March 15, 2010
Pelosi and Marx on 'Freedom'By Ed Kaitz
Nancy Pelosi wants to give birth to a new kind of freedom in America -- the freedom from being "job-locked."
In an interview with Rachel Maddow Thursday evening, Pelosi asked Americans to "think" about a bright, new, liberating kind of utopia:
Maddow was so overwhelmed and smitten with Pelosi's remarks that she posted the interview on her website under the following title: "Finally! Pelosi frames health reform for the win. (Hint: It's about freedom.)"
The problem with Pelosi's remarks, however, is that from hindsight, they are not bright, new, or liberating. On the contrary, almost identical words were penned over a hundred years ago by another champion of economic "freedom": Karl Marx. Marx criticized the private economy because it led to the "renunciation of life and of human needs."
Like Pelosi, Marx was deeply troubled by an economic system that left most people job-locked and unable to satisfy their "human need" to become more authentic. In other words, the more you have to work, said Marx, "the less you eat, drink, buy books, go to the theater or to balls, or to the public house, and the less you think, love, theorize, sing, paint, fence, etc."
Marx chastised the middle class in England for being "so incurably debased by self-interest" and thirsty for a "quick profit" that they were incapable of recognizing the alienation from their true selves. Communist society, then, was the cure that could liberate us from our false selves and usher in a new kind of creativity and authenticity. Says Marx:
This kind of sheer lunacy could have been hatched only by an unemployed academic and journalist like Marx, who, by the way, was supported financially in his authentically job-liberated struggle against capitalism by his wealthy colleague Friedrich Engels. What's most disturbing is the number of wild-eyed crusaders, both then and now, who have fallen for Marx's creative definition of "freedom."
As for that nagging issue of just how "communist society" will "regulate the general production" after the socialist revolution, Engels had this to say:
In other words, leave it to the "community" (government) to worry about levels of production and consumption in order for the newly liberated and formerly "job-locked" citizens to pursue their lifelong dreams of being artists, writers, or photographers.
Friedrich Hayek wrote about this subtle shift in the word "freedom" over sixty years ago. He argued that as socialists began coming under fire for promoting servitude and control, they made the creative decision to harness to their "cart the strongest of all political motives -- the craving for freedom." For Hayek,
For the socialists, however, "before man could be truly free, the 'despotism of physical want' had to be broken, the ‘restraints of the economic system' relaxed." For Hayek, this new definition of freedom was simply "another name for the old demand for an equal distribution of wealth."
Hayek asks a fascinating question that each and every American needs to consider before deciding whether to return any Obamacare-supporting politician to power this fall:
Nancy Pelosi's theory of "economic freedom," you see, requires legions of new bureaucrats wielding the power of the state so that you can be liberated from your inauthentic, job-locked selves. If we take freedom in its true meaning -- as freedom from coercion -- we see instantly, however, that indeed, I am less coerced by a neighboring millionaire than by the tiniest government bureaucrat deciding where and when I can see a doctor, go to school, or become job-locked.
Years ago, before he died, I asked my father what he liked most about working in the home-building industry. After having been "job-locked" in the housing industry for over twenty years, he told me the following: "For me, the best thing of all is seeing a new family move into one of our homes."
My father wasn't a writer or an artist, but he was a kind, decent, hardworking man who loved his job and his family. Rather than struggle against the system and neglect his children like Marx did, my father felt it was part of his job, not the government's, to take care of his family -- including our health care.
Sounds pretty authentic to me.