The president that followed the assassination of President Kennedy was Lyndon Baines Johnson, or LBJ as he was referred to. Johnson is remembered for two main things, the horror that was the Vietnam war and the abomination that was called “The Great Society”.
The Great Society program was to be the crowning glory of the modern-liberal nanny state. It was a descendant of other socialistic programs that came before it such as the Square Deal, the New Freedom, the New Era, the New Deal, the Fair Deal, and the New Frontier. All of these programs were shifts away from the traditional way Americans had lived; always going from the relatively free life towards the more controlled and structured life of ever more government control, collectivism, entitlements, and welfare. The shift in ideology that these programs brought about in the country was one that took America from a relatively laissez-faire free-market economy approach to ever more state control of the life of the citizens in all aspects. These programs heralded a slow march toward the total state.
In the 19th century the citizen could pretty much ignore the government of the state safely. A man’s biggest concern was with what his local mayor or county commissioners were up to. The country, in the 19th century, was one were a man could for the most part make his own decisions about his life. By the 20th century the state held life-and-death power over the citizens. By the end of the 20th century the state controlled the individuals, the business groups, non-profits, and all institutions.
The nation was not at war when Johnson took over the presidency on November 22, 1963 and the economy was improving after a slight recession. The Great Society was a surge of federal economic interventions that occurred during Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency. The centerpiece of the program was the “War on Poverty”. The Great Society mainly represented a culmination of the collectivist ideas of the modern “liberals” in the economic, political, and social areas that had been fought for by the progressives (so-called “liberals”) since the 19th century.
With LBJ’s Great Society, along with his war on the peasants of Vietnam, the federal government’s intrusion into economic life swelled enormously. There were the enactments of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, the Food Stamp Act of 1964, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, and the Social Security Amendments of 1965 which created Medicare and Medicaid.
The Great Society and the Democrats also brought the establishment of the Office of Economic Opportunity to oversee programs such as VISTA, Job Corps, the Community Action Program, and Head Start, Community Action Agencies, and a host of other bureaus and departments. The stated purpose of these new measures was to promote poor people’s health, education, and job training. The program also brought a broad range of economic regulatory measures. There were regulations adopted in connection with traffic safety, workplace conditions, consumer-products safety, age discrimination in employment, lending by banks, and almost any other area you can think of. The total state had arrived and would grow in power for the rest of my lifetime.
In writing about this era, Murray Rothbard told us:
The basic reason for this development is not difficult to fathom. It was best summed up by the great German sociologist Franz Oppenheimer; Oppenheimer wrote that there were fundamentally two, and only two, paths to the acquisition of wealth. One route is the production of a good or service and its voluntary exchange for the goods or services produced by others. This method – the method of the free market – Oppenheimer termed “the economic means” to wealth. The other path, which avoids the necessity for production and exchange, is for one or more persons to seize other people’s products by the use of physical force. This method of robbing the fruits of another man’s production was shrewdly named by Oppenheimer the “political means.” Throughout history, men have been tempted to employ the “political means” of seizing wealth rather than expend effort in production and exchange. It should be clear that while the market process multiplies production, the political, exploitative means is parasitic and, as with all parasitic action, discourages and drains off production and output in society. To regularize and order a permanent system of predatory exploitation, men have created the state, which Oppenheimer brilliantly defined as “the organization of the political means.”
Every act of the state is necessarily an occasion for inflicting burdens and assigning subsidies and privileges. By seizing revenue by means of coercion and assigning rewards as it disburses the funds, the state creates ruling and ruled “classes” or “castes”; for one example, classes of what Calhoun discerned as net “taxpayers” and “tax-consumers,” those who live off taxation. And since, by its nature, predation can only be supported out of the surplus of production above subsistence, the ruling class must constitute a minority of the citizenry. ~ M.N. Rothbard
The “Great Society” was supposed to usher in a practical utopia in our society but by now the myth that the Great Society functioned as a great boon and benefit to the poor has by now been exposed as the lie and deception it always was. We have more poverty, homelessness, joblessness, and hopelessness than we did the day the Great Society began. The difference between justice for the poor and the wealthy elites has grown ever wider over the ensuing decades. The poor have not become wealthy nor have the jobless men disappeared, but rather we have far more unemployed now than we did then. Are the underclass happy and satisfied or has society become every more divided and violent? Are the poor raising well adjusted children or disaffected, amoral thugs who enjoy sucker punching unsuspecting innocents to see if they can knock them out with a single punch? After 50 plus years do we no longer hear about “racism” or has “racism” become an excuse for damn near everything? In reality the poor are the major victims of the welfare state. The government claims to be helping the poor when, in fact, they are doing them irreparable harm. The economist Thomas Sowell once observed that centuries of slavery could not break the back of the black family, but that welfare did it in just two generations. And it is not just the black family that gets torn asunder by the welfare system, but by this day and age we see dysfunctionality affecting all groups, races, and income strata.
It is the children of the welfare class, the working poor, and middle class that join the military due to the “economic draft”. It is the poor who suffer most from zoning regulations and high property taxes that make buying or renting practically out of reach which leads to increased homelessness as government interventionism and all levels has wiped out affordable housing. The poor are also victimized by the government tenet of perpetual inflation caused by the FED and its horrific policies. Inflation is the enemy of the people, but especially the poor people.
The “Great Society” of LBJ and the progressives has led to growing poverty, loss of freedom, and societal degeneration even as the rhetoric, both then and now, promised the exact opposite. The state claims we are the “land of the free” when, in fact, this is the land of slaves and sheep. There is the ridiculous claim that we live in a land of capitalism with a free market! In fact we live in a fascist economy and have for decades on end. Our politicians and most of the people would not know a laissez-faire free-market if one bit them on the ass. The free economy is virtually gone, replaced by an imperial corporate-state Empire. The state is now in total control and it organizes, exploits, loots, and controls all aspects of the nation.
The Great Society failed to do what was promised and it led to the exact opposite. We have ruined the society as government control, intervention, and interference always does. It is time to kill the beast.