Patriot's History of the Modern World, Vol. II: From the Cold War to the Age of Entitlement, 1945-2012

Patriot's History of the Modern World, Vol. II: From the Cold War to the Age of Entitlement, 1945-2012

by Larry Schweikart, Dave Dougherty


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781595231048
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/05/2013
Pages: 704
Sales rank: 366,510
Product dimensions: 6.60(w) x 9.40(h) x 2.20(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Larry Schweikart is a professor of history at the University of Dayton and the coauthor of A Patriot’s History of the United States and A Patriot’s History Reader, among many other books.
Dave Dougherty is the coauthor of A Patriot’s History Reader among other books.

Read an Excerpt


It could have been a postwar American town or the Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles. Busy streets served as the setting for a bustling vegetable market, teeming with customers, awash in produce—a rich bounty spread out over hundreds of stands. As far as one could see, makeshift shops in the open air stretched down the street—in post–World War II Romania. Communism, in the early 1950s, still had not gained total control of the Romanian market, and farmers came from the countryside to sell their goods. A young Romanian, Gabriel Bohm, walked through the marketplace with his mother in awe of the cornucopia of fruits and vegetables, displayed under homemade tents or on crates by ordinary farmers. Bohm remembered seeing a market “full of merchandise . . . good looking, healthy stuff.” Yet within twenty years, Bohm witnessed a dramatic change. The same scene in 1965 would be much different: empty streets, devoid of vendors, patrolled by police. “Those markets were deserted,” he recalled years later: “not a single carrot, not a single vendor selling a carrot.”

There were other changes as well, ending many of the mainstays of life. Churches were closed, political gatherings banned. What had happened in the interim to Bohm and other Romanians? Communism took full control of the economy. “We saw the country deteriorate,” he noted. “Anyone who could get out would. You had to be brain dead not to get out.”1 Yet they could not get out. Nor could their neighbors in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, or East Germany, all of them trapped as prisoners of the Soviet Union, which since 1945 had embarked on a program of expansionism dictated by Soviet communism’s godfather, Vladimir Lenin. Nor were the scenes of want and desperation in those Communist-controlled countries different in any of the other Eastern European nations that could be observed—Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland—and often they were worse.

East Germans lived in constant fear of the Stasi, the state’s secret police, which recruited informants and compiled dossiers on almost every citizen to crush any potential opposition to the state. Even so much as an anti-Communist cartoon or joke was sufficient grounds for jail. One East Berliner who escaped to West Germany discovered decades later, after communism’s collapse, that one of her best friends had informed on her to the Stasi. Everywhere in the Iron Curtain countries (as they were labeled by Winston Churchill in 1946), the state spied on average citizens. Even children were tricked into informing on parents. Bulgarians knew that people simply disappeared—but they did not know that a secret prison island, kept off official maps, was their ultimate destination.

An atmosphere of discontent and fear permeated the Communist bloc. After a time, the fear and depression produced a numbing absence of vitality. Western visitors to Eastern Europe at this time all came back with the same impression of the visual images that awaited them there: “gray,” “it was grime, gray,” “all gray,” they said.2 Millions of people were prisoners in their own countries, unable to leave and usually afraid to resist.

A stunning contrast could be seen, literally, across borders where Western European nations thrived after 1945. Even Germany, crushed into rubble, with up to 10 percent of its 1939 population killed or wounded in the war, staged an astonishing revival after VE Day.3 The success could be attributed to the massive humanitarian and economic assistance provided by the United States, the adoption (even in quasi-socialist countries such as France, Italy, and Greece) of markets and price mechanisms, and the determination of Europeans themselves to recover from war yet again.

But Western Europe would soon drift into a lethargy of planned economies at the very time that a cold war was being waged to free Eastern Europe from those very ideas. By the time the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the West had lost or deliberately given up many of the freedoms that the East had sought and just gained. And within another decade still, the advent of the European Union would subtly and quietly impose controls on ordinary life that, while wrapped in a velvet glove, felt to some like the iron fist they had resisted.

Worse still, Europe was not alone. From 1945 to 1970, virtually all of the then-labeled Third World, including Africa, Asia, and Latin America, embraced state planning and rejected markets. Many of the European colonies (Uganda, Congo, Rwanda), winning their freedom in the postwar division of the world, immediately put dictators in power who squelched talk of republics and democracy. By the 1970s, postwar optimism had been replaced by widespread anger and desperation, with one set of masters exchanged for another.

None of this was supposed to have happened. Just as in the post–World War I era, the end of war was to have meant a golden age of freedom and equality. Unlike after World War I, however, this time there was little doubt in non-Communist countries that the United States was in charge of the postwar world. Emerging from the war with its homeland and domestic industries not only entirely intact, but cranked up to full production, American productivity exceeded the wildest expectations of the Truman administration. Racing to shore up Europe from 1947 to 1950, the United States introduced the Marshall Plan, aiding war-torn Europe without asking for anything in return. Understanding the Soviet threat to the rest of Europe, America created a new alliance system and took virtually all of the major Western European nations under its protection.

