Bizarro World Meets Utah County

Reed E. Vetterli

A Utah County today’s residents would hardly recognize:

A onetime famed FBIman, Reed Ernest Vetterli, whose career could yield a dozen detective yarns, is in the middle of his hardest case: trying to get elected to Congress as a Republican in Utah’s heavily New Deal Second District. His platform: support the President in the war; get new blood into Congress…. Republican Vetterli, with State G.O.P. backing, practically has the nomination in his pocket; so has the Democratic incumbent, stocky, stodgy J. Will Robinson of Provo. But G.O.P. chances in the election are—according to the recent past—slim: many a former WPA worker has moved to the Second District for war work to strengthen the strong Democratic forces.

“Utah’s Vetterli,” Time Magazine, August 10, 1942

Vetterli later ran for Governor of Utah on the Republican ticket where Utah County again proved problematic. “In Utah County we are much concerned about the nominee for Governor.” (Deseret News, June 21, 1944). (Hat Tip: Sheldon)

75 comments for “Bizarro World Meets Utah County

  1. In political parties, there is a serious problem with equivocation. The New Deal party of FDR looked very different from the Democratic party fifty years later. The same for the Democratic party of Jefferson or the Republican party of Lincoln.

  2. Come on Frank… the New Deal party of FDR is no where near as removed from the Democratic party today as either the Democratic party of Jefferson or the Republican party of Lincoln are with the respective parties. There certainly are some issues (e.g., abortion, gay rights) that weren’t on the map at the time, but much of what many Democrats have been pushing to do on domestic and economic policy this past year can be traced back to the New Deal.

  3. Marc,

    No, I am not claiming that the differences are the same as those of Lincoln or Jefferson’s parties. I was just pointing out how parties change over time.

    I would not be surprised to discover that if the Democratic Party had never become sympathetic to legalizing all abortion and gay marriage and other liberal social policies post-FDR that it would still be somewhat competitive in Utah.

    “but much of what many Democrats have been pushing to do on domestic and economic policy this past year can be traced back to the New Deal.”

    Alrighty, but “traced back” is a far cry from “the same as”. Much of what the Republicans have been pushing this decade could also be “traced back” to the New Deal.

    Utah’s strong Democratic streak appears to have lasted pretty much only as long as FDR. Utah voted for Coolidge and Hoover, then after Truman they voted twice for Ike and then for Nixon.

  4. Interesting that Utah loved FDR so much, as FDR is arguably to Democrats what Reagan is to Republicans.
    What happened? I can’t imagine, for example, the Utah of 1944 being opposed to universal health care…

  5. Wasn’t one of the concerns of people in both Missouri and Nauvoo that Mormons would vote in a block? Now how much sense does it make to make it seem like the only way a Mormon can vote is GOP?

    Outside the main Mormon Corridor there are quite a few faithful saints, who vote Dems. I don’t see Mormons voting to make all abortion illegal, as many of the more stringent “social conservatives” want. And if you look at Roberts’s tenure in SCOTUS, it has totally coddled big business by cutting back on their fines/punitive damages. The idea of punitive damages is that it would be more expensive to break the law than playing by the book. What motive does big business have if there’s no consequences for disregarding consumer rights.

    I’m not saying there are no overreaches in consumer class action litigation. There are.

  6. I would not be surprised to discover that if the Democratic Party had never become sympathetic to legalizing all abortion and gay marriage and other liberal social policies post-FDR that it would still be somewhat competitive in Utah.

    They clearly would be more competitive then they have been over the past several decades (taking Bill Orton’s 6 year run in Utah County as more of an anomaly).

    “Alrighty, but “traced back” is a far cry from “the same as”. Much of what the Republicans have been pushing this decade could also be “traced back” to the New Deal.”

    You’re still trying to play fast and loose here. From a minimum wage hike to massive government stimulus intended to jumpstart the economy to the current “Jobs” legislation being pushed to health care reform that envisions subsidies to millions who could not otherwise afford it, the Democratic agenda this year has been very New-Deal-esque. The Democrats in many instances are unapologetically carrying the mantel of FDR to push these proposals (as the GOP so often does with Reagan) It’s not the tenuous a connection the you’d like to make it out to be. Certain social issues aside, the party is not that far removed from FDR.

  7. “I would not be surprised to discover that if the Democratic Party had never become sympathetic to legalizing all abortion and gay marriage and other liberal social policies post-FDR that it would still be somewhat competitive in Utah.”

    Luckily, being competitive in California and New York is more important.In my brief time in Provo, the area today is as hostile to the New Deal as it is to abortion. I am not so sure if it is a matter of the Democractic Party changing since FDR as it is the entire political landscape changing since FDR.

  8. I think that over the intervening decades since the New Deal, many Mormons, with their culture of self-reliance and value for individual agency, have seen the consequences of the New Deal and the growth of government interference in their lives. Ronald Reagan himself was a “New Dealer” until experience and observation (not to mention the government taking 90 percent of his earnings as an actor) served to “enlighten” him. The same has happened collectively in Utah. Also, Ezra Taft Benson, David O. McKay and other GAs have also served to boost the awareness of the LDS in political matters. When this increased awareness combines with the natural Mormon work ethic and some gospel principles (mainly free-agency) the LDS are more naturally inclined to the limited-government polices of the GOP and Ronald Reagan.

