My liberal minded Editor in Chelan has challenged me once again to debate the merits of liberalism vs. conservatism. He begins by “setting the facts straight.” So let’s begin by conceding the facts we all agree on.
First not all Democrats are liberal nor all Republicans conservative. Second the debate is all about ideology. Third it is all about class warfare.
Bowen attempts to argue that conservative resistance to liberal agendas is not based on ideology but on partisan politics. Even though he comes close to defining the ideological differences between right and left he then argues that conservatives are just resistant to change. Bowen then argues that conservatives by their very nature cannot accept “new” ideas and are dedicated to the position that no change is best. But American history proves it is the tension of the debate between what is, and what could be, that produces the most effective course for real progress. Blaming conservatives for blocking progress only because of partisanship is simply an admission that the progressive argument for change is not convincing on its own merit. Conservatives are not resistant to all change. Conservatives are resistant to change for change’s sake. And not all progressive ideas are new nor are they good for us.
Bowen does admit that it is all about class warfare. In other words the “upper class” is taking advantage of the “working class” by raiding their pension funds and causing near record unemployment.
Let’s examine some historic facts on those issues. First, one might want to examine the way our state’s Democrat controlled legislature has funded the working class’s pension funds – currently estimated to be $6 billion short. Second, it was Democrats that have raided the “Social Security trust fund” to support their profligate spending. Third, there is already plenty of government regulation of Wall Street. Where was the SEC when Enron, Bernie Madoff, and the other corporate scammers created havoc in the market? Liberals want us to believe that there are massive holes in our system of governance that have allowed the upper class to abuse the working class. The problem is they don’t want to examine how their current systems have already failed them before they add another layer of bureaucracy.
Then to support his position that the United States does not enjoy the highest standard of living, Bowen uses the United Nations Human Poverty Index and Human Development Index to support his arguments. It’s an interesting study but one that is highly flawed. The Human Poverty Index for example scores the U.S. low because their study finds 20 percent of the population is functionally illiterate – a seemingly great endorsement for our public education system.
There are a number of other statistics that are worth examining on this issue although none are perfect. The most commonly cited statistic is per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In other words the total value of all goods and services produced in that country’s economy divided by the total population of that country. The United States ends up sixth in the world according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), fourth according to the World Bank and eighth according to the CIA Factbook. Obviously there are differences here in measuring GDP. The countries that are ahead of the U.S. on these charts include Norway, Qatar and Kuwait. All of which depend heavily on oil and gas exports for their country’s wealth. One might readily ask how our country’s wealth would be impacted if we developed our own energy reserves but that is the subject of another editorial.
The problem with per capita GDP is that it measures the wealth of the country not the wealth of the individual populace of those countries. A more valid statistic would be the average disposable income per capita. That number is a little more difficult to get since many countries do not keep or release that information. The IMF does attempt to provide that analysis and the IMF study puts the U.S. at the top of disposable income at $21,427 in 2005 – the most recent available data.
A fact that may be much more interesting in this debate would be to examine how much of the “national wealth” as measured by per capita GDP, actually passes through to individuals in the form of personal disposable income. In the U.S. it would appear that the average individual citizen receives approximately 46 percent of the annual national wealth ($21,427 divided by $46,381 per capita GDP). We will call this index the “Billdex.”
How do those countries that beat out the U.S. in per capita GDP do on the “Billdex?” Well, unfortunately not all of them provide information on average disposable income. But here’s a couple that do, Singapore – 19 percent and Brunei – 6 percent. In other words, they may be wealthy countries but their people do not share in that wealth.
Norway, Qatar and Luxembourg do not provide comparable data on personal disposable income, but how about some of those vaunted examples of European socialist excellence? Germany is close at 45 percent. Sweden is at 38 percent and France 40 percent. While the European socialist countries do a reasonable job in passing their countries economic wealth on to their citizens, it is not as good as good old American capitalism.
It would be very interesting to know how the Marxists like Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez do in lifting their people out of poverty. Especially since they claim to be working to improve the lives of the working class. Of course reliable information is not readily available.
The bottom line here is that liberals believe social justice will be better served if the government forces the rich to give more of their wealth to the poor or the “working class.” But it is a false promise. The government can make laws but it cannot force behavior. Margaret Thatcher was right. The problem with socialism is eventually you run out of other people’s money. Want to know what happens when that occurs – just look at Greece.