This is my critique of Senator Harry Reid’s speech to a BYU Forum given in October, 2007. It is titled “Faith, Family, and Public Service.”
The honorable Senator Harry Reid begins his speech with family anecdotes and a brief personal history. He mentions his early childhood in poverty and his mother’s admiration for Franklin Roosevelt. He also gives an account of how he and his wife were converted to Mormonism. It is a beautiful and touching personal story which is beyond any criticism. I will concern myself here only with his political statements given within the speech.
Senator Reid: “I am a Democrat because I am a Mormon, not in spite of it.”
Well, Mr, Reid, I am a Republican because I am Mormon. Apparently we have differing views of what it means to be Mormon. Really, the only difference between the two parties is the question of means. We are both for helping the poor and downtrodden, and I don’t appreciate the insinuation that I, being of the other party, somehow hate the poor or don’t care about the less fortunate. Many have come from the same poor background as you, Mr. Reid, and yet do not ascribe to your solutions. Bringing up your poverty-stricken background does not lend any moral authority to your political persuasions, any more than it would to your religious ones. In case you are wondering, the difference is this: FORCE. Democrats believe in using force to correct or change society (or don’t even think about it), and Republicans do not. Simple. Don’t get me wrong, force often works, but nothing lasting ever comes about by force. Try forcing people to “convert” to Mormonism and see how that works out in the long run.
Senator Reid: “Social Security is the most successful social program in the history of the world.”
As “social” programs go, maybe so. Observe: I am forced to “contribute” 12.4% of my paycheck to a program in which literally everyone else has a say in how my earned money is to be used. This fact alone tells you that it is not going to be used very efficiently. And of course, these people, through their elected representatives, have decided to use my money for other purposes than for what it was intended and have left me promissory notes in the form of government-issued bonds (issued to itself, incidentally) in exchange for my money. And it is my money—I earned it, not them. But, if by some miracle I was allowed to sue for its return, they couldn’t give it to me—they don’t have it. They must borrow it. That 12.4% (6.2% from me and 6.2% from me through my employer’s cost of employing me) could have earned interest at an average rate of 10% a year if I was allowed to invest it (my own money) in the most conservative stocks. It would have even earned more if I had just left it in my bank account. It still would have been better off if I just stuffed it under the mattress—at least it wouldn’t have been “borrowed.”
One can make the argument that I am being “forced” to support the military, police, roads, etc. There is a subtle distinction here, though, that most current Democrats cannot see: These things have to do with public and general protection and natural monopolies, not individual security or welfare. The constitution and social compacts dictate what the government can do. We can only give another entity power we already possess. I cannot force my neighbor to save for his retirement and he cannot force me to pay for his personal retirement either. The very idea is ludicrous. However, I have a right to travel on open land or roads held in common and to protect my home and possessions, and therefore can give that power to someone else in the form of community and national police and local roads and large highways which are natural monopolies.
So, as far as “social” programs go, Social Security is about as successful as any such kind of immoral program can get. People do manage to get money back in their old age (for now), at least on paper, if you don’t factor inflation honestly, or the cost of lost opportunity through their own investments and purchasing decisions. This only proves the earlier point: When a good principle (saving for old age or insurance against the uncertainties of such) is implemented through force, it eventually accomplishes almost the opposite of its intention, or at best, nothing of worth.
A near-perfect case study in this would be the forced “conversions” in early Islam and Christianity. Yes, we have a lot of “Christians” and “Muslims” in the world as a result, but these religions would not be recognizable to their founders today—massacring innocent people and justifying almost any carnal or low inclination in their name. The very beauty of Mormonism is that it is a choice. Choice is essential and central to all of Mormon doctrine. Having social security is also beautiful, no sane-minded person would argue that, but it is the means that negates its intended effects—much like sex is beautiful if the proper relationship is there, but if force is involved in any way… The same applies to Mr. Reid’s “social” programs. It is akin to prostituting what is beautiful.
Mr. Reid: “I say government can be our friend.”
Wow! That is one of the scariest thoughts I have ever heard. If you were going for shock-value there, Mr. Reid, you couldn’t do better. No one is my friend who ultimately holds the gun. Try not paying your taxes or “contributions” because you don’t want your neighbor to meddle in your personal affairs and see what happens. Government is force, plain and simple, and we must try to get by with the least amount of force in our lives, even if that means suffering. According to Mormon theology, that is why we are here. Government by its very nature is a necessary evil. When it grows, evil grows, or at the very least has more avenues within which to spread.
Mr. Reid: “…during a crisis, people have only three places to look for help: family, government and God.”
Slightly out of order there, but subtlety is apparently beyond the good Senator’s grasp. I am glad he remembered to capitalize “God” and not “government,” though. Interesting term, this word “government.” As far as I can see, it has no root in “relief” or “help.” It ensures justice and protection, but should never be in the business of providing. It provided quite well for the king and nobles in the past, but I thought we fought a revolution or something to get rid of that. Apparently the fight really never ends. Whether you’re providing for yourself (king) or the poor (socialism) under the threat of force, there is no difference to the one being forced.
Mr. Reid: “I say unions are responsible for the forty hour week, decent wages and safe working conditions.”