  9. John Hamilton (9),
    I sincerely doubt that a large portion of U.S. LDS are Republicans because Mormons are naturally inclined toward something about the GOP’s platform; frankly, there are good analogues to gospel principals both in the Republican and Democratic platforms. The causation is much more likely a combination of the rightward march of many politically active churches mixed with a Western U.S. libertarian streak. It would be interesting to see whether the Western U.S. supported the New Deal–I could probably find it, but two noisy and squirmy little girls will barely let me finish this sentence.

  10. As a Mormon Democrat I find my political leanings completely in line with the Gospel, but rarely the pulpit. This bothers me not so much from a political perspective, but from a Gospel perspective. I argued gay marriage, which I support, with my parents who feel that the gay marriage movement is Satan’s way of attacking the family unit. The problem I have with this is that I do not understand why they think the government is the defining authority for the family. There is danger in this. Conservative Christianity became synonymous with Republicanism to such a degree that you would think Christ was a Creationist Free Market Ayn Rand adherent. When politics and religion become intertwined to that degree, cross pollination will undoubtedly occur and I think this is dangerous.

  11. @ #11 Matthew –

    Cross pollination on non moral issues is unacceptable, but when moral issues enter the public realm, I don’t have a problem with the intertwining.

    I was under the impression that to be in line with the Gospel you have to follow the prophet, who specifically organized a movement against gay marriage. This isn’t just a ‘I think the moon is made of cheese’ deal, it’s an official gospel policy, that dare I say, is eternal.

    I am against New Deal policies for reasons wholly unconnected to religion. I think they are economically stupid and prolong recessions.

    My two cents.

  12. “The Democrats in many instances are unapologetically carrying the mantel of FDR to push these proposals (as the GOP so often does with Reagan)”

    On a pertinent note, I think Reagan got elected by appealing to Democrats who felt out of place in their own party. And Reagan was known for quoting FDR, so I guess he was carrying the mantle of FDR too. So by transitivity, if the Republicans are pushing Reagan, they too are pushing the New Deal. :)

    Obviously the Democratic Party has changed in the last 60 years. Beyond that I am not really sure what the conversation’s end could teach us. Shall we argue over what semantically constitutes “a lot” of change? Without an actual metric that sounds like the sort of discussion that gives political science a bad name.

    Utah voted for FDR. They voted for Coolidge and Hoover. They voted for Nixon over Kennedy. They voted for Ike twice. Clearly back then Utah voted much closer to the median and they no longer do. So either Utah changed or the median did. Probably both.

  13. And Utah voted for LBJ. And right after that, they reelected Calvin Rampton decisively over a former GA running on the Republican ticket.

  14. “Johnson won 61.1% of the national popular vote, which remains the highest popular-vote percentage won by a U.S.presidential candidate since 1820. ” [wikipedia]

    Yeah, (almost) everybody voted for LBJ that year. Goldwater wasn’t really competitive, although I think Goldwater did better in Utah than he did nationally. After that you had the 60s hippies and the counterculture and Roe. From there Utah moved strongly to the right; or the country moved left? in any case I think the move from moderately conservative to very Republican was probably around then because by Reagan I think Utah was entrenched? I suppose with more data one could nail it down, but it was right after Roe that Hatch unseated an incumbent Democratic Senator.

  15. The Church has officially said, and I agree, that principles of the Gospel can be found in most political parties. This includes, I suppose (under the “most” category), the Democratic Party. However, David O. McKay stated right in General Conference at the close of the 60s, and also officially sent the statement to all church leaders, that “Communism is the most evil philosophy devised by Satan to disrupt the plan of salvation for man” or something to that effect. As far as I know, this statement still stands. (I have the actual document my father gave me somewhere, but you can look it up in the General Conference reports as well.)

    Because many of the New Deal (certainly not all) statutes smack of “Communism Lite,” in that they tend to limit choice and shield consequences (Satan’s plan) many Church members tend to steer clear of them on principle. Some may say this is taking McKay’s statement too far, but I think they have valid points.

  16. Communism Lite? Really?
    Remember what the evil influence was in the Book of Mormon? Pride, violence, fancy clothing, wide disparity between the rich and the poor. European-style/New Deal type government seeks to narrow that disparity between rich and poor by eliminating poverty (even if that means taxing the rich a bit more).
    You quote McKay, I quote the Book of Mormon, and we go around in circles. But calling New Deal “Communism Lite” is silly, especially since one of the greatest dangers of communism is what it did to religion. I think this is probably McKay’s biggest problem with it. European-style government (what you refer to as “Communism Lite”) doesn’t hurt religion.

  17. Calling the New Deal “Communism Lite” may seem a bit over the top. And certainly Communism’s threat to religious freedom had to be a major concern.

    But the First Presidency under President Heber J. Grant (when the Church Welfare Program was implemented) was not supportive of the New Deal.

  18. The New Deal was, for the most part, socialism to one degree or another. Socialism attempts to redistribute a portion of wealth outside normal market forces, pure and simple. Communism attempts to redistribute ALL wealth with no reference to market forces, pure and simple. Therefore socialism is “Communism Lite,” pure and simple. I’m not saying all socialism is bad, just telling you what it is.

