Obama’s War On the Individual: http://ow.ly/kSRW4
Should you ever wonder what fuels the President’s incessant drive to grow government, look no further than his recent commencement speech at The Ohio State University. One could be forgiven for concluding that he hates the Founders’ vision of America as a country of free individuals.
As intellectual descendants of the Renaissance, the Founders inherited a healthy skepticism of political and religious authority. They also inherited a healthy respect for the individual. These two ideas are complementary–rejecting the authority of monarchs and priests is an empty gesture without recognizing one’s own authority on what to believe and how to act. Individual liberty in body and soul was recognized as the end for which government was the means.
The Founders recognized that while government is necessary to secure individual liberty, it is also a threat to that liberty. Their solution, never explicitly applied before in human history, was to formally recognize freedom as the point of government.
Were freedom possible without government, the solution would have been easy–eliminate it altogether. Unfortunately, we resemble dieters more than alcoholics–an alcoholic can live without drinking, but a dieter still has to eat. Government is both necessary and dangerous–a dilemma for which no better solution exists than the US Constitution.
The fact that individual liberty is the central point of our political system does not mean people must act always and only alone. No one, libertarians included, believes that collective action is bad per se. Working together is uniquely human and marvelously effective in getting individuals what they want. Other than making sure no one initiates violence against another, though, no central authority is needed to dictate how, when, and for how long groups of people work together. Projects and the groups of people who execute them form, function, and then disband as dictated by the needs of the individuals who comprise them.
All of this is completely lost on the President, whose only notion of collective action is the government-enforced variety. To his way of thinking, there is nothing a group of people can do that can’t be done better when directed by government. No good is ever created that cannot be amplified by authority–especially authority over business.
The very businesses Obama seems to loathe are wonderful examples of what human beings can achieve working together voluntarily. Yet individual ambition is denigrated by the President as if it were 1) a bad thing, 2) not in fact part and parcel of any collective achievement. Individual ambition drives both individual action and cooperation with others who value similar things. A baseball player works to improve his individual stats, but also tempers his individual ambition for the good of the team. These two drives are complementary, not antithetical. The player who thinks only of himself will soon find himself a pariah among his teammates. The one who lacks individual ambition will never even make the team.
These trade-offs are worked out quite well without the all-knowing eye of Obama’s preferred kind of government watching o’er. My beef is simple–no one should be forced to engage in collective action absent a deeply compelling reason, say, fending off a Canadian invasion. First, it violates individual rights, which means any alleged improvement to the collective is immaterial. Second, evidence of the government’s efficacy in improving upon the voluntary cooperation of individually ambitious citizens is scant.
The President’s contempt for the individual extends well beyond economic rights. His apoplectic accusations of Congress “gumming up the works” on issues like gun control reveal a deep-seated conviction that he knows better than each of us how the world should look and who should get to do what when. He at times appears to lament the fact that he has to bother checking with anyone at all. Someone should have told him in which country he was seeking office.
Last, Barack Obama detests that anyone is even allowed to object to his vision of a collectivist nation. His admonition to graduates not to look for “tyranny lurking around the corner,” as apparently some of us do*, speaks volumes about what he really wants deep down–to impose without restraint what he thinks is best–for you, for me, and for whoever is to be. I don’t think we need to look around the corner anymore.
*Guilty as charged.
As Ron White notes, you can’t fix stupid. To that I would add that you can’t fix fascist. No better example can be provided than the aftermath of the Boston bombing. As a libertarian blogger, I mostly hear from thoughtful people wondering how we allowed government to grow so big and what we can do about it. Then there’s the anarchist fringe–people who believe that everything, and I mean everything, that government does is illegitimate. Even they have something valuable to offer–a thought-provoking if sometimes kooky lot. Not so for the scum-ridden worms who managed to turn Boston into an excuse to flaunt their fascist side.
I have always refrained from blocking people on Facebook, deleting posts on my page, or otherwise squelching points of view with which I disagree. Intellectual honesty demands that thinking people expose themselves to the ideas contained in The Communist Manifesto, Mein Kampf, and the NY Times editorial page if for no other reason than to remind oneself that people really do think like that. I altered my no-block policy when mindless vitriol starting showing up after the second alleged bomber was caught. I blocked and/or deleted the posts of more than one person whose skull is teeming with spiders.
The offenders were convinced that Muslims in general were to blame for Boston and should be killed. I neither practice nor defend any organized religion, but I do have the good sense to know that Muslims, like libertarians, Christians, and redheads, are not all cut from the same cloth. Some of the sicker posts gleefully noted that the death of the first brother meant one less Muslim on the planet. Just to be clear, I have no qualms whatsoever about killing a man who is lobbing bombs and firing guns at the police. I do have a problem with hateful simpletons who equate his actions with the millions of people who practice Islam peacefully.
