President Joe Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress on April 28, 2021 marked the first 100 days of his administration, and enabled him to lay out his vision and vistas for government policy. Besides promising even more trillions of dollars in federal spending, it showed what guides his thinking: Nothing is possible without government, and liberty does not matter.
I have twice read through the transcript of Biden’s speech before Congress and never once was there any expression or emphasis on the importance of human freedom as traditionally understood in the American political system. Instead, in several places, the president waved the flag and brought a tear to our patriotic eyes as he warned of threats to American political and economic leadership and dominance in the world, and insisted that whatever anyone else in the world can do, we, Americans, when they put their mind to it, can do better.
Biden’s Vision Does Not Include Individual Liberty
But this was not about Americans as distinct human beings possessing their individual rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as hailed in the Declaration of Independence, who can and have used their freedom in creative and innovative ways in voluntary and free association inside and outside of the competitive marketplace to do wonderous things that have helped bring about amazing improvements in the quality and standard of living for so many not just in the United States but many others around of the world.
Nor was this about how free people can and have used the institutions of nongovernmental civil society to devise ways of solving community and social issues and problems through charities and philanthropies and other voluntary associative groupings so to adaptively utilize different people’s knowledge, talents and abilities to handle “welfare” problems without the welfare state. And how such voluntarist avenues are far more moral than relying on the coercive powers of government redistributions because it relies upon the benevolent acts of free-choosing individuals deciding to take on such ethical roles and responsibilities rather than being forced to do so through taxation and regulation. (See my articles, “A World Without the Welfare State” and “The Secret History of the Monopolization of Welfare by the State”.)
So, what is “America” all about in Joe Biden’s eyes? Over and over again in his address before the Congress and in other public forums, President Biden made it clear that what makes America distinct and special in the world is its dedication to and practice of “democracy.” In numerous times in his speech, he contrasted American democracy with “autocratic” regimes that think that their systems of government can do better than America’s and that America is in decline.
Foremost of these autocracies that Biden is clearly obsessed with is the People’s Republic of China. Biden said that Chinese President Xi Jinping is confident that America’s day is in the past, and that China’s authoritarian way of directing the actions and energies of its citizens will prove its superiority in comparison to the confusions and divisions of “democratic” America.
Biden’s Determination to Show that Government is Good
The day after Biden’s speech, CNN highlighted that Biden and his senior advisors are totally absorbed by China’s autocratic challenge to the idea and practice of American democracy. But democracy and the democratic process is not simply about citizen participation in the selection of those who will hold high political office for a period of time by voting from among those running for government positions.
Biden, of course, has made a point of being highly critical of any attempt to require such things as voter identification before pulling the lever in the voting booth, as “proof” that Republicans are all racists trying to prevent genetically programmed racial and ethnic minorities from voting Democratic. After all, in May 2020 while running for the Democratic nomination to oppose Donald Trump in the presidential election, Biden did declare that if you were black and did not vote for him, then you did not know you were black. He later back stepped from that remark, but obviously, in Biden’s mind, skin color inescapably defines who you are and what your politics should be.
Read through Biden’s speech and the supporting comments by many of those working for or associated with his administration and it becomes very clear that democracy means political paternalism and planning. Biden has said to aides that, “My job is to show people that government has a role and that this loss of public trust in government can be rebuilt.”
Some around him in the Oval Office have pointed out that showing that government can do things for the American people will be how historians judge Biden’s legacy as a president. Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, said that in spending those trillions of dollars on a huge extension of the pervasive presence of political planning and provision of virtually every corner of everyone’s life, Biden will have shown that “democracy” can work. Because “doing nothing” is not an option. (See my article, “A Call for ‘Do-Nothing’ Presidents Without Legacies”.)
Government Knows Better than You in Every Way
And in his own folksy mind, Joe Biden is confident that he knows and feels what the average “real” American is all about, and that is having a government that takes care of them from the cradle to the grave. Recall that Biden was serving as Barack Obama’s vice president, when in 2012 that administration issued a slide show called “The Life of Julia.” It follows a woman’s existence from a preschool childhood through grammar and high school to college, to the workplace, to having her own children, and into retirement, with every step and turn of the way requiring an activist and interventionist government helping hand, without which, clearly, she would never be able to do anything successfully on her own.
Government is her permanent hand-holding “parent,” taking care of each and every one of her needs through all the phases of her life. Thank goodness poor Julia has a political Daddy/Mommy from birth to death. She never grows up as a mature human being able to make her own decisions and handle her own successes and failures, and in any meaningful way plan and direct her own life.
