by Gary North
Scapegoating is a favorite pastime of politicians and pundits: laying blame on one's political opponents. You can tell which group is in charge by a careful study of the official scapegoats.
Depending on what the nation's textbooks say was the great evil of the scapegoats, it is possible to identify which freedoms we were about to lose when the textbooks were written. Because that's what the modern messianic State does: reduces freedoms. The only question is this:
"Which ones?" Different political groups prefer to take away different liberties. Whenever they act in a bi-partisan fashion, this means that the parties' leaders have agreed to eliminate the same group of liberties.
[You probably don't know this, but college libraries do not shelve old textbooks. Textbooks change too often, librarians tell us. Textbooks take up valuable shelf space. They are not considered academically relevant, once new editions appear. Therefore, it is close to impossible to trace the history of textbooks' opinions. But, we are assured by Reputable Sources, that Orwell's Memory Hole was fiction.]
The Democrats have a big problem today. They can't be perceived as not backing Bush's War on Terrorism, even though it obviously isn't working. No one points out that there is no way to stop suicidal terrorism. When it takes place in the United States, it is called something else whenever possible. This is why the Egyptian murderer at the L.A. airport has not been identified officially as a terrorist. The FBI actually said that they were not sure about the man's motive. "Egyptian immigrant kills Jews in line at El Al Airlines on the Fourth of July." Now, what might be his motive? It's so hard to work for today's FBI. Journalists ask such tough questions.
I had spoken with my father three days before it happened. He is a retired FBI agent. I asked him, "How can the FBI penetrate these groups?" Tough question. Easy answer: "They can't."
Meanwhile, nobody but nobody in the liberal media dares to mention the obvious: the terrorist was killed within seconds by armed Israelis. Why is this topic taboo? Because the only non-domestic law enforcement agents who are allowed to carry guns in American airports are the security forces of El Al Airlines, a foreign airline. When it comes to protecting the lives of Jews, the liberal media forget all about gun control. (All I want is equality: the right to keep and bear arms, without restrictions in terms of race, color, or creed.)
Tell me: Did you see any liberal pundit who argued along these lines? "El Al's swift response to a terrorist who was armed with guns and several magazines of ammunition shows why airlines should make sure that their security forces are allowed to carry guns." Somehow, I missed it.
When a government program doesn't work, what is the response of the government? Spend more money in the same old way. Give more money to the bureaucracies that have not solved the problem yet. So, we see bi-partisan support for Homeland Security. On where this is leading, step by step, my recommendation in that you go see "Minority Report." It's almost prophetic. Philip K. Dick was a great sci-fi writer, and a continuing theme in his stories was the surrender of liberty. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? became "Blade Runner."
So, the Democrats are keeping hands off when it comes to Bush's identification of foreign scapegoats, who are still armed and dangerous. What Dems are ready to do is to find other scapegoats: big business. The new scapegoatery will be classified as "Enron." Yes, these companies handed out money to political action committees in both parties, but they got caught on Bush's watch. This is why Dems will campaign this fall against The Party of Greed. They will return to their constituents with the familiar slogans — slogans that didn't work when the stock market was going up.
In foreign affairs, there is no permanent political scapegoating. This is because allies and enemies must be allowed to shift. This strategy takes advantage of a salutary American trait: We don't hold grudges, especially when they interfere with business. This is a combination of Christian charity — "forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (what the Greek text says) — and American capitalism. If you think I'm exaggerating, think about Americans banks' readiness to loan money to Latin American nations that declare bankruptcy and stiff us every decade or two, and have since about 1830. "Forgive us our debts" is the litany of Latin American governments. (Brazil will be the next one.)
It is part of the American political tradition — and the Canadian — to avoid scapegoating our military enemies after the war ends. Canadians began this tradition. They never sought revenge against the invader that kept trying to conquer Canada: the United States. (We tried more than once, whenever England tried to invade us. The Canadians-British beat us both times, which our textbooks rarely mention.) We, in turn, rarely hold national grudges. "The Star Spangled Banner" was composed in the War of 1812. The banner that was still waving had been under attack by the British.
As for the Germans (twice) and the Japanese, these countries and peoples are now our allies and trading partners. We aren't cozy with Vietnam, which defeated us, but I am aware of no articulate movement that seeks to get even. When it comes to war, Americans' attitude is, "Let bygones be bygones." This is prelude to the archetypal American slogan, "Let's make a deal."
But, to get into this forgive-and-forget status, there must be closure. Iraq never got into this status. I visited CNN's site on Saturday. There was one of those polls that large-circulation Websites love to run. The question was: "Should the United States use military force in Iraq?" Two-thirds said "yes," and there were about 100,000 participants — large.
