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Jewish World ReviewNov. 2, 2000 / 3 Mar-Cheshvan, 5761

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell
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Hillary and Al -- relics of the past

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- AS WE CONFRONT the last election of the 20th century, we seem to have learned remarkably little from the tragic mistakes that have produced catastrophes around the world during this century. The collectivist mentality is still alive and well, despite the economic failures and political tyrannies spawned by collectivism in its various guises as socialism, communism and nazism, not to mention the breakdown of families spawned by the collectivism of the welfare state, whether in the ghettos of America or among the people of Sweden.

When Hillary Clinton says, "It takes a village to raise a child," that may sound nice, or even poetic, to those who do not understand the tragic history of government intrusions into family life in the 20th century. When Al Gore poses as someone who will "fight for you" against the "powerful special interests," that may sound inspiring to those who have no idea what an ugly pedigree such demagoguery has had in the 20th century, and what a role it has played in creating dangerous concentrations of political power, afflicting vast millions of people who could not by any stretch of the imagination be considered "powerful."

Hillary Clinton has been working to undermine the authority of parents and the autonomy of families for decades, beginning back when she had no experience as a parent and was just plain Hillary Rodham. Back in 1973, writing in the Harvard Educational Review, she rejected "romanticism about the family" as she pushed for collectivist ways for outsiders to impose their superior wisdom and virtue on parents.

Over the years, Hillary Clinton has grown more clever and sophisticated in packaging such collectivist ideas as being simply concern for the children. She has played a leading role in the "Children's Defense Fund," which is not about defending children but about allowing outsiders to intrude on family decisions.

Two of a kind?

This view of life is part and parcel of a larger collectivist vision of the anointed imposing their superior wisdom and virtue on others in many other ways. Hillary Clinton's most ambitious promotion of this vision was her ill-fated attempt to tell the whole health-care sector what to do, despite the fact that she has no medical training, no expertise or experience in pharmaceutical drugs and has never even run a drugstore. In this and other areas, bold and glib articulation of presumptuous notions serves as a substitute for knowing what you are talking about.

Al Gore has long shown the same bold presumptions, waving aside the objections of scientists who argue against his "global warming" hysteria and the massive government programs he has proposed to deal with it. Gore has never been a scientist or even someone with a degree in science. He first got on this "global warming" kick while taking an undergraduate survey course, designed for students who wanted to fulfill their science requirement without taking hard subjects like physics or chemistry.

With this weak background, he dismisses the objections of those who have spent a lifetime studying weather, such as Dr. S. F. Singer, who set up this nation's weather satellite system. But this is nothing new in the history of the 20th century.

After all, what experience or expertise did Lenin have in industry before he took control of the industries in the Soviet Union? What experience did Stalin have in agriculture before he nationalized farms and turned a country which had historically exported its surplus food into a country suffering food shortages and even famine? What expertise did Hitler have in genetics before proclaiming his racial theories and the horrors they spawned?

Bold presumptions look dramatic and appealing in politics, but they look asinine and catastrophic in history. Playing the race card, as both Hillary Clinton and Al Gore are doing this year, has been a great game for politicians around the world, but it has proven to be playing Russian roulette for the societies in which it has happened in this century.

In Sri Lanka, a country once renowned for its harmonious intergroup relations, group polarization rhetoric and group preference policies enabled a long-shot politician to become prime minister in back in 1956 -- leading to mob violence and ultimately a civil war, with hideous atrocities, that is still going on at this moment. We don't need to go down that road when history already tells us where it leads.

But who studies history these days? Politicians like Al Gore and Hillary Clinton may get elected and lead us to repeat it.

JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, A Personal Odyssey.

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