The Irresponsibility of Social Democracies (and Why Frank Underwood Loves Them)
It has been far too long since the release of the fourth season of House of Cards. Viewers everywhere are discovering the outcome of this contested, and very corrupt, election. Will Conway, the challenger of the incumbent Frank Underwood, has been campaigning on the idea of making the U.S. government limited in both size and scope. The Underwoods are not having it and it should come as no surprise that they plot against any threat to their power, including the Constitution.
In order to play ball with the rising attitude towards good politics and limited government, Frank Underwood considers unleashing upon the country a faux sentiment of social democracy and social responsibility. He re-launches his program, “America Works,” (AmWorks) labeling it a program in which the government guarantees jobs to all those who ask for one. Frank, and the real-life social democrats, are not doing this to truly help the economy or to make politics acceptable again (if either are even possible). They are doing it so individual responsibility decreases, forcing government reliance to increase.
Why does he, and other famous social democrats in history (FDR being the most famous), engage in the solidification of responsibility within a social system, rather than allow the mistakes of the individual to result in personal failures?
The philosophy of “social responsibility” answers this question succinctly: the failures of the individual must be mitigated by all, even at the cost of bigger government. It is this belief that empowers the Frank Underwoods of politics. They hold tightly to their political power, looking to further expand their portfolio of right-means-might politics. Under the guise of “democratic action” or the “common good,” these politicians promise less personal responsibility from the people, selling it back to them at the mere cost of increased government control.
The Frank-types believe that individuals should not be punished for personal mistakes; this would be unjust. Rather, they believe the justice lies in the community, for the common good. Take, for example, AmWorks. The ideology behind it declares “If you don’t have a marketable skill, we will force the taxpayer to employ you! No marketable skill required.” It is identical to the “social responsibility” philosophy and it is also the way governments reign in more power.
By taking the requirements of a happy life (working and rational decision making) away from the individual, the government must provide these ends. Frank would love to provide you these necessities, as long as you willfully transfer more power to him.
For a narcissistic man like Frank, it is an even trade; if you provide him the power to do what he pleases, he will give you back the necessities you need to survive (without spending a dime of his own money). To the social democrats like FDR, it would be a matter of speculation to declare they were as narcissistic as Frank. What is not speculation is the tool they both used to expand power: the willingness of people to give up personal responsibility, in the name of the common good, at the cost of big government.
The complications and destruction that this philosophy brings is well documented by history. Every totalitarian or otherwise authoritarian regime has in some way created and propagated a social theory of collectivism within their country. Either by a socialized legitimacy of expanded government, or at the threat of violence, governments across the world have imposed a form of socialized fault on people. What isn’t well documented, however, is the simple premise that all growth in government comes from. Thankfully, we have Frank Underwood. In a single quote, he simplifies the political outcome of collectivist philosophies: “The American people don’t know what’s best for them. I do.”
* Cahleel Copus is a college student studying political science and philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has worked with Young Americans for Liberty, The Leadership Institute, Students For Liberty and other affiliated liberty nonprofits groups.