Friday, October 31, 2008

Personal Aside: Liberals Will Apply Bad Nostrums to Get Votes No Matter What—i.e. Part I: The Minnesota Experience.

Part I. That’s the Way Liberalism Works.

Barack Obama and his followers will apply bad economics and set back prosperity even further in the United States because that is the way liberalism works. Why? Because that is the way liberalism…which is a major philosophical disorder…works. Liberalism runs in a straight line back to the Enlightenment (a period of time with a lovely name but which involved denial of reason to know objective truth). While Aristotle and Aquinas postulated man is social by nature, Enlightenment thinkers made a subtle but yet distinctive difference: man is not social but “sociable.” The difference: man needed a social contract—for protection of rights said John Locke, to implement the general will said Jean Jacques Rousseau. Meaning the origin of the state and ensuing rights did not come from God but from man and ultimately the state. The best description would come from Hannah Arendt: “The Declaration of the Rights of Man at the end of the 18th century was a turning point in history. It meant…that from then on, Man and not God’s command or the customs of history should be the source of Law.”

Locke, upon which much of our governmental theories were based (notably that child of the Enlightenment, Jefferson who deserves his place on Rushmore but who was a weird concoction of contradictions) was a majoritarian…meaning that he saw natural law as coming from the will of the majority: no absolutes. Jefferson espoused this; Hamilton did NOT. For decades the nation was run by those who carried on the old Aristotlian-Aquinas mind-set by intellectual inheritance. Then it started coming apart. What we have now, folks, is utilitarian positivism in much of our courts. Utilitarianism can go one of two ways—either harshly individualist capitalism…or extreme libertarianism… or statist collectivism. Both reject the natural law tradition including the principle of subsidiarity which stresses the role of intermediate family and voluntary groups which ease the abrasion between individual and state.

The Minnesota Lesson I Learned.

As an octogenarian I’ve seen utilitarian positivism in both parties but primarily in the repository of raw liberalism, the Democratic party. Once a proud party, it has degenerated much in my lifetime. Beginning with my experience of 46 years ago when I was a top aide to a Republican governor of Minnesota. The Minnesota Iron Range was dying because iron ore was running out. Unemployed miners…solid Democrats to the core…were embittered at the mining companies because they had lost their jobs. The Democratic-Farmer-Labor party nurtured their grievance, rubbed their scabs raw, because such bitterness translated into a huge total of Democratic votes that kept Hubert Humphrey and his friends in power. In decades passed, a heavy tax had been levied on the mining companies to make them pay for extracting an irreplaceable resource from the ground. It was a fair tax and indeed the mining companies WERE extracting an irreplaceable resource. The resource tax was mandated by the state constitution.

Now the Democratic party whipped up anger with the unemployed miners to make the mining companies pay with a higher ore tax. Well, the mining companies began to pull out of the Iron Range since there was no purpose to their remaining there. The DFL retaliated by running a hate campaign with the unemployed against the mining companies. But it was a standoff: the unemployed were not getting anywhere by railing against the mining companies. Enter my Republican governor. He pointed out that the mining companies had discovered a new way to rehabilitate the Range. In the tons and tons of slag dug up in the mining process, a low grade ore was discovered that could be removed by a manufacturing process. The low grade ore could be converted to acceptable high grade ore. The mining companies were willing to invest millions in machinery to extract the low grade ore from the slag. The low grade ore was called taconite. Taconite could be a boon to the unemployed Iron Range.

It was clear—the process of removing the low grade ore from the mountains of slag was NOT a mining process but a manufacturing process. And to invest in the manufacturing process, the mining companies needed relief from the taxation that had been applied to the original process of extracting ore from the ground. But the embittered unemployed miners, stirred by Hubert Humphrey and the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party said nope, not on your life…we are not going to grant concessions to these evil mining companies who want to evade their rightful share of taxes.

The unemployed miners fell for this bitterness hook, line and sinker. They didn’t realize that manufacturing is different from rich ore extraction. In any event they weren’t about to let the evil mining companies which had laid them off profit. There was an impasse. My boss the governor was elected narrowly in a heavily Democratic state on a pledge to help alleviate unemployment on the Range. We…he and I…met with the mining companies and found that they were alienated by the bitterness of the unemployed miners and the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party. The companies told us “listen, we don’t have to build in Minnesota. We have mountains of slag in Michigan as well. We’ll go there where we have more receptivity.” They needed assurance that the old iron ore resource tax would not be applied to their manufacturing process. They needed assurance and we devised one. We suggested an amendment to the state constitution that would certify the production of taconite was a manufacturing process and not to be covered by the old ore tax. They agreed.

We went back and tried to sell it to the DFL-controlled House all during 1961. It didn’t budge. We went to Washington and tried to sell it to Hubert Humphrey, the ruling baron of the Democratic party in Minnesota. He saw it as a concession to the mining companies. I said to him—“Hubert, for God’s sake, don’t you understand the difference between manufacturing and mining? Don’t you understand that this will mean spiraling employment on the Range?” He bobbed and weaved but having known him as a journalist, I knew what was behind those beady eyes. The taconite amendment would be put up to the voters in the election of 1962 for inclusion on the ballot in 1964. l962 was the same year we…the Republican governor…would be running for reelection. If this became a popular measure, we would be reelected, the taconite amendment would be placed on the ballot for 1964 and it would possibly start a renaissance with the Iron Range workers voting for jobs and the Republicans…with possibly the Republican governor profiting and, who knows, even running against Hubert one day! No, nope, nosirree. Better the Range go unemployed than take that dastardly gamble.