    “Market forces” are the work and reward system that occurs in nature in the absence of outside force. The strong survive and thrive, the weak do not, pure and simple. What the Book of Mormon preaches and what Christ taught was that we should help the weak to become strong and not, through our own actions (pride), make their lot even worse. In other words, we should have compassion and all the attributes that follow from that.

    FORCED compassion, however, is not compassion, it is a counterfeit spawned by Satan to appear good so that he may lead us down to eventual bondage. The teachings of Christ must be implemented fully and only through personal and collective free-agency, pure and simple. That is what David O. McKay, Ezra Taft Benson, Heber J. Grant and yes, even Jesus Christ Himself espouse. We MUST be free to make these choices on our own. To any degree we force others to be “compassionate” through socialist or communist efforts, to that same degree we loose our freedom and are in danger of coming under Satan’s power.

    Now, many aspects of the New Deal were good and necessary insofar as they were intended to promote honesty and fair play in business. They were laws in response to the changing complexities of our developing economy and a protection against the risks and dangers inherit in such. However, when the laws began to “punish” and take from rightfully acquired wealth and give to those who did not earn it, freedom and the laws of nature were corrupted. It was great at first, but once you start messing with natural processes you only spawn more and more unintended consequences and more monkeying around with the system. That may have taken a few years for the Mormons to see, and to relate how such practices were really at odds with the Gospel, but they eventually started to wake up by the 1970’s and, along with the rest of the country, returned, to some extent, to the correct principles championed by Ronald Reagan.

  19. Communism is a form of socialism. It is a bad form. Socialism is not a lesser version of communism. The attempt to make everything from Keynes to social democracy as forms of communism is rubbish. So, John is not telling us what it is. He is telling us what he thinks of it. No time to get into it, but despite Frank’s jab at political scientists above (we on the 7th floor of the SWKT are keeping an eye out on you), we do insist on an accurate use of words.

  20. Don’t people EVER get tired of making their condescending little speeches about redistributing wealth and “forced compassion” and keep-your-fingers-out-of-my-piggy-bank, as if we had never heard them before? Gag. Gag. Gag.

    “Market forces” are the work and reward system that occurs in nature in the absence of outside force.

    Gag again. Does it ever occur to the self-righteous that “natural” isn’t always God’s plan? “Natural man” and all that being the ultimate in righteousness, huh?

    But I didn’t come back to read another selfish and self-justifying speech about twisting religion in the support of personal political druthers. (Gag.) I came because I just ran across a 1934 endorsement of the Neal Deal and National Recovery Act by the Relief Society, urging all Latter-day Saint women to become “label conscious” and buy only those items of clothing “marked with the symbol of the new Deal. As they see the white satin label with the Blue Eagle they will know that the garment has been made under the code of fair competition. Unless women support this movement it will fail. if they unite in this campaign it will be a wonderful success and will do away with sweat shop conditions.”

    There’s an illustration of the conditions indicated by the original post, and a nice indication that #19’s priestcrafty championing of the survival of the economic fittest isn’t the only Mormonish way of looking at things.

  21. Ardis, where did you find the Relief Society endorsement? Is it from the General Relief Society? The First Presidency letters I linked to above (I don’t know what comment number – I can’t see the numbers) has the opposite message, not supporting the New Deal.

  22. The Republicans and the Democrats are nothing more than two different sides of the same coin. Both seek to destroy our rights through a welfare state at home and a warfare state abroad. Yes, the Democrats claim to be against the warfare state but Obama and a Democratic congress have shown their true colors by increasing the US military involvement in the Afgan war. Likewise the Republicans claim to be against a welfare state but Bush and a Republican congress were responsible for huge increases in entitlements with No Child Left Behind, Medicare prescription drug expansion, etc.

  23. Relief Society Magazine, August 1934, unsigned editorial.

    The existence of good, mature, reasoning, righteous but different opinions is my point, Sean. Anybody who says *this* policy or *this* politician or *this* moment in time is the definitive answer, the one true, correct and eternal political position of the church to which all members must henceforth and forever adhere, is barking up the wrong tree. Whenever anybody advocates any variation of that idea, they’re letting their partisan politics twist and deform their religion, and I stay as far away from their advice as I can get.

  24. Sean – I’d been aware of Heber J. Grant’s discomfort with the New Deal, but hadn’t seen everything in the link you provided. Thanks.

    Ardis – Fascinating. Are the docs available for that?

  25. Ardis, thanks for the source.

    You’ll note that I have *not* made any such claim to eternal political truth. As noted above (and as communicated by official Church correspondence), there is good to be found among all political parties. Partisan politics has little to do with it.

    I do think a detailed letter from the First Presidency specifically about the New Deal is relevant to this post.

  26. The New Deal was, for the most part, socialism to one degree or another..

    Now that’s some serious waffling. Personally, I prefer the rhetorical flourish of “The New Deal is Communism Lite!” One could also mention Roosevelt’s unholy alliance with Stalin as compelling evidence of the former’s wicked ways.

  27. When I was in law school at the University of Utah, Oscar McConkie Jr.(Bruce’s brother and a senior partner at Kirton McConkie, the Church’s main retained law firm) taught an Institute class for LDS law students, in which he discussed the interaction of the church with politics. He had been Speaker of the House in Utah as a Democrat, and was Utah chair of the John F. Kennedy campaign.

