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What would Lincoln say?

What would Lincoln say?

Posted: Friday, February 24, 2012 7:01 pm
By: Dr. Harold Pease, Liberty Under Fire

President Barack Obama’s favorite president, as is the case with so many Americans, is Abraham Lincoln who shares a national holiday, Presidents Day, with George Washington.  
But this bond certainly could not be because of shared political ideology.  Lincoln was for the free market and decidedly against socialism—just opposite of President Obama.  He saw nothing in the Communist Manifesto, published in 1848, worthy of emulation.
On the ownership of property Abraham Lincoln’s feelings were especially strong, he said, “Property is the fruit of labor; property is desirable; is a positive good in the world.  
That some should be rich shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprises” (The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VII, pp. 259-260).  
To him there was no need to take by force the wealth of those who produce and give it to those less productive. The “share the wealth” philosophy articulated by Obama as a presidential candidate in 2008 to “Joe the plumber,” would have been foreign ideology to the Civil War president.
The answer for the poor was not class envy, first identified by Aristotle some 2,500 years ago as being the natural inclination of those with less, a philosophy implemented by Lenin in Russia when the communists identified those holding property as enemies of the state and liquidated some four to eight million farmers, the “Kulaks” (“The Russian Kulaks,”  
Then they wondered why the country had such a horrific famine in 1921-1922.  
Lincoln’s answer to the poor, from which he sprang himself,  “Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another, but let him labor diligently to build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence … .”
Unfortunately, many in our society have forgotten the “labor diligently” part of his phrase and have come to expect the government to provide, from the industry of others, their every need.  
On that score, Lincoln also had words.  “You toil and work and earn bread, and I will eat it.”  He viewed this principle as a form of tyranny to those who work.  
Today 47.5 percent of the adult population pay no federal income tax; many actually receive benefits for which they have paid nothing.
Watching others acquire wealth was, in fact, a sign of a healthy economy for Lincoln.
“I take it that it is best for all to leave each man free to acquire property as fast as he can.  
“Some will get wealthy.  I don’t believe in a law to prevent a man from getting rich; it would do more harm than good.” Nor would he have supported the hundreds of laws that we have today that disincentivize a man trying to acquire wealth.
Lincoln might have added, “When has a poor man ever created a full time job for anyone?”  
Hate the Walmarts or the McDonalds all you want but they provide the poor thousands of jobs. Do not bite the hand that feeds you, then wonder where the jobs and prosperity went as did the early Russian communists.  
The “share the wealth” philosophy, which Lincoln opposed, has never brought long term general prosperity for any people, any place, or any time and will not now either.
Dr. Harold Pease considers himself an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He has taught history and political science from this perspective for over 25 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, visit

WCP 2.23.12

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