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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Reagan's subversion of the Four Freedoms

Sabotaging FDR's Four Freedoms

You wouldn't think that anyone would argue with FDR's Four Freedoms:

  1. Freedom of speech
  2. Freedom of worship
  3. Freedom from want
  4. Freedom from fear

But believe me they not only did, but they do. To the Right Wing wannabe oligarchs who gathered around Ronald Ronald Reagan, the "four Freedoms" were the enemy of their arbitrary power and their dreams of unmeasurable loot. Especially the last two. Rentiers depend on fear-mongering, war-mongering and keeping resources scarce, for their power. And oligarchs get and keep power by scaring people and providing scapegoats for that fear. A system that has equity may have it's wealthy and it's poor, but the poor have a decent life, and the rich aren't so rich. In my last post:

Have we become the society depicted in The book 1984?

A friend of mine and some folks from the Roosevelt Institute keep the ideals FDR expressed late in life alive. Because these freedoms need to be re-emphasized in our constitution. The first two of them are implicitly in the first Amendment. But we all know how adept corrupt legislators and judges are at subverting them, from their history. But the last two "freedoms" have not only not been in our constitution but have been a recurring fact of life for most people in this country, and around the world, for many years. The first two can be secured mostly by negative laws that say "Thou shalt not infringe on free speech" or "impose a religion on the country. But the last two require a commonwealth. They require a project. Because they require positive law. Roosevelt sought to implement them through his "Second Bill of Rights:"


Sabotaging the Four Freedoms

Who can argue with these either? These rights, though they are "positive rights" and thus require institutionalization, policies, programs, projects - to become reality -- Are important to implementing the Four Freedoms. Without them the rich get richer and the poor live lives of insecurity and privation. What is freedom without the resources to pursue happiness? What does it require for most people to do that? A decent living, access to health care, and some help when things go south. You'd think this would be obvious. But it's not. To the right the Second Bill of Rights evoked horror and anger. Secure people do things like growing their hair long or demonstrating against wars. The Right Wing Term for that was "permissiveness". Like all Righties "freedom" either is a 1984 newspeak term, or their own privileges, and not for the "hoi poi."

Reagan's subversion

For that reason the Right Wing searched and found a Hollywood actor, who having been a spokesman for New Deal Policies at one time, couldn't resist the honors, money and fame, promised him for becoming a spokesman for the right. Reagan was familiar with New Deal policies through and through. But he was recruited by millionaires to go after communists, paid handsome sums to speak for the wealthy and large businesses and with the initial excuse of being offended by the dishonesty and unpatriotic attitude of some folks on the left and made himself a willing tool of the right -- first in their efforts to shut up the left wing in Hollywood. He became, literally the face of the Right Wing. But he went beyond shutting down Communism, he took aim at his erstwhile colleagues in Hollywood, at the people he once served as a Union Organizer and at the New Deal he'd once spoken for eloquently. He used his silver tongued voice to subvert the New Deal

He wasn't just a puppet. On the contrary the things he articulated, in retrospect, seem the work of an evil genius. And he started by substituting his own list of Rights for the ones that FDR articulated. He had a convenient memory even before his Alzheimer's kicked in, but only someone sharp could have picked the following list of "freedoms" to oppose FDR's Four Freedoms:

His list was:

  1. The freedom to work.
  2. The freedom to enjoy the fruits of one's labor.
  3. The freedom to own and control one's property.
  4. The freedom to participate in a free market.

It is only when I begin picking away at them that the nastiness of them begins to to show. These display an intimate knowledge of the new deal and a degree of cynicism that is astounding. Everything in this list was designed to subvert Roosevelt's concept.

Incidently he started his political career attacking the notion of affordable education. For more on this read:

Privateering on Higher Education, Reagan's war on "permissiveness":

The Freedom to Work! Work Makes Free!

In German the expression "Work Makes Free" "Arbeit Macht Frei" was cynically posted over Auschwitz. Access to jobs and a decent pay makes people free. Work itself produces things, but unless there equity in control of the distribution of the resources of enterprises and industries, work doesn't make free, as folks laboring in Auschwitz found out. When Reagan visited the Nazi Cemetery in Bitburg in Germany, he had to know that history. This "freedom" formulation is as cynical as that of the Nazis.

And this "Freedom to Work" is in direct contravention to the first two of Roosevelt's "Second Bill of Rights" (the Right to a job and to a decent wage." It was a well thought out subversion.

They talked about "freedom" but their idea of freedom includes the choice to become enslaved to others. They were explicitly against notions such as Democracy, which they rebranded as "collectivism" or notions such as common good, which they huffed at with perfect Social Darwinian logic while trying to ban the teaching of Charles Darwin's theories. So to the ideological and elitist far right defeating "communism" was as much about restoring the proper place of economic royalty, ending "permissiveness" and protecting unearned wealth - as about stopping the spread of communism. So Reagan did a masterful job:

Thus the very first of Reagan's Four Freedoms is aimed at replacing the security from want or fear, with the insecurity of a system that forces people to compete with each other.

