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  • Churchill Saw It Coming

    World War Two. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill viewing the Alemein position during his visit to the Western desert in the Middle East August 1942.

    One hundred and thirty six years ago this week, Winston Churchill—arguably the leading statesman of the twentieth century—was born. The son of a British father and an American mother, Churchill is often remembered for his formidable oratory skills and his love of fine cigars. Yet Churchill was also a great friend to America whose warnings about the empty promises of the nascent welfare state have come to fruition.

    A great admirer of America, Churchill especially praised our founding document: “The Declaration is not only an American document. It follows on the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights as the third great title deed on which the liberties of the English-speaking peoples are founded.”  Though Britain and America were two separate nations with different forms of governments, they were united in principle: “I believe that our differences are more apparent than real, and are the result of geographical and other physical conditions rather than any true division of principle.” As Justin Lyons explains in “Winston Churchill’s Constitutionalism: A Critique of Socialism in America,” Churchill’s ideas about individual liberty, constitutionalism, and limited government “stemmed from his explicit agreement with the crucial statements of these principles by the American Founders.”

    When Churchill saw America’s principles of liberty, constitutionalism, and limited government, threatened with the rise of the welfare state, he admonished America to resist this soft despotism. In “Roosevelt from Afar,” Churchill admits that the American economy was suffering when FDR took office, but FDR used this crisis as an opportunity to centralize his political authority rather than to bolster the free market through decentralized alternatives. Churchill commends Roosevelt’s desire to improve the economic well-being for poorer Americans, but he critiques Roosevelt’s policies toward trade unionism and attacks on wealthy Americans as harmful to the free enterprise system. Drawing on Britain’s experience with trade unions, Churchill understood that unions can cripple an economy: “when one sees an attempt made within the space of a few months to lift American trade unionism by great heaves and bounds [to equal that of Great Britain],” one worries that result could be “a general crippling of that enterprise and flexibility upon which not only the wealth, but the happiness of modern communities depends.” Similarly, redistribution of wealth through penalties on the rich harms the economy: “far from depriving ordinary people of their earnings, [the millionaire] launches enterprise and carries it through, raises values, and he expands that credit without which on a vast scale no fuller economic life can be opened to the millions. To hunt wealth is not to capture commonwealth.” Ultimately, attacks on the wealthy only serve as a distraction from other economic issues.

    We can readily recall Churchill’s foresight in foreign affairs—his warnings about appeasing Hitler and the rise of the Soviet Union—but we forget his warnings about America’s welfare state. Unlike the progressives in America and abroad, Churchill recognized that tyranny is still possible—even with a well-intentioned welfare state. Political change does not necessarily mean change for the better.  Throughout the nineteenth century, political progress was assumed to be boundless and perpetual. After “terrible wars shattering great empires, laying nations low, sweeping away old institutions and ideas with a scourge of molten steel,” it became evident that the twentieth century would not live up to the nineteenth century’s promise of progress. Democratic regimes—even in America—would not be immune from destruction and degradation.

    Years later, Churchill’s warnings about trade unionism and redistribution have proven accurate. Though our current economic situation seems bleak, we must also remember (as Churchill reminds us) that politics is not a mere victim of history. Just as progress is not inevitable in politics, neither is decline. Isn’t it time we looked to our old friend Winston Churchill?

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    Posted in First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    27 Responses to Churchill Saw It Coming

    1. rjgarfunkel says:

      That is very selective history. Churchill, with all his greatness and popularity was not trusted by the electorate, never won national office and when his leadership and party stood for general election in 1945, after the war, they lost decisively. He never ran an economy and England was not terribly successful when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer or, in the First World War, when he was First Lord of the Admiralty. He never built a constituency because he switched philosophical positions often and was distrusted by both sides of the political spectrum. He was right about Germany, but so was FDR. But FDR was a national leader tested by the fickleness of the electorate. His Quarantine Speech was more important than Churchill's warnings about the Nazi threat, but the American people were afraid of foreign wars and the newspapers soundly denounced FDR's fears. Churchill was still an upper crust royalist, who backed the rigid British Class system and was a supporter of colonialism. FDR was totally against colonialism and told Churchill that they would have to let go of India. He was right. When Churchill was defeated by Atlee and Labour, he mocked them. Ironically history proved that Atlee was the right man for the Britain at that time. With all the distrust of Labour, Atlee did well, the country got back on their feet and they staved off communism.

      One can certainly applaud the greatness of Churchill, but the 20th Century's greatest leader was FDR and the following history proves it.

