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Campbell – Why The Ownership Society in Milwaukee?

Why The Ownership Society
in Milwaukee?
Dr. William F. Campbell
Secretary, The Philadelphia Society

Keynote Address

Regional Meeting of The Philadelphia
Society*
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Pfister Hotel
October 7-8, 2005


The Ownership Society

The ownership society is a
slogan put forward by President
Bush
to organize his domestic agenda. The
intent was to return decision making to the families and individuals.
Tax reform[i],
Social Security
reform
, welfare reform, and educational reform were all parts of the agenda
of Bush and the conservative movement. The
purpose is to promote the responsibility of individuals for their decisions.

There are differences
among conservatives and libertarians
as to how far the current administration and Congress should go and have
gone
in implementing these ideals. But
no matter what gets sacrificed on the altar of political expediency or political
ineptness in the case of Congress, the clarification of the ideals and the
long-term changes required in the American body politic has long been a concern
of the members of The Philadelphia Society.
Ordered liberty means limited, constitutional government.

The New Deal

The New Deal was the
culmination of the progressive movement which initiated the “era of big
government.” President Clinton prematurely said it was over, but, of
course, he qualified his statement with “we can’t go back to a time when our
citizens were just left to fend for themselves.”
Conservatives differ on how far to turn back the clock, but they are
agreed that there are many institutions between the individual self and the
federal government who should take the major responsibility for the many
functions of the Federal Government.

Recently, well-written and serious books have begun to
question the efficacy of the New Deal program.
Jim Powell’s FDR’s Folly: How Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged
the Great Depression
is the most important treatment of the revisionist
history concerning Roosevelt’s domestic policies.
Following in the footsteps of Milton Friedman’s monetary
history, Murray Rothbard’s critique of the Great Depression, Benjamin
Anderson’s Economics and the Public Welfare, Powell helps flesh out the
concerns of other economists such as Wilhelm Roepke, F.A. Hayek, and Ludwig von
Mises. Powell also pointed out the
indebtedness of the New Deal to the Progressive tradition.

The Progressive Tradition in Wisconsin

Let’s
begin by defining the essence of Progressivism. According to Howard Dickman,
“Progressivism meant a commitment to the exertion of collective force,
typically through the state, on behalf of the majority.
To the progressive mind, individual property rights were only a means for
the unscrupulous minority to exploit the majority; the ‘so-called “abstract
rights” of mankind must be denied if society is ever to become the arbiter of
its own destiny.'”[ii][i]

The
progressive movement received its intellectual apogee at the University of
Wisconsin under the influence of Christian Socialist economists like Richard
Ely, John R. Commons, Edwin Witte, and its President from 1903-1918, Charles Van
Hise. Drawing on the paternalistic
and/or maternalistic models of Bismarckian Germany, some of these German trained
Ph.D.’s were ensconced originally at Johns Hopkins University and subsequently
moved west to Wisconsin.

“Fighting
Bob” La Follette brought the techniques of the administrative state and the
role of the intellectuals into conjunction with practical politics.
The Wisconsin Experiment, as it was called, was described in a 1912 book,
The Wisconsin Idea, by Charles McCarthy.
In Theodore Roosevelt’s introduction to that book he gives “thanks to
the movement for genuinely democratic popular government which Senator La
Follette led to overwhelming victory in Wisconsin” and argues that Wisconsin
“has become literally a laboratory for wise experimental legislation aiming to
secure the social and political betterment of the people as a whole.”

McCarthy
pointed to Germany as the source of what Americans need to know to overcome its
materialistic bent: “Our civilization, with its wealth and prosperity, must be
made to exist for its true purposes–the betterment, the efficiency and the
welfare of each individual. The Germans have shown us the way; we need not adopt
all their methods, but we will do well to accept their philosophy, for there is
no patent on it. America must cope with this new devastating influence of wealth
sanely and successfully so that greater prosperity and more equitable
distribution of its benefits under just laws will result.”

He
touted such great Presidents of the University of Wisconsin as John Bascom and
Charles R. Van Hise.
At great length he describes the German training of Richard
Ely. He points out that “the same
philosophy which was being taught in the University of Wisconsin was slowly
becoming the dominating influence in Germany. The strength of this theory, even
in remote times, is clearly shown in the writings of early German economists.
The belief that it pays the state to concern itself in the betterment of human
beings and the protection of human welfare, in order that it may receive in
return a rich reward from this investment, is not a new one.”

