I’m sorry you have to read all these op-eds to get this material. I stopped a while ago.

Acertainflorentine June 5, 2011 at 6:53 pm

The only thing worse than reading Kristof’s claptrap is reading sycophant and sycophant in the comments section of the NYT agree with it. What dishonest nonsense.

Hal_10000 June 5, 2011 at 7:07 pm

Never read comments. That way lies despair.

Oh, wait…

T Rich June 6, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Ha. Nice one, HAL. You are always one step ahead.

vikingvista June 5, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Pakistan? Seriously? What is wrong with these people?

kyle8 June 5, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Well when your ideology is garbage then you quickly run out of real arguments.

Plac Ebo June 5, 2011 at 7:18 pm

Professor Boudreaux,
(1) What existing government is closest to your ideal?
(2) If you were benevolent dictator for a year, or five, what would American government look like when you stepped down?

kyle8 June 5, 2011 at 8:01 pm

I won’t answer for the professor, but for myself, I don’t really know which existing government would be best. Perhaps my own state of Texas if it didn’t have to deal with a tyrannical central government.

If I were put in charge, provided the power did not corrupt me too much (a big if). The entire nation would resemble the government of Texas or maybe New Hampshire. Low taxes, no income taxes. But with school vouchers, a very limited social safety net. Low levels of business regulation. But perhaps with a more efficient tort system.

Oh, yeah, and no drug prohibition.

RC June 5, 2011 at 8:31 pm


I understand you favor some form of consumption tax (like the European VAT) that would replace the income taxes (both personal and corporate)? Just curious.


muirgeo June 6, 2011 at 1:52 am

Yeah Texas would be good for you. You guys make …what about a median of 47K per year. We in California make about 58K so I’m gonna go with that. But yeah Texas is good for you.

brotio June 6, 2011 at 4:14 am

Care to factor in cost-of-living for both States? Wanna see how much more house you can buy (even in socialist Austin) versus what the same money will buy in your area?

Yeah, California is good for you. You can call the cops when you see a Jewish baby boy.

CalgaryGuy76 June 6, 2011 at 6:01 am

If money is all that matters you should move up to Alberta. Our median income is over $85k (U.S. or Cdn). You may not like it though, not only our we the freest province in Canada but some measures put us at or near the freest in North America (even ahead of Texas). We even have that “free” health care you like so much, though make sure you keep ties to the U.S., it comes in handy if you don’t feel like waiting months for surgery, but hey what’s a few months in pain if it doesn’t cost you anything.

Ryan Vann June 6, 2011 at 1:16 pm

58k in California is like 40k in Texas.

muirgeo June 6, 2011 at 3:42 pm

Yeah but Texas is like Texas and California is like California.

I’ll take are multi-cultural, liberal, innovative tolerant, open minnded people of California and the Mediterranian climate, oceans and mountains over the fat ass angry white guy dessertiifed Madd Maxx society of Texas…ANYYYY DAY. Man do I wish they succeed … show them the fricking door….

kyle8 June 6, 2011 at 4:42 pm

As if there were any doubt about your ignorance you just showed it in abundance, as well as hotility, bigotry, and did I mention ignorance?

kyle8 June 6, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Oh and BTW, Isn’t your state bankrupt? Yeah, well, mine is not.

Ken June 5, 2011 at 9:24 pm


“If you were benevolent dictator for a year, or five, what would American government look like when you stepped down?”

Why would you assume that a libertarian would want to be a dictator? I know that is the fantasy of all leftists, but not everybody glorifies power the way the left does. Others not so enamored with power believes in using persuasion, even when people like you are perfectly capable of using force.

Dictators are concerned with forcing people to do what they want. Libertarians just want to be left alone and leave others alone.


Ken June 5, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Check out Milton Friedman’s reply to being made dictator. It starts around 3:25

vikingvista June 5, 2011 at 10:11 pm

Friedman’s answer was right, but his reason was wrong.

Plac Ebo June 5, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Ken, don’t be a schmuck. You know what the point of the question was. Regardless, your libertarian pipe dream and democracy do not mix. Anyway, for amusement sake, detail the mechanism that will transform a modern day democracy into your libertarian wet dream.

vikingvista June 5, 2011 at 10:14 pm

State democracy is necessarily in conflict with liberty and human rights. It is no coincidence that some of the most authoritarian personalities are also the most militant democracy advocates.

Ken June 5, 2011 at 10:56 pm


Your point does not stand, asshole. Libertarian = NOT DICTATOR. Get it?


Plac Ebo June 5, 2011 at 11:44 pm

Still waiting for your genius to show us the way. Let’s pretend that your libertarian wet dream society is a worthy goal. How do you propose we get there from today’s big-government-democracy? Apparently the majority of the voters aren’t buying into it. If it cannot be done then it’s a dead end that’s not worth pursuing and you’ll need a Plan B to save society.

Ken June 5, 2011 at 11:50 pm


We had a libertarian society, in case you don’t know history. We get there the same way we got here, incrementally.

As for the majority of voters not buying it, why don’t you ask all the out of work congressmen and senators, as well as all the out of work state legislatures due to last fall’s election.


RC June 6, 2011 at 12:04 am


I seriously doubt that you guys in the USA had a libertarian society, unless a libertarian society is one that permits slavery of blacks and discrimination of women, and which acquires land through war. Also, it wasn’t established in a very libertarian matter – as the Native Americans would sadly agree.


maximus June 6, 2011 at 12:34 am

“I seriously doubt that you guys in the USA had a libertarian society, unless a libertarian society is one that permits slavery of blacks and discrimination of women, and which acquires land through war. Also, it wasn’t established in a very libertarian matter – as the Native Americans would sadly agree.”

You didn’t enlighten us from where you are from,but I certainly hope you didn’t pay alot of your wealth for that edjumaction thar Jethro. If you did, ask for your money back, because you got ripped off.

Ken June 6, 2011 at 12:59 am


You can doubt all you like. From 1865 till the early 20th century, the US was the freest nation the earth had ever known. This period was so productive and amazing that the normal living conditions from the previous century started to look like abject poverty.


vikingvista June 6, 2011 at 3:48 am

“Libertarian society” is something of a misconception. An individual action might be free or coerced. A relatively large number of the former, and people start referring to a free society. Government must be singled out, since it necessarily uses coercion, and the overwhelming number of coercive actions are sanctioned by governments.

muirgeo June 6, 2011 at 9:41 am

“We had a libertarian society…..”

When back in the days of slavery? Is that the time you are talking about.

Good job Plec. It’s fun to ask them such question and then watch the 4 year old replies you get.

Ken June 6, 2011 at 11:53 am


“When back in the days of slavery?”

Apparently you can’t read. I said from “1865 till the early 20th century”. Guess what happened in 1865 you fool: the end of slavery.

Please try to keep up. I know that your pea sized brain finds it hard to comprehend things like dates and simple sentences, but you really should try harder.


muirgeo June 6, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Oh so you meant the rent seeking robber barron era with old people Farms and debtor prisons… when women couldn’t vote. That time which had multiple boom and bust cycles culminating with massive wealth accumulations by the robber barrons leading to the massive Republican lead Great Ass Depression… that time….THOSE WERE THE DAYS!!!!

Ken June 6, 2011 at 4:21 pm


“when women couldn’t vote.”

Women voted many times, particularly in local elections, before the 19th amendment guaranteed their right to vote in national elections.

“That time which had multiple boom and bust cycles ”

What time in history hasn’t there been multiple boom and bust cycles? Since the FED, i.e., since the early 20th century, the boom and bust cycles have been as virulent as ever with ever larger and larger busts.

“culminating with massive wealth accumulations by [most people, particular the average person]”

I fixed your typo.


muirgeo June 6, 2011 at 1:57 am

You’ll never get an answer to that one Plac… they don’t think things through that far. They mostly just don’t want to pay taxes or follow any rules.,.. because they are self made fully independent entrepreneurs each and every one of them.

I think the best way for them would be to all go on a cruise and then crash it into a deserted island so they could set up their very own Lord of the Flies Libertopia.

crossofcrimson June 6, 2011 at 10:19 am

” because they are self made fully independent entrepreneurs each and every one of them.”

Or because we don’t believe in perpetrating violence upon innocent individuals. Apparently, no many how many times you try to correct it, most progressives only see libertarians through the prism of some vaguely Randian caricature – it’s easier to moralize others with a false perception of their lack of egalitarianism than it is to see just how truly in-egalitarian your own view are in practice.

