“Training Programs” of today, the “National Workshops”of Yesterday … ?

In Obama’s State of the Union address last night, there was something that stuck out to me: the beginning of so-called training programs to train people for employment (and put Biden in charge of it, so it’s obvious on how well it will go…)

But it’s not even the fact that Biden was placed in charge that called my attention to it, it was the similarity between another instance in history – which, as it so happens, didn’t work so well.

France during the 1840’s was a very turbulent place, and when the new “republic” had been formed, the socialists, primarily following Louis Blanc, began a government program of job training/labor-workforce, known as the National Workshops.

Soon, thousands had become part of these national workshops, the insignia of which, a golden bumble bee, could be seen all throughout Paris. By May 1848, the members of the National Workshops clocked in at about 100,000 persons (!) and there was fear of even bringing up it’s problems in the assembly (after all, violent mobs formed quickly in Paris during that era…)

Finally, due to monetary problems, the issue reached a climax. When there was over a hundred thousand persons on the rolls of the national workshops, increasing every day, and because the National Assembly had promised also to lower taxes, a crisis was brewing. Quoting from the excellent biography on Bastiat, “A Man Alone” when the National Workshops were being threatened:

“At the May 15th meeting of the assembly, the Assemblymen suddenly realized that the streets outside the chamber were more quiet than they had been since the new chamber of deputies had begun its meetings. The group of legislators realized that they were surrounded by something more than 20,000 men when the crowd at last revealed its approach with a single terrible shout.”

Now for the sake of brevity, I will sum up what happened May 15th 1848 – there was a riot of angry workmen at the National Assembly, worried that the Workshops would be dissolved. They had become dependent upon the wages, which the Assembly could no longer pay for, because the people demanded decreased taxes.

Bastiat’s words in the aftermath of the uprising:

Once we start from this idea, accepted by all our political theorists, and so energetically expressed by M. Louis Blanc in these words: “The motive force of society is the government”; once men consider themselves as sentient, but passive, incapable of improving themselves morally or materially by their own intelligence and energy, and reduced to expecting everything from the law; in a word, when they admit that their relation to the state is that of a flock of sheep to the shepherd, it is clear that the responsibility of the government is immense. . .

Thus, there is not a single ill afflicting the nation for which the government has not voluntarily made itself responsible. Is it astonishing, then, that each little twinge should be a cause of revolution?

I will leave you to consider the problems (besides Biden) of our own Training programs, should they ever become a reality. Is it the place of government ?

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