Many television viewers are currently enthralled with the series, ‘Downton Abbey.’
Ripples of early 1930s Socialism, reflected in the 1971 British TV period drama, ‘Upstairs, Downstairs,’ the precursor to ‘Downtown Abbey,’ are making waves in modern America.
Unfortunately, now we can’t switch the channel.
On the ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ series, character Elizabeth Bellamy explains (according to her philosophy of socialism) why the poor children she brought into a shoe store should not have to pay for their shoes:
Elizabeth: (to the storeowner, after he requested payment for the shoes) You had children’s boots upon your shelves you could not sell. The children, for their part, could not buy them. Now you have fewer boots to trouble you, and the children are properly shod. Thus, little by little, we proceed to the just society.
Shoe storeowner: Are you going to pay for those boots, Miss, or am I going to send for a policeman?
Elizabeth: No, I am not going to pay for them. And you are going to fetch a policeman to arrest me, so that I can make my protest in a court of law.
Following her arrest, Elizabeth is confronted by her parents after they bailed her out of jail with their hated capitalist money:
Elizabeth: I just want to say that I regard what I have done as totally justified, morally and politically.
Mother: Stealing from shops, Elizabeth, is not morally justified in any circumstance. As for any political justification in robbing a tradesman, I will remind you and your misguided friends that a shopkeeper has as much right to his livelihood as anyone else.
Elizabeth: It was no childish prank, Mother, I can assure you. There was a social and political point to be made, and I made it, without fear of the consequences. If people aren’t prepared to suffer for their principles, there’s precious little hope for the world.
Mother: Who says so? Your friend, Miss Larkin [the local socialist leader], I suppose?
Elizabeth: Yes, Miss Larkin, who’s good and clever, and cares about humanity.
Father: She’s a troublemaker, Elizabeth, a bitter young woman who’s out to destroy society because she envies other people’s advantages.
Elizabeth: Oh, that’s what the Tories always say about people who fight for a better society.
This particular episode of the popular 1970s British TV series depicts the attitudes about socialism in the early 20th century. Although these attitudes were out of the mainstream at the time in which the story is set (1908), they ultimately came to dominate British politics, leading to the passage of socialized medicine and the institution of the welfare-redistributive state in the 1930s and 1940s and lasting through its budgetary collapse into the present day.
The premise underlying Elizabeth Bellamy’s statement is that ‘You have something, and you don’t need it. These other people need it, and don’t have it. Therefore, you must give what you have to those who need.’
There is no room for private property in such a view. There is no room for individual rights. There is no room for a Constitution that protects the right of the individual to be free from force, and to pursue happiness. There’s not even room for democracy.
Remember, in the present day, recent Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s promise to ‘deem’ Obama’s nationalized health care bill as passed if she was unable to get the necessary votes to pass it. This is no different.
Elizabeth Bellamy’s imperative is both a moral and political imperative. She offers it not just as an opinion or a sermon, but as having the force of law.
To one degree or another, in one form or another, this is the premise underlying all the variations of socialism.
It’s true that in the United States, and even to some extent in Great Britain, an attempt was made at moral and political compromise. ‘It is a moral imperative to give what you have to those who don’t have — to a degree. It is a political and legal requirement to give up what you do have to those who do not — to a degree.’
It’s called ‘moderation’ which is just another word for socialism—in the slow lane.
For the last century, both liberals and conservatives have accepted this splitting of principles, debating only how much is ‘too much’ or ‘too little.’ In the end, the liberals and the socialists always win, because it’s to their principles (articulated by Elizabeth Bellamy here) that all political policies are subjected.
As with shoes, so with everything else.
The governments of Britain and the United States have spent a century redistributing wealth in varying degrees. Private property still exists in both places, but in both places government considers all private property its own to redistribute, as it sees fit — just splitting the difference based on votes in Congress or Parliament. (The U.S. Supreme Court recently affirmed that all wealth redistribution is justified, so long as there’s a majority vote.)
Obama wants to exploit all or most of that private property as he sees fit, while Mitt Romney (like George W. Bush before him) seeks somewhat less of it. But the underlying principle is always the same.
The results: Britain is completely bankrupt, and its private economy has, for the most part, stopped growing. The United States is now in the same predicament. The situation has created cries and demands for ever more socialism, as more people need shoes, health care or whatever commodity du jour that government sees fit to redistribute.
The government has long since run out of other people’s money. The only alternative is for the nationalized banks to print (or ‘deem’) more currency with untold consequences for the viability of the economy itself, and to borrow from generations of people yet to be born. in hopes that the private economy somehow, someday will begin to grow again.
Yet there are fewer and fewer people producing that which is to be redistributed. And, more importantly, by what right does Elizabeth Bellamy claim either a moral or political right to the property of that shoe store owner or anybody else? Plainly put, in terms that even an ordinary leftist or socialist can understand:
It’s not hers. It’s his.
Concluded in tomorrow’s column.
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