This is some of what Joe Biden outlined in his address before Congress:
- Almost totally government funded schooling, with federal money extended to covering two years of preschool, and after government high school, two years more of federal funded junior college;
- Government-mandated and funded 12 weeks of “family leave” for caring for newborns, and for sick or elderly relatives;
- Government guaranteed and paid for child care for children under five years of age, with parental out-of-pocket expenses never coming to more than 7 percent of family income. Plus, the government paid-for school breakfasts and lunches will, in many cases, be extended for eligible kids throughout the summer months;
- A large extension of ObamaCare for hundreds of thousands of more Americans to have have medical and health services provided and subsidized by the government;
- Government checks directly to families worth thousands of dollars, and child tax credits to cover more of people’s costs of having and raising children;
- “Green” jobs for tens of thousands of Americans, and repeated by Biden at least a dozen times in his speech – “good jobs,” “good-paying jobs,” increased union-supported jobs; jobs, jobs and more jobs, with the promise of an $15 an hour mandated national minimum wage. “For me, when I think climate change, I think jobs.”
- Government-protected jobs through “made in America” insistence of keeping work and employment at home by restricting various forms of foreign competition. Clearly, this is Biden’s “good protectionism” versus Trump’s “bad protectionism.”
- Government-directed and supported “industrial policy,” so federal dollars flow in the directions that Biden and his advisors know to be the right technological and manufacturing investments, in the right projects, with the right types of jobs to see that America stays far ahead of China’s industrial policy in the same areas of targeted economic development.
Don’t worry if you are a dumb, uneducated, hick American (you know the kind that hugs his guns, wears a MAGA cap, and has those racist tendencies that mark everyone not a Democrat or something more to “the left,”), Biden has a way to win you over: little or no education required for Joe Biden to take care of you with a “good” job: “Nearly 90 percent of the infrastructure jobs created in the American Jobs Plan do not require a college degree,” he said, “Seventy-five percent don’t require an associate’s degree. The American Jobs Plan is a blue-collar blueprint to build America. That’s what it is.” The paternalist – “we know what’s good for you better than you can ever know yourself” – elite will see that the “proletariat” have something to do and owe their financial well-being to the Biden brigade.
Biden’s Plans for Planning the Economy
All of this, and more, is meant to demonstrate and assure that Biden’s “democratic” paternalism and planning proves that Chinese- and Russian-style “autocratic” paternalism and planning is inferior to America’s. Or a different way to express the same idea would be to contrast Joe Biden’s democratic socialism with Xi Jinping’s autocratic socialism.
I know it’s not polite to use the “s-word,” but if government controls and commands, dictates and directs, regulates and redistributes virtually everything in society, well, it fits, pretty much, the conception of a socialist system of centralized planning and paternalism.
Over and over, again, Biden insisted, “It’s within our power to do it.” Do what? For the government to successfully plan and direct “advanced research projects” for health matters to cure Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cancer. And as one of Biden’s advisors even suggested, with government dollars and prodding science can be practically “forced” into finding answers to these social and health problems. That’s what government is for, Biden says, to tell people what to think, create and do, and it is to be done. After all, “It’s within our power to do it.”
And let’s not forget the importance of the chance to “root out systemic racism” by having the U.S. Department of Education push a curriculum of identity politics and cancel culture “reeducation” in the grammar and high schools throughout the land by dangling federal dollars in front of local school districts and state governments. Biden assured young people deciding their gender and sexual orientation, “I want you to know, your president has your back.” So much for decentralized education and freedom of association. Joe Biden knows best. Thanks, Joe!
Equality Means What Biden Thinks Your Income Should Be
Several times in his address Biden referred to “equality” as being at the heart of American democracy. But, again, he did not mean an equality of individual rights to life, liberty and honestly and peacefully acquired property. Or an equality before the law in the sense of favors and privileges for none, with Lady Justice (unless “she” has changed “her” gender!) blindfolded and impartial in her treatment of all who come before her in the courts.
No, Biden meant an imposed degree of economic, redistributive income equality determined by those in power and in charge of the fiscal policies of the United States. Biden is shocked that private corporate executives may make “as much as 320 times what the average worker in a corporation makes.” He suggested that it would be too much if it was even 100 times above what an average salaried employee in the company may earn.
Hence, his fiscal plans to raise corporate taxes and the top rates for the wealthiest of the “one percent.” In other words, there is to be a more narrowed income and wealth corridor, with an upper band above which people should not be allowed to earn and an income band below which others in society are not to be expected to live. Like a version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, “This income is too high; this income is too low; but this income is just right.”
I set aside the issues of who, at the end of the day, actually pays taxes imposed, or its impact on the incentives and opportunities for work, saving and investment out of which come long-term improvements in wages in general, the higher standards of living, and the dramatic technological and material improvements in the qualities of life for all.