Teddy
Roosevelt, in his Progressive run for President in 1912 hits the main themes of
the Welfare State which will be picked up by his distant cousin, Franklin D.
Roosevelt in his arguments for the New Deal: “the protection of home life
against the hazards of sickness, irregular employment and old age through a
system of social insurance adopted to American use.”
The call for “national community” provided the national bully pulpit
for government-provided security attended to by experts and bureaucrats.

The
welfare state was to be run by administrative experts.
The themes of science, efficiency, and expert knowledge are all devices
by which the messy real world of politics was to be replaced by public
administration.

Alonzo
Hamby recognized that the later maturing of the administrative state was born in
the Progressive era.
He pointed out a major link between the two movements:
“Faith in expertise and bureaucratic management had been a major theme of
modernization in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, not limited
to progressives but enthusiastically adopted by them in manifold ways that
ranged from Tom Johnson’s professionalization of municipal services in
Cleveland to Robert La Follette Sr.s’ array of advisory and regulatory
commissions in Wisconsin to federal programs that included conservation, tariff
adjustments, transportation regulation, the Federal Trade Commission, and the
Federal Reserve System.”[iii][ii]

On
the state level the La Follettes continued the progressive tradition into the
1930s. “Fighting Bob’s”
influence was continued by his sons, “Young Bob” and “Phil.”
They were both prominent in Wisconsin politics.
Phil won three terms as governor in 1930, 1934, and 1936 during which
time he passed substantial social welfare legislation including relief and old
age pensions which served as a model for the Social Security Act of FDR in 1935.
“Paul A. and Elizabeth Brandeis Raushenbush were a husband and wife
team of economists whose individual and joint careers exemplified the Wisconsin
Idea. They are best known for their work with Harold Groves, 1930-1932, in
developing and securing the passage of Wisconsin’s unemployment compensation
legislation, the first such legislation in the nation. During this period the
couple was also involved with similar legislation in Massachusetts and in
crafting the unemployment sections of the 1935 Social Security Act.” (http://www.ssa.gov/history/archives/lizguide.htm)

The
state of Wisconsin also provided other links both theoretical and bureaucratic
to the New Deal. As Alonzo Hamby
has emphasized, the continuities between the Progressive movement and the New
Deal extend even to the personnel of the two movements, “New Deal concern with
social welfare likewise had strong roots in the progressive era.
The Social Security Act of 1935 was developed by a committee and advisory
council with several members who had direct ties to the social work-settlement
house wing of progressivism: Perkins, Hopkins, Paul Kellog, Father John Ryan.
Its executive director, Edwin Witte, a University of Wisconsin economist,
was a member of probably the most socially engaged economics department of the
early twentieth century.”[iv][iii]
One of the architects of the New Deal of F.D.R. was Harold Ickes, Sr. He
was a key aide in La Follette’s 1924 campaign for the Presidency.

Environmentalism in Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s
progressivism from its earliest days to the present has nurtured a style of
environmentalism hostile to private property rights.
The scientific mind applied to natural resources stemmed from the German
tradition of mercantilism called cameralism.
This public administration approach to economic matters got right down to
the specifics of things like managing the forests.

Wisconsin
has been able to combine both the scientific approach of the conservationist and
the more mystical approach of the preservationists in its long tradition of
progressivism. It is worth noting
that Charles R. Van Hise, most known for his work in geology, delivered an
address upon the occasion of the unveiling a bronze bust of John Muir in 1916.
Although John Muir was born in Scotland, he was raised in
Wisconsin.

The
preservationist approach to ecology was continued by Aldo Leopold who, in 1949,
introduced America to A Sand County Almanac.
This remarkable book changed the way many of the environmentalists
thought about the land.
Aldo Leopold was a professor of wildlife management at the
University of Wisconsin in Madison and a founder of The Wilderness Society who
died in 1948.

The
progressive tradition in environmentalism was continued in more recent Wisconsin
history. Senator Gaylord Nelson
received in 1995 the nation’s highest civilian award: the Presidential Medal of
Freedom. According to the proclamation from President Clinton: "As the
father of Earth Day, he is the grandfather of all that grew out of that event:
the Environmental Protection Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the
Safe Drinking Water Act." In 1992 the United Nations Environment Programme
presented Gaylord Nelson with the Only One World Award, and in 1990 he received
the Ansel Adams Conservation Award, bestowed upon a federal official who has
shown exceptional commitment to the cause of conservation and the fostering of
an American land ethic.

