All Commentary
Saturday, November 1, 1969

The Golden Calf

Mr. Youngquist is former President and now Director Emeritus of The First Federal Sav­ings and Loan Association in Minneapolis.

The American people right now are in the Valley of Decision. We must decide now whether we shall continue to live under liberty as free citizens, or kick it all out of the window and, for the promise and hope of perpetual physical se­curity, exchange it for a system of regimented living as the serfs and property of a socialist dicta­tor state. The choice is ours to make and no man or woman in this country can escape the making of it. Indifference to this paramount issue is just as deadly to our free­dom as the outright embracing of socialism itself!

Two human attributes are, prob­ably, responsible for more misery, death, hopelessness, war, and starvation than everything else in the world put together. One of these is the lust for personal power; the other is the constant desire for easy physical security without personal responsibility. Call it greed if you will. The two mesh together perfectly. History records that those who would destroy the liberties of the people first give them largess, grants, doles, and the promise of security in the money bags of government. His­tory also records that those who lose their liberty barter it away for the promise of security at the hands of the state.

The Struggle for Freedom

The struggle for human freedom is as old as humanity itself. The first pages of unfolding history reveal to us a picture of oppressed humanity hopelessly struggling, driven hither and yon over the earth under the lash of ruthless masters. These hapless humans have lived and died as cattle. They were, and are in fact, the beasts of burden, the physical property of the King, the Pharaoh, the Em­peror, the Nabob, the Union of Soviet-Socialist Republics, or whatever you call that creature known as the authoritarian or to­talitarian state.

Always the ceaseless struggle of the peoples of nations has been to throw off the shackles forged by their own rulers, or fight to the death in fending off a foreign des­pot attempting to extend his per­sonal power.

The Rise—and Fall—of Nations

The history of nations is not that they rise, but that they rise—and fall. The Romans, under the Republic, achieved, perhaps, a greater measure of freedom than any other ancient people. They also achieved considerable security for themselves and imposed an era of comparative peace over the then civilized world. It was called the Pax Romana. Centuries later the British Empire maintained an era of Pax Britannica. Certain it is that the Roman Republic did pro­duce great prosperity for the Romans. All their conquered ter­ritories paid tribute to them. Life was easy, and then licentious. Then moral decay set in, and while Rome gave every outward appearance of strength and security, it was rot­ting at the core. Then the smart politicians came on the scene. The way to achieve power over the Romans was to promise them se­curity. Give them doles from the state; open up the corn-cribs, put lots of people on the public pay­rolls; tell them that they shall never worry again, the state will take care of them. Finally came the Gracchi Brothers, each trying to out promise the other—the fore­runners of the American Demo­crats and Republicans! The Romans took the bait, they put their trust in the state—and were conquered by a less civilized but more virile people who trusted in themselves! “A nation that wants anything more than freedom will lose its freedom,” said Somerset Maugham, “and the irony of it is, if it is comfort and security it wants, it will lose them too.”

As the centuries came and went, as the Christian religion spread with its teachings of the infinite worth of the individual, with its emphasis on the value and sacred­ness of human life, men every­where began to stir with the urge for freedom. The centuries-old struggle took a long step forward when the English barons, in the beginning of the thirteenth cen­tury, wrested Magna Charta away from the unwilling King.

The Security of Freedom

There is a security which is real. It is the security of responsi­ble freedom. If that freedom can be maintained, then physical secur­ity follows as a natural conse­quence. But if a free man seeks physical security outside of him­self, with no urge or obligation to provide it for himself, then he will achieve that security at the ex­pense of his liberty.

This nation has been extremely fortunate in its ancestral heritage. The Pilgrims came to our unknown land because they wanted to be free. Particularly, they wanted freedom of religion. They had been whipped around in Europe, persecuted, and with no hope for betterment. Then they looked over the wide ocean. They knew not what was on the other side, except one thing: freedom to worship as they wished. History has told the story. We have freedom, but it was earned at a terrible price. Then, in the great migrations that took place from northern Europe in the latter half of the nineteenth century, we received the workmen who turned this country into the land of opportunity, who built and worked in our factories, who took homesteads in the West and turnedthe prairies into productive farms. It was the surge of economic free­dom, the fundamental building stone of this nation.

