Hubert H. Humphrey (United States, 1911-78)

Figure 1.--Here we see Hubert Humbprey as a boy in Minnesota during the 1920s with his dog.

Hubert Huprey was elected vice president of the United States with President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. He was one of the towering figures of Americam liberalism. He burst upon the American scene at the 1948 Democratic Convention when he delivered a stiring keynote address on civil rights. He would later play a key role in the passage of the land-mark 1964 Civil Rights Act. He challenged Senator Kennedy for the Democratic nomination in the 1960 presidential campaign. President Johnson chose him for his vice-presidential running mate in the 1968 presidential election, but was defeated by former vice-president Richard Nixon. Humprey was one of the most decent, fair politicans in American history. He was the great engine for liberal political ideas. He thought up what would become the Peace Corps. Nuclear arms control was another issue he championed. He also strongly supported American food aid to poor countries. We note a stirring speech in which he recounted the hunger and poverty of the third world and argued that it would not only be a moral failure for America not to provide food aid, buut it would bed evil. He accused the Eisenhower Administration of bring "intelectually and spiritually baren". We do not disagree with America offering food aid to starving peoples. There was, however, a critical lapse in Humprey's thinking on this issue. Food aid did not address the fundamental issue of causation. While Senator Humprey spoke eloquently on this and many other issues, I never heard him address the fundamental issue of why the Third World is poor and why America is rich and able to produce such a large surplus. Humprey would talk about God's bounty. It is almost as if he thought that America was rich because it was blessed by God and should be a little embarassed by its bounty. It is true that America is gifted with productive land. But so are other countries. It is the American free enterprise capitalism that unleashed creativity, creating as Milton Freeman explasins, men like Cyrus McCormick and Henry Ford who turned that potential into wealth and prosperity. But American sucess and free market capitalism was never one of the key policies he championed. And we would offer that in this regard that Senator Humprey and American liberalism in general was "intelectually and spiritually baren". This is a failing that modern liberals continue to make. It pains me to say this as I so admire Humprey as a good and decent person. And his stand on civil rights was an important contribution to America. As did his promotion of arms control. But it is a simple fact that American food aid had no lasting impact on the Third World. Much of Africa is today poorer than before decolonization and the receipt of massive food shipments. But look at the impact that free market capitalism has had on countries like Brazil, China, India, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and others. Senator Humprey can also be faulted for his failure to speak out passionately about the great evil of the day, totalitarian Communism.


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Created: 4:46 AM 2/7/2011
Last edited: 4:46 AM 2/7/2011