The State of Progressivism Today

Is
Wisconsin still important in the battle of ideas?
The Progressive web site puts the historical tradition in
perspective, but underestimates the radical nature of the conservative vision,
“Wisconsin has a great history of progressive political action, and that
history continues right up to the present day. However, the national Republican
elite has targeted Wisconsin as a place where they will attempt to take back the
social progress of the last five decades to enact a reactionary agenda to
restrict the freedoms that the people of Wisconsin have fought to bring to all
of America. More than ever before, Wisconsin progressives need to band together
to stand up for freedom against the forces of fear.”

At
the present time, Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl, the Democratic Senators from
Wisconsin, both proudly affirm and vote for the Progressive tradition.
Feingold was elected to the Senate in 1992 and is being talked about (at
least in Wisconsin) as a possible presidential candidate.

Let’s
set the record straight. If the
left fears assaulting the social progress of the last five decades, then try ten
decades or twenty decades if you want to go back to Hegel and Rousseau.

But,
as conservatives know, there are never permanent victories in the wars of ideas.
Although the title of E.J. Dionne’s 1996 effort, They Only Look
Dead: Why Progressives Will Dominate the Next Political Era
, does
not appear to be trueĆ³it all depends on how one defines era.
One is reminded of the movie called, The Night of the Living Dead.
They do keep coming back.

One
should never underestimate the ability of the Republicans to overthrow their own
conservative mandates. For this
reason, it is important that conservatives continue to stress first principles
and fundamentals for all political parties alike.
The Philadelphia Society is devoted to the purpose of clarifying the
ideas of ordered liberty.

The
Road Back From Progressivism

Recently, the path back from Progressivism and the New
Deal was first trod in recent Wisconsin and Milwaukee politics.
Governor Tommy Thompson promulgated the reform of welfare, the state’s
important welfare-to-work legislation, Wisconsin Works, or "W-2,"
which served as a national model for welfare reform when he was Governor of
Wisconsin from 1987-2002. He also created the nation’s first parental school
choice program in 1990, allowing low-income Milwaukee families to send children
to the private or public school of their choice.
This spring Rep. Paul Ryan from Wisconsin introduced a sensible bill in
the House to reform Social Security.

For these reasons, The Philadelphia Society is excited to
hold a meeting on these very important topics in the city of Milwaukee,
Wisconsin.

Bibliography

Allan
Carlson, The ‘American Way’, 2003.
John Chamberlin, Farewell to Reform: The Rise, Life and Decay of the
Progressive Mind in
America, 1932.
Howard Dickman, Industrial Democracy in America: Ideological Origins of
National Labor Relations Policy
, 1987.
Eldon J. Eisenach, The Lost Promise of Progressivism, 1994.
Robert Higgs, Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of
American Government
, 1987.
Herbert F. Margulies, The Decline of the Progressive Movement in Wisconsin
1890-1920
, 1968.
Eds. Ken Masugi and John Marini, The Progressive Revolution in Politics and
Political Science: Transforming the America Regime
,
Forthcoming, June 2005.
Eds. Sidney M. Milkis and Jerome M. Mileur, Progressivism and the New
Democracy
, 1999.
Eds. Sidney M. Milkis and Jerome M. Mileur, The New Deal and the Triumph
of Liberalism
, 2002.
Stephen Moore, Bullish on Bush: How George W. Bush’s Ownership Society Will
Make America Stronger
, 2004.
William A. Schambra, "Reflections of a Homegrown Grantmaker" Adress to
the Annual Meeting of the Donors Forum of Wisconsin, April 8, 2005,
available online: http://pcr.hudson.org/files/publications/Reflections_of_a_Homegrown_Grantmaker.pdf
Edward A. Stettner, Shaping Modern Liberalism: Herbert Croly and Progressive
Thought
, 1993.
David P. Thelen, The New Citizenship: Origins of Progressivism in Wisconsin,
1885-1900
, 1972.
Peter Viereck, The Unadjusted Man, 1956.


[i] For an overview cf. Stephen
Moore, Bullish on Bush: How George W. Bush’s Ownership Society Will
Make America Stronger
, 2004.

[ii][i] Howard Dickman, Industrial
Democracy in America
(pp. 154-155). [ii]
[ii] Ibid., p.
59.[ii]
[iii] Alonzo Hamby,
“Progressivism: A Century of Change and Rebirth” in Progressivism and
the New Democracy
, ed. Sidney M. Milkis and Jerome M. Mileur, Amherst:
University of Massachusetts Press, 1999

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