The Declaration of Independ­ence proclaims:

We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, lib­erty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, govern­ments are instituted among men, de­riving their just powers from the con­sent of the governed.

The Constitution of the United States is a document to limit the power of government. The people who wrote that instrument had the experience of living under the rule of a foreign king. They had firsthand experience with the archaic, selfish, individualistic ac­tions of a foreign monarch. They would set up a government “of the people, by the people, for the peo­ple,” and every citizen would be entitled to the protection of the law. Always, however, there is the desire on the part of many people to circumvent the law. Always there are schemers who want to get rid of the law so far as they are concerned. They are the bu­reaucrats, those who are in posi­tion to wrest away from others their rights, while entrenching themselves in bureaucratic protection. This tendency has gone so far that it is doubtful if it can ever again be controlled, and it may very well be the road down which this country will finally go into a socialistic dictatorship.

Two Philosophies of Government Struggling for Supremacy

Now, there persist in this world two philosophies of government, each struggling for supremacy.

One of these says that the state is supreme, and the source of all authority, well-being, and security. It conceives that the citizen is the subject and property of the state, and that all of the privileges, all of the freedom which the citizen enjoys, is a dispensation of the state. It denies that any man has certain unalienable rights which no government may invade, cur­tail, deny, or destroy. It is the concept of the state as the all-wise master which not only owns the citizen but is obligated to care for him. It owes every man a job with­out any responsibility on the part of the individual to create one for himself. Everyone is entitled to an equal share of everything that is produced regardless of his abili­ties, his industry, his thrift, or his frugality. Everyone is entitled to medical attention when sick and a proper burial when he dies. His only duty is not to die until he has collected his full benefits.

This philosophy manifests itself in a thousand ways but princi­pally in progressive regimentation of labor, of agriculture, of busi­ness and the professions. Another symptom is the ever-growing bu­reaucracy and the tendency for governmental agencies and bu­reaus to multiply themselves, to seek more and more power over the citizens; to covet increasing power over public funds and to levy heavier and heavier taxes; to ceaselessly promulgate rules which have the force of law; to seek and expand authority to accuse, prose­cute, and fine or imprison the citi­zens who refuse to obey their edicts; to constantly seek to throw off all restraints of constitutional government; to circumvent the courts; and if that doesn’t suc­ceed, to pollute and degrade the courts by the appointment of men beholden to the supreme authority. It becomes further apparent in the gradual abdication by the Con­gress of its powers and position as defender of the people’s liberties; by a progressive weakening of the legislative branch of govern­ment through a system of favors handed out by the chief executive; and by a corresponding increase in the power of the executive. Thus, slowly but surely, the transforma­tion takes place from a “govern­ment by law” to a “government by men.”

The Meaning of Liberty

The other philosophy conceives that the individual citizen is the true source of authority; that the state is the creation of the sov­ereign people; that its function is to govern within the limits set by the sovereign people, and not to engage in business in competition with the citizens. It recognizes that liberty is of the spirit as well as of the body and that the individual must be free to develop his own personality and resources, accept­ing the responsibilities of that freedom. Recognizing that disci­pline is essential in every ordered society, it conceives that discipline of a free people must be self-im­posed and voluntary. This philoso­phy teaches that the state is the subject and property of the people; that it is without authority ex­cept that granted by the consent of the governed; that its function is to foster the well-being of the individual, to create for him a climate where the human personal­ity may develop into its full flower­ing, and in which his liberties shall be protected under just laws. This philosophy teaches that the only liberal government is one which is duly limited to keeping the peace. A government which squan­ders itself into bankruptcy cannot be liberal. A people which leans more and more heavily upon the gratuities of a paternal state, a people which believes the doctrine that “the state owes me a living” must be prepared soon to surren­der its liberty.

Patrick Henry said: “No free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue and by a frequent recurrence to fundamen­tal principles.”

