Stateside,  The Right

Newt Gingrich on the “secular-socialist machine”

Republican former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, a one-time history professor, recently wrote an op-ed piece for The Washington Post defending his assertion that Barack Obama is “the most radical president in American history.”

I don’t know what makes Obama more radical than, say, Abraham Lincoln (unprecedented expansion of federal government powers, suspension of habeas corpus) Franklin D. Roosevelt (the New Deal) or Lyndon Johnson (the Great Society and the war on poverty), but it apparently has something to do with Obama’s “secular-socialist machine.”

Gingrich then offers “examples of each key word.” You can read them for yourself and see if you think he makes his case.

One of Gingrich’s “socialist” examples:

Creating czar positions to micromanage industry reflects the type of hubris of centralized government that Friedrich von Hayek and George Orwell warned against.

Gingrich’s knowledge of history may not encompass the fact that Orwell was himself a socialist, whose views on “centralized government” were more nuanced than Gingrich probably realizes. In fact Orwell wrote in a 1944 review of Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom”:

In the negative part of Professor Hayek’s thesis there is a great deal of truth. It cannot be said too often – at any rate, it is not being said nearly often enough – that collectivism is not inherently democratic, but, on the contrary, gives to a tyrannical minority such powers as the Spanish Inquisitors never dreamed of.

Professor Hayek is also probably right in saying that in this country the intellectuals are more totalitarian-minded than the common people. But he does not see, or will not admit, that a return to ‘free’ competition means for the great mass of people a tyranny probably worse, because more irresponsible, than that of the State. The trouble with competitions is that somebody wins them. Professor Hayek denies that free capitalism necessarily leads to monopoly, but in practice that is where it has led, and since the vast majority of people would far rather have State regimentation than slumps and unemployment, the drift towards collectivism is bound to continue if popular opinion has any say in the matter.

…Capitalism leads to dole queues, the scramble for markets, and war. Collectivism leads to concentration camps, leader worship, and war. There is no way out of this unless a planned economy can somehow be combined with the freedom of the intellect, which can only happen if the concept of right and wrong is restored to politics.

Then we come of one of Gingrich’s “secular” examples:

Describing America’s promise as a “secular country that is respectful of religious freedom,” as Obama did last April, is an act of willful historical revisionism. The United States was founded as an intensely religious country that believes our rights come from God, including the right to worship as our conscience dictates. The Founding Fathers forbade the establishment of a national religion to protect individual rights of conscience but understood that public life would reflect the religious nature of the American people. This understanding of America’s promise is far more tolerant of religion in the public square than the secular purge that we have seen since the Supreme Court outlawed school prayer in 1963.

In fact Obama made that statement during a joint appearance last year with the president of Turkey:

I think Turkey was — modern Turkey was founded with a similar set of principles, and yet what we’re seeing is in both countries that promise of a secular country that is respectful of religious freedom, respectful of rule of law, respectful of freedom, upholding these values and being willing to stand up for them in the international stage.

I doubt that is a precursor to removing “In God We Trust” from the currency or “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. But is Obama’s stated view vastly different from that of one of the Founding Fathers– namely Thomas Jefferson, who wrote in a letter to the Danbury, Connecticut, Baptist association:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

I wonder if Gingrich’s opposition to “secular” government prevents him from approving of demonstrations like this one.