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Slaves to the Welfare State


May 11, 2008

By Thomas E. Brewton
New Orleanians born and bred in the welfare-state seem honestly believe that they are not required to do anything to help themselves. A large number of people, most of whom apparently are residents of New Orleans, have favored me with four-letter-word denunciations of The god That Failed New Orleans. A common allegation was that I had written that New Orleans deserved its fate. No one, however, cited specifics, for good reason: I wrote nothing to that effect. For example:
And do they want the levees to break? I guess it depends if you are (as a New Orleans blogger commented to a brain-dead Repug at the link) "a fuckmook" who believes New Orleans deserved it (and there are, sadly, many more like this)...My thought is that they ... don't care. We're the last major city port at the mouth of the largest river system in the United States, and they don't give a rat's ass. We have some of the best food, culture, history and characters to be found, and are unique unto ourselves in this world, but they pretty much summed it up with Dennis Hastert's comment: "It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed."
In other words, New Orleanians don't need to exert themselves rebuilding the city. They're entitled to have the taxpayers of the nation do it for them, because New Orleans has all sorts of things that cater to sensual appetites. No emailer advanced a single argument to counter the specific points I made, which were that New Orleans, a once great commercial city, had become after 1927 mired in hedonism and dependence upon the welfare state.

New Orleans rejected the God that led settlers in New England to take personal responsibility for their actions and to found public education, industry, and the progenitor of the Constitution of the United States. Instead, New Orleans on balance after 1927 turned to worshipping the welfare state, looking to the atheistic materialism of socialism for its salvation. That point is irrefutable if one compares the record of New Orleans after the mid-1950s with those of Houston, Dallas, Mobile, Memphis, Atlanta, and Tampa. Moreover, whenever New Orleans has made real economic progress, it's generally been under the impetus of outsiders who came to the city.

National Bank of Commerce knocked the moribund Whitney National Bank off its first-place ranking only after a banker from Dallas came in to assume the CEO's position. One of the city's premier real estate developments, One Canal Place, was conceived and built by Joe Canizaro, who came from Mississippi. Even the famed Superdome was not financed and erected by local interests. After New Orleans's investment banking firm Howard, Weil, Labouisse & Fredericks tried several times unsuccessfully to raise the necessary funds, Mills Lane, the CEO of Atlanta's Citizens & Southern National Bank, assembled a consortium of banks across the south to float the necessary bonds. Obviously not everyone in New Orleans is a slave to the welfare state. But on balance its residents have drifted since 1927 into the entitlements mentality: abandonment of personal responsibility and individual initiative.

The socialist welfare state is a form of slavery, or more accurately, a sort of neo-feudalism in which the individual has no rights independent of the figurative “piece of ground” to which the political state has assigned him. Hilaire Belloc anticipated this in his 1912 book, The Servile State. He noted that, while the just-beginning socialist state in Great Britain was doing nice things for workers, it was at the price of their liberty to decide whether to work, when to work, or where to work. Recipients of unemployment benefits, for example, had to report to employment offices and take whatever jobs were offered to them, or face punishment.

Belloc’s prescience was confirmed after World War II. Sir William Beveridge, one of the British Labour Party authors of socialized medicine and other welfare-state services after World War II, stated the necessity quite forthrightly. “…the State,” he wrote, “ in this field [attempting to guarantee full employment] is not wholly master of events so long as it desires to preserve the freedom of individuals……the State cannot undertake the responsibility for full employment without full powers.” In other words, central planning necessary for imposition of socialism cannot become effective without subordinating the rights of individuals to the goals of the planners. That is simply a degree of servility.

Once acculturated to this mentality, a society cannot reverse field. It would be like expecting rotten fruit to become fresh and sweet again. It would be like taking a zoo animal back to the wild. Uniform experience is that zoo animals accustomed to being fed and protected within their own private territories (cages) become completely disoriented, sicken and die (if not eaten shortly by predators) out in the native habitat of their wild kind.

In the same way, New Orleanians corrupted by many generations of worshipping the god of the welfare-state instinctively look to the government to do whatever needs to be done and flounder fecklessly while waiting for outsiders to do what they ought to have the moral fiber and gumption to do for themselves. Thomas E. Brewton is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets. His weblog is THE VIEW FROM 1776 / Email comments to
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