I wish to highlight the presumption that those in political power should determine and dictate how much a person may or may not earn. Our collectivists treat the productive and market-based rewards for assisting in “delivering the goods” to the willing and freely choosing consumers of society (which really means all of us through our buying patterns), as a common collective fund out of which those in political power decide how much one gets to keep and how much another is to receive out of what others have honestly and peacefully produced.
Let us not forget that the government’s means to determine and dictate all of these paternalist and planning outcomes is through the ultimate power of force, the government’s coercive capability. That most of us do not resist the government’s taking of that which we may have earned does not change the fact that refusal or evasion can bring down the strong arm of the state on anyone who does not follow the government’s commands on any and all of these matters.
Biden told the American people that, “The I.R.S. is going to crack down on millionaires and billionaires who cheat on their taxes.” Increasing the funding for and expanding the numbers of those working in the Internal Revenue Service means that the financial and manpower wherewithal will be enhanced to police and punish anyone who comes in view of the taxing radar of the federal government. (See my article, “The Inequality Trap Distracts from the Real Issue of Freedom”.)
Joe Biden’s “Democratic” Paternalism is Also Authoritarian
Oh, and by the way, Biden assures you, “Look. I don’t want to become confrontational.” He specifically said this in reference to wanting Republican support for tighter gun control regulations. But that phrase shows the mockery in everything the president said in his address before the Congress and its agenda of the radical collectivists for whom Biden has become the spearhead. They are determined, if they can, to impose their social engineering schemes on the American people.
David Axelrod, who was quoted in the CNN article referred to above, said that “At the end of the day, will people judge whether democracy is working based on whether or not there are significant Republican votes on the legislation that he passes? Or will they judge it based on tangible things that are delivered by what he passes? . . . Tangible progress will supersede the style points.” It will be “a defeat for democracy” if nothing is passed through Congress.
Translation: “Progressive” paternalistic democracy demonstrates its success by using whatever procedural manipulations are needed to get legislation through a Congress that has no consensus for such expanded welfare statism and government central planning, with only a very narrow Democratic majority in the House of Representatives and an evenly split Senate with the Democrats dependent upon tie-breaking votes by the vice-president of the United States.
This, in fact, is Biden’s and Democrats’ attempt at “democratic” authoritarianism; that is, forcing through an agenda and huge expansions of government control, regulation, redistribution, and planning with absolutely no way to say that this represents the active and enthusiastic “will of the people.” It is the determined and willful attempt by ideological fanatics who are certain that they know how we should all live, work, act, and earn.
All that Biden offers is candy-coated in promises of “free this” and “free that,” and emotive phrases like, “America is on the move again,” or “choosing hope over fear, truth over lies, and light over darkness.” And that, “We’re working again, dreaming again, discovering again and leading the world again.” “America is rising anew” and “America is ready for takeoff.”
What he means is that the political paternalists and ideological central planners feel and view themselves as “working again, dreaming again,” and “ready for takeoff” through their control of the levers and dials of government.
More Government Means More Coercion and Less Freedom
But what Biden wants to impose is a government that, far more than already, intrudes into every corner of our lives, co-ops all our personal and family decisions, determines how we live, where we are employed and doing what kind of work, and how much pay we receive, and what we may spend it upon. Our lives increasingly will not be our own, but planned and programmed by the political paternalists in power.
Liberty will be even more lost, and government commands and controls are what we’ll get in return. It is worth recalling how the Austrian economist, Ludwig von Mises, summarized the consequences of asking for more government in our lives:
“It is important to remember that government interference always means either violent action or the threat of such action . . . Government is in the last resort the employment of armed men, of policemen, gendarmes, soldiers, prison guards, and hangmen. The essential feature of government is enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisoning. Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.” (Human Action, p. 719)
Finally, looking over Joe Biden’s “democratic” vision for America, it can be said that Xi Jinping’s Chinese autocracy has already won in the global competition about which Biden says he is so concerned. Why? Because, when all is said and done, it does not matter as much whether it is autocracy (the rule of one) or oligarchy (rule by the few) or democracy (rule by the many), per se, as what it is that government does. Of course, people themselves deciding who holds political office and authority is far, far better, both ethically and practically, than the uncertain and arbitrary dictates of one person in governmental power with no restraints on his commands and controls.
But if we look at Biden’s “dream” of the size, scope and intrusiveness of government over and into the personal, social and economic affairs of the citizenry, the Chinese autocrat has won, already. Joe Biden and Xi Jinping both believe that the national interest comes before the individual’s peaceful interest; that the collective take priority over the person; that the state must have the authority and power to assign and direct most or all aspects of people’s lives and actions; and that constitutional rules and procedures written on pieces of paper are less important than the implementing, imposing, and achieving of the purposes in “the plan.” In this, China has already ideologically conquered America. See my articles, “The Conquest of America by Communist China” and “The Conquest of the United States by China”.)
[Originally posted on American Institute for Economic Research (AIER)]