As much as America was to be the leader and role model in this new era, all the efforts of U.S. occupation forces and all the money delivered by foreign aid could not address the fundamental weakness of postwar development efforts. The salient point of the post–World War II period was that by 1957 no nation had adopted the four pillars that made American exceptionalism successful in the first place. As developed in the first volume of this history, those pillars consisted of a Christian (mostly Protestant) religious foundation, free enterprise, common law, and private property with titles and deeds. Missing even in postwar Europe, these features were almost totally unknown throughout the rest of the world. Long-established nations such as France and Italy seemed little different from emerging states such as Uganda or Cameroon, or the reconstructed countries of Germany or Japan.

Thus, another thirty years later—by 2000—the promise of global liberty that appeared so imminent in 1946 seemed to have slipped away to a significant degree almost everywhere. Drone spy technology monitored the movements of ordinary citizens; big-city mayors banned not only guns, but also soft drinks and fats and plastic bags; European cities saw “no-go” zones of Muslims abolish Western law and replace it with Sharia; countries published lists of children’s names that were permitted and not permitted; street preaching was banned, and pastors jailed for speaking the Gospel aloud in churches. That these liberty-limiting developments occurred in African or Asian nations hardly raised an eyebrow—so far had many of those countries fallen after 1945—but that they all occurred in the United States or Europe seemed a shocking and stunning reversal of the very reasons the “Good War” had been fought in the first place.

Why had this subtle but dangerous reversal occurred so rapidly and so unexpectedly (to some)? Indeed, what were “democracies” doing engaging in such practices at all? In fact, all along the promise of postwar liberty itself was illusory, constructed on the premise that most of the world would be rebuilt along the lines of American-style democracy and freedoms. Our argument is that without the four pillars of American exceptionalism, such developments were not only likely, they were inevitable. Moreover, we argue that Europeans’ use of terms such as “democracy,” “republic,” and even “liberty” were not the same as those understood by Americans, and therefore other nations never entertained any intention of adopting the American pillars. In our previous volume of A Patriot’s History of the Modern World: From America’s Exceptional Ascent to the Atomic Bomb, we reviewed the impact of common law, a Christian (mostly Protestant) religious culture, access to private property (including ownership with easy acquisition of deeds and titles), and free-market capitalism, which brought America to the forefront of world power by the end of the war. Instead of copying American success, victorious or liberated nations more often sought only to dip their toes in the water of freedom, adopting free markets without common law or restricting capitalism, permitting Christian religion but steadily edging away from acknowledging the Christian foundations of society, paying lip service to private property without instituting the land-ownership institutions, such as titles and deeds, that are necessary to make it a reality. More often still, nations ignored all four of the pillars. Thus, the American model was only implemented piecemeal, where implemented at all (South Korea, for example). As we pointed out in volume 1, while any one of the pillars might be beneficial to a society, without all four no true American-style republic could be developed. The pillars were simply mutually dependent.

This volume continues the story of America’s rise to world dominance through three themes. First, we trace the battle that began early in the twentieth century between the Progressives and the Constitutionalists. The former, grounded in the “reform” movement of the late 1800s, sought to perfect man and society by a process of government-directed and controlled change. The Progressives wanted to deemphasize the Constitution as it was written, and with it, American exceptionalism. They conducted a century-long assault on the notion that the United States had any providential founding, that its heroes and heroines were particularly wise, just, or courageous. By insisting that laws needed to be continually reassessed in light of current morality, Progressives saw the Constitution as outdated or irrelevant. Constitutionalists, on the other hand, maintained that America’s founding stemmed from her Christian roots, and that the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were representative of common law doctrines in which codes of conduct, given by God to the people, bubbled up, supported and promoted by the people (as opposed to being handed to a king or ruler to be dispensed downward). Moreover, Constitutionalists maintained that the Founding Fathers were, in fact, wise and visionary, and that they established a framework of laws that addressed every eventuality. Progressives enacted a legislative campaign to regulate markets, redistribute wealth, and limit private property ownership. Constitutionalists wanted to free markets, enable all to pursue wealth, and restrain government’s ability to infringe upon individuals’ property rights. Finally, the Progressives—many of whom, in the early stages of the movement, were nominal Christians—fervently labored to remove Christianity from the public square, from all political discourse, and from entertainment. Indeed, Christianity stood in the way of implementing most of their reforms. Constitutionalists, of course, understood the admonitions of the Founders, who urged that the nation adhere to its Christian roots and above all pursue virtue.