Sam Grove June 8, 2011 at 9:39 pm

You are a reverse Rumpelstiltskin.

Chucklehead June 6, 2011 at 1:37 am

It would look like Hong Kong in the 1970s.

muirgeo June 6, 2011 at 9:43 am

LOL. There great country would look like a big city.

chris June 6, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Yeah, lots of choices, employment, opportunity….tons of people to interact with.

You would prefer something more desolate – perhaps Montana writing your manifesto in a shack?

I’ll take my choice of thousands of doctors in Hong Kong vs 1 quack in Montana

Methinks1776 June 5, 2011 at 8:23 pm

Oh good. Another one from the Muirdiot Somalia school.

muirgeo June 5, 2011 at 8:49 pm

Sure Kristof is being flippant but as he writes,”I spend a fair amount of time reporting in developing countries, from Congo to Colombia. They’re typically characterized by minimal taxes, high levels of inequality, free-wheeling businesses and high military expenditures. Any of that ring a bell?”

In Latin American, African or Asian countries, I sometimes see shiny tanks and fighter aircraft — but schools that have trouble paying teachers. Sound familiar? ”

Sure again those aren’t what the libertarian or the Tea Parter envisions but WHERE are the countries you would model us after? They don’t exist. Maybe Kristof warnings should be heeded. Maybe the fact that the only low tax states that do exist are autocratic regimes and that should make us think twice about pushing for a minimalist government.

The extreme view IS NOT for universal health care and better regulation of trade and banking or increased taxes on the wealthy. The extreme untested…scary as crap view… is the idea of switching to a Libertarian or a Tea Party model. The Tea Party model WOULD IMO possibly be a Taliban like regime. The Libertarian model would IMO break down into a basic autocratic or corporate type of state.

But again it is NOT the progressives who are pushing for anything extreme. What we desire exist now in other countries and exist more fully here in the 40′s , 50′s and 60′s. It was not radical and it was successful.

But indeed our ideals do regularly get compared to Communist Russia or North Korea.

vidyohs June 5, 2011 at 9:07 pm

For once we are in agreement, muirduck. I long for the day when I can live under the kind of government that was the Soviet Union. I really ache for the opportunity to cook my rotten and moldy barley on a one burner carbide pump-up stove.

“Sure Kristof is being flippant but as he writes,”I spend a fair amount of time reporting in developing countries, from Congo to Colombia. They’re typically characterized by minimal taxes, high levels of inequality, free-wheeling businesses and high military expenditures. Any of that ring a bell?”

In Latin American, African or Asian countries, I sometimes see shiny tanks and fighter aircraft — but schools that have trouble paying teachers. Sound familiar?”

And, my little nuirhuahua, does your yapping imply that those countries were libertarian or that you would assert that they are? Are you and Kristof that stupid? (Rhetorical question, as you’re regressives, I know the answer.)

Tis the simple truth my little bow wow, you don’t even make a good village idiot anymore………if you ever did.

Dan June 6, 2011 at 12:22 am

The muirgeo world would consist of continuing new legislation upon new legislation, hundreds of thousands of pages long, and still there is corruption, poverty, unemployment, wars, rich corps getting perks and buying Bentleys. Only with so many ‘laws’ that every man woman and child is in violation of the law everyday and barely allowed to sneeze without worrying about getting a form of demerit or fine for doing so. Oh, wait….. We are 1/3 of the way there. Won’t be long before handing out a sandwich to a vagrant will be unlawful……….. Already is. Thanks muirgeo’s of the world.

muirgeo June 6, 2011 at 9:49 am

No it might look more like a the 50′ and 60′s economically when we had incredible growth and shared prosperity and rich people but not too rich…. instead of the current libertarian quagmire we have now. We went plenty of ways in the libertarian direction and we find ourselves in the shitter. If the Libertarian Overlords with their huge wealth and power are able to push things further in their direction as they are with the fake budget battle we will only see things get worse. The economy will only really grow when we get back to more progressive policies. The libertarian austerity bullshit being pushed on the worlds economies is failing and social revolt is not too far… gates may be coming down all around the world and hopefully some of these hellish bastards pigs will get what they deserve for destroying so many lives just for another billion dollars they don’t need.

crossofcrimson June 6, 2011 at 10:22 am

You mean the same 50′s an 60′s where a majority of our competition today were either undeveloped or war-torn? I wonder if that had anything to do with our rise to dominance after WWII….

Brad Petersen June 6, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Muirgeo, do you seriously maintain that government is smaller now than it was in the 1950s and 1960s?

And are you so intellectually bereft that you believe we live in a libertarian state?

And what libertarian austerity are you talking about? Libertarians don’t hold power anywhere in the world — as you have pointed out many times. But now suddenly we rule the world.

You are one bizarre dude. Accusing you of being out of touch with reality would be a compliment.

Ken June 5, 2011 at 9:57 pm


” The Libertarian model would IMO break down into a basic autocratic or corporate type of state.”

This is what makes you a fool. You seem to think that wealth is force. How much power does Bill Gates have over you or me? A lowly bureaucrat in government has a lot power over you, determining what you can and cannot buy and what you can and cannot build. However, Bill Gates can only ask you to purchase a Microsoft product. You cannot be forced to. In fact, for every single product Microsoft sells there is an alternative for free. There are free operating systems. There are free office productivity suites. The list goes on.

Your basic misunderstanding is that rich people can make you do things you don’t want to do. But ALL of your examples of this are rich people capturing all ready existing government authority (by buying politicians like Barney Frank), then using the force of government against others. This is why libertarians favor LIMITED government and why you are such a dumbass.


ArrowSmith June 5, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Yeah but if you work in an office you are *forced* to use MS Office, hehe. Of course you have the *freedom* to use another product at home, but you see if you can’t tell your boss off, it’s slave-labor.

muirgeo June 6, 2011 at 2:07 am

Yep most people have to sell out and work for monopolistic corporations because very few are able to start out and compete or make something productive on their own. Once in the corporate world you are in an authoritarian environment with very little liberty to o as you please. They will control your hours of work, you lunch break, your dress and so much more….

maximus June 6, 2011 at 3:36 am

“Yep most people have to sell out and work for monopolistic corporations because very few are able to start out and compete or make something productive on their own”

Oh my Lord, are you not a product of a medical corporation called Kaiser? Just because they call themselves non-profit do they not maximize revenues? Do you actually understand anything beyond political propaganda?

Yam Slemho June 6, 2011 at 7:03 am

“Freedom is thus seriously threatened today by the tendency of the employed majority to impose upon the rest their standards and views of life. It may indeed prove to be the most difficult task of all to persuade the employed masses that in the general interests of society, and therefore in their own long-term interest, they should preserve such conditions as to enable a few to reach positions which to them appear unattainable or not worth the effort or risk.”
“Freedom does not mean that we can have everything as we want it. In choosing a course of life we always must choose between complexes of advantages and disadvantages, and, once our choice is made, we must be prepared to accept certain disadvantages for the sake of the net benefit. Whoever desires the regular income for which he sells his labor must devote his working hours to the immediate tasks which are determined for him by others. To do the bidding of others is for the employed the condition of achieving his purpose. Yet, though he may find this at times highly irksome, in normal conditions he is not unfree in the sense of being coerced. True, the risk or sacrifice involved in giving up his job may often be so great as to make him continue in it, even though he intensely dislikes it. But this may be true of almost any other occupation to which a man has committed himself – certainly of many independent positions.” — F.A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty, ch 8, sec. 2

In this short section Hayek convinced me that employment isn’t for me. No one will force me to use Micro$oft products.

crossofcrimson June 6, 2011 at 10:24 am

Yeah….kind of like when you go over to someone’s house and must abide by their rules and leave. I can’t stand those dinner-preparing fascists!

lamp3 June 6, 2011 at 12:38 pm

“They will control your hours of work, you lunch break, your dress and so much more….”

Isn’t this what we expect from socialist countries?

Ken June 6, 2011 at 1:39 pm


“Yep most people have to sell out”

Translation: people have to work to get stuff. What a shock!