Well, you can “say” that, but it does not make it true. The facts are the forty hour week did not come about until there was no need for a sixty, eighty, or more hour week. Economic growth brought on the forty hour week. An ancient farmer, or even one in the Third World today, works well beyond forty hours in a week because he absolutely must to survive. Likewise, child labor laws did not go into effect in the U.S. until the economic need for child labor was gone. If your family is going to starve, your children are going to work, it is as simple as that. They “jumped the gun” economically in Thailand when they passed child labor laws there. The economy could not yet handle it. Children lost the means to sufficiently contribute to the support of their families and were forced into illegal economic activity, like prostitution and drug trafficking, just to survive. As soon as technology and the economic efficiency of production reached critical-mass, consumerism required less time and resources be spent at work. Only then did business, and public opinion support the forty hour week. Before that, the majority of the voting working class (and particularly the farmers) were hostile to a set number of hours per week and any laws dictating such.
This brings up another point to ponder: Why is there no Welfare system in places like Thailand, Mexico or the Philippines? Two reasons: (1) There is not enough economic wealth in the form of “rich people” to finance it and (2) any immoral practice (the forced taking from one to give to another by a third party) requires a certain amount of virtue within the society at large to prop it up to any level of functionality. If we in the U.S. all had no moral fortitude or compunctions, we would all head down to the Welfare office today and find varying ways of qualifying for “assistance” and the whole system would collapse overnight. Many Third World and semi-Third World countries do not yet approach the baseline of honesty required for socialist programs to work. It’s a chicken-and-the-egg dilemma. Are they dishonest and immoral because they are poor, or are they poor because they are dishonest and immoral?
Mr. Reid’s general statements about the environment and energy reform.
Global warming or the more technically correct term “climate change” may very well be taking place and is being influenced by human activity. But, given your propensity, Mr. Reid, for wishing to force others to what you think they should do or what may be thought of as right, you must forgive us conservatives for being concerned as to your true intentions. It is not beyond reason to expect “environmentalists” to someday tell us what color to paint our houses (assuming we are still allowed to live in such) so that it does not disrupt the “natural color of the surrounding biosphere and possibly interrupt the proper rhythm of migratory birds.” This is all a Pandora’s box of evil “control freaks” we freedom-loving conservatives are not going to open ourselves up to. It is no coincidence almost all socialists are also “environmentalists.”
Mr. Reid: “Some say that if you help the wealthy, they will crate jobs and it will trickle down and help all.”
This is a case of repositioning assumptions. What does Senator Reid mean by “help” the wealthy? They already are punished and treated differently than everyone else based on their earning ability—sort of like punishing someone because their skin color is different. Someone’s talent or circumstances are such that they become a candidate to be singled out for different treatment. So, “helping” the wealthy by bringing their tax rate to the same level as everybody else, is not “helping” them, it is only treating them the same under the law. That is equality.
And a funny thing happens when you allow everyone the same level playing field. The only way someone can then get wealthy (legally, of course) is by providing a product or service that someone else is willing to pay for. If they do not, or cannot, they will eventually cease to be wealthy or will never become such. Both parties see a benefit in every willing transaction. This particularly works in the employee/employer relationship. If an employee is to be successful, and maintain and grow in his job, he must provide the best service to his employer for the price. Likewise, if the employer is to be successful in maintaining customers or a market for his services, he must have the best, most content, and therefore most productive employees for the price. On the whole (the macro level) everyone wins. There is no “trickling.” Each gets the best deal they can going both ways, in the aggregate. It is only when a third party, like the government—which can have no concept of the individual variables at stake—comes in and tips the playing field in one direction or the other, that inequality on massive scales starts to occur.
Mr. Reid then mentions unions as the saviors of the working class. Well, what he really means is not unions, which are just another natural market variable, but the tipping of the playing field in the union’s favor. There is no natural favoritism in the market over the long run. If all parties are left free all inequalities are eventually leveled out—sometimes within a day or two, sometimes within years, and sometimes within a generation or two. An example: I am paid by my employer every two weeks. Now I’ve performed almost two week’s worth of labor for the price agreed upon, but have not yet received my compensation. Meanwhile, my employer is collecting and earning revenue or interest on the money owed to me. This is an inequality that will be settled in a day or two at the end of the pay period. Compensation for this inequality has already been addressed through market interactions. If there is another variable introduced, like hyper inflation of prices for consumer needs, that would impel me to seek (and maybe organize with others and demand) a daily or even hourly pay structure. Such happened in pre-WWII Germany with absolutely no government or third party involvement in the employee/employer market-driven contract (except to cause the hyper inflation in the first place).
Senator Reid concludes his speech by stating many examples of service given by Mormon church leaders and others in government capacities. All service is noble if it is given willingly and not first funded by forced “contributions.” The Peace Corps is noble insofar as it promotes security for the citizens of the U.S. who are funding it for its purpose of ultimately protecting their property and freedoms. When such “service” goes beyond that, and promotes things unrelated to our natural rights which we can give it, such becomes not service but is ultimately evil in nature. To quote Pope Benedict XVI: “Whenever politics tries to be redemptive, it is promising too much. Where it wishes to do the work of God, it becomes, not divine, but demonic.”
There is much else in Mr. Reid’s speech that I can take no issue with. I don’t wish to infer that Senator Harry Reid is evil. He, like the rest of us, is human and prone to imperfections and muddled thinking. Some of his notions are therefore the product of his own prejudices and incomplete experience. I feel it is important to attempt to correct such wrongs whenever we can to the best of our understanding at the time.