Over the course of the second half of the twentieth century and the first decade of the next, American exceptionalism faced hostility abroad, but more surprisingly, antipathy by numerous groups at home. The Progressive Left endeavored through the educational system, the law, and entertainment to denigrate and ridicule the very concept that America had anything special to offer, and to insist that the United States had become just one nation among many. That a number of Western and non-Western powers arose to challenge American dominance was to be expected, particularly when the American public had so generously provided the financial and commercial means of their recovery in many cases. Germany and Japan took the best of the American industrial, manufacturing, and management practices, modified them, and implemented them with zeal, producing world-class automobiles, electronics, robotics, and a host of other products that drove American goods either fully or partially from the market. Once several nations could claim economic proximity to the United States (though none could claim parity), were not their systems, goals, practices, and cultures worthy of emulation as well? But the Progressive assault did not stop there: it insisted that undeveloped cultures were no worse than ours, only different. Americans were urged to seek out the value in what in previous generations would have been termed “backward” cultures, and to “understand” practices once deemed undesirable at best or barbaric at worse. President Barack Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech, as one example, cited advances and greatness in Islamic culture that never existed, implying that Americans needed to be more like Egypt rather than Egyptians being more like Americans.4 Absurdly saying that “Islam has always been a part of America’s story,” Obama claimed that Islam “pav[ed] the way for Europe’s Renaissance” and gave us “cherished music,” the “magnetic compass and tools of navigation,” and furthered “our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed.”5 Although his intention may have been to strike new chords of friendship, the act of ascribing to people accomplishments they never achieved looked phony and, according to polls in the subsequent three years, had no effect on Muslim views of America.

By 2012, the culmination of this Progressive march saw the United States elect a president with little or no understanding of free market capitalism, no appreciation of private property rights, little demonstrable Christian religious influence (to the point that by 2012 polls showed that up to half of the American public thought he was a Muslim), and an apparent disdain for American exceptionalism. Barack Obama repeatedly apologized to foreign nations for past American “mistakes” or transgressions and denigrated (or greatly mischaracterized) American exceptionalism by insisting that “the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” As the British magazine The Economist stated, Americans had put into power “a left-wing president who has regulated to death a private sector he neither likes nor understands. . . .”6 In 2008, in his famous “Joe the Plumber” comment, Obama stated that it was government’s duty to “spread the wealth around,” and in 2012, referring to private businesses that had become successful, he said, “You didn’t build that [business]. . . . Somebody else made that happen.” That “somebody else” was, of course, government—not the private sector. Comments such as those showed Obama had no concept of what made markets work. Likewise, in his bailout of General Motors, he demonstrated that he had no regard for private property—in that case, the property of the bondholders who were saddled with an enormous loss to protect union pensions.

Obama’s national health care law forced the Catholic Church to compromise on its core religious beliefs regarding conception. His Supreme Court appointments routinely interpreted the American Constitution in the light of international law. And when it came to private property, Obama continued to implement the United Nations’ antigrowth/anticapitalist Agenda 21 initiatives, which were inserting themselves into all aspects of American life.

Of course, some of the erosion had already occurred. Fearing Islamic terrorists, after 9/11 Americans readily assented to substantial limitations on their freedoms, from airport body searches to cameras on stoplights. Once necessary Patriot Act precautions had grossly expanded with new computerized surveillance and monitoring technologies, including “latch-on” phone tapping, air drone camera planes, and listening devices, to the point that virtually anyone could be found by the national government. Benjamin Franklin’s comment, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety,” looked more prescient all the time. Worse still, by 2012, few politicians anywhere were seeking to limit such powers, let alone roll them back.

The exceptionalism that had saved the world had not met a receptive audience, even if at first the rhetoric and spirit were wildly embraced. Quite the contrary, it seemed that to some extent, Europe insisted on revisiting post–World War I practices yet again, and certainly in the former colonies the delusion of creating new “democratic” states without at least some of the pillars of American exceptionalism proved especially vexing. Yet the record of such efforts seemed abundantly clear by 1946. Europeans, after all, had witnessed the full-blown collapse of their societies not once in the first half of the twentieth century but twice. They had likewise seen the manifest failure and folly of both variations of socialism—fascism and communism.

From 1917 to 1989, neither outright government ownership under Soviet-style communism nor ownership-by-proxy through German/Italian fascism provided material prosperity or human dignity. Indeed, both heaped unparalleled inhumanity on top of astronomical levels of state-sanctioned killing. According to R. J. Rummel, perhaps the leading authority on government murder, the top governments in terms of democide (the murder of a person or people by a government including genocide, politicide, mass murder, and deaths arising from the reckless and depraved disregard for life, but excluding abortion deaths and battle deaths in war) from 1900 through 1987 were:

The only democracy on the list, Great Britain, attained its numbers only during the course of World War I and World War II through the economic blockade of the Central Powers and bombing of German cities. Even Rummel’s chart is somewhat misleading, however, in that if one looks at democide as a percentage of a country’s total population, still other nondemocratic regimes top the list, including Cambodia under Pol Pot, Turkey under Kemal Atatürk, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Mexico, Uganda, Romania, and Mongolia.

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