“They will control your hours of work, you lunch break, your dress and so much more”

It’s all voluntary. No one is controlled. If I don’t like the hours I work, I find a job that has hours I like. If I don’t like the dress code, I find a job with a dress code I like. If… well you get the picture (although probably not since you’re an airhead). If I work for a company, I trade my time and skills for money. The company wants what I can do and I want the money the company will give me in trade for what I can do. It’s a trade of labor that is mutually voluntary and beneficial.


muirgeo June 6, 2011 at 3:52 pm

And if you don’t like the rules of this country you go find another bro. This is a democracy and no one is holding any guns to anyones heads… other then the corporations who have stolen our democracy. If corporations are poeple tell me where their nuts are so we can kick them there.

Ken June 6, 2011 at 4:27 pm


“if you don’t like the rules of this country you go find another bro.:

First, I’m not your “bro”.

Secondly, if you don’t like the rules of this country, you are free to leave as well. Me I prefer to reduce government through democratic, like last falls elections when people like you got your asses handed to you, and legal actions, such as the Heller and McDonald, and Federal Judge Roger Vinson’s ruling declaring Obamacare unconstitutional.

“other then the corporations who have stolen our democracy”

I have never had a gun pointed at me other than by a criminal in a hood (for being white in a black neighborhood) and twice by a cop (for being white in a black neighborhood). Not at any time did anyone hold a gun on me on behalf of any private corporation.


crossofcrimson June 6, 2011 at 4:36 pm

“This is a democracy and no one is holding any guns to anyones heads”

Now this is pretty rich. You have such a holy reverence for democracy that not only do you apparently believe it’s the “best” governing model (which is a fair enough point) – but you’ve actually deluded yourself into thinking there’s no force involved. Wow. Absolutely stunning. Yeah, no one is holding any guns to anyones’ heads….except for the majority. They’re doing that. But everyone else….

Brad Petersen June 6, 2011 at 5:59 pm

I’m curious to know who those of us too inept to start our own companies would work for in muirgeo’s ideal world. And would those new employers let us do anything we wanted, work when we felt like it, take all day lunches, dress like slobs, etc.

And here’s a newsflash for you: In general, self-employed people work long hours. They don’t get to goof off all day and do whatever they want. If they want to stay in business, they have to get the job done — just like those who work in the corporate world.

brotio June 6, 2011 at 7:37 pm

I’m curious to know who those of us too inept to start our own companies would work for in muirgeo’s ideal world.

They’d work for Kaiser. Since Yasafi works for them, they must be only good corporation in the whole, wide world. Funny thing is, as much as Yasafi hates all of those other, eeevil corporations, he thinks government should give them welfare – especially GE, ADM, and GM.

Brian June 6, 2011 at 1:41 pm

No offense, but your response is nonsensical.
By working for someone in their office, you agree to work under their conditions. One of those conditions may be to use MS Office. This is not slave-labor by any stretch of the imagination.
You have the option to leave and find other employment. If you’re a slave, you could not leave.

Ken June 6, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Perhaps you didn’t catch Arrowsmith’s sarcasm.

muirgeo June 6, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Likewise for one’s choice to live in this country. Don’t like it leave. But the rich taking over our democracy is NOT a reason to leave… it’s a reason to fight for our democracy like we did in the past.

Ken June 6, 2011 at 4:32 pm


“Don’t like it leave.”

The same is true for you.

“But the rich taking over our democracy is NOT a reason to leave… it’s a reason to fight for our democracy like we did in the past.”

I agree, which is why I oppose increasing government power, particularly democrats, with every fiber of my being. Obamacare was just a huge giveaway to Big Insurance and Big Pharma. The “stimulus” was just a huge wealth transfers from tax payer (i.e., working people) to political favorites like GM and unions. Same with TARP. Most government agencies and departments exist for the sole purpose of being captured by rich people, either through direct bribes or soft bribes (like campaign contributions and cushy jobs when people leave the government) who use the organs of government power to take as much as possible.


Dan June 6, 2011 at 12:24 am

You are now forced to purchase a health insurance policy or go to jail. Nice muirgeo govt. Spend your fruit of your labor on what govt says, or find yourself in jail.
Why not reinstitute FDR’s price control policy and throw people in jail if they refuse like FDR used to do?

muirgeo June 6, 2011 at 9:52 am

Yeah … you are also forced to pay for streets and stop at red lights…..OH THE HORRER!!!!

Ron June 8, 2011 at 1:43 am

Roads belong to people; not the individual. Thus red light stop. Insurance is individual. Logical fallacy.

Gil June 6, 2011 at 1:32 am

I could say if I want an operating system then I really don’t have a choice. MS Windows is pretty much built-in and the most convenient.

Howver I believe muirgeo is pointing out that HOAs and private city-states will emerge and people will get stuck the private version of “love it or leave it”.

maximus June 6, 2011 at 1:53 am

“Howver I believe muirgeo is pointing out that HOAs and private city-states will emerge and people will get stuck the private version of “love it or leave it”.

Oh of course, you and him are so prescient!!! And while your using your amazing ability to predict, Madame Gil, please do tell me who will win the Super Bowl in 2012 so I can lay some heavy bucks on your predictided outcome.

Gil June 6, 2011 at 8:04 am

Gee, are you presuming land ownership will still be public property when the government disappears? Some private people in the newly-formed Libertopia are going to get first dibs on the land and make their own rules and exact rent from the landless.

crossofcrimson June 6, 2011 at 10:28 am

This is the equivalent of “I stick a flag on the moon, therefore I own the moon” argument to Lockean homesteading.

Ken June 6, 2011 at 2:47 pm

“I could say if I want an operating system then I really don’t have a choice.”

You could say that, but you would be lying.

“MS Windows is pretty much built-in and the most convenient. ”

So? Ever heard of dual boot? How about disk partitions? How about VMWare? How about just deleting MS Windows? Also, the time it takes to start up a new computer with windows loaded on it is about the same amount of time to load Ubuntu or Fedora onto the computer, so you really don’t know what “convenience” means.

“Howver I believe muirgeo is pointing out that HOAs and private city-states will emerge and people will get stuck the private version of “love it or leave it”.”

There is plenty of land you could buy that isn’t subject to HOAs on which you could build a home and there are plenty of houses that are not subject to HOAs.

So the “emergence” that you and muirgeo “see” isn’t total or even oppressive.


Gil June 7, 2011 at 12:26 am

Plenty of land? In the Sahara! No, seriously, all the best land gets snapped up quickly. Hence the short period known as the “frontier” when the landless European immigrants were quick to snap up the new unowned land of North America.

Ken June 7, 2011 at 1:02 am


You are aware that there are millions of acres of land for sale right here in the US aren’t you? You are welcome to buy whatever you can afford and do whatever you like on it. Try driving 100 miles away from any city and you’ll be in rural territory with lots of cheap available land. Just because land has been settled doesn’t mean you can’t buy it from them. It’s called the real estate market place dumbass.

As for HOAs even in the densely populated and completed settled, i.e., non-frontier, land of Baltimore, I still bought a house a mile north of downtown NOT subject to any HOA.


muirgeo June 6, 2011 at 2:04 am

“This is what makes you a fool. You seem to think that wealth is force.”

And that you seem to think it isn’t i what makes you a bigger fool. The wealthy have corrupted and brainwashed you…funny enough into thinking you are a freedom liberty fighter. You are as controlled as abused dog.

Paying speculation fees on your gas and credit card fees on every purchase charged to the merchant and passed onto you even if you don’t use the cards. THEY OWN YOU and they have you working for them free of charge. Your a serf and you don’t even know it.

maximus June 6, 2011 at 2:30 am

“Paying speculation fees on your gas and credit card fees on every purchase charged to the merchant and passed onto you even if you don’t use the cards. THEY OWN YOU and they have you working for them free of charge. Your a serf and you don’t even know”

This is why you’re an economic ignoramus. The fact that you think all costs are are pushed down to the consumer is stupid. Even the journalist propgandists understand that point.

HaywoodU June 6, 2011 at 7:14 am

Spelling fail.

One of the many reasons no one here takes you seriously.

Doofor June 6, 2011 at 9:25 am

I really must commend your tenacity. The more we try to get you to let go of “the saving lie” of socialist grandeur the tighter you grip the anchors handed you by self-serving eco-mush hucksters.
Certainly there are past failures, and something better than profit seeking capitalism exists as a possibility. Why not let these new ideas compete for dominance on their own two legs.?
Surgically connecting everyone into a huge centipede to reduce bio-mass consumption or whatever it is you advocate is clearly not the way.

crossofcrimson June 6, 2011 at 10:29 am

“And that you seem to think it isn’t i what makes you a bigger fool. ”

It’s totally force.