      Richard J. Garfunkel

      Host of The Advocates

      WVOX 1460 AM Radio-NY

      http:advocates-wvox.com

    2. rjgarfunkel says:

      More detail on Churchill…

      With regards to Winston Churchill, the political role of the American system is much different then Britain. Churchill never had to really stand for election as leader and was never really trusted with "domestic" responsibilities. He was much more of a "loose cannon" and never really felt comfortable working with others. He was certainly a fabulous talent, but had too many inner doubts to be completely confident with himself. His "black" moods and depression limited his ability to have the confidence to "rule." He had too many opinions that limited his ability to make political alliances. He was a man of action and not a calculating "planner." He never understood the need to build organization of political support. He was basically a talented loner. His forte was more foreign policy and the Empire. He had cabinet level domestic responsibilities early in his career, but his name and fortune was linked with the navy when he was First Lord of the Admiralty. Of course because Britain was primarily a naval power since the time of Drake, and through Nelson, and had dominated the seas, the post of First Lord of the Admiralty had great cachet.

      He was not willing to sublimate himself to the will of others, and never could pose, or participate as a team player. Later on, after the WWII victory, he wasn't prepared for the 1945 elections that swamped him and his government. His campaign was terrible and he did not have a "clue" what the public was thinking about its needs. On one hand, he was still a captive of the upper classes that dominated British life. He seemed unaware and unconcerned, regarding how the MacDonald-Baldwin-Chamberlain governments ignored the working classes that suffered throughout the Depression. Of course, British politics were divided between the “plutocrats” and the “aristocrats” and Churchill never seemed to know where he fit. He was not keen on real reform that would have worked to restructure the critically unbalanced British economic and social landscape along with its infrastructure. He never understood the moribund future of colonialism, and his attitude towards India was foolish and archaic. His political philosophy was inconsistent and vacillating. Both sides of the British ideological divide constantly mistrusted him. He was not able to dominate either party and was perceived by the public as a political outsider with no place to "hang his hat." His strategy as First Lord of the Admiralty, in the First World War, was badly criticized after the disaster of Gallipoli. His "snafu" was actuated more by logistical insanity then strategic miscalculation. All in all, it was a costly failure in blood and material, and therefore his career suffered terribly. With regards to WW II his strategy was basically no better then Chamberlain's. Under his watch the British experienced disasters with the navy in Norway, the 8th Army in North Africa and its collapse at Tobruk, the insane and huge defeat and disaster in Singapore, (the worst and most costly British defeat in history), the disaster at Dunkerque, the catastrophic losses of the HMS Repulse and Prince of Wales off Hainan Island, near the Chinese mainland, the abandonment of Greece and Crete, the ill-fated attack at Dieppe, the alienation of the French and the subsequent defection of the French fleet, causing the need for it to be crippled by British naval action along with many others. He was lucky that the Nazis re-directed the Luftwaffe to bomb British cities and not go after their radar early warning stations, their aerodromes, and the British fighter defense. A smartly delivered strategy against these targets would have reduced the British to a position where their air cover became hopeless.

      Churchill, as a man, was bold, talented and basically remarkable. He was a brilliant speaker, a marvelous writer, a brave soldier, a reporter, a painter, a magnificent Parliamentarian, a cabinet official, a Prime Minister, and most importantly a beloved wartime leader. He embodied what was great about Britain. But he was a failure as a politician, lacked excellent judgment when it came to strategy and suffered from great personal insecurities. His terrible childhood and education plagued him with self-doubts, depression and lack of direction. Churchill spent a lifetime comparing himself to his father Randolph who had a meteoric political career but eventually became a miserable failure. Churchill, like Roosevelt, became much more a product of his mother. Overall he was able to overcome all of those limitations. Churchill was still, at heart, part of the "ruling class" that dominated Britain. He was still part of the Imperialist mindset, and he was still sadly lacking, with regards, to what the average "Brit" needed. He never built a political base, and when the post-war choices were made he was cast aside with little regret from the British people. His return to office in 1951 was no great success and he was too, too old to be a major factor in re-shaping Britain after years of war and social reform.

      In retrospect Churchill really left no governmental legacy. He really never governed. FDR's legacy was one of not only unprecedented leadership, but of government innovation, reform and restructuring.

      Richard J. Garfunkel

      Host of The Advocates

      WVOX 1460 am radio

    3. Gordon Richens, Caym says:

      "Ultimately, attacks on the wealthy only serve as a distraction from other economic issues."

      20% of American taxpayers now control 90% of the financial assets. It seems to come as a shock to many people that wealthy Americans have options and are not captive to the whim of rest of the population. Vilification of the investing/saving class only serves to undermine the U.S. government's efforts to stimulate the economy by encouraging capital flight overseas.