Yet what has Iraq done to us? Nothing. It invaded Kuwait a few days after April Glaspie, America's Ambassador to Iraq, assured Saddam Hussein that the United States had no interest in, or interests in, Kuwait. On July 25, eight days before Iraq invaded Kuwait, this exchange took place between Mrs. Glaspie and Saddam Hussein. The transcript was provided by Iraq to the New York Times, which published it (Sept 22, 1990). The State Department made no comment.
GLASPIE: We have many Americans who would like to see the price go above $25 because they come from oil-producing states.
HUSSEIN: The price at one stage had dropped to $12 a barrel and a reduction in the modest Iraqi budget of $6 billion to $7 billion is a disaster.
GLASPIE: I think I understand this. I have lived here for years. I admire your extraordinary efforts to rebuild your country. I know you need funds. We understand that and our opinion is that you should have the opportunity to rebuild your country. But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.
I was in the American Embassy in Kuwait during the late 60's. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction. We hope you can solve this problem using any suitable methods via Klibi or via President Mubarak. All that we hope is that these issues are solved quickly. With regard to all of this, can I ask you to see how the issue appears to us?
(Click through for the complete transcript, plus an analysis by a psychology professor of the State Department's silence as evidence confirming the accuracy of the transcript.)
A former Wall Street Journal reporter, Jonathan Kwitney, wrote a book 18 years ago with the provocative title, Endless Enemies: The Making Of An Unfriendly World. He argued that American foreign policy since World War II has been one long effort to extend American power, which creates new enemies. American voters are then willing to accept American intervention abroad.
In early 1990, Iran was bad. Iraq was good. We sent agricultural aid money to Iraq until late July, 1990. Then, overnight, Iraq was bad, and Iran went off the public's radar screen. We went to war with Iraq.
When George Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1948, he described the endless shifting of foreign enemies. This was a tactic used by the government to focus public hatred abroad. The practice works. It works in part because Americans don't hold grudges. They are willing to shift their hatred here and there, depending on the latest government list of proscribed enemies. There is a long list, and the players keep changing. Russia is now our ally against terrorism. So is Communist China. So, where do the terrorists buy their weapons? It's a mystery.
Here, unlike foreign policy, Americans retain scapegoats in their permanent hate lists.
In the 1920's, the stock market boom made heroes out of American capitalists. The Democrats ran two men for President who were both officially pro-capitalist: the Wall Street lawyer and Insider John W. Davis (1924) and Al Smith, the Governor of New York (1928). Nobody had a bad word to say against capitalism when the stock market was rising.
The great reversal of opinion came in 1930-40. President Roosevelt announced the new Party Line in his famous 1933 Inaugural Address. It contained this famous phrase:
So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
That was great rhetoric, and it was a deliberate lie. On January 30, Hitler had been appointed Chancellor of Germany by the aging Hindenburg. (Hitler was not elected, for the Nazis had not gained a majority.) The day after Roosevelt's Inaugural Address, Hindenburg gave Hitler emergency powers. Over here, at least 25% of the American population was out of work. At least 6,000 banks had failed, taking with them the savings of millions of Americans, but leaving their debts intact at the 1929 price level, which had been 30% higher. There was plenty to be scared about, not the least of which was the imminent loss of Americans' right to own gold, and the loss of many other freedoms.
The Inaugural identified scapegoats. Once identified, the voters could be called on to do battle with these enemies. From that day until the Reagan boom, the public was told to distrust businessmen. The history textbooks from 1940 onward repeated the litany, "Roosevelt saved capitalism from itself."
When a President calls on us to identify the incarnate enemies, voters should get ready to hide their wallets.
This speech is not read much any more. Forgive me for reverting to my old training to become a history professor, which never came to pass. As you read the following words, consider what happens to people's willingness to resist the destructions of their liberties in a time of crisis.
Roosevelt used messianic language that compared bankers with money changers — and everyone back then knew who had driven the money changers out of the Temple!
Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply. Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.
The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.
The bankers were the new bad guys. This, you understand, was two decades after Woodrow Wilson had signed the Federal Reserve Act, which had established a central bank that would see to it that the nation would have stable money and safe banking. Then, as with every government cartel, the beneficiaries blew it. They failed in their official task: stable purchasing power and economic growth. Prices were falling, and the economy had collapsed. As free market economist Ludwig von Mises always argued, the results of government intervention are the opposite of the official justification for the original intervention.
