Dr. Victor Davis Hanson said in his Sept.23 column that the U.S. is retrogressing into a “nation of peasants.” Hanson, who until recently was a professor of classics at Stanford, works three jobs: Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford, columnist, and working farmer. In his column, “A Nation of Peasants?” Hanson said:
Traditional peasant societies believe in only a limited good. The more your neighbor earns, the less someone else gets. Profits are seen as a sort of theft. They must be either hidden or redistributed. Envy rather than admiration of success reigns.
In contrast, Western civilization began with a very different ancient Greek idea of an autonomous citizen, not an indentured serf or subsistence peasant. The small, independent landowner–if left to his own talents and if his success was protected by, and from, government–would create new sources of wealth for everyone. The resulting greater bounty for the poor soon trumped their old jealousy of the better off.
Citizens of ancient Greece and Italy soon proved more prosperous and free than either the tribal folk to the north and west, or the imperial subjects to the south and east. The success of later Western civilization in general, and America in particular, is testament to this legacy of the freedom of the individual in the widest political and economic sense
We seem to be forgetting that lately–though Mao Zedong’s redistributive failures in China, or present-day bankrupt Greece, should warn us about what happens when government tries to enforce an equality of result rather than of opportunity.
Even after the failure of statism at the end of the Cold War, the disasters of socialism in Venezuela and Cuba, and the recent financial meltdowns in the European Union, for some reason America is returning to a peasant mentality of a limited good that redistributes wealth rather than creates it. Candidate Obama’s “spread the wealth” slip to Joe the Plumber simply was upgraded to President Obama’s “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.”
….What optimistic Americans used to call a rising tide that lifts all boats is now once again derided as trickle-down economics. In other words, a newly peasant-minded America is willing to become collectively poorer so that some will not become wealthier.
The present economy suggests that it is surely getting its wish.