As we saw in the previous posting on this subject, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt got the New Deal implemented using some rather shady tactics. Don’t just take our word for it, however. Anyone who wants to get a somewhat different perspective than is given in the Keynesian history books and current political rhetoric can read, e.g., Amity Shlaes’s The Forgotten Man (2009). She’s obsessed with the stock market as somehow being an economic indicator, but don’t let that stop you from the getting the real value the book has to offer.
|Two completely unknown politicians|
Of course, we have to realize that the New Deal was not an isolated instance of the implementation of the new things in a leading world economy. The postwar government in Great Britain, satirized by Evelyn Waugh in his novella, Love Among the Ruins (1953), was a much-touted triumph of the Fabian Society, which years before had joined forces with the British Labour Party.
More than two-hundred Society members were elected to Parliament in 1945, a landslide victory for Labour. Many of them became ministers in the administration of Prime Minister Clement Richard Attlee, while a large number of other Fabians, such as E.F. Schumacher, received political appointments. Seeing the assembled members all together in conclave, Zena Parker (the wife of prominent Fabian John Parker) exclaimed, “It looks just like an enormous Fabian School.”
|Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee|
What makes the Fabian postwar British government significant is that there was no nonsense about pretending to be democratic in either the European or American sense. It was the logical fulfilment of what Belloc had seen developing half a century before and chronicled in The Servile State: a superficial blending of capitalism and socialism in which an élite presumably took care of the great mass of people.
This was also the underlying premise of John Maynard Keynes, whose political and economic theories derived from those of Walter Bagehot and were applied in the New Deal. (John Maynard Keynes, “The Works of Bagehot,” The Economic Journal, 25:369–375 (1915).) Bagehot, who despised the United States and greatly admired Thomas Hobbes, believed that ordinary people are not fit to rule themselves. They require “a chosen people” composed of an aristocracy of wealth to take care of them. (Walter Bagehot, The English Constitution. Portland, Oregon: Sussex Academic Press, 1997, 17.) As Annie Besant, Fabian Society member and heir to Madame Blavatsky declared,
But the general idea is that each man should have power according to his knowledge and capacity. . . . And the keynote is that of my fairy State: From every man according to his capacity; to every man according to his needs. A democratic Socialism, controlled by majority votes, guided by numbers, can never succeed; a truly aristocratic Socialism, controlled by duty, guided by wisdom, is the next step upwards in civilisation.
Nor was this restricted to Great Britain and the United States. As he admitted in his memoirs, Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore after it gained independence in 1959, had been strongly influenced by Fabian theory. By 1993, however, he had completely reversed himself, considering the implementation of the Fabian program an unmitigated disaster. As he said,
[The Fabians] were going to create a just society for the British workers — the beginning of a welfare state, cheap council housing, free medicine and dental treatment, free spectacles, generous unemployment benefits. Of course, for students from the colonies, like Singapore and Malaya, it was a great attraction as the alternative to communism. We did not see until the 1970s that that was the beginning of big problems contributing to the inevitable decline of the British economy. (Michael Barr (March 2000). “Lee Kuan Yew’s Fabian Phase,” Australian Journal of Politics & History. 46 (1): 110-26.)
Of course, the Fabian program raises the question about the meaning and purpose of life. Is it to have all your needs taken care of so that you remain a permanent dependent of the State? Or is it to acquire and develop virtue by exercising rights and thereby become more fully human?#30#