[The best book on the FED's mismanagement is Murray Rothbard's 1963 book, America's Great Depression, published by Van Nostrand, a publisher located in Princeton, New Jersey. In that same year, Princeton University Press published a book by Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz, A Monetary History Of The United States, which offered a similar thesis. The second book received the rave reviews because it taught that the FED's policy-maskers had made mistakes that needn't have been made, and that can be avoided in the future. Rothbard's book attacked the FED as a government-created cartel that cannot be made to work right.]
What could be done, according to Roosevelt? First, land reform.
Hand in hand with this we must frankly recognize the overbalance of population in our industrial centers and, by engaging on a national scale in a redistribution, endeavor to provide a better use of the land for those best fitted for the land.
What else would help get the economy rolling again? He was clear on this: government welfare and economic planning.
It can be helped by the unifying of relief activities which today are often scattered, uneconomical, and unequal. It can be helped by national planning for and supervision of all forms of transportation and of communications and other utilities which have a definitely public character. There are many ways in which it can be helped, but it can never be helped merely by talking about it. We must act and act quickly.
There are the lines of attack. I shall presently urge upon a new Congress in special session detailed measures for their fulfillment, and I shall seek the immediate assistance of the several States.
With all this came a promise: that America would be a good neighbor.
In the field of world policy I would dedicate this Nation to the policy of the good neighbor — the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others — the neighbor who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a world of neighbors.
That was the beginning of a new wave of American intervention abroad, which led to World War II. This would all be done in the name of creating a new mentality for Americans, who were to become a vast army. We forget what kind of outlook undergirded Roosevelt's New Deal. He did not hold back rhetorically. When Americans are scared of a scapegoat, they respond to this sort of rhetoric. Then, after the crisis is over, and the new laws are in force, and the freedoms are lost, we find new scapegoats. At that point, the textbooks drop the document down the Memory Hole. But the Web, marvelously, is dredging the Memory Hole for treasure. Here is a gem:
If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize as we have never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we can not merely take but we must give as well; that if we are to go forward, we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress is made, no leadership becomes effective. We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and property to such discipline, because it makes possible a leadership which aims at a larger good. This I propose to offer, pledging that the larger purposes will bind upon us all as a sacred obligation with a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in time of armed strife.
With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this great army of our people dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our common problems.
Action in this image and to this end is feasible under the form of government which we have inherited from our ancestors. Our Constitution is so simple and practical that it is possible always to meet extraordinary needs by changes in emphasis and arrangement without loss of essential form. That is why our constitutional system has proved itself the most superbly enduring political mechanism the modern world has produced. It has met every stress of vast expansion of territory, of foreign wars, of bitter internal strife, of world relations.
It is to be hoped that the normal balance of executive and legislative authority may be wholly adequate to meet the unprecedented task before us. But it may be that an unprecedented demand and need for undelayed action may call for temporary departure from that normal balance of public procedure.
I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures that a stricken nation in the midst of a stricken world may require. These measures, or such other measures as the Congress may build out of its experience and wisdom, I shall seek, within my constitutional authority, to bring to speedy adoption.
But in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these two courses, and in the event that the national emergency is still critical, I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me. I shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis — broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.
We do not distrust the future of essential democracy. The people of the United States have not failed. In their need they have registered a mandate that they want direct, vigorous action. They have asked for discipline and direction under leadership. They have made me the present instrument of their wishes. In the spirit of the gift I take it.
In this dedication of a Nation we humbly ask the blessing of God. May He protect each and every one of us. May He guide me in the days to come.
This November, there will be a concerted effort by the Democrats to blame the market's recent failures on the Republicans' close association with big business. The Republicans can hardly counter by saying, "It was just as bad under Clinton, when we controlled both houses of Congress. The Dems also sucked in big bucks from these crooks, 1993—2000. The Securities & Exchange Commission is still staffed mainly by Clinton's appointees."
The longer the economic recovery falters, the more we will see big business targeted. The Senate is about to launch hearings on the scandals. Bush is out front, calling for retribution to a selected few unnamed scapegoats. He is trying to keep from being scapegoated by the Democrats. It's going to be bi-partisan scapegoating.
We now have bi-partisan scapegoating in both foreign affairs and domestic affairs. There is not likely to be a minority report.
The politics of scapegoating is always the politics of wealth redistribution. There will be more controls, tougher standards, and more regulation. Red tape is always the solution to every failure of previous government efforts to create risk-free living. The red flag was lowered in 1991. Red tape is due for another extension.
Over the next two decades, the welfare State will go bust in every industrial nation. The governments' generous retirement systems guarantee this. Business will be blamed. Taxes will be raised on workers until there is a political revolt by the employed, which there will be. Means-testing and rising ages for retirement will accompany the great default. Each party will blame its political enemies.
Don't get caught in the crossfire.
July 9, 2002
Copyright © 2002 LewRockwell.com