    He told the story, related to him by his father, another prominent Democrat, that when Utah gained statehood and the Church disbanded the Church-associated People’s Party, the Brethren made an effort to have Church members register with both of the major national political parties, so that it would be in the interest of both parties to seek Mormon votes, rather than for one party to take Mormon votes for granted and the other to write off Mormons as not being worth any political favors (the unfortunate result of Black leaders committing to support the Democratic Party).

    Because the Republicans had led the campaign against polygamy and the Church, and Joseph Smith had been associated with the Democratic Party, most of the saints tended to register as Democrats. At one stake conference in Saint George (where all apocryphal stake conference stories occur), the visiting apostle announced just before the break for lunch that there would be tables set up for voter registration. When he saw the imbalanced results, he got up in the afternoon meeting and told the congregation, “Brothers and Sisters, the Lord wants some Republicans, too.”

    “And ever since”, Oscar McConkie Sr. said, “The Republicans have thought they were God’s chosen people!”

  28. Cal Rampton was elected first in 1964, in the same election that LBJ was elected. Rampton was re-elected in 1968 and 1972. He won in 64 against Mitch Melich, in 1968 against Carl Buehner (of Buehner Block fame (and a former member of the presiding bishopric–why was he released, anyway?–that never happened back in those days), and again in 1972 against Nicholas Strike, who couldn’t have won if he’d been running against Sideshow Bob (even as Nixon completely wiped out McGovern in Utah). Cal won 70% while Tricky Dick fooled 67% of the state’s voters.

    And, yeah, Hatch defeated Frank Moss “right after” Roe, if three and 1/2 years is “right after.”

  29. Ardis, you never addressed the issue of force being used in government. I don’t understand your anger. I don’t wish to offend. I’m just stating that on the political teeter-totter socialism and communism are on the same side of the fulcrum. By stating that I am also implying that capitalism and anarchy are on the other side. I’m not saying all socialism is bad—we have “socialized” roads, police, parks and especially the military—I’m just saying that if you take socialism all the way in the direction of it’s ideology (that government control is the answer) you eventually end up with communism. The argument then is as to where the fulcrum should be placed for proper balance, or if we even want balance. That is an argument for another day, here I’m just explaining a few reasons, among many, that I think turned Mormons in Utah more towards the capitalist/anarchy side of the seesaw.

  30. John,

    The whole of thinking idea of thinking about political ideology as a linear spectrum or a teeter-totter is not only silly but it leads to false conclusions about how these ideas are related to each other. I am a socialist but I am an ardent anti-Marxist.

  31. I have to disagree with you there Chris. For every action there must be an equal but opposite reaction or balance is lost. “Balance” in the political sense is avoiding the concentration of power. This is the whole point of the Federalist Papers and structure of our constitution—finding the prober checks and balances not only within government but between the government and the people.

    If you are going to start a new socialist program, you must counterbalance it with some sort of capitalist or “free market” incentive or program. If you reject the linear thinking, what do you propose in its place? I came up with a thoroughly enlightened definition of this “linear” political structure based on Ezra Taft Benson’s writings on the proper role of government. It is on my blog here:

    After you have read my truly inspired words (soon to be canonized, I’m sure), I will condescend to accept your humble acknowledgment of my superior insight and eloquent wisdom. :)

  32. Hmmm. Benson had a strong grasp of McCarthyism but had a pretty weak understanding of political economic systems. Of course, he was very good at using terms like “ommunist” and “socialist” to generate fear and to villify those he diagreed with. Ahhh…the good old days.

  33. If the Democratic Party nationally had not been captured by its left wing during the McGovern campaign of 1972, Utah would still be electing Democrats and Republicans on an equal basis. A position supporting the defenseless unborn child would have been consistent with Democratic defense of minorities. The embrace of sexual hedonism and the elimination of inconvenient life, along with prejudice against the armed forces, and rejection of patriotism, come from a certain elitism, atheism and nihilism that is actually contrary to the blue-collar roots of the Democratic Party.

  34. Mark B., In a discussion of the political leanings of Utah over a century, a Senate election 3 years later is probably fair game for “right after”.

    Chris, I don’t care if you are a socialist but I’d rather you avoided negative comments about prophets, even if they disagreed with your politics.

  35. President Benson has already spoken on these issues. No need for further discussion. I will now burn all my books and join the John Birch Society. Thanks for setting me straight Frank.

  36. Chris – Ease up. Frank’s not out of line in asking for a measure of respect to be given when discussing prophets. It doesn’t mean, however, that Benson’s views can’t be put into context. It is a matter of record that his political activities in the 1960s were controversial then, especially among the Twelve.

  37. You don’t have to go back to FDR to find Utahns voting for Democrats. As recently as the 1970s, three of the four delegation seats in DC were held by Democrats — Moss, McKay and Owens/Howe — and Cal Rampton, an extremely popular Democratic governor who served an unprecedented three terms, was followed by another highly popular Democrat, Scott Matheson.

    Speaking of parties changing over time, I have a thesis that whenever one party is in power too long, the other morphs into something ugly. One has only to look at the U.S. Congress to see that. My guess is that when (not if) Democrats regain power in Utah, it will not be our father’s Democratic Party but something much different.