Like when a kid builds ten sand castles and another builds two… oppression.

lamp3 June 6, 2011 at 12:43 pm

“You are as controlled as abused dog. ”

Is this the new form of “running dog lackey,” what the old propagandists of Soviet papers would call Americans?

Ken June 6, 2011 at 2:39 pm


“And that you seem to think it isn’t ”

Having a house is force? Having a car and clothes is force?

“Paying speculation fees on your gas”

Government taxes are higher than any other fee or profit on every gallon of gas.

“THEY OWN YOU and they have you working for them free of charge. ”

Who owns me? My credit cards? My clothes? Who or what owns me? Ownership implies that I am obliged to do what ever my owner wants; however, I am not obliged to do anything. I can quit my job, walk away from my mortgages and houses and go live off the land somewhere.

By your argument, everyone owns everyone and everyone is a serf, which of course is left non-sense.


maximus June 6, 2011 at 12:03 am

“The extreme view IS NOT for universal health care”

Well of course it’s not, but the extreme is some peditrician telling everybody we need it. Once Kaiser figures out a generalist like you is too expensive to keep around and it’s more cost efficent to let an RN or a PA to do 90% of your work and hire a specialist that you currently refer out to, your going to be a guy in the Walmart parking lot with a cardboard sign. Things change and so do the current regulations even in the medical profession ( see any GP’s around anymore?). What a dupe…

JBaldwin June 5, 2011 at 8:53 pm

Forget also that Pakistan is dominated by the military and benighted by liberty-suffocating superstitions.

Not only do you have to forget these ginormous cultural forces, but you have to ignore the absence of the cultural institutions which make individual liberty possible.

vidyohs June 5, 2011 at 8:59 pm

it is all really simple to understand. And, I mean Nicholas Kristof and the looney left in general.

When you are one of the looney left life becomes very simple. You no longer have to worry about truth, lies, morals, immorality, consideration, fidelity, honesty, virtue, standards, or any other character trait; after all those concepts are for the intellectually deficient conservatives, not for the elites who know that words are strictly situational..

Dan June 6, 2011 at 12:28 am

The left is a world of theories and ‘what ifs’. Poverty is direct result of someone else creating success. That success must be minimalized so that the poor can be given what they ‘need’. And a ‘need’ is anything that most other people have acquired thru their productivity. Leftist want cell phones for the poor because it’s not fair.

nailheadtom June 5, 2011 at 9:53 pm

Kristof did it for me a few years back when, after taking a kayak trip on the Alaskan North Slope, he describe ANWAR as his son’s “birthright”.

The Reticulator June 5, 2011 at 10:12 pm

So, is he saying Pakistan will become a better place to live if it starts laying some serious taxes on its citizens?

Ron June 8, 2011 at 1:47 am

:) In that case, the intended beneficiary will never get the money. The taxman will gobble it all up.

ArrowSmith June 5, 2011 at 10:37 pm

It’s conventional wisdom that libertarianism = anarchism in liberal circles. Religious conservatives don’t like libertarians because of their atheism.

vikingvista June 6, 2011 at 4:29 am

I doubt most libertarians are atheists. And since the vast majority of anarchists are leftists, most criticism of anarchists comes from the right and small-state libertarians.

CalgaryGuy76 June 6, 2011 at 5:52 am

Really? Most Libertarians I know are atheists. Seems to me that religion and government are just slightly differing forms of control over the masses. One preaches that God will protect and provide, the other that Government will fill that role. With either institution, those who seek power will tell tales about how scary the world would be without them and why you should submit to their control.

muirgeo June 6, 2011 at 9:56 am

How can a libertarian be an atheist with their belief in the Almighty Invisible Hand God? I mean the inculcation and the dogma is strong with you guys.

crossofcrimson June 6, 2011 at 10:37 am

If you don’t believe in “the Invisible Hand” then your hold world-view actually falls apart. Smith’s premise is two-fold:

1. That men are self-interested.
2. That men will serve each other in order to fulfill that interest.

So which part of this statement is fallacious?

If you’re saying that people aren’t self-interested, then there’s no reason to pose your draconian state onto your fellow man. If you’re saying that people won’t serve each other to further their own wants and needs, then, since they are serving each other as we speak, it must be purely out of egalitarian benevolence – in which case you’d still have no reason to pose your draconian state onto your fellow man.

I’ll grant you every pro-state argument under the sun….but the general denial of what Smith called “the Invisible Hand” is akin to being a flat-earther at this point. I think even Marx, a fairly adept student of Smith by the way, didn’t have a problem with this very basic tautology. How you’ve come to disregard the basic economic motivation by which most people live their lives is beyond me. It certainly doesn’t make you look intelligent.

brotio June 6, 2011 at 1:12 pm

I mean the inculcation and the dogma is strong with you guys.

Says Cardinal Yasafi Torquemuirduck, Grand Inquisitor for The Church of Anthropogenic Climate Change (which is led by His Holiness: The Divine Prophet Algore I).

tkwelge June 5, 2011 at 11:11 pm

There are plenty of examples of poor countries with “big” and “small” governments. This tit for tat bullshit could go on all night. Of course centralized government can work better than some forms of decentralized, limited government, especially when the country with a limited government is torn apart by ethnic strife, or any lack of cohesion that makes cooperation difficult. This is why plenty of countries have experienced periods of growth directly after centralization. However, they always hit a wall that can only be overcome through market liberalization.

Even if you look at the leftist nations in Europe, most of them have liberalized trade over the last few decades. Many European countries consistently rank highly in terms of economic freedom, even if they have significant levels of welfare spending. Some people just don’t get nuance…

Dan June 6, 2011 at 12:39 am

The better political discourse in America would be if 90% of America regularly bickered over Libertarianism and then a Conservative Republicanism. Oh, how I long for the day when the stupidity of socialism/Marxism/communism is laid to rest. But, we are far from that. 50% of voting America still voted for a Marxist. Sure, he hid his true intentions, but upon cleaning out Obamas ambiguity and paying closer attention, it is not hard to see his Marxist anti-American leanings.

Krishnan June 5, 2011 at 11:46 pm

I have a feeling that Kristof WOULD SAY that North Korea is indeed paradise … A WHO Director General Margaret Chan came back from North Korea expressing admiration for their system

(Here is part of that post) (No one can make this up … Only from the loonies for sure – they ACTUALLY believe in how bad the US is vis-a-vis the rest of the world)

North Korea’s health system would be the envy of many developing countries because of the abundance of medical staff that it has available, the head of the World Health Organization said on Friday.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, speaking a day after returning from a 2-1/2 day visit to the reclusive country, said malnutrition was a problem in North Korea but she had not seen any obvious signs of it in the capital Pyongyang.

North Korea–which does not allow its citizens to leave the country–has no shortage of doctors and nurses, in contrast to other developing countries where skilled healthcare workers often emigrate, she said.

Reuters also notes–seriously, we are not making this up–that Chan found no signs of obesity among North Koreans. “News reports said earlier this year that North Koreans were starving to death,” the wire service deadpans in response.

brotio June 6, 2011 at 4:23 am

No different than FDR’s Vice President Wallace (or JK Galbraith) coming back from the Soviet Union and extolling the virtues of the Worker’s Paradise.

vidyohs June 6, 2011 at 9:58 am

There ya go, gotta admire a nation that can cure chronic problems with such ease.

Imprison all medical personnel, and you always have plenty of coroners to pronounce dead those that aren’t obese.


But wait, what does starving have to do with the lack of obesity? Aren’t we told by those of the looney left persuasion that obesity can’t be a lack of will power and too much food? Haven’t they been telling us that obesity is genetic and thus the obese are victims who must be aided and subsidized by our tax dollars?

Hmmmm, sump’n real fishy about that Chan lady.

Vance Armor June 6, 2011 at 12:41 am

Now I would like to present something on Progressivism, which Don brought up.

Progressivism is one of the four deadly Western ideologies of the twentieth century. The four deadly Western ideologies of the twentieth century were: (1) Soviet Communism; (2) Italian Fascism; (3) German National Socialism; and (4) American Progressivism.

