American freedom is complex, depending on who defines it
- Malcolm Getz is Emeritus Professor of Economics at Vanderbilt University.
With a flurry of quotes praising freedom, JC Bowman and Representative Scott Cepicky to stumble away from freedom and justice for all.
One quote shows Herbert Hoover’s support for capitalism rather than communism. Hoover, however, supported Hitler. Hitler was resolutely anti-Communist. Of the 70 million people who died in World War II, more than 20 million were Soviets. It is anti-communism.
Hoover supported eugenics, coercive measures to limit human reproduction. Hitler exterminated millions of people to purify his race. There is no freedom and justice with Hitler.
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Hitler supported capitalism. Private industrialists supported and profited from his wars. He delivered more wealth to the rich as long as they supported the party. Woe to the competitors who are not on Hitler’s party bus. Hitler provided slave labor, a boon to the capitalists.
Hoover presided over the onset of the Great Depression. Capitalism collapsed when financiers jumped out of the window and unemployment rates stayed above 25%. Large homeless Hoovervilles have developed in many cities. Yet Hoover kept his sights on limited government, balanced budgets, and one race, regardless of the desperation that surrounded him.
Freedom and justice for all are not an inevitable or even probable consequence of unregulated capitalism. It is essential to balance private and public interests. Laws and funds to support education develop talent. Educated people improve the performance of their colleagues. With little funding, we waste talent. Without a competent public sector, businesses cheat.
Here is an example of important regulation. Some big tech companies have fooled their software engineers. The companies have agreed to maintain the salaries of engineers. After a lawsuit, the companies paid heavy fines.
The flurry of quotes looms over Lincoln. Lincoln emancipated four million slaves. In 2020, 45 million non-white and Latinx voters voted in our national election. Lincoln is far more important than Hoover in the quest for freedom and justice for all.
The burst ignores the emancipation of women. In 1920, the 19th amendment to the Constitution guaranteed the right to vote for women. In the 2020 elections, 82 million women joined 74 million men to vote.
Freedom and justice do not fall from a tree. Relying on self-interest alone will not produce freedom and justice for all.
Self-government with powerful and secure elections is a powerful antidote to authoritarians.
Self-government requires that we share the responsibility for the success of the whole, and that takes effort.
Maintaining a balance between personal and community interests is difficult but useful.
High voter turnout with convenient ways to vote is the gateway.
Bowman and Cepicky only offer a civic education course.
Malcolm Getz is Emeritus Professor of Economics at Vanderbilt University.