from Toogood Reports

Language of Deceit Part 5:
Special Interests – The Foundation of Modern 'Liberalism'

Paul E. Scates
February 6, 2002

Society cannot, in the long run, exist if it is divided into sharply defined groups, each intent on wresting special privileges for its own members, continually on the alert to see that it does not suffer any setback, and prepared, at any moment, to sacrifice the most important political institutions for the sake of winning some petty advantage.”
— Ludwig von Mises, Liberalismus, 1927

Motivated by the fear of losing political influence, members of both parties are more concerned with their own positions and power than the country´s needs, the people´s liberty, and the health of our republic. The result is either gridlock—as neither party is willing to compromise, not from a principled stance but from a greedy, self-serving lust for continued power—or accommodation, almost exclusively by the supposed Conservatives in the GOP, resulting in more benefits to narrowly defined groups, funded by the majority of taxpayers who are denied those benefits.

The growing resentment by those whose earned money is re-distributed to those who did not earn it is matched, ironically, by the growing resentment of special interests, appalled that others dare question their ever-increasing demands. This class-consciousness has led to increasingly bitter and vehement ideological conflicts between American citizens who, ultimately, share the same fate. Such a divided society needs no external enemy for, as von Mises notes in the above quote, it will destroy itself from within, like Bosnia, Northern Ireland, or various African or Latin American nations have done.

In what was to be the last essay in this series (there will actually be two more) explaining how modern American ‘liberals´ have corrupted political language and ordinary terms toward the furthering of their socialist agenda, we´ll return to the work of noted Austrian-born U.S. economist Ludwig von Mises to examine the many negative effects of a political focus on special interests.

It is a great irony of modern U.S. politics is that Democrats routinely paint the Republicans as ‘the party of special interests´—meaning wealthy individuals and corporations—when it is the Democrats whose entire political strategy and support is built upon special interest groups like racial minorities, feminists, labor unions, environmentalists, teachers, etc., to which they promise and deliver special benefits in return for political contributions and votes. Unfortunately for all Americans, Republicans (the nominal party of Conservativism) are also succumbing to the siren call of special interests. But while the Democrats have so consistently charged the Republicans with being tools of business and the wealthy that the electorate generally accepts it as truth, that the Democrats would accuse anyone else of catering to special interests is an act of hypocrisy and cynicism so monumental as to defy the imagination. But this is politics, after all, and we must remember that the aim of modern politicians and political parties has little to do with truth, or with the necessary business of the country, but everything to do with maintaining the political positions, power and influence of the politicians and their parties.

To briefly recap this series, classical Liberals, or capitalists, champion free markets, individual liberty and limited government, the foundation upon which the U.S. was built. This is the opposite of modern American ‘liberalism,´ which advocates federal government control over practically every area of life, supposedly as a hedge against unfairness and injustice. As I´ve shown in the series, classical Liberalism equates to today´s Conservativism (where you can find it), while what is popularly called ‘liberalism´ in the U.S. today is actually socialism.

Von Mises wrote in his influential work Liberalismus, originally published in 1927, that socialism was unworkable simply because it leads to a reduction in the productivity of labor, ‘because only the free worker, enjoying in the form of wages the fruits of his own industry, will exert himself to the full.´ The many failed Five Year Plans of the now-defunct Soviet Union come to mind (and that ‘now defunct´ status of a once powerful nation is a clue to the true and lasting ‘benefits´ of socialism). Socialism, instead of creating greater wealth, ‘must, on the contrary, have the effect of diminishing wealth.´ He argued that the only workable economic system was capitalism or classical Liberalism that, ‘if condensed into a single word, would have to read property, that is, private ownership of the means of production.´

Since private property, including one´s labor and the fruit thereof, is so necessary to a successful economy, equal treatment under the law is vital. Taking away private property destroys man´s drive to exert and thus create wealth, improving his material condition. But equal treatment under the law is also necessary to maintain social peace, for social disturbances interrupt man´s productivity, reducing wealth throughout society. ‘But,´ von Mises wrote, ‘it is well-nigh impossible to preserve lasting peace in a society in which the rights and duties of the respective classes are different.´ Thus ‘class privileges must disappear so that the conflict over them may cease.´