Progressivism is principally a peculiarly American ideology of forced progress through statism. This is the best definition of Progressivism. Progressivism emerged in its high noon as a crescendo from two seemingly unrelated ideological threads. First, it is a kind of culmination of Christian millenarianism which has its roots in America as far back as the Mayflower Compact, the idea of America as a New Jerusalem, the product of the idyllic imagination in politics that trumps the moral imagination in politics. It is the idea that America is a “shining City upon a Hill,” and in Timothy Dwight’s 1776 Valedictory Address at Yale University, that America is “the last and brightest Empire of Time.” The millenarian impulse gained fuel in the Second Great Awakening, in the Cane Ridge Revival of 1801, and the Burned Over District of New York. This was the time that states took over the law of marriage by requiring licensure, starting closing down brothels, and started taxing whiskey. The heirs of the Millerites and the Campbellites, the Mormons and the Christian Scientists and neo-Gnostic and neo-Montanist sects that proliferated in America in the nineteenth century all tended to champion a moral rigorism and “other directed pietism” that differed significantly from the two other principal strands of American Christianity in the nineteenth century: (1) liturgical Christianity among the immigrant Catholics and Lutherans; and (2) the “inner-directed pietists” among especially the Baptists. The millenarian Christians believed strongly that America should become the New Jerusalem, and the Mormons, of course, made this explicit. Women’s movements for temperance and for voting rights were of a piece of this strand of Christian politics, but behind the “nice” veneer of providing equal voting rights and keeping women safe in their homes from drunken husbands was the darker side of anti-immigrant politics, because Catholic Irish and German immigrant women were far less likely to vote — these households were the opposition to the Progressives and they therefore championed the Bourbon Democrats and laissez-faire.

The millenarian religious motif was very active in the politics of Progressivism in its high noon, where the New York Times described the Progressive Party convention of 1912 as a “Methodist camp revival” where the congregants sang “Onward Christian Soldiers” replacing the word “Jesus” with the word “Roosevelt.” It is the idyllic imagination in politics that inspired Woodrow Wilson to call for the “Christianization of the world.” The moral imagination in politics, on the other hand, was at times championed a century earlier by, for example, John Adams, when he remarked that what was appropriate for Philadelphia may be difficult in Paris and ridiculous in St. Petersburg. This moral imagination was continued, at least in this vein, by his son, J. Q. Adams, when he declared as Secretary of State in 1821 that America does not go abroad “. . . in search of monsters to destroy.” Progressivism is the epitome of the idyllic imagination in American politics, and at the core of American Progressivism, then and now, is imperialism.

The second ideological thread of Progressivism, which seems quite different from the millenarian Christian thread, was the bastardized pragmatism of Charles Sanders Peirce’s students, William James and John Dewey. James and Dewey were the real “Social Darwinists,” rather than the advocates of laissez-faire such as Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner — ardent opponents of British and American militarism and imperialism. The heart of American Progressivism is the idyllic imagination of Christian millenarianism; the mind of American Progressivism is Jamesian ad hoc pragmatism. The fact that few American Progressives today are secular rather than religious, however, does not mean that the secular has defeated the religious, it only means that the religious vision has been secularized.

In opposition to his students, however, Peirce embraced the larger transcendentalism he inherited from the earlier Transcendentalists, such as R. W. Emerson only with regard to ethics, politics and religion. Peirce was a theist and James and Dewey became atheists, and militant ones at that. Peirce rejected the somewhat Nietzschean political command for the “Will to Believe” and “Moral Equivalents of War” in James. Peirce refused to abandon the moral imagination in ethics and religion, which he inherited from the great Unitarian and Transcendentalist traditions. Emerson, for example, was a radical individualist and libertarian (“the less government, the better”), and he would have been appalled, I believe, by the extreme corporate statism of the early twentieth century Progressives. James and Dewey emphasized a radical relativism in politics whereby the role of scientific administration of public policy in its (seemingly) known consequences could be put into practice through collective will and political action. Compulsory attendance laws in education and public stewardship of educational policy were key to Deweyan political thought to “mold men as clay,” in the words of Woodrow Wilson’s 800 page tome, The State. It is from Dewey, and his English admirer, L. T. Hobshouse, that “liberals” who were once understood to be for the rights of individuals under common law, limited government and civic republicanism, and individual liberty and free markets, came to be at one with the “Progressives,” who championed specific grants of freedom by the state, unlimited government and purposive (rather than merely civic) republicanism, government intervention in the economy and crusading wars for (their version) of civilization abroad. The word “liberal” traditionally meant what the Latin root of the word denoted — one who championed political freedom. The ambiguity, indeed, the connotative synonymity, of a “poltiical liberal” and a “political progressive” continues in the United States to this day.

The commanding heights of the Republican Party divided in the late nineteenth century, I think, within and among the northeastern Episcopalians, Unitarian and Congregationalists in the power centers of government and academia. The Episcopalians were mocked as “The Republican Party at prayer.” Salvationist pietists such as the Baptists in the South were more immune to the Progressive ideology than Methodists and Presbyterians, for example, but only until the collapse of the Bourbon Democrats largely through the figure of William Jennings Bryan. Catholics tended to favor the Bourbon Democrats — they did not like having their children forced to give Bible readings from the King James Bible at public schools — and they especially did not like having them recite a Pledge of Allegience, complete with Caesarian salute with the right arm extended, written by a “Christian Socialist,” Francis Bellamy, the cousin of Edward Bellamy, the author of the most severe totalitarian political tract of the 1880s, Looking Backward. The Catholic and Lutheran immigrants opposed the “women’s movements,” especially the temperance movement which culminated in Prohibition in the 1920s. If anyone doubts the totalitarian temptation of American Progressivism, perhaps one should consider the fact that the Bolsheviks did not really care what the proletarians did on their own time as long as they showed up for work, but American Progressives were determined to slay the dragon of Demon Rum. One of the special totalitarian features of American Progressivism is its fixation on the human body, and what is consumed into the body. There were no controlled dangerous substances laws in the United States until the Progressive Era, and none at the federal level until the Harrison Tax Act of 1914.

The Republicans were the party of a strong national government since the War Between the States. The Bourbon Democrats opposed Republican measures for railroad subsidies, the imperial annexation of Hawaii, and high tariffs. The co-opting of southern Democrats into the Progressive fold is easier to see, I think, through powerful orators and demagogues such as Bryan and Benjamin “Pitchfork” Tillman (the author of the Tillman Act which regulated political campaign contributions by corporations as well as a coddler of Klan lynchers) than the Progressive takeover of Episcopalian Republicans who held positions of considerable responsibility in the mid-Atlantic and New England.

Therefore, when we consider the political factors leading to Progressivism, it is not a matter that somehow public opinion in the 1870s and 1880s was “less enlightened” and was more “stubborn” in its attachment to “rugged individualism” than in the first two decades of the twentieth century. Rather, Darwinian thought, or more specifically what was perceived as the application of Darwinism to political society, seriously changed American academia and the top political opinion-makers within the commanding heights of the Republican Party and within the rank-and-file of the Episcopalian laity. The eschatology of Christian millenarianism, the epistemology and scientism of Jamesian pragmatism, and the crude and misunderstood “Darwinian” anthropology combined to produce a witch’s brew of political thought. The radical pragmatism of James and Dewey fueled this new materialist and atheist scientism in academia at a time when wealthy Episcopalian and Unitarian parents sent their sons to Harvard and Yale and their daughters to Smith and Vassar. The libertarian moral imagination of William Lloyd Garrison and William Graham Sumner no longer stirred the imaginations of the young as the new fads of Social Darwinism (as it was then understood before Richard Hofstadter’s hatchet piece on Herbert Spencer) and Jamesian pragmatism took hold. Once millenarian Christians such as Richard Ely, Lester Ward and Woodrow Wilson became self-styled Darwinians (while still championing the “Christianization of the world”). Woodrow Wilson used the words “Darwin” and “Darwinian” in favorable rather than pejorative terms at many campaign whistle stops in the 1912 election campaign. The idyllic imagination of America as a shining city on a hill, a New Jerusalem, remained very strong in the Midwest among Methodists and Presbyterians and in the far West among Mormons. Utah and Idaho produced radical Progressives during the fin-de-siecle generation. Areas of the Midwest and Far West were strongholds of the Republican Party, and the big lions of the Eastern Establishment wanted to stay in charge of the Republican Party wagon as it morphed from merely a corporate statist party of high tariffs to a full-fledged imperialist party of Progressive Imperialism.

