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In a few short weeks, the 20th Century will be history, and editors of
establishment magazines and newspapers will be asking noted historians,
usually from the Council on Foreign Relations or its academic equivalents,
to evaluate the century that was. One such evaluation has already been
given by liberal historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. in the December 1999 issue
of the AARP Bulletin. The AARP, as everyone knows, is the American
Association of Retired Persons. But that’s a misnomer, since many members
of the AARP are not retired but continue to work at their various
professions. The organization ought to change its name to the American
Association of Recipients of Social Security Payments, because that’s what
its members over 65 all have in common.
Getting back to the century that will soon — and none too soon — be
gone, Schlesinger entitled his article, “The glorious and the damned.” The
rubric under which the article was published is “Witness to the Century.”
Since all of the members of the AARP have been witnesses to the century, we
all have our own views of it. But since the AARP is run by liberals, the
slant given in that journal is a liberal one and reflects the views of
liberal Democrats rather than conservative Republicans. In fact, one of the
most ferocious political struggles of this century in the U.S. has been that
between liberals and conservatives, and it will no doubt continue into the
21st century with a vengeance.
As early as 1932, Walter Lippmann was writing about the political
struggle between the “internationalists” and the “isolationists.” The
latter were the Republican presidents who followed internationalist Woodrow
Wilson after the end of World War I. The American people had wanted to get
back to the way things were before the war. But the internationalists were
determined to keep America involved with Europe. Through their control of
the Federal Reserve System, they were able to create and then use the Great
Depression to get rid of the Republican so-called isolationists. Franklin
D. Roosevelt brought the internationalists back into the White House, and
they’ve been there ever since.
Liberals have a view of the century defined by the very vocabulary they
use, and we find that that vocabulary gives us an insight into the
philosophical mindset of Mr. Schlesinger. His hero, of course, is Franklin
D. Roosevelt, who gave us the New Deal, the beginnings of a socialist
society, and provided the leadership that led us to victory in World War II.
- No leader brought out the best of the 20th century
more effectively than Franklin D. Roosevelt. In striving for his
objectives, FDR could be tricky, manipulative and tough. But these
objectives amounted to the emancipation of humanity. He defined them best
in 1941 when he set forth the Four Freedoms — Freedom of Speech and
Expression, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, Freedom from Fear. These
remain humanity’s vital purposes today.
Thus, from a liberal point of view, the United States government
must concern itself not merely with the well-being of the American people
but of “humanity.” The Four Freedoms, as presented by FDR, imply that
freedoms are granted by governments, when in reality, the American
constitutional system is based on the understanding that all men are endowed
by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that the purpose of
government is to secure these rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness. Freedom of speech and religion were written into our Bill of
Rights, because it was understood that governments have a tendency to
deprive people of their basic rights.
How can any government guarantee freedom from fear? Most governments
create fear. Before the income tax, Americans were not afraid of their
government. Now they are. The threat of an audit creates fear. The Branch
Davidians at Waco had real reason to fear their government. They were
deprived of all four freedoms by their government.
How can any government guarantee freedom from want? According to our
system, it is the unalienable right and responsibility of every adult to
provide food, clothing, and shelter for himself and his loved ones. Apart
from natural disasters, governments are the powers that usually create
starvation and destruction. Schlesinger acknowledges that it is the
creative energy of a free people that has given us the economic wealth that
we enjoy. But he attributes it all to democracy. He writes,
- Where totalitarianism suppressed the individual,
democracy empowers individuals, giving them the opportunity and the right to
think and debate and invent and dream.
Again, the notion that governments grant rights to individuals. But
our government — which is a republic and not a democracy — does not have
the power to grant unalienable rights. That power belongs to God alone, who
endowed us with unalienable rights. Our struggle has always been against
governments that have time and again wanted to deprive citizens from
exercising their unalienable rights. And we can see that happening today as
government is doing all in its power to deprive Americans of their
unalienable right to own the means of defending themselves with firearms.
The Second Amendment was written into our Bill of Rights because of the
understanding the Founding Fathers had of government power.
And whatever happened to the Right to Life? The right to kill the unborn
has been granted by our democratic government to women who wish to dispose
of unwanted babies in their wombs. But no one has an unalienable right to
kill. A defenseless unborn child needs protection since our Declaration of
Independence states quite plainly that the purpose of government is to
secure the unalienable rights of its human citizens, which does not exclude
the unborn, since all of us have been unborn at that stage of our
development. Since being unborn is an unavoidable condition of being human,
how can the state of being unborn make one eligible to be legally murdered?
The 20th century was plagued by two horrible ideas: communism and
utopianism, both very unbiblical. Communism, and its two other
manifestations, socialism and Nazism, have been discredited. But utopianism
is still very much with us in the idea of a socialist world government. It
will be interesting to see how far into the 21st century that utopian dream
— or nightmare — prevails.
Samuel L. Blumenfeld is the author of eight books on education,
including “Is Public Education Necessary?” and “Homeschooling: A Parents
Guide to Teaching Children.” Both books are available through Amazon.com.
For information about Blumenfeld’s reading program, Alpha-Phonics, write The
Tutoring Company, P.O. Box 540111, Waltham, MA 02454-0111.