Our President, it seems, is a socialist at heart. Or maybe a fascist. I used to joke about it, but never really believed our nation could elect anyone so far removed from American thought as that. But one thing is clear after his diatribe against business owners last week in Virginia: Barack Obama does not believe in the American Dream. He believes in the dreams of Karl Marx, instead.
“If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. YOU DIDN’T GET THERE ON YOUR OWN… somebody along the way gave you some help…
If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made it happen.”
Look, I get it. So do the millions of other Americans – and people from around the world, for that matter. Humans are social creatures; we create and live in societies in which certain responsibilities are shared. The President’s speech highlighted the ones most of us recognize: police and fire protection, education, transportation. But here’s what the President and his acolytes fail to understand: while we do these things for the mutual benefit of everyone in the society, we also understand that differences in outcome depend far more on individual ability than any other factor. The President discounts that notion, and in so doing, insults anyone who has slaved at creating a business. Perhaps he thinks it an archaic anachronism from the 19th century, the same way he does religion or gun rights. I’m pretty sure that the men we celebrate because of the ability to turn their dreams into reality would disagree – from Thomas Edison through to the neighborhood butcher.
Regardless of his reasoning, the result is the same twisted, demented view of society – that all people should enjoy more or less equal outcomes, regardless of ability. That is, of course, the basis for socialist and communist thought. It is the responsibility of those more able to provide the means for the rest of us, and it is our right to expect they will. Of course, that isn’t the American Way – but it is the Obama Way, and it dovetails neatly with the change he promised in 2008.
The American Dream is tied to equal opportunity, not equal outcomes. Stop and consider your own lives. Are you more successful than some of the people from your own past? Less successful? Certainly, as I look back to my own high school graduating class, I’m more successful than some of my classmates and not quite as successful as a few others. Why is that? Did they have a different baseline than I? Of course not. We grew up in the same town, came from families that were more or less similar in economic and social status and attended the same schools with the same teachers. That the difference in our economic and social outcomes might derive from innate talent or desire or even how hard each of us worked throughout our lives is of no consequence to the socialist.
“I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something – there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.”
Yes, Mr. President. We are all working from the achievements of those who came before. But there are also the failures who came before and who come along today, and we’re also working from them. Are some the result of bad luck or bad circumstance? Perhaps, but I’ve never believed in “luck” as we commonly refer to it. Besides, I’ve thrived despite what most people would consider horrible luck – being stricken at age 25 with Crohn’s Disease. Has that horrible illness held me back some? Yes, but it is what it is: and it simply means I have to work that much smarter and harder to ensure that I got a positive outcome. So, no, I don’t believe that “luck” plays a significant role in your outcome and your individual ability is far more important.
This is the point that the President fails to understand. Just as every person’s world view is shaped by the circumstances of their life first, I think the President’s is likewise informed. He can look back upon his own life and understand the concept of getting ahead by being pulled ahead far more easily than by working harder or smarter than anyone else. This is a man who, by his own admission, was a pothead in High School, a classic underachiever who wound up attending Harvard and Columbia not because of his academic achievement but because of affirmative action programs. He became Harvard Law Review editor not because of his journalistic or legal abilities, but because of campus connections (to this date, Barack Obama remains the only editor without a single byline). The pattern has repeated itself, time and again throughout his life until he rose to the pinnacle of success and assumed the Presidency. This is not to say the President is not intelligent; he certainly is, but undoubtedly he realizes he would not hold his office were he not the Chosen One from early on. But he believes it impossible to achieve success without some form of divine providence. He completely ignores that individual ability is a far greater indicator of success than any other factor.
Relegating individual ability to a mere production indicator, not success indicator: this has been the progressive dream for over a century, of course. Equality of outcome, not opportunity is the hallmark of the Liberal Dream. In Barack Obama, that dream has found the ultimate champion – and a man determined to foist it upon the United States, regardless of the consequences.
This morning’s post about being a Libertarian raised questions among the readership (thanks for the feedback, by the way) and I thought one in particular needed addressing. It came from a Twitter follower who wanted to know how I, an unabashed Christian and social conservative, can also be an unabashed Libertarian. On first blush, I understand how there is a seeming dichotomy in the two philosophies. The confusion, I think, stems from not understanding how classical liberalism and classic Protestantism influence Libertarian thinking.
As defined today, liberalism invokes the idea that government is the only organization capable of providing social cohesion. Religion, family and community each play a role, but in the end it is the government that must be the glue that keeps society from coming apart. This view – call it modern liberalism – is currently the predominant one in western society. The “enlightened oligarchy” of this model actually isn’t far removed from the “enlightened monarchy” that dominated that dominated European governments in the latter half of the 18th century. It also hews closely to various themes that come to bear in the mid-20th century, in which government control over most or all aspects of social order were encouraged: Socialism, fascism and communism.
However, classical liberalism as practiced in the upper-echelon salons of Western Europe and mainstream American life in the same period held that each institution worked in combination to create a stable society. In this model, government is just another player along with religion, family and community in creating a just and stable society. Classical liberalism, as opposed to modern liberalism (or perhaps, “progressivism” is a more apt term), holds that individual rights outweigh those of the society – provided the individual is a just and moral being. If not, then each of the various factions that comprise a society; the churches, the schools, the community organizations, the family and friends and yes, the government, has a role to play in returning the individual to that place of moral rectitude.
“The foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality; the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained… While just government protects all in their religious rights, true religion affords government its surest support.” –George Washington, First Inaugural Address, April 20, 1789
Although the nation’s creation included the indispensability of a moral citizenry, the founders further outlined the necessity for religion and governance playing separate yet equal roles in public life by purposely cleaving the two. Government would have no role in determining religious affairs and (other than informing the moral character of the citizenry) religion would have no say in the body politic. They codified the principle in the First Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids the government from establishing a national religion or interfering in any religious activity. Moral character may be important, but it is not so important that the government should decide that which is moral. Rather, the government should be informed of that which is moral by the decisions of plebiscite, which in turn should be informed by the communities’ religious institutions.
This reliance on indirect morality in government is how I can be both a Libertarian and socially conservative. It is not the government’s job to dictate morality; that is best left to me, my personal relationship with Jesus Christ and my spiritual mentorship from my church. The moral and religious beliefs I hold will, by nature, play a part in how I vote and participate in the political theater. But the place to make the arguments for those positions is not in the political arena, but the spiritual: in the pews and pulpits, not the halls of Congress.
To put it more plainly: it is not the role of religion to decide the affairs of government and it is not the role of government to decide the affairs of religion. This principle has been a cornerstone of the American Republic since the founding. As JFK said, “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” That many of my fellow social conservatives see fit to now overthrow this essential precept of American republicanism speaks more to their insecurity and unwillingness to engage the populace in true debate over morality – rather, they would impose it by means of government impression. That is antithetical to the teachings they claim to uphold. Christ wants a conversion of souls, not an enslaved people. In the same way, we should look to create a nation of free minds, not coerced opinions.
Libertarianism and social conservatism are more than compatible. Since both teach that the best way to a society that can absorb the worst while coming through with our individual best, they are mutually supportive.
June 25, 2012 | Categories: Civics 101, Faith & Religion, History, Politics | Tags: Faith in Government, human-rights, Libertarians, Politics, religion, Religion in Government, Social Conservatives, society | Leave a comment