Now that everyone realizes that Trumpism is not just a passing fad but a clear and present danger to the D.C. Criminal Cartel, it’s time to examine just who the rank and file Trumpsters are. What’s the common bond that unites them? Taxes? Healthcare? Financial regulation?
I thought about this question as I was rereading Amity Shlaes’ landmark book, The Forgotten Man. In it, she quotes Yale philosopher William Graham Sumner, who, in his essay by the same name clear back in 1883, explained the crux of the moral problem with progressivism as follows:
“As soon as A observes something which seems to him to be wrong, from which X is suffering, A talks it over with B, and A and B then propose to get a law passed to remedy the evil and help X. Their law always proposes to determine … what A, B, and C shall do for X.”
Shlaes goes on to add: “But what about C? There was nothing wrong with A and B helping X. What was wrong was the law, and the indenturing of C to the cause. C was the forgotten man, the man who paid, ‘the man who never is thought of.’”
In other words, C is the guy who isn’t bothering anyone but is forced to supply the funds to help the X’s of the world, those whom power holders have unilaterally decided have been treated unfairly and must be compensated.
But in 1933, along came FDR who did a switcheroo on Sumner’s point by removing the moniker of “the forgotten man” from C and arbitrarily giving it to X — “the poor man, the old man, the laborer, or any other recipient of government help.” It was politically quite clever, to be sure.
The first time FDR used the phrase the forgotten man, he was referring to the victims of the dust bowl in the 1930s. Zap! Just like that, Sumner’s forgotten man label was transformed into the exact opposite of what it was meant to be.
But today, I believe it’s the Trumpsters who represent Sumner’s forgotten man. They are taxed and told what they must do and what they must give up in the way of freedom and personal wealth every time a new law is passed. More than anything else, I believe this is the issue that bonds the Trumpsters together.
Put another way, it is not healthcare or any other single issue that the Trumpsters are most angry about. It’s a plethora of issues combined that impinge on their individual liberty.
Above all, they are outraged that corrupt politicians and bureaucrats not only violate their God-given right to live their lives as they see fit, to rub insult into injury they dismiss them as “extremists.” Collectively, the Trumpsters are today’s forgotten man.
In his essay, Sumner went on to say:
“All history is only one long story to this effect: men have struggled for power over their fellow-men in order that they might win the joys of earth at the expense of others and might shift the burdens of life from their own shoulders upon those of others. It is true that, until this time, the proletariat, the mass of mankind, have rarely had the power and they have not made such a record as kings and nobles and priests have made of the abuses they would perpetrate against their fellow-men when they could and dared.
“But what folly it is to think that vice and passion are limited by classes, that liberty consists only in taking power away from nobles and priests and giving it to artisans and peasants and that these latter will never abuse it! They will abuse it just as all others have done unless they are put under checks and guarantees, and there can be no civil liberty anywhere unless rights are guaranteed against all abuses, as well from proletarians as from generals, aristocrats, and ecclesiastics.”
Clearly, Sumner was a man of great insight. He recognized the absurdity in assuming that the poor man is morally superior to the rich man. This is where I believe sincere revolutionaries go wrong. While their initial intentions (to help “the poor”) may, at least in their own minds, be well-intentioned, they begin with a false premise (that the misfortunes of those at the bottom of the economic ladder are a result of the evil actions of those who are more successful) and from there leap from one false conclusion to another.
Which is why politicians who pose as conservatives in order to get elected tend to take the McConnell-Ryan-McCain route and continually rush to the aid of their progressive Democratic pals. I believe these philosophically lost souls do the bidding of the left because they have never given serious thought to the possibility that the very premise of progressivism is morally wrong.
As a result, they have no feeling for the (perceived) rich man. In plotting their do-gooder schemes, he is easy to forget. They see nothing whatsoever wrong with society’s sacrificing the liberty of wealthy individuals for the “public good.”
What gave birth to the Tea Party movement, and later the Trump movement, is the metastasizing of the forgotten-man syndrome. As politicians long ago realized, there aren’t enough rich people to support all the X’s. Thus, as the number of X’s (i.e., those who live off the surpluses of others) increases, a lot of A’s and B’s become C’s (the guy who isn’t bothering anyone, but is forced to supply the funds to help the X’s of the world). And that is when they become candidates for joining the Trumpsters.
Put simply: When A’s and B’s are transformed into C’s, they mysteriously lose their enthusiasm for new laws to help out X. Put even more simply, they suddenly realize that they have become the forgotten man — and it is that realization that motivates them to become Trumpsters.
Republicans would do well to keep all this in mind as they devise a new plan for forcibly taking the fruits of the citizenry’s labor. Tread carefully, Republicans, as you work on your “tax reform” plan, and remember that “the rich” have the same natural rights as “the poor.”