Special Report

Same Old: Liberals Then and Now

Back when Gerald Ford was president, Ben Stein sent this memorandum to Norman Lear, to help him understand how conservatives think about liberals.

By 4.15.10

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Editor's note: Back in 1976, when Gerald Ford was President, Ben Stein, then a consultant on Washington and conservatism for the Normal Lear show All's Fair, sent this memorandum to its creators:

What I don't like is the way rich liberals, who have made their money through the operations of the capitalist system and who would be miserable bureaucratic cogs in a socialist system, are nevertheless socialists. I suspect that a large part of their motivation is a style of asceticism which has been fashionable among the rich since the time of the Pharisees. Another motivation for the rich liberals to dislike the capitalist system is that they have already gotten theirs and they don't want to be challenged by other people coming along and getting theirs.

I don't like the way liberals of any income group assume that they have a monopoly on morality and that the only conscionable position on issues is their position. A sanctimoniousness runs in the liberal mind which is a direct descendant of the Calvinist assuredness of moral superiority. Liberals assume that any challenge to their position comes from impure motives, often motivations having to do with "profit and loss" instead of the "human" factors that liberals allegedly consider. I resent the assumption of liberals that only they truly understand human needs and suffering.

I especially resent the claims of white liberals that they know best about how to solve the problems of the poor and the black. There is hardly any evidence that liberal programs to help the poor and the black have done much good. The ordinary operations of the capitalist system, however, have made enormous gains economically for the poor and the black. Liberals don't seem to understand that if they take a dollar from one person and give it to another, there is rarely any benefit. If the economic system produces new dollars for everyone, everyone benefits.

Liberals who send their children to private schools while advocating busing are particularly distasteful. The liberals who plead for integration of someone else's children are particularly blind to their hypocrisy.

I resent the notion that everything that corporations do is wrong and everything that "people" do is right. Liberals don't understand that corporations are people. They are the people who work for the corporation, buy its products, and own its stock. There is no mechanical person who is benefited if corporations make a good profit. Real people benefit, just as real people lose when corporations lose money.

I don't like it particularly when liberals say that more money for this or that project can come out of profits. Most people don't realize that profits are small parts of total earnings for most companies and that without the profits, people, even liberals, wouldn't invest their money. And there is nothing wrong with big profits. It's a sign of good management and creativity, which are rewarded in the artistic sphere as they should be in the management area. And the stockholders who get the dividends for those profits are often widows and orphans and most often of all, pension funds. The liberals' idea that profits all go into buying Balmain gowns is just dangerous nonsense.

I resent the influence that liberals have gotten over our educational system. Even in those schools which are other than jungles of fear, students don't learn anything. Liberal parents and teachers who have seized control of the schools teach "Sensitivity" and ''Interpersonal Relations" to children who barely know how to read and write because the basics have been so badly neglected. Students will have more in life if they know how to read and write than if they have had "peer group effectiveness" training. Children who are without financial resources are not being done any favors if they are not taught how to perform the basic skills with which to earn a living.

I resent the idea that labor unions are the workingman's best friend. Unions too often just represent the organized few and raise their wages so high that the unorganized many cannot find work. Unions are just monopolies by another name. They control the wages and place them at a level where employers can only hire a relative few. When the others who are unable to find work want a friend, they cannot even get into the union.

Similarly, I get mad especially about the minimum wage. The minimum wage is just a device guaranteeing that those people whose labor is not worth the minimum wage will remain unemployed. It does not raise any one's real wage because if an employee were worth the minimum wage, he would have been paid it already. For example, every time the minimum wage is raised or its coverage broadened, the number of unemployed black teenagers rises dramatically. They are people who are largely unskilled and if they are to be hired at all it will have to be at low wages. But the minimum wage law does not allow employers to hire them at the wage they're worth, so they are not hired at all. Liberals should ask black people in the ghetto what they think of the minimum wage.