      Standard and Poors reported in their July 2009 report that 47% of the earnings of the S&P 500 companies are now generated from outside the U.S. and that more than 1/2 of the income tax paid by those firms now go to foreign governments.

      Capital's gradual abandonment of the United States is evident from the poor results of various efforts by the U.S. government to stimulate the economy – which I expect would have been no surprise to Churchill. Voters and politicians alike have failed to come to terms with their most recent and disastrous attempt at social engineering.

    4. Bill, Hayekburg says:

      The indispensable man, then and now.

    5. Francis W. Porretto, says:

      One of my favorite quotes is from Churchill:

      "I have watched this famous island descending incontinently, fecklessly, the stairway which leads to a dark gulf. It is a fine broad stairway at the beginning, but after a bit the carpet ends. A little farther on there are only flagstones, and a little farther on still these break beneath your feet."

    6. Rich Vail says:

      Well said sir. Now if only we could get this disseminated more widely.

      Rich Vail

      Pikesville, MD

      The Vail Spot @ blogspot.com

    7. Ron Nord says:

      One of the first things that Mr. Obama did was get rid of a bust of Winston Churchill out of the Oval Office, makes you think that the enemies of Democracy are within our perimeters doesn't it. The subsequent actions of he and his cabal suggest that a new bust might be soon installed, that of Lenin or Alinsky.

    8. Pingback: Yes, Churchill was not only « gregormendelblog.com

    9. Pingback: Happy Birthday, Sir Winston | Junior Ganymede

    10. Ron Nolette, Minneap says:

      I didn't realize Churchill was such a conservative. To bad more of his ideas didn't influence FDR.

    11. Dan R, MO says:

      He was even more awesome than I thought, and I already thought a lot of him!

    12. kaffirgal says:

      A proponent of capitalism and free markets? Perhaps one more reason why the Marxist in the White House saw fit to return Mr. C's bust.

    13. Pingback: What Would Winston Churchill Think of Obama? | The Lonely Conservative

    14. Citizen Tom says:

      Interesting. I have studied Churchill's accomplishments as a wartime leader. Forgot to look at his forays into domestic policy.

    15. M. Thatcher, USA says:

      No wonder Obama nixed the Churchill bust.

    16. ice9 The Real World says:

      "When Churchill saw America’s principles of liberty, constitutionalism, and limited government, threatened with the rise of the welfare state, he admonished America to resist this soft despotism." (sic)

      Your point is, of course, that the rise of the welfare state is a threat. (That's always been your point, all these years, hasn't it.) If your point is that the rise of the welfare state is a threat, then saying that those principles were threatened by the rise of the welfare state is a circular argument. Half of the rest of your premises are rotten, too, but they've been repeated a bunch of times so they're correct. Oh, and Amity Shlaes.

      "Churchill commends Roosevelt’s desire to improve the economic well-being for poorer Americans, but he critiques Roosevelt’s policies toward trade unionism and attacks on wealthy Americans as harmful to the free enterprise system."

      And this is relevant because, of course, Obama has done the same thing. Never mind that he didn't; that part was made up then repeated a lot of times so, you know, truth through repetition. Never mind that the free enterprise system had screwed itself and danced off to East Egg with a big chunk of the hard-won savings of the people; never mind that Goldman Sachs et al had done precisely the same thing in 2008; the free enterprise system, the system, the system of free enterprise must prevail! That soft despotism was begun by George Bush, and continued by Obama. FDR didn't get a head start with help from Hoover…no, Hoover quite happily stayed at his fiddling, providing us with a ten-year-long experiment that, Amity Shlaes notwithstanding, proved that your notions of economic policy were not worth the napkin Arthur Laffer jotted on. So just to be certain, it was tried again. And again. And again. Five times tried, five times failed, and each time a Keynesian did the grownup work of spending his political capital to do the job Republicans (known in the business as "Pre-Heritage Foundationites") were too principled and patriotic to do: rebuilding the damage done in the name of the Free (well, not really free; just regulated to the advantage of my friends and other deserving white people) Enterprise (well, not really enterprise, more of a kind of greedy momentum greased by the Power Cycle and fueled by the grand ignorance of Red America) System (well, system as in a system of choosing trotters or greyhounds, nothing much systematic about it, no principles or patriotism, no Galt-going despite frequent promises, just rapacity.)

      ice9

    17. Dennis Georgia says:

      Churchill was indeed a great man, he saw things most people would not see and ubnderstood thing most refused to understand. His ideas about unions, and the welfare state were dead on. Both have brought this country down to our present condition and are intent on bringing this country even futher down.