This is the answer to the ‘liberal´ Democrats´ claim that classical Liberals, or capitalists, cater to special interests, i.e., the wealthy. In von Mises´ words, ‘Liberalism addresses itself to all and proposes a program acceptable to all alike. It promises no one privileges .´ (italics mine) Why would capitalists risk the lessening of productivity created by conflicts over class differences, which would serve to reduce their wealth? The capitalist emphasizes free markets, individual liberty and equal protection under the law, for it increases productivity and wealth…for the entrepreneur and for the laborer!

But what about capitalists who support legislation that makes markets and individuals less free, as seems to be occurring more often lately? The answer lies in human nature—a capitalist who has ‘made it,´ acquiring a certain amount of wealth, wants naturally to protect that wealth from the competition of the free market. Thus the specter of a Ted Kennedy, secure in family money, consistently supporting legislation that inhibits the free market, in effect inhibiting others from acquiring that wealth. The intent is understandable, but it is also lethal to the productivity of an economy, condemning the poor to remain so, instead of bettering their condition by productive labor in a free market. Then Senator Kennedy and other such wealthy ‘defenders of the poor´ can legislate government programs to ‘help´ their charges, which in effect simply keeps them dependent upon, and voting for, their patrons in an ever-expanding government.

Modern American ‘liberals´ have built the Democrat Party—and their political careers—on special interests. Against classical Liberalism´s free markets there were aligned groups that enjoyed ‘special rights and privileges already realized in existing social institutions,´ like farm groups, trade unions, the middle class, and so on. In the past forty years, groups based on ideology rather than economic function joined the list of ‘liberal´ special interests—blacks, Hispanics, women, the disabled, homosexuals, and the list keeps growing. To each of these groups the Democrats ‘promise special advantages at the expense of the rest of society .´

Von Mises wrote that these groups, ‘no matter how far apart their goals may diverge…form a united front in the battle against (classical) Liberalism. As they see it, there are irreconcilable conflicts of interests that can be settled only by the victory of one faction over the others, to the advantage of the former and the disadvantage of the latter .´ Now do you understand why the Democrat Party, while incessantly talking about ‘bipartisanship,´ adamantly refuses concessions or compromises when any of their special interest groups are involved? That would risk losing the support of one of their special interests and, as last year´s presidential election made clear, the difference between political power and anonymity (anyone seen Al Gore lately?) may be only a few votes.

But catering to several special interest groups presents a problem. Von Mises writes, ‘The problem…is to form great parties out of relatively small groups with differing and, indeed, directly conflicting interests.´ These various interest groups must compose ‘a single combat unit´ against the opposing party if they are to win the majority in Congress and thus deliver their promised special benefits. But ‘it is quite impracticable to achieve this end by way of an open alliance among the various groups…[for] no provisional sacrifice can be asked of [those] who strive for…a privileged position´ at the expense of the rest of society. ‘Liberals,´ then, ‘must resort to ambiguous expressions intended to obscure the true state of affairs.´

Ahh, ambiguity…the special art form of Democrat politicians, practiced in keeping conflicting special interests from seeing what´s really ‘behind the curtain.´ In the next part of this series we´ll throw back that curtain to see the inevitable impact of special interest politics on the party that practices it, and on the society that tolerates it.

Paul Scates is a Constitutional Conservative and a Christian who offers his commentary to 'we, the people,' who bear the ultimate responsibility for the actions of our elected representatives, and for preserving our Constitutional liberties. Paul served as a Marine in Vietnam, his interests include history, government and cultural issues.
You may e-mail Paul at .

Copyright © by Toogood Reports. All rights reserved.

BACK Philosophy of Government

TYSK eagle

News Depts Articles Library
Lite Stuff Links Credits Home



7 feb 2002