I am annoyed at the condescending way liberals look at religion and patriotism. Both of those are forces which make a people work and sacrifice for others and are genuine altruistic forces. Yet liberals scoff at them. Liberals should try to think whether this country could have been built without a sense of mission greater than the love of government money. In fact, liberals ought to think whether or not their own feelings do not constitute a religion of sorts before they make fun of others' religious practices. They might consider whether or not they have a double standard for people who think like they do as compared to people who have different thoughts. This problem of double standards runs through the liberal mind, in fact. The liberals think nothing of lavishing praise on China, which has put millions to death for political reasons and runs the tightest thought control in history. But they scream bloody murder if a government allied with us, with a thriving and open political system, closes a newspaper for a week. This double standard can also apply closer to home. There are too many liberals who care deeply and sincerely for the disadvantaged across the seas, while they cannot bring themselves to say a kind word to a secretary or to some unfortunate staff person who works under them.

Other examples of the liberals' double standard are their attitude towards criminals. Their hearts bleed without limit for the poor misguided youth who has just killed or raped or beaten a perfectly innocent person but they don't care a damn about the victims of the crime. If you look carefully at our cities today, the worst thing about them is that they have become unlivable because people are terrified of street crime. A major reason for that is that liberal attitudes towards punishing crime simply return criminals to the streets because of trifling technicalities or mischievous schemes that place the happiness of the prisoner above the safety of the public.

The liberal attitude about welfare is also worth getting furious about. They are tender and sympathetic towards the mother of ten illegitimate children who is being supported by the taxpayers through Aid to Families of Dependent Children. Who said that that woman should be allowed to make so many mistakes and then have the state make up her losses? The liberal doesn't care about the working poor who might want to have another child but don't because they can't pay for the child. But for the irresponsible people who live off welfare, there is endless sympathy.

That is yet another aspect of the double standard, and there are more. The liberal wants to make a state in which people who have worked hard and abided by the rules are taxed to death to pay for those who do not work at anything except reproducing themselves. The liberal wants a state in which the lower- and middle-middle classes bear the brunt of all social change, while the liberals sit back with their union pay, or university pay, or inherited pay, or money they have gotten from the system they hate, and watch the action.

Another instance of the liberals' lack of concern with real compassion is their attitude about environmental issues. No one doubts that there are important environmental problems. But there are also people whose jobs depend on taking a close look at environmental issues and not running off half-cocked whenever a cockroach is threatened. Trees may have rights, but they don't have as many rights as people.

I resent the liberals' looking the other way whenever there is a threat to decency or peace from the Communist nations and refusing to take seriously threats to our security from countries and movements which openly plan to destroy us. It is the most pious and dangerous nonsense to think that the Soviets are deterred from dominating the entire world by anything but force. Moral suasion has never accomplished a thing against the Communists, yet that is all liberals want us to have in our arsenal. They would have a disarmed and vulnerable America, trusting to the goodwill of people who have no goodwill.

Liberals, seemingly, will spend money on anything except what is absolutely essential for the entire system to continue -- a strong defense. Their blindness to that need is something I actually marvel at. There is seemingly no lesson which will teach liberals that a strong America is a free America except actual domination by the Soviets, and that may be happening.

In a similar vein, I resent the way liberals condescend to people in the military as mentally inferior warmongers and brutes. In fact, the military has plenty of decent, concerned people. They have to suffer the most if there is war, so they are most sober about the need to deter it.

I resent also a kind of cultural imperialism which dominates liberal thought. Liberals tend to put down any cultural force, such as television, which has not been anointed by some kind of special holy water which can only be conferred by the elites of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Manhattan. Rock is lowlife and fascistic, but tennis elbow from playing in a court that cost $40 an hour in Manhattan is deeply "in." Television is beneath discussing in serious terms according to your really important liberals, but ballet and the opera, which can only be seen by the rich few and which the great mass of people find boring, are immensely significant.

I resent the liberals' belief that all American greatness began with JFK and ended with him.

I resent the liberals' idea that the average American is a savage.

I resent the constant liberal putdown of what is American and praise of what is foreign.

I resent the liberals' idea that great ideas always come from the big cities and that small towns are only suitable for summer homes, that the countryside is peopled by dolts looking to shoot every person with long hair that they see.…

 

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About the Author

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.