      Pride in ones self, pride in our country, pride in a job well down, pride in family, morals and placing a worth on ones wrod are what built this country, these same things can rebuild this country, along with turning back to the Christan values and Gods Word.

    18. Homer N. Jethro; Gra says:

      To ice9

      I would recommend reading "Improving Your Reasoning" by Alex Michalos. It would help you with the finer points of stating your own premises with valid statements rather than your own "gleanings" as a premise. However, it is heartening that you can understand the author's desire to communicate the failure/threat of the welfare state. Now, if you can simply understand the use of reason well enough in the future you will not embarrass yourself by making such poor rationing as to misunderstand/confuse implicit and explicit messages material and an authors desire to have agreement (implicitly and explicitly) through out the text of her article.

      To your credit ice9, you, as all grand utopian liberals, wish to build a paradise on earth and criticize the rest of the world for its flaws in its social or economic systems that do not pass your liberal litmus tests. However, you seem to miss the ravages of all those totalitarians who advocate such "utopian" societies, Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Hitler, etc. and do not seem to understand that although flawed (as any human system has the potential to be) the free enterprise/capitalist system in the USA gives more individual liberty to the common man (small guy) than any of the "utopian" societies that took personal freedoms to build their "heaven on earth."

      As for me, I am not interested in trading what I have in the free enterprise/personal freedom society for any "utopian" vision of a better society socially engineered from the top down. I like the USA where average people are free to change their government and tell it they don't like its view of "utopia' and put it from power (with no blood shed, only a simple vote).

      ice9 may I make a suggestion? Since you are so jaded about the free enterprise system practiced by the west, may I encourage you to relocate as soon as possible to the nearest form of command economy "utopia" that you can find? It seems to me you would fit well with the people in North Korea or Zimbabwe who are world famous for their adamant refusal to accept free enterprise and effectively limit or preclude many expressions of personal freedom to their populations. After you have lived in such a "utopian" society for 10 years, please post again and let us know how it is working for you. If you can get out long enough to get on line and do so…..

    19. rjgarfunkel says:

      The issue of President Obama and the Churchill bust is irrelevant. Churchill supported the British Empire, and he stated, and I paraphrase, "I was not appointed the King's First Minister to liquidate the British Empire." American thought throughout the 19th Century was anti-British. Many revisionist (conservative thinkers mostly) opposed, in retrospect, American intervention in WWI. The British are the greatest propagandists in the world and the Zimmerman Note, the case of Edith Cavell and many other British "mind games" turned off many Americans in the era of appeasement and the first days of WWII.

      Was Churchill right with regards to Chamberlain's appeasement? Yes! But he kept him and many other "appeasers' in his WWII coalition government. One should read Martin Gilbert's (Churchill's official biographer, and a great historian) book the "Appeasers," and learn more about British politics from the 1930's through the start of WWII in September of 1939. In reality the Labour members of the coalition worked out just fine. In the post war period, right after VE Day, and after decades of Conservative rule, the Whigs were tossed out, along with Churchill for Labour and Atlee.

      FDR's legacy, Schlae's view aside, lasted for thirty more years through the 1970's. This was a great era of American prosperity and growth of the middle class. Even with high Federal taxes, much was built in America; including the highway system, the victory in the space race to the Moon, and urban renewal which changed the face of an aging America. Since the rise of Reaganism, with lower Federal taxes what have we seen? The decline of the middle class, huge deficits, little investment in infrastructure, dependency on foreign energy and the exporting of jobs. As a consequence of the Reagan-Bush I and II Era, the disparity between rich and poor has grown dramatically and now more money is in fewer hands than any time since 1929. But all we hear is a fear of communism! All we hear is that social safety nets are a socialist plot. But, when the public is polled they constantly reject, by huge numbers, giving up "entitlements." The richest amongst us do not want to pay 3-4% more on their top bracket, despite the fact that we have huge and threatening deficits. When suggestions are regarding "cuts" no one has an answer. Remember -Medicare and Social Security are separately funded and not in the general fund. Certainly the cost of health care, the lowered birth rate and the aging of our population has squeezed the potential of future benefits, But where are we going to cut the Federal budget? The military and the debt service are a huge percentage of our Federal outlays. As to tax cuts, we have had them in place for almost 8 or 9 years and where are the jobs? In the Bush II eight years, 1 million jobs were created! Wow! In the Clinton eight years, with a higher upper income tax bracket, 22 million were created and revenues were actually paying down the Federal debt. What is the fear? What do the conservatives really want? No government, just unfunded wars all over the planet? I suggest a little sacrifice from our richest folks would go along way as an excellent example to the rest of us (97%).