The power magnates who were raised in the Episcopalian and Unitarian churches and educated at Harvard, and especially, Yale University, found that the millenarian idyllic imagination of America as Timothy Dwight’s “last and greatest Empire of Time” could be harnessed to provide meaning, as a kind of personal as well as a political starting point for engagement with the public. Even the Baptist Rockefeller clan, educated at Yale, jumped on the wagon, as Yale was the hotbed of Progressivism in academia from 1890 to 1940, and during that time, also the home of racist Japhetic triumphalists and eugenics proponents. Harvard’s Louis Agassiz taught a kind of anthropological polygenism, instructing his students that white people did not emerge from the same racial stock as blacks, but Yale was where the really brutal racists taught, such as William McDougall and Ellsworth Huntington. Charles Darwin’s first cousin, Sir Francis Galton, who used his great wealth to advance the cause of eugenics, inspired Andrew Carnegie and Averill Harriman to open the first “racial science laboratory” in the world at Cold Springs Harbor, New York in 1904. Today, that laboratory focuses upon “genetics research,” it is said. Woodrow Wilson was the most racist president of the twentieth century. He segregated the federal civil service in Washington. He viewed A Birth of a Nation in the White House and praised the movie. He gave a speech addressing the Ku Klux Klan.

The person of Andrew Carnegie is instructive, I think, because in 1883 he feted the libertarian, anti-racist, anti-militarist Herbert Spencer as the greatest philosopher in the world, in his declared estimation, at New York’s famous Delmonico’s Restaurant. But by 1908, Carnegie said that it “. . . always comes back to me that government control, and that alone will solve the problem. There is nothing alarming about government regulation per se . . . ”

The Great Shift from civic republicanism and libertarianism in America to purposive republicanism and statism between the time of the publication of Lester Ward’s Dynamic Sociology in 1883 and the high noon of Progressivism in the Theodore Roosevelt administrations was not articulate best through conservative revisionism but rather through the radical history of certain Marxist historians who tried to show that the Progressive Era was a shift from a “capitalist era” of the Gilded Era to an “imperialist era” of “monopoly capitalism.” Gabriel Kolko, for example, in The Triumph of Conservatism showed that it was big business which turned to the protection of the federal government to protect itself against market competition in the Progressive Era. Food wholesalers wanted the Food and Drug Act to turn their regulations against their competitors — this is the origin of oleo instead of butter in the supermarkets. Big meat packers desired to save their industry from tainted meat, but they were unwilling to pay for independent meat inspection if the federal government could do this at taxpayers’ expense while driving out smaller competitors. Most ominously, the Federal Reserve Act was the product of the big bankers, especially J. P. Morgan, who greatly desired a privately held national bank that was guaranteed a monopoly as the lender of last resort. Today’s consensus is that the government has to inspect the meat and butter; the government has to impose work safety rules; and the government has to maintain a monopoly system of fiat money issue through a central bank. It was not the “right-wing revisionist” historians who showed that the self-interested actions of the most powerful interests achieved these goals for their own benefit at the expense of the growing market and labor competition that had been steadily improving the lives of Americans in the relatively laissez-faire era of the Gilded Age prior to the Progressive Era, but rather it is the Marxist historians who have made the case for the libertarians. We should not totally condemn the Marxists. They made a lot of mistakes, including the 96 million who directly perished under communist rule, according to the Black Book of Communism. The reason we should not totally condemn the Marxists is the reason Murray Rothbard gave: There is one good thing about Marxists. They are not Keynesians.

The narrative that Progressivism began as a motley of localist movements, under Progressive mayors in big cities, generally for infrastructure improvement and public hygiene fails to take into account the general improvement of living conditions that was occurring among the general population in most sectors in the decades before the high noon of the Progressive Era. Americans had always helped the poor and the weak in various ways, through workhouses (for unemployed outcasts) and Sunday School programs (literacy) and other charitable voluntarist efforts. People did not suddenly “get a heart” around 1900 because of a growth of urbanization. Urbanization was a consequence of the improvement in living standards and economic opportunity, not a cause of social maladies per se. The high noon of Progressivism was born upon the collapse of the Spencer/Sumner interpretation of Darwinian anthropology/cosmology and the triumph of the new “Social Darwinism” of Ely, Ward and Woodrow Wilson. Sumner invented the term “ethnocentrism” as a derogatory term against the Japhetic and racist tropes of the rising Progressives, most of whom had nothing but racist, even exterminationist, beliefs about the flood of immigrant Italians, Poles and Irish coming into America’s large Eastern cities.

There is the Great Man whose countenance graces Mount Rushmore, courtesy of the Klansman who sculpted his face on the mountain. No American with the possible exception of Albert Beveridge, the sponsor of the Meat Inspection Act of 1906 and a champion of the eight-hour work day, believed more strongly in the White Man’s Burden and American imperialism. Theodore Roosevelt was a war criminal. Pure and simple. It is undisputed that the population of the Philippines was reduced by more than a million between 1897 and 1907. What is in dispute is the number of casualties from war and the direct effects of war. Some figures place the number of Filipino military/guerrilla casualties from American military action as low as 34,000, while others claim that more than 250,000 combatants were killed by the Americans, with over a million dying from the resulting cholera epidemics. American soldiers and marines wrote home about having participated in the slaughters. They lamented the immorality of the killings, the organized torture (waterboarding was used at that time long before the administration of George W. Bush) and a concentration camp system was set up by the Americans for civilians to be relocated away from certain sensitive zones of combat. The Americans disestablished the Roman Catholic Church and sold off much of its property. The marines were given “shoot to kill” orders upon any Filipino male over the age of ten.

The Filipino revolutionaries had declared their independent Filipino government and the sovereignty and independence of the Philippines in June, 1898, yet the McKinley administration had negotiated from the Spanish a cessation of the Philippines to the United States in the Treaty of Paris in December, 1898, six months after the Filipino Declaration of Independence. In August, 1899, after the Filipino revolutionaries along with American troops had routed the Spanish colonial forces, the Filipino revolutionaries were set to enter the city of Manila. The Americans, who had been fighting Spanish with the Filipino revolutionaries led by Emilio Aguinaldo, telegraphed Aguinaldo, “Do not let your troops enter Manila without the permission of the American commander. On this side of the Pasig River you will be under fire.” The insurgents were furious that they were prevented from triumphantly entering the capital city of their home country. Aguinaldo tried to maintain his alliance with the Americans and pleaded with their commanders. Relations between Aguinaldo’s forces and the American forces quickly deteriorated once it became clear that the Americans were there to stay. Needless to say, the Filipino revolutionary forces turned on the new American occupiers.

In response, the Americans burned entire villages and set up concentration camps. The camps were overcrowded and filled with disease, and some camps had death rates as high as twenty percent. Anyone who left a concentration camp was shot. General Franklin Bell insisted that he build the camps to “protect friendly natives from the insurgents, assure them an adequate food supply” while teaching them “proper sanitary standards.” F. A. Blake of the International Red Cross arrived at Aguinaldo’s request, but General Elwell Otis, the lead commander, kept Mr. Blake confined to Manila. Blake slipped away from an American military escort and venttured into the field, and though he did not make it past the American lines he saw burned out villages and “horribly mutilated bodies, with stomachs slit open and occasionally decapitated.” Blake later remarked to a reporter that, “American soldiers are determined to kill every Filipino in sight.” General Jacob H. Smith issued orders to “kill everyone over the age of ten.” William Howard Taft, who later became president and chief justice, was the civilian governor who recommended the promotion of Smith to Brigadier General before Smith issued his infamous “kill everyone over the age of ten” order. But Smith was not a rogue commander. General Otis as the lead military commander of the theater refused to accept anything but unconditional surrender from the Filipino Army. The shift in Filipino strategy from conventional warfare to guerrilla warfare enraged American public opinion, and the American newspapers referred to the Filipinos as “savages” and “cowardly uncivilized enemies.” The guerrilla tactics of the Filipino forces fueled pro-war sentiment at home, and the New York Times endorsed General Smith’s order to shoot everyone over the age of ten as “long overdue.”

The racism of the Progressive Movement is much overlooked today, and the distortions by Talcott Parsons and Richard Hofstadter buried the anti-racist, anti-militarist, and anti-imperialist Herbert Spencer and his American champion, William Graham Sumner, under the table of the Progressive/New Deal consensus which emerged in the first half of the twentieth century. The Progressives were at first a pietist movement. They were indeed the First Christian Right. The public school system movement and the temperance movements had at their core an anti-Catholic and particularly anti-Irish and anti-German hatred. Imperialist militarism, ad hoc pragmatism and its scientistic approach to the humane and moral sciences, and evangelical missionarianism went hand in hand with each other, and the Great Doctor of Progressivism put all of these threads together as he led America on a Great Crusade to ” . . . make the world safe for democracy.”

