by William L. Anderson: Duke
University's Eternal Bonfire of theVanities
recently announced their plans to try to force people to live
in dense housing developments rather than single-family homes, which
environmental bureaucrats believe are wasteful and contribute to
dread global warming. Likewise, the Obama administration's Environmental
Protection Agency has issued an order that effectively will
keep electric power companies from building new coal-fired power
plants, which will mean even higher electricity prices.
was elected in 2008, his soon-to-be Secretary of Energy Steven
Chu told the Wall Street Journal: “Somehow we have to
figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe."
While Chu now claims to disagree with his own statement, nonetheless
it is instructive that Americans are facing record-high gasoline
prices that are inching us closer to what Europeans pay. (When I
was in Latvia in August 2011, gasoline prices were about $8 a gallon
election, Obama bragged to a friendly audience in San Francisco
that his energy policies had the potential to "bankrupt"
electric utilities, and it seems that that the president is having
some success in pursuing those goals.)
On the tax
front, the Obama
administration has set as its open goal tax rates at a minimum
of 30 percent for anyone earning more than $1 million, and under
Obama's watch, the USA now has the highest corporate tax rate in
the world. While Obama claims this is being done in the name of
"fairness," I contend that there really is a much darker
goal that Obama and his fellow Progressives have, and that is making
Americans poorer, more dependent upon the state, and less able to
make decisions without permission from government.
As one who
has studied the Progressive Era, I am struck by the continuity of
thought from the early Progressives of more than a century ago to
those people today who claim to be Progressives. While the modern
Progressives no longer are open adherents to racism (the Progressives
gave us Jim Crow laws) and eugenics, nonetheless the basic attitudes
of Progressives today strongly mirror their forebears who agreed
that "too much freedom" is bad for people, and that a
strong and semi-benevolent state should guide, prod, and (when necessary)
force individuals to do things they never would do on their own.
couch Obama's actions as being done from ignorance ("Doesn't
he know that lower capital gains tax rates will raise more revenue
than high rates?") or a misunderstanding of economics. Even
when critics take Obama at his word — "fairness"
is his watchword on taxes and the economy — they still don't
understand that the higher tax rates will only give a perception
of fairness, and that the rates will do nothing to cramp the lifestyles
of the "idle" rich while blocking the rise of entrepreneurs.
In other words,
Obama is not a guy who somehow mistakenly believes that we can "help"
the middle classes by jacking up taxes on wealthy people and corporations.
He already knows that the trust fund babies and people living off
the vast wealth created by others are not going to be much inconvenienced
by higher tax rates.
Take the Kennedy
family, for example. No American family has supported higher tax
rates on itself than the Kennedys, yet they have continued to live
lavishly, although few of them have employment that actually pays
well enough to support their bacchanalia lifestyles. Even if taxes
were raised above the levels that Obama is demanding, no one from
the Kennedy family would lack bail money or enough for legal fees
should one of them be picked up for drunk driving or worse.
in the eyes of Progressives, the Kennedys, for all of their personal
excesses, are much more respectable than the money-grubbing
entrepreneurs who spend their time bringing consumer goods to the
Great Unwashed who shop at Wal-Mart, thus promoting
"consumerism" instead of the virtues of which Progressives
approve. No, if one steps back, it is not hard to see that the Obama
policies are aimed at making most Americans poorer, more dependent
upon the state, and, in the end, more malleable and more obedient.
is the vast security apparatus that sprang up after 9/11 — which
Obama has expanded beyond the obscene levels promoted by the Bush
administration — or an executive order that will ensure that Americans
pay more for fuel and electricity, the Progressive theme always
abounds: Americans must be less free and more accountable
to the state.
at the present time, all of this seems to go over well with American
voters, if the current polls are to be believed. For that matter,
the only serious U.S. Presidential candidate to truly go against
the Progressivist tide has been Ron Paul, and Republican voters
and the Progressive media have disposed of his candidacy. (Mitt
Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich all are "Progressives"
in their own right and also seek to herd and corral Americans into
living more "virtuous" lives.)
who point out that Progressivism ultimately is destructive of a
decent social order are painted as "nut jobs" or worse.
Those who note that Obama's war against affordable energy is hurting
the very people Obama claims to be helping are portrayed as being
"dangerous." And so it goes.
This is not
about disagreements on the proper path to a freer and better society.
Progressives like Obama long ago came to the belief that individuals
are not fit to be free — except the "elites" who are self-chosen
to "lead" others — and that government policies should
be aimed at reducing choices and limiting liberty.
one also must remember that neither Obama nor his wealthy Progressive
supporters have any intention of living the life they have chosen
for the rest of us. No, they are wise and above the fray and deserve
to live of the labor of their inferiors. That is the ultimate end
L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him
mail], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland,
and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig
von Mises Institute. He
also is a consultant with American Economic Services. Visit