We campaigned on two fronts…for our own reelection and support of voters for the taconite amendment in the election of 1962 (I always chided the governor that he was seemingly more interested in the amendment getting approved than his own reelection). Minnesota was always to be a Democratic state but as the fall of 1962 loomed, it looked like we were ahead and the taconite amendment might be accepted by the voters for consideration later. Humphrey saw this as a great threat. We were on the way to reelection in mid-October, 1962 when the Cuban Missile Crisis hit the Kennedy administration.

“Cuber” and Highway 35.

Kennedy had come to Minnesota (indeed in those bucolic days I drove out to the airport and using my driver’s license ended up at the ramp with my governor when he came down the steps). Then he left, wearing a hat—unusual because he never wore one…Pierre Salinger saying he had caught a cold. Not so. He had been informed of the Soviet missiles in Cuba and was heading back to Washington. The story broke the next day with his speech to the nation. He pronounced Cuba “Cuber.” Massachusetts-style.

Suddenly the whole complexion of the campaign changed. We were shut out of the news for more than a week because the national and Minnesota media concentrated on the heroic figure of John F. Kennedy facing yet another test in national security policy. Russian missiles had been discovered in Cuba and Kennedy was demanding they be removed. Immediately he received heroic coverage in the media…a slim young auburn haired movie-star-like president standing up to the crotchety old phalanx of Russian despots. Of course no one in the media cared to recall that the Missile Crisis was chapter two of a catastrophic blunder a year earlier when Kennedy lost his nerve in the Bay of Pigs imbroglio and cancelled air cover causing the project to fail. I figured out how to crack the media by capitalizing on the crisis. My guy was a member of the National Governor’s Conference civil defense committee. We got the chairman of the committee, Nelson Rockefeller, to demand he and my guy go to Washington to meet with JFK and Robert McNamara and so with a plane load of media we went, cracking the cocoon. We got saturation coverage for the meeting at the White House but the news play was definitely Kennedy’s and the aura that was produced in the electorate was heavily Democratic—with only days to go before election.

As Longfellow has written of another subject: “You know the rest in the books you have read.” The nation thrilled to see the Russians supposedly…supposedly… back down. Kennedy was adjudged the winner and with it came a gigantic surge of pro-JFK admiration across the land. If Chris Matthews were around then he’d have said he felt a tingle go up his leg (by the way, I always thought this reference he used to Obama was…well…unmanly). Unknown at the time was that Bobby Kennedy had cut a secret deal with the Kremlin that we would remove missiles from Turkey if they would recompense in Cuba…and keep it quiet so his brother could savor the favorable press. We dismantled our missiles in Turkey which gravely weakened the defenses of the West but the media portrayed it as a glorious victory for this young photogenic president. Now we know the truth. The only one who doesn’t recognize it is Father Greeley who alone says the Cuban Missile Crisis was a victory for the man whom after the assassination the erratic Greeley seriously publicly recommended be made a Doctor of the Catholic Church—on a par with Augustine and Aquinas.

The aura that swept across the land for Kennedy wasn’t enough to dislodge us but Hubert Humphrey took care of that. In the last few hours of October he unveiled a so-called “scandal” involving 13 feet of concrete poured at unacceptably cold temperatures for a stretch of Interstate 35 near Hinckley…poured, he charged, in cold weather at the insistence of my governor so he could dedicate the portion of the highway for his own political aggrandizement. Then to make it official, Humphrey got the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads (then in the Commerce Department) to cancel the portion of the interstate that was to be paid by the feds—90%. I discovered that the highway worker responsible for orchestrating the “scandal” was a brother of a high DFL operative. Did the media care? Nope.

With that supposed contract cancellation in his pocket, Humphrey announced that the taxpayers of Minnesota would have to pay the entire cost of the Interstate at a cost of tens of millions of dollars due to the Republican governor’s piggish, loutish insistence on pouring the concrete.

Of course the pouring of the concrete wasn’t done at our behest. Dedicating a portion of the Interstate was of minimal significance and we never bothered thinking about it. But between the Kennedy aura and the Humphrey charge of evil collusion, we lost reelection by…get this…91 votes out of 1,250,000 cast. We lost the election but the taconite amendment was approved…and was placed on the ballot for 1964. So paradoxically, the man who charted the rescue of the Iron Range was deprived of victory while two years later the amendment was passed…with DFL and Humphrey’s own support. Taconite gave some resurgence to the Iron Range. We were out of office and Hubert Humphrey took the bows. The rehired miners shouted “God bless you, Hubert!” Hubert said: aw, it was nothing.

Thus in one fell swoop Hubert got rid of his potential challenger through circumnavigation of a hideous lie. Months after election 1962, the Bureau of Public Roads issued a clearance of the project and restored the federal funds.

Laughing About it Afterwards.

I, of course, kept in touch with Hubert long after returning to private life and represented Quaker in Washington. Later, he laughed his head off about the dirty trick in a meeting with me…without the slightest twinge of conscience. I grinned feebly but not inwardly. The trick had caused me to leave Minnesota, return to my homeland of Chicago and get a much better job than I would have ever gotten up there. But as I grinned and looked at his beady eyes, I thought: You sonuvabitch. I felt Hubert was a patriot on the essentials of the Vietnam war, but of his character I never lost the feeling. He was a sleek political animal…always a leopard ready to pounce…a plastic man on the make. Like someone else I know.

That’s an example of rampant positivism, elevation of personal ambition at the expense of people out of work who suffer. Let us be realistic and say Hubert didn’t know a thing about the natural law…he was a small town pharmacist turned pol who knew only one thing: how to hustle. He was ignorant of the law that provides an objective standard of right and wrong, a law that depends on the power of the individual to distinguish the objective wrongness of an act from the subjective culpability of the person who performs it.

Next, in Part II, I’ll apply the same rampant positivism to the present day and what could possibly happen in the next presidency if things go as they might.

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