One popular post shows a crusty old man looking down the barrel of a gun toward the camera. The caption reads, “How to wink at a Muslim.” Now I ask you, if you have even considered passing that one on, what in heaven’s name makes that funny? Other posts delighted in making references to celebrations of the first brother’s death with a feast featuring pork. To kill someone who poses an imminent threat is perfectly legitimate; to celebrate it in such a crass manner is disgusting.
Is there, within all of us, a dark corner where such bigotry and hatred lives? I wonder sometimes, given the growing number of radical Muslims, homophobic Christians, misogynists, and misandrists who seem to come crawling out of the cellar lately. Is it just easier to assume that every member of a group of people is the same and deserves contempt or is something much worse than laziness at work here?
I suspect bigotry and its political manifestation fascism is a highly contagious disease, but for all my musings about the root cause, there remains a more important question. What should good people do about it? Talking to bigots rarely works; talking to fascists never does. If they were capable of listening and learning, they would be incapable of holding the views they hold. I learned this recently when I (admittedly impolitely*) suggested to someone that calling for the death of all Muslims was, well, misguided. In my view, the author had leapt over bigotry and done a belly-flop in the cesspool of fascism. His response was to offer to put his boot in my mouth. To paraphrase an old saying, don’t try to teach a fascist to think–it just frustrates you and energizes the fascist.
Yet to let such things pass unchallenged is little better than participating oneself. The less noble part of me wanted an chance to grab that boot, twist off the foot within it, and bludgeon the offender unconscious. It was not one of my better moments and I am not particularly proud of it, but maybe, just maybe, there was someone reading the exchange who not only agreed with me, but who learned from me when to shut up and walk away. Perhaps there was even a bigot reading it who will now think twice before becoming a full-blown fascist.
I have no pat answer, no rule of thumb, no guide for good people. I wish I did. Perhaps each one of us must answer the question for ourselves as to when and how to challenge hatefulness. I do know one thing, though. Letting it fester in our society will be our undoing. Better to challenge a bigot now than deal with a fascist later. Just be careful out there–a true fascist can’t be fixed.
*I told him that if he could not do better than that to just shut up.
Boston Bombers, Boneheads, and the Rule of Law: http://ow.ly/kf76p
Today I have watched some people come together in the hope that a madman is caught before he does more harm. I have watched others come apart at the seams over fear that Boston has become a prison camp for the New World Order. The contrast is telling.
First, let’s be clear about one thing. I despise the fact that many of our police forces are armed like a Panzer division. Our misguided war on drugs has created the perception that the “bad guys” must be met with overpowering military-like strength. It is unnecessary and dangerous, and we need desperately to rethink drug laws and law enforcement in this country.
Having said that, I have the deepest respect for the officers who risk their lives daily to keep the peace. They deserve every ounce of gratitude we can give them when they act justly within the guidelines of the Constitution. Individual police officers are not uniformly part of some master plan to install a futuristic dictatorship. And that is where the boneheads come in.
Yes, we each have a right to refuse entry to our houses. Yes, we each have a right to move about like normal citizens. Yes, we each should not have to see armored vehicles parked on the street. For heaven’s sake, though, must we suffer the rants of idiots who cannot discern that this just might be the best way authorities can figure to protect us in this rare and unusual scenario?
Were police in Boston rounding up citizens who oppose Obama or tear-gassing libertarian bloggers*, we would have every right and reason to resist. I have seen no evidence that they are and no evidence thus far that they are doing anything but securing an area that may contain a nut case with small arms and a bomb. If later it emerges that proper protocol was not followed, we can deal with that and make every effort to see that it does not happen again. They are not rounding up political prisoners and torching private homes.
Neither are they “overreacting.” Police do that sometimes–think Waco. In this case, a person we have every reason to believe wants to blow up some more people is loose in the general populace, not surrounded in a compound. A twenty-block area had to be secured–quickly. I for one am glad it could be secured at all. If it is still locked down after the immediate crisis is over, I may reconsider. Until then, I am solidly behind the brave people who are trying to catch the suspect.
Those who are using today’s horrid events as a platform to rail like rebellious teens against authority in general are looking…let us not mince words…like idiots. Do thoughtful libertarians a favor and consider before you speak how your rant might look to someone who supports liberty, but thinks it wise to apprehend a homicidal maniac. You’ll be the wiser for your pause.
*Would one of you mind watching out the window while I finish this?