Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society was the New Deal on steroids. It was the most destructive anti-Democratic and anti-entrepreneurial program of the 20th century. Johnson’s vision was utopian, statist and reckless, but the grief of a nation reeling from an assassinated president, and the general sense that America was spiraling out of control, spurred LBJ to act.
The Great Society started with Johnson’s disastrous War On Poverty. In reality, it wasn’t a War On Poverty at all. It was a war against prosperity and success. Like all progressives, Johnson believed in economic leveling. Instead of lifting everyone up through commerce or capitalism, he forced people into an economic purgatory where mediocrity was the norm and striving for greatness was discouraged.
Under LBJ, the nation witnessed the true creation of the welfare state, based on massive entitlement programs and predicated on the government’s ability to drive the populace to an ambition-destroying focus on inner meaning and quality of life, instead of character, ambition and success. This created a crisis of conscience and confidence in people, making them both susceptible to undermining traditional norms and predisposed to reliance on the state to handle things that were too hard for them.
LBJ laid the groundwork to create an environment of self-actualization — through the government, conservation programs, federal patronage of the arts, public broadcasting and more. These were not meant to foster national elevation or celebrate America’s greatness. They were created as a corporate secular replacement of religion, as sources of spiritual fulfillment for the masses. Replace God with government, and you control not just people’s minds, but their hearts and souls. Using these fears, he persuaded millions of Americans to abandon their traditional values of hard work and self-reliance in exchange for the soullessness of self-actualization.