Right to Work Laws

And the "Right to Work" gives some kind of sense to "right to [not] work laws." Right to work laws are aimed at preventing people from forming Unions, making people free to free ride on any Unions that do exist while opting out of paying dues, and "At Will employment". Going along with that is the complete impunity of companies to "outsource" to either outside the United States or to "contractors" who can often skirt any laws or regulations aimed at large enterprises. "Right to Work" laws and "at will employment" end any pretense of workplace democracy. Again without security in employment and pay, "right to work" is the opposite of any kind of security, freedom from fear or want.

Freedom to enjoy the Fruits of [other's] labor

Similarly the "freedom to enjoy the fruits of one's labor, equally cynically means that working people are intended to enjoy their minimal labor compensation for their energy expenditures and the wear and tear on their bodies. And wealth/Capitalist the rest. Without workplace democracy, consent of the managed or the right to bargain employers get to enjoy the fruits of their employees labor and to drive wages down to subsistence levels. For a time our country masked this trend with a push to let workers borrow money, which eventually at compound interest, means complete slavery. For the Far Right this was a slogan, never truly even intended to be paid attention, even by those uttering it.

Piketty's book "Capital" pretty much divides Production into Capital, and Labor compensation, with the bulk of compensation going to Capital and Capital pretty much synonymous with Wealth.

The Right to Own Land and People

The right to own and control one's property was often sold as an "ownership society." But for most of the laws used to implement the notion, the notion didn't apply to everybody. An ownership society that includes the right to own someone's labor, to extract rents from property and to own property absolutely, means a right for the few over the many. "Every man should have the right to do as one pleases with one's own property." And "Every man who owns a castle should have the right to be King." And every man who can't should, rightly be a serf with the perfect freedom to choose between serving his (or her) master and suffering prison, starvation or homelessness. In a commonwealth such kings are forced to deal with a parliament. For the RW that claim that is "socialism." Between abusive labor laws and abusive lending, our "capitalists"/"wealthy" now own something like 80% of the property in the country.

The Freedom to Shop

And of course with the ability to mortgage everything and borrow on personal credit at usurious levels, the freedom to participate in the market meant the freedom for owners to buy and sell people's lives and the "right to shop" for those not yet maxed out on their credit limit or evicted from their homes. As James Galbraith explains in his book "The Predator State", Market Freedom is about the "Freedom to choose" for those who have choice, but not for everyone!

And as people max out credit cards, are not allowed to use bankruptcy to get out of debts, lose their homes and find themselves with Job insecurity, the "Freedom to Shop" becomes a cruel joke, even for those who still can find enough unused credit to buy things.

The Market Trope as Idolatry

Indeed markets became the "God" of many cons, at least in their propaganda. Thus many cons claim to be both Christians and anti evolution – which comes from Charles Darwin – while preaching Social Darwinism. These people worship the Bull of the Market in a way that would have pleased ancient Minoans or Canaanites.

Work Will make you Free

This convenient attitude towards freedom was accompanied by some very unrealistic notions of Markets. Market Democracy? Can that even be real? Freedom of Choice? Sounds good, but it implies a freedom to become a slave based on bad choices. Absolute right of property -- does that include owning people? Does that mean that those who lose out the property game of music chairs have no rights? Conservatives talk about freedom, but their ideas usually involve religious views that they want to impose on people too, so that and

....Their desire to "protect" "Property" from the 99% also means that they could be so happy about the outcomes of brutal regimes such as that of Pinochet, or machiavellian machinations and warfare if it worked to achieve their ends. To the Right the funding of dirty wars against ordinary folks and social activists through selling illegal arms and drugs was a case of the ends justifies the means.


Thus Reagan's Four Freedoms was a set of banners, talking points, tropes, propaganda that worked well to subvert the ideals and doctrines of the progressive movement. It helped them replace FDR with Reagan as the 20th centuries hero.

Tropes are truisms and these are tropes that were cynically offered as recruitment to a "hierarchy enhancing ideology" by folks who live off of rents and arbitrage between production and labor. There were some truths, but on the whole it all was a con

Indeed we'll see that Reagan's revolution and the ideas of Neo-Liberalism and pseudo-conservatism are Zombie ideas with faulty premises, fail when applied, and faulty logic. Yet, we can't seem to kill them. Even when we shoot them in the head. Super Zombies.

Second Bill of Rights
The Infamous Sign over Auschwitz
Reagan's Four Freedoms
Have we become the society depicted in The book 1984?

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