  38. Chris… I believe Ardis was making reference to her personal plight (e.g., comment #31 “Ardis… I don’t understand your anger.”)

  39. Aaron,

    Yes, perhaps the late 60s through the 70s marked the changeover point from moderate conservative to Republican. Moss and Howe both lost in 76 to Republicans and McKay lost in 1980. Wipeout.

  40. Ardis, just dawned on me: How is redistributing wealth and forced compassion not “priestcraft” itself? (Ref. post #21, last paragraph.)

    I don’t like the “survival of the fittest” any better than you. I’m just saying that charity and love MUST come from within the individual. Forcing someone to be charitable is completely anti-charity in the long run. We can pass laws to not allow someone to mistreat someone else, I’m all for that (civil rights, fair business practices, no sweat shops, etc.), but we simply CANNOT pass laws forcing someone to love his neighbor—to proactively provide for or help him (beyond some very well-defined basics that may be needed for the security of the community at large). To the extent that the New Deal crossed this line is the reason for Utah’s shift, and the shift of a majority of religiously-inclined communities, over to the right of the political spectrum. It is simple moral logic that you don’t take from the haves to give to the have-nots. You do not have that right, nor did CHRIST EVER TEACH THAT!

    Please note: I am not going to call you “self-righteous” because you may disagree with my point of view. That would accomplish nothing. If you disagree, it would be helpful if you provided sound philosophical or religiously-based reasoning for your point of view.

  41. John

    Sorry for being rough on President Benson. I will have to explain those feelings more elsewhere sometime

    “It is simple moral logic that you don’t take from the haves to give to the have-nots.’

    This is assuming that your moral logic stopped developing sometime in the 1690s (though your strawman of the distributive justice argument is a bit more advanced).The great moral philosophers of the last 300 years have argued for some form of egalitariansim in matters of political economy. This includes Rousseau, Kant, Mill and Rawls.

    For one religious take on the issue see here:

    or here:

    or here:

  42. By the same token, we simply CANNOT pass laws forcing someone to pay for unprovoked, preemptive wars against other countries. It is simple moral logic that you don’t take from the peace-loving to give to the warmongering. You do not have that right, nor did CHRIST EVER TEACH THAT!

  43. The simple reason for the change in Utah regarding the Dem party is the culture wars. Dems came to represent abortion, free sex, drugs, homosexuality, anti-american attitudes etc in the minds of LDS voters over time.

    I come from a big time New Deal supporting family related to Pres Grant. On of our relatives was Pres Grants Secretary and he fought a long private battle with Pres Grant over supporting the New Deal. We have the letters back and forth between Grant and my relative and they are quite interesting.

    The family loyalty to the Dem party ended during the 1970’s over the issues I mention above. There is only one Dem left in the family and she is 91 years old and still has loyalties to FDR.

  44. Chris, I read your links, and I’m sorry to say, I don’t see in the scriptures quoted from the Book of Mormon anywhere where the government had anything to do with either creating or fixing the problem. On the contrary, it would tend to exacerbate it if the wrong people get into power. Any concentration of power is bad, even if you have a good king now, the next one might not be. By giving the government rights to decide who gets what, based on whatever criteria the wicked or righteous people choose only introduces more opportunity for tyranny, even if it is the tyranny of the majority.

    Since the New Deal, and LBJ’s Great Society, we have more disparity between the rich and poor than ever before. I’m not saying the New Deal or the Great Society created this disparity, they probably simply had no effect. The disparity is greater in socialist Western Europe today (except for the landed aristocracy or “nobles” in England) than ever before. If someone complains that some CEO is grotesquely wealthy, I say “So, what?” The poor today are light years better off now and live better than the queen of England did 100 years ago. Relative to the rich of today, they are not, but there wouldn’t be the luxuries they do have if it weren’t for the rich. Who first got running water in their homes? The rich. The rich financed the R&D and created the demand by buying those $2,000 CD player in the early 1980s so that now the poor can enjoy $10 CD players today.

    You start messing with the market, no matter how righteous your intentions, you only limit the growth of ALL, the rich and the poor alike. Charity and love have nothing to do with government. Neither does hate and greed. Government is only there to keep us from acting upon negative characteristics in human nature and rectifying things when we do. Hence, if that filthy rich CEO got his money through deceitful or dishonest means, we are justified in fixing the situation, but if he got it honestly it will only be dishonest of us to take it from him.

    I don’t see how this is all that hard to understand.

  45. “Since the New Deal, and LBJ’s Great Society, we have more disparity between the rich and poor than ever before. I’m not saying the New Deal or the Great Society created this disparity, they probably simply had no effect.”

    Then why on earth did you mention this? To imply a correlation? Or to suggest that progressive social policies have no effect on income disparity?

    Economists use a coefficient called the Gini index to measure income inequality. The higher the index, the greater the inequality. From 1967 (the first year the index was reported by the Census Bureau for the U.S) until 1980 the index hovered around .400, with a low of .386 in 1968. From 1980 on the index steadily rose to a high of .470 in 2006 and then dipped to .463 in 2007, the last year I could find.

    Given these trends, I think there’s a likely correlation (if not causation) between the steady rise in income disparity since 1980 and the tax cut and trade policies initiated under Ronald Reagan.