True liberalism holds that lib­erty is an endowment by the Cre­ator upon which no power may encroach, and no government may deny. It holds that the individual must be free to choose his own calling, to develop his talents, to own and keep a home sacred from intrusion, to rear children in or­dered security. It holds that he must be free to work for whom he wishes, or not to work, without tribute to anyone, to earn, to save, to spend, and to accumulate prop­erty. It holds that the first duty of the state is to protect the citizen under the law.

Promises of the Welfare State

We are now asked to turn away from the qualities and principles that made us a great nation. False leaders have come among us  —seeking more power over our lives and occupations. They have dan­gled before us a picture of the lush pastures of economic security; we have listened—and followed. These leaders would have us believe:

·         that security is surely to be found in the money bags of gov­ernment, if we will but permit them to run our business, our farms, our professions, our jobs, and our lives.

·         that the source of all security and welfare is the state and that it may not be had except from the state.

·         that higher taxes upon our labor and thrift will provide us more welfare.

·         that the state will give us more security by spending more than its income and by depreciat­ing the value of money.

·         that we may have more abun­dance if the state limits the har­vest of our fields and the yield of our flocks; that prosperity is in­creased by paying farmers to over­produce, destroying the surplus, and taxing everybody to pay for it.

·         that we may have more lib­erty through more laws and regu­lations giving more power to the state and to officials, agents, in­vestigators, and bureaucrats in general to supervise and regulate every detail of our lives.

·         that American citizens will rise to nobler heights of morality and individual achievement if they trust the state to provide all that is needful.

·         that we may enjoy freedom from want, freedom from every­thing except the greatest of all freedoms—freedom from the tyranny of the state itself.

It Is Socialism!

They call this “public welfare,” “security,” “social and economic equality,” “elimination of the profit motive,” “production for use,” and similar names to cover up its true nature. It is Socialism.

This headlong plunge into a socialist dictatorship is going to end up with the dictator telling us where we may work, what we shall do, how long we may work, and for what wages.

They will tell us how many square feet of living space we may have, who shall provide it, and on what terms we may live in it.

They will tell us what we may buy, what we shall pay for it, what we shall get for what we sell, what we may plant, where we may plant it, and how much; and how we shall dispose of the harvest.

This is the security of the Negro slave before the emancipa­tion, the security of the American Indian, the security of the Eng­lishman under socialism, the se­curity of a “guaranteed” job—as in Russia. It won’t be long in com­ing unless we reject false promises and exercise self-responsibility.

Government aid to the individual is followed by government con­trol of the individual, which means government force against the individual. No people can re­main free except by exercise of thrift and frugality.

The Golden Calf

The modern version of the story of the Golden Calf would read like this:

And the people of America mur­mured because life was so hard, and they pined for security. And the bu­reaucrats, hearing of their sad plight contrived to make the people secure. So they said to the people: “Put your trust in us and we shall open unto you the bottomless money bags of govern­ment. They shall be your Golden God who will care for you and your chil­dren from the cradle to the grave. Your beds shall be soft; your bellies shall be filled with good things to eat; your labor shall be easy and your wages shall be great. There shall be long seasons of time-and-a-half and double-time. You shall generously share the fruits of labor of others and much time for ease shall be your lot.” And the people said: “Hurrah, verily shall the money bags of government be our Golden God and upon these leaders shall we trust our security.” Thus did the people of America de­liver themselves into bondage.



Two Sides of Poverty

If paying people not doing productive work is anti-poverty, it’s more than offset by the pro-poverty effects of taxing away the earnings of those doing productive work.

If handing out money is anti-poverty, taxing in the money is pro-poverty.

If putting people to work is anti-poverty, then union re­strictions, minimum wage laws, discriminations, and the like which keep people from getting a job are pro-poverty.

If training people to take jobs is anti-poverty, taxes which discourage investors from providing these jobs are pro-poverty.

No matter how fast we increase our anti-poverty measures, poverty continues to grow because of the increasing and spreading pro-poverty ones. Protecting the right of every American to be free to work without disruption or restriction (Open Employment), letting those who work enjoy the fruits of their own labors (Taxation with Limitation), and permitting investors to profit from their financing of productive enter­prise and employment (Free Private Enterprise)—these are the things which do the most to eliminate pro-poverty condi­tions and reduce poverty.