Where did the first Western totalitarian state emerge in the twentieth century? What country first produced concentration camps, mass political propaganda with street posters and street-corner bullhorn preachers of political correctness, total war, mass conscription into the military, secret police forces, the jailing of hundreds of thousands of political dissidents and political neutrals, and comprehensive central planning of major industries?

(a) The Soviet Union
(b) Fascist Italy
(c) National Socialist Germany
(d) The United States of America

The correct answer is (d). Woodrow Wilson’s America was the first Western totalitarian state of the twentieth century. The incarceration of those who merely criticized the president, comprehensive war collectivism, enforced rationing, wage and price controls — all of the indicia of totalitarianism together with a very aggressive propaganda campaign — these brutal measures were well into effect under the Wilson Administration just as Lenin and Trotsky took over the reins of power in Russia. The European powers already engaged in the conflict did not engage their publics in the measure of state-enforced fear that President Wilson foisted upon the American people. Hundreds of thousands of Americans (up to 175,000) were arrested within a three-year period merely for their disobedience or dissent — far more than Mussolini arrested in the first dozen years after he established his dictatorship in Italy. The fact that Wilson had a dictatorship-with-elections and Mussolini had a dictatorship-without-elections is an important distinction, of course, but for William Graham Sumner’s Forgotten Man it was a dictatorship nonetheless.

The American foray into twentieth century totalitarianism did not appear out of the blue. The groundwork had been laid for twenty years before the Wilson Terror. The mania of Wilson’s American Protective League, a private organization that received an imprimatur from the Justice Department, to round up “slackers” and make “card-checks” to determine if families were obeying food rationing is highly instructive for Americans of our time because such mania can be ignited relatively easily in an age of 24/7 cable and other electronic media. Our greatest fear should not be merely the next terrorist attack, whether done from without or as a false flag from the US government, but even more, a war that the government will encourage its citizens to wage upon each other in response to such an attack. Crisis feeds Leviathan, and that Leviathan is total and inescapable when vigilante citizens gladly become the parabalani patrolling the streets, the political foot soldiers of Wilsonian Terror. The people of the United States are dangerously in peril of a Second Wilsonian Terror because, as Bruce Fein, formerly a highly placed official in the Reagan Justice Department, points out, we have today the legal machinery in place for a totalitarian state to quickly emerge.

Wilson waged war on the American people as well as the Germans. He whipped up a propaganda campaign for Americans to gladly wage war and spy on each other. Citizens tarred and feathered other citizens. Beatings in the streets of “slackers” became common during the summer and autumn of 1917. Knocks on the doors for “card checks” to determine if a household was not housing draft resisters, buying black market items, or otherwise being “un-American” were experienced by most — most — American households in America’s large cities. Loyalty oaths were demanded — well, everywhere. The government determined the daily menus of its citizens through the nation’s Food Czar, the Progressive Herbert Hoover, the real initiator of the New Deal in his presidential administration (1929-1933). The flag salute and the “Star Spangled Banner” became civilian political customs — features that continue to this day. Small children honored the Stars and Stripes with what we would now deem die Hitlergrusse, with the right arm extended, in public elementary schools. Some historians now argue that the German National Socialists were inspired by the Americans for this particular form of salute. Senator Robert LaFollette, who voted against the 1917 war resolution, was handed a coil of rope as he exited the Senate chamber after the Senate vote. After the Sedition and Espionage Acts were enacted — and are now being resurrected by the Holder Justice Department against Wikileaks and other “enemies” — people were arrested for their private conversations, and legislatures outlawed the teaching of German language and the public performances of Beethoven’s music. Language was changed by the mania. A Dachshund became a “liberty puppy,” and sauerkraut became “liberty cabbage.” Publications that merely criticized the draft were denied mailing privileges by the Postmaster General. A Wisconsin state official received a two and half year prison sentence for criticizing a Red Cross fund-raising drive. A Hollywood film producer received a ten-year sentence for producing a film that showed British troops committing atrocities during the American War for Independence. It was considered an affront to America’s ally and thus it was sedition. One man was brought to trial for explaining in his own home why he did not want to buy Liberty Bonds. State bar associations acted to prevent attorneys from representing draft resisters. At one point, the Congress considered outlawing all discussion of the origins of the war or how America entered the war. According to the conservative sociologist Robert Nisbet, “The blunt fact is that when America was introduced to the War State in 1917, it was introduced also to what would later be known as the total, or totalitarian, state.”

The Soviets instituted a totalitarian state where there was some semblance of the dividing line between enemy and friend: between aristocracy, petit bourgeoisie, clergy, and industrialists, on one side; and the workers, peasants, and armed cadres on the other. Of course, many workers opposed the Soviet takeover, but the divide still remained. In Wilson’s America, however, the fear was more diffuse, yet, completely ubiquitous because almost anyone, except small children (who nevertheless were instructed with “patriotic” nursery rhymes such as “Little Boy Blue”) could at any time be named as a traitor or slacker — an enemy of the people. It is not quite fair to say that Wilson’s America had a sense of totalitarian fear such as that of Lenin’s Russia. It is fairer to say that Wilson’s America created a climate of fear for the anonymous American, William Graham Sumner’s Forgotten Man, and thus, the climate of fear had more of a Maoist character than a Leninist character.

The American Protective League was not immediately disbanded until several months after the armistice. The mania continued after the war under the leadership of Alexander Palmer, the attorney general, and his young operative, J. Edgar Hoover, who later became director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for life. The federal government now institutionalized the mania, and left-of-center collectivist ideologues and activists that did not get with the program of the new political order, and sided with Wilson’s new enemy, Soviet Russia, became the new targets. The Red Scare, the Palmer Raids, the counter-intelligence unit headed up by J. Edgar Hoover — all had a staying power after the war. The Red Scare during the Palmer Raids made the McCarthy Era a generation later seem like a mere tempest in a teapot. In real substance, the McCarthy accusations inconvenienced a few Stalinists and slandered a few others, such as Army and State Department officials.

The Progressive Movement of imperial war hysteria and domestic economic interventionism; the Progressive Movement of eugenics and direct democracy; the Progressive Movement of the racist lyncher Benjamin Tillman and the author of the Tillman Act; the Progressive Movement of the Commander-in-Chief of the Filipino genocide and the unconstitutional arbiter of the 1902 Coal Strike; the Progressive Movement of women’s suffrage and a concerted campaign to marginalize the Bourbon Democratic Catholic Irish and German voting blocs; the Progressive Movement of Sinclair Lewis’ The Jungle and the rent-seeking activities of Progressive titans of Big Business such as Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and J. P. Morgan; the Progressive Movement of Albert Beveridge’s worldwide Navy and Jane Addams’ sentimental welfarism; the Progressive Movement of initiative referenda and Woodrow Wilson’s call for the “Christianization of the world” to make the “world safe for democracy” — this Progressivism indeed had a consistency and coherence that has dominated the United States in its overall governing ideology of ad hoc pragmatism fueled by messianic Christian dispensationalism — or its secular offsprings — for more than a century. The religious narrative is the soul of the Progressive narrative; the pragmatist method is the mind of Progressivism. Narrative and Method united in the late nineteenth century. Religion Unrestrained met Science unrestrained and the result was the State unrestrained. Science did not conquer religion in America. Progressivism submerged religion after James and Dewey but the State as the simulacrum of the Body of Christ lives on in the Progressive Empire.

The opponents of Progressive Imperialism from Edward Atkinson and Oswald Garrison Villard to William Graham Sumner and Carl Schurz — all pro-gold standard, free market, small government constitutionalists — to the Old Right opposition to the Korean War is the substantial opposition to American Progressivism. The sole vote against the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in the House of Representatives came from a holdover of the Old Right Taft forces in the person of Congressman Eugene Siler of Kentucky. Apparently, Congressman Siler was the only congressman at that time who had the temerity to suspect that the mining incident in the Gulf of Tonkin was a US military false flag operation, which history has shown to be the case. The Republican Party has not had a substantial opposition to the Progressive Empire since the Disaster of 1952 — the Republican National Convention where the Eisenhower forces cheated the Taft delegates of their seats in the credentials controversy of that convention. We have two parties that speak the language of Progressive Imperialism in different modes at present, but with the Ron Paul candidacy there is a different voice, a voice that echoes over the decades to the Old Right opposition to the Korean War, and Carl Schurz’ great oration of 1898 to the Anti-Imperialist League.

