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May 6, 2012 - 7:35 pm

The now-infamous “Cloward-Piven Strategy” outlined by Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven in 1966 proposed a clear roadmap to socialism: get so many people addicted to government entitlements that the economic system collapses, and in the resulting chaos the populace will demand and vote for a new economic system in which everyone is supported by the state.

Sounds logical (if nefarious), and President Obama seems hell-bent on bringing it to fruition in the United States. The problem for Obama’s inner socialist is that he’s also required for appearance’s sake to attempt a rescue of the American economy using Keynesian principles. This self-cancelling combo-strategy is the underlying cause of our economic stagnation, as outlined in “The Obama-Piven Strategy,” an earlier PJM post I made last year that made some waves. What I noted back then remains true:

I propose that President Obama is simultaneously trying to rescue the economy using the Keynesian/Democratic model while at the same time also trying to destroy the economy through the Cloward-Piven Strategy. His two mutually contradictory plans cancel each other out, rendering all his efforts self-negating, and this explains why the American economy has stalled.

I dub this the Obama-Piven Strategy. And it’s the reason why we remain mired in a deep recession. We are neither recovering, as the Keynesian model predicts, nor is capitalism collapsing, as the revolutionaries hope; the Obama-Piven strategy ensures that we remain in suspended animation between the two extremes.

But something interesting happened on Sunday in Europe: Voters in both France and Greece, two countries ruinously addicted to government entitlements, rejected the “austerity” model of debt-reduction and instead doubled down on unsustainable spending sprees. France elected Socialist Francois Hollande as president, and in his acceptance speech he promised to increase government benefits and amp up “stimulus” spending programs — the exact things that got France into a metaphorical debtors’ prison in the first place. But exactly as Cloward and Piven had surmised, once you get 50+% of the population hooked on “free” government money, there’s no turning back — they will vote for socialists every time. The election of Hollande is the culmination of Cloward-Piven; the strategy worked, but in the wrong country.

(In a similar blunder, it should be noted, Karl Marx predicted that the first socialist revolution would happen in an industrialized country like Germany or Great Britain; instead the exact opposite happened, as two backward pre-industrial nations, Russia and China, were the first to embrace communism.)

Also on Sunday, Greece held local elections and voters rewarded various “anti-austerity” parties and candidates: “Greek voters punish ruling coalition, reward far left,” reads the headline. “Voters angry over austerity delivered a blow to Greece’s ruling parties on Sunday, with neither the conservative New Democracy nor the Pasok socialists winning enough votes to form a government while far-left Syriza took second place.” Even a “neo-Nazi” anti-immigrant party won seats for the first time because they too rejected the “austerity” measures and want to maintain the entitlement state (albeit solely for Greek citizens, in their case).

The message is clear: Once enough voters are on the dole, regardless of your party’s ideology or what label it has, you will win elections if you promise to to keep the free money flowing. This was Cloward-Piven’s point, and they turned out to be frighteningly correct.

What this means for Europe is anyone’s guess. Because both France and Greece are embedded in the EU, they do not have complete sovereignty over their own economies, so it still remains to be seen if the rest of the EU will allow them to spiral further into debt and reneg on previous agreements to tighten the pursestrings. But it seems that if they were left to their own devices, both France and Greece are willing to ignore reality and plunge headfirst into a completely unsustainable socialist model.

Sunday might not be as epochal as Russia’s October Revolution, but it should be remembered as the day of the first Cloward-Piven Revolution. It just happened in the “wrong” countries.

Will the revolution spread to America? Have Obama’s policies over the last four years addicted so many people to food stamps and Social Security disability payments and unemployment benefits and so many other entitlement programs that we as a nation will go the route of France and vote for the guy who promises to keep the drugs flowing, regardless of the consequences? Will the inherent resilience of the American economy keep the illusory prosperity afloat long enough to usher Obama into office for the final assault on capitalism?

Hayek help us.

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