- Milan Kundera, “The Book of Laughter & Forgetting” (1977)
The pernicious history of the American left has many starts and restarts. But the legacy of the American Left took a Giant leap, when Robert Owen gave his "A Declaration of Mental Independence," speech in the public hall of New Harmony, Indiana, on July 4, 1826. The idea of “mental independence” gave birth to the never ending movement of dreams and dreamers who all hoped to ultimately deliver “Heaven on earth.” But in fact Robert Owens’ sermon was a declaration of war on the three Pillars of Western civilization: private property, religion and traditional marriage. Robert Owen brought to America the ideas of mere gratification that had already failed in Europe. But Owen in an attempt to separate himself from pass failures-like so many on the left chose to do, continued in his efforts to “introduce an entirely new state of society; to change it from the ignorant, selfish system, to an enlightened social system which shall gradually unite all interest into one and remove all cause for contest between individuals.” It has been almost two hundred years and this “new state of society” still remains to be seen. It is cynical yes, but more pointedly it is terribly ironic that the same Pilgrims who fled communism in Europe were the forebearers of a communist Plymouth Colony setting a precedent for ensuing communes in the early American Left, one failing right after another. Capitalism and individual initiative proved first why there could never be an American Left. “Of the twenty-nine Fouriest communities that dotted the American landscape in the mid-nineteenth century, twenty-seven never made it past their fifth year. The North American Phalanx made it past twelve. Why?” Unlike its sister commune of “dreamers and philosophers” Brook Farm, the North American Phalanx “attracted men and women accustomed to hard work.” Because the North American Phalanx turned away 70 percent of ‘unproductive’ applicants in three years, utilized the various surrounding water ways and “followed strict accounting rules” it was able to “pay $4,000 in dividends in its first four years.” But ultimately because “a skillful teacher, who received at the North American Phalanx nine cents an hour, on going into the outside world was paid five dollars for two hours labor” it was hard for even one of the most successful social communes to compete with a vastly more competitive American economy. It is a conserved American tradition to do what best promotes personal freedom through individual progress. But those on the American left have always been determined to usher in a “new society” in which “each will be for all and all for each.” The American Left can never be because in order for this “all for each” society to work, a price must be paid wherein some things must be taken from those according to their ability and given to others according to their needs. Always attempting to make the old new again, the American left has no tradition or a record of proven success. With the 1914 establishment of the Federal Reserve and an American Left influenced President Wilson, hard working Americans found themselves living under the economic oppression of a top marginal rate at a wartime high of 77 percent. This top rate, which ultimately raised American debt, was the first time that the ideas that the American Left held about “equality in economics” actually made it to fruition. It was also the first time that modern America felt the pain and pressure of a redistributive income tax. However, President Warren G. Harding’s Treasury Secretary, Andrew Mellon cut the top marginal rate of 77 percent in 1918 to 25 percent in 1929, “which spurred the prosperity of the "Roaring Twenties”,” notes Dr. Burt Folsom. “Combined with truly prudential Congressional spending, the national debt actually decreased for several years.” What’s more, the traditional practice of not punishing prosperity but rewarding hard work would prove successful yet again. Suffering from historical amnesia, President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” (or the “New deal II) would be one of the latest attempts of those on the Left to use an “impersonal Government” to provide personal Responsibilities. Without personal responsibility coming from each person, could there really be an American Left? The Great Society established Aid to Families with Department Children for “women unwilling to get jobs”, Medicaid for doctors bills that “weighed too heavily”, Rent Supplement Program for those “having trouble paying the landlord”, and the first permanent food stamps programs for “people unwilling to buy their own groceries. Eventually though as “WWI ended Woodrow Wilson’s New Freedom, and WWII brought FDR’s “New Deal to a close” “the Vietnam War crushed the loftiest ambitions of the Great Society” but not before it successfully turned Aid to Families with Department Children recipients from 3 million in 1960 to 8.4 million in 1970. Alas, “by the end of Johnson’s presidency, blacks, students, and the Vietnamese-the groups along with the poor, upon whom he had showered money most lavishly in schemes of renewal-stood in violent rebellion against the man who thought of himself as their benefactor.” “Urban riots, students forcing campus shutdowns, and the Vietnamese rejecting his Great Society on the Mekong in favor of Communism broke Lyndon Johnson’s progressive heart.” “How is it possible” Johnson asked after his presidency, “that all these people could be so ungrateful to me after I had given them so much?” The answer is that no matter how much you “expand the powers of the government” it will never be able to “solve the enigma of the world.”Those on the American Left forever focused on the future have always chosen to suspend their disbelief in hopes of a Heaven on earth. Ardently seeking control, socialists on the American Left who “distrust man” and “resent God” must lie; forgetting their past, while exaggeration “the grimness of the present and glory of the future.”The American Left will never be because the Ideals that Robert Owen railed against in His “Declaration of Mental Independence”: private property, traditional marriage and religion are the reasons that Americas’ place in the world is an exceptional one. They are ideas that uniquely set America apart from the rest of the world. And still, even years after the terror attacks of 9/11 the idea of prosperity through hard work inspire millions to migrate to America each year. The American dream is one rooted in reality and a dream realize through hard work. The American Left is merely a dream.