The title of Schurz’ address was “True Americanism.”

Chucklehead June 6, 2011 at 1:48 am

I was going to say that.

vikingvista June 6, 2011 at 4:22 am

Can you elaborate?

yet another Dave June 6, 2011 at 3:40 pm


vidyohs June 6, 2011 at 6:14 am

Everything in that post can be simplified by just knowing that what ever the looney left labels itself, just look to the reverse of the word for the truth.

The label progressive is therefore seen to be actually regressive. And, the truth is further amplified by looking at what the goal of the looney left is. There is nothing progressive about it, their goals take you backwards to the repeated failures of looney leftism that extend in a regressive pattern backwards for thousands of years.

Under no circumstance, public or private, should any looney ever be allowed to survive the self application of progressive. He should be immediately shot from the rhetorical saddle with his true label, Regressive.

Sam Grove June 8, 2011 at 10:02 pm

I don’t know, the do seem progressively evil, certainly progressively stupid.

Doofor June 6, 2011 at 9:12 am

High walls with glass on them make me sad. How else will the outdoorsmen get their fair share of your refuse? Dark dreary days make me sad too.
I wish Obama would use NASA to put an end to cloudy overcast days. It’s not fair the Moon has more sunny days than we do.
I’m also sad that no woman, black, hispanic, or transgender has yet walked on the moon. See you at voting booth soon.
Random Fourier Complex Guy

Slappy McFee June 6, 2011 at 10:01 am

Perhaps libertarians should start clarifying their positions in a simpler way. I think the government/no-government makes it far too complex. The debate should be framed in terms of voluntary vs involuntary association. I would say that the majority of people at CafeHayek believe that whatever association you find yourself with others, it should be voluntary.

So North Korea, Cuba, Somalia, Pakistan = high involuntary association when compared to even Western Europe which has higher involuntary association than Taiwan or the USA.

USA 1950 high voluntary association vs USA 2010.

Democrats and Republicans 2010 vs D’s and R’s 1950. The D’s & R’s have moved in a much more progressive direction in the past 60 years. An unfortunate reality for the leftist blogosphere and a few commenters here.

Involuntary association is necessary when it comes to things such as due process of law. It is not necessary when it comes to market exchanges.

The Dweller Ysul June 6, 2011 at 1:31 pm

“Democrats and Republicans 2010 vs D’s and R’s 1950. The D’s & R’s have moved in a much more progressive direction in the past 60 years.”

Yeah, we were so much freer in our associations 60 years ago…if by we, you don’t mean African-Americans, women, gays, hell, any non-white male. You libertarians are just so cute.

Slappy McFee June 6, 2011 at 3:18 pm

In case you missed contributions in the past week, you may want to venture over to Walter Williams appearance on John Stossel and his opinions regarding American blacks from 1950 compared to today. Perhaps you may want to read up on Thomas Sowell’s views on the subject.

Silly Authoritarians.

tkwelge June 6, 2011 at 10:11 pm

Voluntary association does not presume that everyone will get along with each other. Notice how most advances, such as ending slavery and giving women the right to vote occurred at the same time or directly after the industrial revolution and the rise of bourgeois virtues. Voluntary markets did a lot to help blacks and minorities. Conditions for blacks improved from the end of slavery (well actually beginning before the end of slavery) until now. For much of that time, the government actively held these people back. Suddenly, the government jumps in front of the parade and pretends to be leading it…

Ryan Vann June 6, 2011 at 1:47 pm

I agreed until you preached the necessity of the the inequitable cartel known as the legal system. A voluntary mechanism for law would have helped avoid many of the overeaching that the corrupt injustice system imposes today.

Slappy McFee June 6, 2011 at 3:16 pm

If I going to voluntarily repay you for damages I have caused you, why did I cause you harm in the first place? Be weary of your allegiance to unclear thinking.

Ryan Vann June 6, 2011 at 6:48 pm

A better question would be how you were provided access to a voluntary society if you didn’t agree to its laws? By promoting an involuntary legal system, you must condone all mater of arbitrary contrivances. I’d rather a system where I can choose a polity with the most reasonable codes of conduct.

vikingvista June 7, 2011 at 11:54 pm

“Be weary of your allegiance to unclear thinking.”

You mean like the kind of unclear thinking that is oblivious to the many functioning existing ways of collecting damages voluntarily?

Voluntaryism is older than you are. Consider that your questions may have been answered decades ago.

Peter June 6, 2011 at 12:47 pm

I am a UK citizen where we are free like other Western Europe democracies to pursue our life in a not too draconian framework of laws Absolute liberty is a nonsense.. In a civilised society an elected government has to set a framework of defending us , looking after those who cant look after themselves and yes I know this is shocking to some people care for the peoples health by providing health care ( free at the point of delivery) either through taxation or an insurance scheme .
What makes us a stable society is having a constitional monarch ie Queen Elizabeth who is head of the armed forces and police so that is another protection against dictatorship. .North Korea is a closed society which needs to be opened up but that is just as bad as say Somelia where there is no law

Slappy McFee June 6, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Awesome, a civilized society only exists at the end of a barrel, how civil. So is my wife supposed to beat me or should I be beating her to obtain our maximum level of civility within our home? Or is possible that civility between humans is a result of voluntary association?

Ryan Vann June 6, 2011 at 1:51 pm

This guy is a royalist sychophant. To the BDSM obsessed monarch worshippers, civility is just a euphemism for acceptance of their submissive role.

Economiser June 6, 2011 at 4:20 pm

If it is necessary that the government provide health care free at the point of delivery, why not provide food free at the point of delivery? Food is a much more necessary staple than health care. Why, without food the average person is liable to die in 2 or 3 weeks!

tkwelge June 6, 2011 at 10:12 pm

WIthout food, I’d probably kill myself in 2 or 3 days…

carlsoane June 6, 2011 at 4:44 pm

I like Queen Elizabeth, but I don’t think she’s the reason England is a stable society.

Ryan Vann June 6, 2011 at 6:56 pm

Define stable society

carlsoane June 6, 2011 at 7:14 pm

I think Peter was referring to freedom from civil war and external conquest, having a generally law-abiding population and having thriving and humane civic institutions.

My point is that these strengths, this civilization have evolved over many years and more often despite the monarchy rather than because of it. The society has fashioned a productive role for the monarch rather than the reverse.

tdp June 12, 2011 at 5:36 pm

I can see no reason for a monarchy other than tradition, especially one that leeches $60 million from its taxpayers every year.

Vance Armor June 6, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Peter is the Groom of the Stool.

Ryan Vann June 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Oh what a noble distinction!

brotio June 6, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Is Yasafi the Stool?

Vance Armor June 6, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Daring for Peter to be so sycophantic about his lovely Queen among American libertarians.

Ron June 8, 2011 at 1:30 am


tdp June 12, 2011 at 5:36 pm

This is why Britain is no longer a world power.

kyle8 June 6, 2011 at 4:47 pm

It appears that through his several enlightened posts Muirgeo has answered Don’s question in the affirmative, He does like North Korea.

Peter June 6, 2011 at 5:18 pm

Ryan and Vance are so sad .All I meant to say that constitutional monarchy is a stable form of govt ..I just appreciate living in a stable democracy

Ryan Vann June 6, 2011 at 6:56 pm

So have been dictatorships, theocracies, and monarchies going purely on the merit of historical perseverance.

Vance Armor June 6, 2011 at 10:08 pm

Alex Jones contends that the Groom of the Stool is still at work for Her Majesty. I think he is engaging in his usual exaggerations, of course. Officially, the Groom of the Stool was abolished from the Privy Council in 1906. Why do you think it is called the “Privy” Council? Do I need to explain the actual duties of the Groom of the Stool before 1906? Please use your imaginations so that I do not have articulate the duties in their smelly details.

Molon Lobe June 9, 2011 at 10:38 pm

Leftists love government control over every aspect of others’ activities. Light bulbs, toilets, salt, food, you name it.

Conservatives want the miniumum amount of government control consistent with a free society. Today in America both the Dhimmies and Republicans have bought into globalism and the master cylinder leader type government.

Liberterians are, from what I can see only concerned about drugs. See Ronulians.

Kostas June 23, 2011 at 11:00 am

Here is an objective view of North Korea..

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