In Jim Cook's Archive


Years ago I sold insurance for a living. In my office hung a picture of President Lyndon Johnson. Because of his “Great Society” initiative that helped the poor, I thought he was the greatest President ever. I had come to be a liberal by reading the popular literature of the day. This included economist John Kenneth Galbreath, and most especially, the philosopher Bertrand Russell, an ardent pacifist and socialist. I also subscribed to the I.F. Stone Weekly, a leftist newsletter.

When I was a kid, my father was transferred to St. Louis, Missouri. At the time, the government was planning a massive housing project in St. Louis for the poor called Pruit-Igo. In the 1950s these huge high rises were built and occupied. In 1961 I was stationed at an Air Force base near St. Louis. I got to see these subsidized housing projects once again. They looked unkempt. Ten years later, by 1970, they were run down and nearly uninhabitable. Each building became a behavioral sinkhole. Crime, drugs, prostitution, child abuse, poverty and illegitimacy ran out of control. The government demolished the huge and expensive buildings. Liberals claimed they failed because they were too big. If only the government would build smaller units they argued, all would be well.

In 1971 I became friends with Bernard T. Daley of Minneapolis. For a while he was my business partner. Bernard was a brilliant Irishman who loved to discuss politics. His primary mission in life was converting liberals and middle-of-the-roaders to a libertarian viewpoint. He was heavily influenced by the freedom philosopher Leonard Read, who believed that by improving yourself you would become a beacon for others. Bernie Daley certainly was that. Unfortunately, he died in 1982 at the young age of 48. To this day I know many of his friends and associates who were once liberals. They continue to believe and promote the libertarian, conservative, free market case.

Within months of meeting Bernie he began to overturn my liberal views. He invariably pointed to the failure and sorry results of government social programs. Prior to meeting Bernie I’d never thought much about the reason Pruit-Igo in St. Louis had failed so miserably. Now I concluded that welfare and subsidies made matters worse. Bernie was always asking me to analyze the results of government initiatives. Once I began to do that, my thinking changed.

I did something that most liberals never do. I examined the consequences of the programs I once so ardently championed. It’s easier for a Muslim to swear off Mohamed than for a liberal to see that giving people money they didn’t earn harms them. That’s why we hear so much socialist rot from the candidates who want to help the middle class, help the poor and help everyone else who has a problem or made a mess out of their life. It’s the same weak-kneed response coming from the current administration now sending everyone free money. They are turning America into a nation of moochers. It’s time that someone told Americans to stand on their own two feet and take their lumps in life without whining or expecting a free ride. Life is about struggle and you don’t get anywhere without it. It’s long past time for everyone to try a little rugged individualism. America didn’t become a great nation through government assistance.

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