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RealClearPolitics - Articles - Roger Kimball

Last Build Date: Mon, 30 Mar 2009 19:22:08 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2009

"Tectonic change," Barack Obama, and You

Mon, 30 Mar 2009 19:22:08 -0600

But within hours it transpired that the GM board was not really a player in this drama of corporate defenestration. No, Mr. Wagoner is getting the Order of the Boot not at the behest of the GM Board but at the insistence of Barack Obama. Why, you might ask, is the President of the United States mucking about in personnel matters of a public corporation? Good question. Politico touches on the essential issue in its report: "The surprise announcement about the classically iconic American corporation is perhaps the most vivid sign yet of the tectonic change in the relationship between business and government in this era of subsidies and bailouts." The critical phrase is "the tectonic change in the relationship between business and government." Remember it. When GM accepted those billions in government subsidies, it rendered itself beholden to the source of those subsidies-not the ultimate source, mind you: i.e., you and me: the taxpayers. No, in accepting that largess from the government, GM handed itself over to the bureaucrats writing the checks, ultimately to the bureaucrat-in-chief, Barack Obama. A "tectonic change in the relationship between business and government." Time was, the role of government in a capitalist society was primarily to secure an environment in which private enterprise could thrive. Today, the role of government is increasingly to nationalize private enterprise, i.e., destroy it in the name of a "higher" good, a "new era of responsibility" in which government bureaucrats tell you how to run your business and whom to employ. A "tectonic change in the relationship between business and government": remember that phrase. And note that a "tectonic," i.e., a fundamental, change between business and government is also a tectonic change between the individual and government. "What our generation has forgotten," Friedrich Hayek wrote in The Road to Serfdom, "is that the system of private property si the most important guaranty of freedom, not only for those who own property, but scarcely less for those those who do not." The tectonic change in the the relationship between business and government, between the individual and government, signals not only the expansion of government control, it also signals the contraction of individual freedom. From the very beginning of his campaign, Obama made it clear that economic "fairness" was his political lodestar. He made it clear, but did we really understand him? "Fairness": that's a good thing, isn't it? Who can be against "fairness"? But what if by "fairness" he meant not "impartial justice" but "equalized outcomes"? What if by "fairness" he meant "spreading the wealth around"? What then? "Who can doubt," Hayek asked, ". . . that the power which a multiple millionaire, who may be my neighbor and perhaps my employer, has over me is very much less than that which the smallest functionnaire possess who wields the coercive power of the state on whose discretion it depends whether and how I am to be allowed to live or to work?" The chapter of The Road to Serfdom in which these words appear is called Who, Whom?-the question that, said Lenin, was the fundamental fulcrum of politics. The genius of the American system has been to short-circuit that question by distributing the power of the subject: Lenin's "Who" is longer a central and centralizing authority but a multiplicity of actors each with his native interests and prerogatives. Burke spoke of the importance to liberty of of those "little platoons" that claim our daily allegiance. James Madison, in Federalist LI, made a similar point when he observed that "the policy of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives" helped encourage the distribution of power and hence the growth of liberty. The tectonic change contemplated by the Obama administration would have us disband those little platoons and assimilate ourselves to the swarming army of the state. Madison's "opposite and rival interests," for these collectivists, impede the progress of fairness and interrupt the process of e[...]

The Gipper vs. Obama

Sun, 15 Feb 2009 00:44:00 -0600

That was a mistake that Reagan never made. He was first and last an apostle of individual liberty. He knew that increasing government control of economic life meant increasing government control of all aspects of life. He also had a deep insight into the spiritual legerdemain according to which socialism masqueraded as humanitarianism. The real problem for conservatives today is not their nostalgic admiration of Reagan, but their distance from Reagan's moral clarity. A clever blogger at Texas Rainmaker (hat-tip to Instapundit) reminds us of just how great that distance is by juxtaposing some observations by Reagan with some observations by the current President of the United States. Some snippets from this sobering medley: Reagan on the campaign trail: "This is the issue of this election: whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them for ourselves." The current President of the United States on the campaign trail: "Generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal." Reagan: "Back in 1927, an American socialist, Norman Thomas, six times candidate for President on the Socialist Party ticket, said that the American people would never vote for socialism but he said under the name of liberalism the American people they would adopt every fragment of the socialist program " The current President of the United States, at the end of October: "We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." Reagan: "One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It's very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project. Most people are a little reluctant to oppose anything that suggests medical care for people who possibly can't afford it." The current President of the United States: "As President, I will sign a universal health care plan into law by the end of my first term in office." Reagan: "The doctor begins to lose freedom. . . . First you decide that the doctor can have so many patients. They are equally divided among the various doctors by the government. But then doctors aren't equally di­vided geographically. So a doctor decides he wants to practice in one town and the government has to say to him, you can't live in that town. They already have enough doctors. You have to go someplace else. And from here it's only a short step to dictating where he will go. . . . All of us can see what happens once you establish the precedent that the government can determine a man's working place and his working methods, determine his employment. From here it's a short step to all the rest of socialism, to determining his pay. And pretty soon your son won't decide, when he's in school, where he will go or what he will do for a living. He will wait for the government to tell him where he will go to work and what he will do." The current President of the United States: "John McCain and Sarah Palin call this socialistic. I don't when they decided they wanted to make a virtue out of selfishness." Reagan: "Somewhere a perversion has taken place. Our natural, inalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of government, and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment." The current President of the United States: "We are going to roll up our sleeves and we are going to remake this country, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, county by county, state by state." Reagan: "Senator Fulbright has said at Stanford University that the Constitution is outmoded. He referred to the president as our moral teacher and our leade[...]