"When they allow a talk show host to play them like a two-dollar banjo, they demonstrate what kind of backbone they'll bring to the job later on, if we elect them. After they get elected will they continue to allow Jeff Crank to put a nickel in them and wind them up every Saturday morning?"

Barry Noreen, former columnist, Colorado Springs Gazette

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

ATHENS IS BURNING


By

ROBERT HARKINS

In 1981 Socialist academic Andreas Papandreous, running on a campaign theme of “change”, became prime minister of Greece. Change: Sound familiar? In 1981 Greece was strong, capable, confident and solvent. Athens, after all, is the cradle of democracy and the birthplace of Plato. They have a right to be proud. Napoleon Linardatos writes that,

Thirty years ago, Greece was in an enviable position on the matter of national debt, with its debt just 28.6 percent of GDP…. By the end of Papandreou’s first term in office, that ratio had nearly doubled, with debt at 54.7 percent of GDP. By the end of his second term, the figure was in the mid 80s.The 1980s in Greece were a time of dramatic expansion of government. Papandreou and his Socialist party created a new government-run health-care system, dramatically expanded employment in the public sector, nationalized failing companies, and increased government handouts of every shape and form. It was a government expansion so large and many-sided that in the end it generated a revolution of expectations and attitudes about the role of government in society. No government since then has been able to reverse that revolution, no matter how willing it was or how pressing the circumstances. [1]

Thirty years later, Americans and Europeans watched as tens of thousands of Greeks youths protested the socialist government’s attempt to impose even the mildest cuts in government welfare, salaries and retirement benefits even though a massive European Union bailout was conditioned upon the Greek government’s passing of austerity measures. The protesters assaulted police, destroyed property and killed other Greek citizens.

Riot police fought running battles with hooded youths in Athens yesterday as tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets against tough austerity measures. Parts of the Greek capital were ablaze and dozens were injured as youths hurled rocks, bricks and petrol bombs at police, who responded with baton charges and tear gas. Last night protesters, taking part in a two-day national strike, were on the streets again….Hundreds of terrified tourists ran for safety from cafes and restaurants as youths, many wearing gas masks and scarves covering their faces, rampaged in front of luxury hotels in Syntagma Square. Five thousand police patrolled the streets, but shops, banks, trucks and bins were set on fire. [2]

President Obama’s administration is the mirror image of the Papandreous socialist regime. Like Papadreous, President Obama has incurred billions in taxpayer losses by bailing out failing businesses, “investing in infra structure” and creating new and insufferably wasteful welfare programs. He has forced a health care plan on Americans that will demolish their privacy, mandate their medical care, diminish its quality, increase waiting times, drive physicians from their profession and break the bank—just as did Medicare, and Medicaid. President Obama’s promise that “if you like your health care plan you can keep it” is just as false today as when the president first made it. Already, thirty percent of American corporations will dump their employee health care plans, pay the federal fine and turn their employees over to the tender mercies of Obama Care. As if this were not enough, Obama Care contains massive tax increases on capital gains.

Socialism produces a citizen arrogant and lawless, dependent and dangerous. Athens is burning. It matters not at all to socialists that their government is dead broke. They continue to demand, against all logic, that the checks continue to arrive on time, always and forever.

In 1944, the Nobel Prize winning economist Fredrich Hayek predicted the decline of post-war, socialist England. He wrote that socialism, in its new incarnation as the welfare state, would smother the creative powers of a free civilization.[3] For when a citizen surrenders his freedom to the state, in return for its benefice, the corruption of his character begins immediately. Hayek wrote,

“… The most important change which extensive government control produces is a psychological change, an alteration in the character of the people.” Against this, “… even a strong tradition of political liberty is no safeguard if the danger is precisely that new institutions and policies will gradually undermine and destroy that spirit.” [4]

In 1848, not so long after the birthing of America, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote described the insidious and corrupting power of socialism. Socialism

“…does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrial animals, of which government is the shepherd….[5]

I’ve written in past columns that there is now only one constituency: Leviathan, the welfare state, a wasteland of disputatious tribes each struggling for the larger piece of a shrinking pie—a state created by the moral surrender and wastrel spending of both parties. While the parties tout endlessly their personal commitment to the “American people,” in fact, they are committed to Leviathan, an obscene mix of impenetrable bureaucracy, welfare recipients, crony capitalists, lobbyists, leftist unions, plain crooks and avaricious politicians.

Leviathan, much like the medieval church during the centuries of its Inquisition, will not brook dissent, diminishment or departure from the dogmas that insure its legitimacy and power, its prestige and privilege. In Greece, the European Union, and America, Leviathan has become so powerful and its political acolytes so beholden to it that they are simply terrified at causing it the least offense. Hence politicians spout billions of word reiterating the obvious, that America is on the brink of a cultural and financial abyss, that spending must be cut and the deficit reduced—and yet when the talking is done, nothing is done. Not a single government institution, however useless, corrupt, or unconstitutional has been marked for repeal. Indeed they have grown even as those compelled to support it are facing an economic Armageddon.

In their failure to protect the interests of a free people American and Greek socialist government share a common dilemma. The socialist Papandreou and his party are terrified of the Greek welfare state just as President Obama, Democrats and Republicans, are terrified of the American welfare state. In Greece millions of taxpayers unconnected with government subsidies and patronage are unable to find work, cannot pay the mortgage on their home, and are forced by necessity to abandon the way of life they enjoyed before government apparatchiks spent their government into bankruptcy.

Papandreou nevertheless intends to impose massive tax increases upon the private citizen even as unionized government bureaucrats continue to enjoy the extravagant benefits that have destroyed the Greek economy. While millions of Greek citizens are out of work, not a single government position has been closed.

Many in Europe and America consider the conduct of socialist Greece disgusting. But then, as the private unemployment rate increased ominously under the stimulating administration of President Obama, not a single government job was closed. Indeed, as Americans unconnected with Leviathan continue to lose their homes and jobs, as they struggle to pay for gas at $4 to $5 dollars per gallon, as they struggle to keep a decent diet in the face of sharp increases in the cost of food, Leviathan waxes strong, sleek and fat. Indeed, President Obama intends to satiate its hunger by the confiscation and redistribution of more than a half trillion dollars of private wealth.

The socialist Papandreou has it figured out. Since Leviathan demands to be fed and will not be denied he will feed it. Perhaps then he will maintain his place in power—which after all is the most critical consideration. He will, therefore, simply confiscate and redistribute wealth from the unconnected private citizen and redistribute that wealth to those connected and in power.

Is there any difference between the strategy of the socialist Papandreou and the strategy of President Obama? President Obama’s budget was defeated in the Senate 97/0. Still, however, he has extended a conciliating hand. He will consider a few cuts here and there—we do not know where or what because negotiations are secret—in return for more than a half trillion dollars in taxes increases. What could be fairer?

Indeed, it seems that President Obama has learned something from the Greeks after all. He conciliates with his hand out and his palm up.

My new book Renegades, Their Betrayal of America. Her Revolution and Renaissance, endorsed by our own Jeff Crank, will be released July 26,2011. You may order Renegades by clicking on www.tatepublishing.com/bookst. Type in my name or “Renegades” and place your order. Following the release date Renegades may be ordered at local bookstores.



[1] Napoleon Leonados, The Greek Way of Sorrow, National Review Online, 6.28.2011.

[2] David Williams and Christine Pirovolakis “Athens burns in riots: Protests explode as Greek MPs debate EU's call for £25bn in cuts.”June 29th, 2011

[3] Fredrick Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, Viii.

[4] Hayek. Xi.

[5] Alex de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Part II, Book IV, chap.vi. Xiii.

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