    And incidentally, the Gini index for the European Union was .310 in 2005. The highest Gini indices generally occur in Hong Kong, Singapore, and the U.S.

  46. SLO,

    “The highest Gini indices generally occur in Hong Kong, Singapore, and the U.S.”

    Maybe for developed countries, but Latin American Gini’s are exceptional. I think Brazil was .57 in 2005.

  47. SLO, I mentioned the New Deal and Great Society to show that these policies did not have much effect. I phrased it a little weird, I know. Your data seems to suggest that they might have had some effect, though. Although I think it was minimal as compared to the effect Reagan’s tax polices had.

    I think it is interesting that the examples you used—Hong Kong, Singapore, and the U.S.—also have some of the highest standards of living in the developed world. So, the poor in these countries in relation to the poor in the rest of the world are probably much better off. It is also interesting that the poorest segment in U.S. society is also the most obese. If we’re only talking about relative poverty, then the U.S. and other capitalist societies do not have a good track record, but when “a rising tide elevates all ships” I don’t think this situation is very dire. I don’t enjoy this disparity, but as long as the poor are not suffering misery, privation and disease, I don’t think we should monkey with the system and use the very dangerous force of law to arbitrarily adjust people’s opportunities according to our arrogant assumptions. We don’t know, and cannot know, all the complexities that made each individual rich man rich and each individual poor man poor. I take comfort in knowing that, except for the sweaty cash that is in his wallet right now, every dollar the rich man has is invested in the market creating jobs and resources for all, including the poor.

    I think we should focus on more genuine or direct oppression in places like Iran, Afghanistan and North Korea, along with other areas. We should do what we can to help these people. Our own don’t need it as much by way of comparison.

    I don’t think relativity should be the end-all of social policy. Certain basics of human dignity should be met, of course, but beyond that I think simple jealousy and possibly aspirations for power play the major role in desires to, so called, “level the playing field.” It is the nature of every game that there will be “winners” and “losers.” I think it is interesting that the “losers” always seem to claim that the playing filed wasn’t “level.” As long as the losers don’t get their heads chopped off or something, I say enjoy the game and don’t let the referee (government) distribute the points evenly without regard to performance. Rules of the game may need to be tweaked now and then, but once points are earned, they should never be taken away. There is no security in such an environment.

  48. John,

    I should also mention that the lowest recent Gini indices among developed countries (thanks Frank) occur in Denmark, Japan, and Sweden – countries that have higher standards of living than Hong Kong, Singapore, and the U.S.

    You said, “I take comfort in knowing that, except for the sweaty cash that is in his wallet right now, every dollar the rich man has is invested in the market creating jobs and resources for all, including the poor.”

    I suspect that not even a majority of the money held by the rich is invested in such markets. These days the wealthy tend to invest in speculative financial instruments (like the infamous derivatives) that make them richer but do virtually nothing to create goods, services, and jobs.

    I would instead favor much, much higher marginal tax rates on the wealthy with the option of lowering their overall taxes through tax deductions and credits designed to encourage the type of investment (particularly domestically) you’re talking about. That’s how it worked in the 1950’s, when we had extraordinarily high marginal tax rates (88 to 91 percent) but lots of tax incentives to invest in areas that actually boosted the economy rather than just lined the pockets of the rich.

  49. SLO,

    Where do you get your info on Denmark, Japan and Sweden having a higher standard of living then the U.S.? Are their tax rates on the rich higher than in the U.S.?

    “… lined the pockets of the rich.”

    Are they taking this money from someone, or are these derivatives “pulled out of the sky” and causing inflation? Speculative enterprises are a good thing. Where would we be if investors didn’t “speculate” by financing Thomas Edison’s work on the light bulb? Even if these speculative investments don’t work out, they help the economy by employing resources and people, at least temporarily.

    I’m not saying the markets don’t need regulations and some oversight to keep people honest, but taking property (money) once earned through “punitive” taxation is just morally wrong. You know this. You can justify and be quite elaborative speaking about “alternative” and “creative” social theory, but it all boils down to force, power and control.

    (Sorry, got a little ranty there. Need to lay of the Coke, I guess. Dang corporate rich dudes getting be addicted to their vile stuff! It’s not MY fault! No way!)

  50. John,
    I don’t know about Japan, but Scandinavia (including Sweden and Denmark) has a very high standard of living, and they don’t have the slums the US has (been to Detroit lately?) And yes, they tax the rich at a higher rate, and they take care of their poor. The average person in Scandinavia is proud of the fact that even the poor have healthcare, etc.
    You can find the Human Development Index described at Wikipedia. It considers a variety of factors, including life expectancy, literacy rates, and standard of living. The US is ranked 13th. Not a bad showing, but could be better.
    There are those that would say depriving the poor of basic healthcare is much more morally wrong than taxing the uber-rich a little more so they can’t afford their 4th home or 12th luxury car.

  51. Ardis,

    So should we fight greed and selfishness with greed and selfishness on the part of the government in the name of the “down-trodden”? You can can pass all the laws you want intended to keep people honest and from doing harm, and I’ll support every one; but when you start passing laws to MAKE people be nice, that’s when I’m going to have to respectfully disagree. It runs counter to the whole message of the Gospel, in my opinion, and I’ve got a few prophets (ancient and modern) to back me up on that.