      Richard J. Garfunkel

      Host of The Advocates

      WVOX 1460 am radio

      NY

    20. A.K. Hall says:

      With out a doubt the greatest man of the 20th century.

      FDR, a distance second (maybe)

      Without Winston Churchill,WW2 would definetly have had a much different outcome.

      A.K.Hall

    21. rjgarfunkel says:

      To AK Hall- No one wants to denigrate Churchill, but his record, aside for WWII, was not one regarding a philosophical impact or a school of thought. There is no Churchill political legacy in Britain. Churchill was accepted by no party and he couldn't put together a political movement or coalition. As for winning WWII, his strategy had little to do with winning the war, by holding off the Germans until both the USA and the Soviets were fully engaged. German miscalculation was more the reason. The Luftwaffe was directed by the German High Command to stop bombing the British airfields and concentrate on punishing the cities. This drastic mistake, which came as a result of an errant British bomber hitting Berlin, caused two results. The first was a great deal of loss of British citizens in the Blitz, and a heavy price on German pilots, who once they were over Britain they were shot down or bailed out over Britain where they were captured. This terror campaign aimed at citizens, gave the British time to rearm, re-train pilots, build planes and get back their ability to compete with the Luftwaffe on an almost even footing. This had little to do with Churchill, but the vindictive foolishness of Hitler and Goering, their Head of the Luftwaffe. If anything won the war in the West it was Lend-Lease, plain and simple. As the war proceeded in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and then Normandy, the US role with regards to troops, equipment and logistics quickly dwarfed anything the British could contribute. The Brits were gun shy regarding real fighting because of their earlier losses. Churchill's last big mistake, besides Dieppe, was Market-Garden which he pushed. He also invested heavily in Field Marshal Bernard Law (Monty) Montgomery, who had a great deal of trouble crossing the Rhine River. In fact, it was Americans, who bridged that barrier with the capturing of the Ludendorf Bridge at Remagen. I would attribute the victory over Nazi Germany to American leadership and supplies, along with basically Russian blood.

      Richard J. Garfunkel

      Host of The Advocates

      WVOX 1460 am radio

      weww.wvox.com

    22. John, Wisconsin says:

      Why debate who was greater? Each man made his own place in history. Today, we should apply the statement from Mr. Churchill, we are not made of sugar candy. History truely shows us that to rely on our statesmen to do what is correct is foolish. Prudence today demands that we should change these light and transient causes that we so easily agree to. For the sake of our children and future generations we need to act like patriots and individually, peaseably take control of this government, by the people and for the people.

    23. Patrick Gigliotti says:

      Mr. Garfunkel,

      Yeah except for that little World War II deal Winston Spencer Churchill wasn't much. Kind of like for instance if you take away that Polio Vaccine deal, Jonas Salk didn't do that well.

      Of course there is his writing.

    24. Patrick Gigliotti says:

      On a more serious note, England held the Hun off for quite some time while America built up it's armed forces. The American Left opposed our entering the war until Uncle Joe was threatened and would have continued to oppose if the USSR had not been invaded, so Churchill was quite familiar with Leftwing attitudes concerning freedom and liberty.

    25. Danny Cox says:

      Mr. Garfunkel,

      You seemed to bee well read and a formidable debater. Roosevelt and Churchill had similar upbringings, both children of privlidge that were heavily influenced by strong mothers. Both men had the ability to convince people to do great things at great sacrifice. The very arguments that you make against Churchill in reality despoils your assertions. Churchill had a great many failures, too many to list on one hand but we as people always learn more from our failures than we do our successes. When he was presented with the task that defined him he measured up.

      If you count political achievements in numbers, Neville Chamberlain would have several pubs named for him in England. He was in Chamberlains cabinet and as William Manchester wrote in his excellent Biography it was a "cabinet for losing" He replaced it with a "cabinet for winning" Some of the people in his cabinet he hated but recognized their worth. Clemment Atlee was in his cabinet.

      Churchill had it and it infected every person on that island and in the Empire, RESOLVE! Obama lost me when he sent that bust back in such dismissive arrogant fasion. FDR was a great man but as for as the greatest leaders of 20th century he will always be second best.

    26. Kent says:

      Re: rjgarfunkel's criticism of Churchill vs. FDR, 52 weeks ago
      About Churchill: "He never ran an economy…"

      Good for Sir Winston, and shame on FDR. Under the Constitution; the President was NEVER meant to run the economy, although FDR certainly wanted to, and succeeded with the launch of the welfare state. Now, FDR's dream has come true and we have Barack Obama, who not only runs the economy, but virtually anything else he wants to, Constitution or no Constitution. So, how's that working out for us, the masses?

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