  52. Tim,

    That super rich dude is employing people to build that 4th home and creating the demand for the luxury cars. The Ford Escort the “poor” are driving today is the Cadillac of 1989 because the rich dude was there to finance it.

    How am I obligated to provide health care to anybody? I guess I’m obligated to provide it for my children, since I sired them, but I am not objectively responsible for anyone else. Now Christ says I should be, but He does not MAKE me. How is the government or the rule of the majority or any other entity better than Christ? The Church does not force me to be proactively “good.” It will “punish” me for doing wrong, of course. What a scary world you are creating! Hitler and Stalin, and every other despot came to power precisely because they told the people they would make everybody else be good to them.

    Watch out when you give the government power you yourself don’t have any right to give!

  53. John,

    As Tim points out, the Human Development Index (a well-accepted measure for standard of living) is consistently higher for Scandinavia, as well as much of the rest of western Europe and Japan, than it is for the U.S. (and Hong Kong and Singapore for that matter). Most of the industrialized countries with high HDI’s also have better income parity based on their low Gini indices. I think it’s fair to infer a strong correlation between high standard of living and income parity. I think it’s also fair to assume that income parity results from progressive social policies like the New Deal and the Great Society.

  54. John, I really haven’t advocated any particular program or philosophy or policy (I certainly have said nothing about passing laws to make people be nice). Neither, admittedly, have I made the effort to spell out how and why I disagree with virtually everything you advocate. It’s a conversation that I’ve witnessed or been a part of countless times, and I long ago learned that ideologues aren’t interested in a conversation. They stake out their territory, repeat it and repeat it and repeat it and repeat it and repeat it and repeat it, responding to virtually every comment made by anybody, and at the end they are saying the same thing in the same words as they started with.

    You appear more (solely?) interested in protecting your own interests (which is the definition of selfishness) than in exploring ways in which you can feel fairly treated while still obeying the gospel mandate to watch out for your brother’s interest as well as your own.

    We could have a far more interesting conversation if you would offer ideas, or respond to the ideas of others, for assisting the poor and needy and fulfilling the obligation laid upon each of us by the gospel. Being more concerned with guarding one’s own wealth, and feigning concern over creating dependence in others, is boring as well as contrary to the gospel.

  55. John,

    You seem to be under the impression that every single investment made by the wealthy creates goods, services, and jobs. Not so. An investment made in speculative financial instruments like derivatives is basically a gamble based on which direction prices are going to move. It essentially just moves money around among the speculators. It’s nothing at all like loaning money to entrepreneurs to start or grow their businesses. As I mentioned, based on what we’ve seen on Wall Street lately, I suspect that most of the investments being made by the wealthy over the last several years are in these unproductive financial instruments.

  56. What was so evil about Communism, as far as I understand it, was the very limited freedom for people to choose what they do with their lives under Communist regimes.

    Now, there has never been a human society, where anybody were absolutely free to decide to do whatever they damn well wished. Some limitations to the personal freedom of choice have always been, if we consider proscriptions against murder, theft etc as limiting freedom of choice (which is really isn’t, as it is only sanctioning the breaking of the rules).

    From that, one could very well argue, that there is no bright line where “freedom” turns to “tyranny”.

    I consider an ideal free society the kind that would have only the very least possible limitations to freedom of choice. That means that the burden of proof, so to say, is on the ones, who would put a new sanction against some action. They would have to prove that the action they wish to proscribe really hurts others more than the narrowing of personal liberty hurts those whose actions it concerns.

    Some laws prohibiting free expression of religion, for example, are defensible, if they infringe upon others’ rights to live their lives unmolested. Thus, a law forbidding sacrifice of children would make sense to the most ardent libertarian. OTOH, prohibition of gay marriage does not make sense, unless you take into account that there is a possible risk that the gay lobby will use a governmental no-discrimination statute to force, for example our church to recognize gay marriage. In most reasonable adults’ view that would infringe upon our freedoms more than our not recognizing it would hurt them if they could have civil marriage. Only my personal view here.

    As Communism, or what it evolved to under Soviet hegemony (among supporters of Communism), in practice sanctioned against religious or political expression despite the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of expression, religion and organization, it seems to be taking away the most fundamental liberties as far as individual happiness goes. As such it can be called evil, since it effectively stopped any progress in proclaiming the gospel actively in Communist countries.

    Any program that seeks to take care of indigent people regardless of their popularity among their neighbors seems to need input from those, who earn money by being productive or by being lucky enough to have capital gains. Since we can not expect the whole society to live the law of consecration (dedicating our resources to gospel-oriented service), we must have a system of taxes, and any system of taxation will be considered unfair by some group in the society. It is hardly “Communism” that, say, capital gains are taxed on par with any other income. Or that if you make over 250,000 your taxes will go up a little.

    BTW, several studies have indicated that the best and fastest way to get more money circulating in a national economy is to make that money available to the poorest. That is because the poorest will use the greatest proportional share of any additional income for consumption, whereas the middle class pays down mortgages, and the higher income classes stash it in tax free assets with no-tax capital gains. In other words, give a poor man a dollar and he buys food from a retailer; give a rich man a dollar and he makes a tax free deposit in the Caymans.

    Wow, what a long ramble.

  57. To John:
    The US has a very high (not the highest; not even before the big crash of 2008) per capita GNP, but the standard of living is a different thing. In that things that infant mortality, literacy rate, health care coverage, what share of disposable income goes toward basic nutrition. Things that actually make the standard of living, rather than just a raw number of Dollars circulated in an economy.

    If you take the a health insurance in the US that covers what every Swedish resident gets, and then save enough to cover what Swedish public welfare covers, it puts all but the highest income groups at a disadvantage in comparison with the Swedish, Danish, Finnish, German, French. … This mainly because in US a system has been created that puts huge sums of money in the hands of health care providers, and especially insurance companies. No wonder they have campaigned so vehemently against the health care bill.

  58. Velska,

    Thanks for the well-informed and thought-out comments. One problem I see with comparing the U.S. to Scandinavian countries is that in some ways we’re comparing apples to oranges. America is much larger and many times over more diverse. Different cultures, ethnic heritages, climates, much larger urban areas, and so forth play a dominate role in our economy and culture. It would be a little like comparing the healthcare or welfare system of North Dakota with that of the rest of the country. I know beyond a doubt (you see, I’ve had experience in this), that when such programs are handled on the most local level possible, they will work quite well at times, occasionally even outperforming private enterprise. My city parks are well taken care of, I’m not sure they would be if some agency in Washington D.C. were directly in charge, though.


    I apologize if I bore you. I appreciate your input, but I simply don’t agree. I’m willing to fight to the death to keep what is mine. That doesn’t mean I’m not willing to share, and I do, but it is on my own terms and with whom I feel is in the real need. I don’t know all, of course, but I don’t think the government does either, and I simply don’t wish to give them any more power than they need. My degree is in history and I’ve spent many, many an hour learning about the consequences when people give too much power to the government over them. It’s always, always been for a very “good” cause, but it always, always eventually led to oppression and many times to tragic wars and violent revolutions.

    The Gospel has always been an individual gospel. We must learn and work and share and be examples on an individual basis. We simply cannot make others share without violating the love we are supposed to have for them. Socialism, when taken too far, goes contrary to the Gospel. I know this. Likewise, capitalism, if not wisely regulated, allows too much of the “natural man” to dominate and therefore can violate Gospel principles as well. Of the two, however, I think socialism is the more insidious. It is wrapped up in the guise of love and caring, and for most that is what it seems at first, but once power is in someone else’s hands, it is very hard to live free. Capitalism’s weaknesses are more “on the surface” so that it’s extremes are more readily identified as bad.

    In all this I just hope we really question our real motives, down deep. I don’t think my free-market attitude directly harms anyone. A “redistribution” attitude seems to have more danger for direct harm, in my mind. Do you really want to limit some stranger’s opportunities or rewards for the sake of more comfort for another stranger? Or is there something more? I just don’t know what makes ardent socialists tick. But you could say the same about me I suppose.

    I would like to keep these comments civil and respectful. I apologize for sounding arrogant or mocking. Take care everyone.

  59. Diet Coke!! That explains it all! I’d be a Nazi Communist if I had to drink that stuff! I would rather guzzle sewer water!

    Only thing worse is Caffeine Free Diet Coke! Talk about an utterly useless self-loathing habit there!

  60. John,

    thanks for giving a reasonable reply despite disagreeing. Too often we see people disagreeing belligerently even when the disagreements are minor.

    Anyhow, I’d like to correct one apparent misconception. You seem to think that Scandinavian healthcare is handled by central government (going by your “some agency in Washington D.C.” quip). Not so. Each municipality is responsible for their own healthcare, and must collect the funding for it from local taxes. Anyway, to go deep into this would be outside my expertise, and, quite possibly, outside anybody’s interest.

    By the way, most EU runs under the “Subsidiarity” principle, meaning that anything that can be handled locally, should be handled locally. The EU is no socialist dreamland, as far as central government management goes, myriad useless Unionwide directives (most of which all but very few disregard) notwithstanding.

  61. Velska,

    Yeah, I think the EU, for the most part, is a great program. It’s sort of like the original vision the Founders had for the federal government in the U.S. The individual nations within the EU did not give up too much of their autonomy in the process, but if they’re not careful, within a few generations they might.

    Sounds like the healthcare in Scandinavia is similar to, say, the public school systems in America. I’m sure it’s functional there, but I see a lot of weaknesses in our public schools that wouldn’t exist if they were privately run and in competition with each other. There are certainly many pluses, of course, but I lament the loss of choice in such a system, except for the wealthy who can afford to opt out. I fear the “dumbing down” of our healthcare system if market incentives and constraints are too far removed.

    Even if these and other socialist programs are run locally, if Obama’s “blue pill vs. red pill” ideas start to come down as “directives” from the top, the whole “local” thing is really moot. We would just have to scrounge up the funding to “do what we’re told” from on high. (Not that there isn’t value in finding and promoting the best treatments, but innovation and progression could be stifled in such an authoritative environment.)

    Anyway, this is going well beyond the original intent of the post. Sorry about that. I just think Mormons as a culture in Utah (may be a Western thing as well) are almost paranoid about retaining they’re freedom, sometimes to the expense of sound policy alternatives. But I think they are generally right to usually error on the side of less “forceful” options.

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