Friday, February 17, 2012

Early in the morning on February 17th, 2012

Contrast the words below, from President Reagan's first inaugural address, with the paragraphs I quoted in my previous post about President Obama's State of the Union speech.
"From time to time, we have been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. But if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden. The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price.

We hear much of special interest groups. Our concern must be for a special interest group that has been too long neglected. It knows no sectional boundaries or ethnic and racial divisions, and it crosses political party lines. It is made up of men and women who raise our food, patrol our streets, man our mines and our factories, teach our children, keep our homes, and heal us when we are sick—professionals, industrialists, shopkeepers, clerks, cabbies, and truckdrivers. They are, in short, "We the people," this breed called Americans."
Whereas President Obama sees the government as the agent that defends the citizens against any and all injustices, President Reagan recognizes that it can also be the oppressor, and that this tendency must be constantly monitored and defended against.  The idea that governance could be better and more fairly conducted by "experts" is the basis for the progressive/liberal movement, but in the Obama administration there has been less emphasis on experts running the government "better", and more on experts running the government "meaner".  Meaning that the modern progressive sees the system as rigged against the ordinary citizen--rigged by special interest groups, rigged by rich people, rigged by corporations (owned by rich people), and rigged even by the environment itself (which they say is changing in ways that will be detrimental, even devastating to the average person, caused of course by corporations owned by rich people).  The response of the Obama administration to this malevolent universe is to punish those responsible by making them "pay their fair share".  And honestly, there are many ordinary citizens who have no interest in liberal/progressive ideology who see the system as rigged against them also, and they would be right.  The system is rife with carve-outs, loopholes, special deals, special rules, accommodations, and dispensations.  But here is the paradox.

President Obama's proposals to add more of the same, to add regulation and penalty that will tip the scales in favor of the little guy, only guarantee the perpetuation of the special interest politics that are a plague on us all.  Big government begets special interest politics.  Why?  Because if the government is in your business, then it is in your interest to lobby and twist the proposed rules to your advantage.  If the government leaves you alone, the reasons to lobby for advantage are diminished and your success depends to a greater degree on your own energy, creativity and intelligence.  Smaller government leaves us closer to the meritocracy we are supposed to be.

In the long term, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness can only be secured through President Reagan's trust in everyday Americans, and it can only be lost through President Obama's trust in his experts.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Oh Captain My Captain

I watched about 60 or 70 percent of the State of the Union address last week.  The President definitely gave it the old college try, punctuating many of his statements with a throaty urgency that was calculated, I'm sure, to express just how much he cares about us and the country.  Listen to me people, can't you tell how hard I'm trying to do the right thing!

At the end of the speech I played an interesting game with myself.  Here is the text of the last paragraph:
"So it is with America. Each time I look at that flag, I'm reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those 50 stars and those 13 stripes. No one built this country on their own. This nation is great because we built it together. This nation is great because we worked as a team. This nation is great because we get each other's backs. And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great; no mission too hard. As long as we are joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, and our future is hopeful, and the state of our Union will always be strong."
I was reading the text of the speech as he delivered it, and as he read the sentences above, I added one word, several times.
So it is with America. Each time I look at that flag, I'm reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those 50 stars and those 13 stripes. No one built this country on their own. This nation is great because we built it together, voluntarily. This nation is great because we worked as a team, voluntarily. This nation is great because we get each other's backs, voluntarily. And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great; no mission too hard. As long as we are joined in common purpose, voluntarily, as long as we maintain our common resolve, voluntarily, our journey moves forward, and our future is hopeful, and the state of our Union will always be strong.
Right there, one sees the prism through which the President views the world.  He is correct when he says that no one built this country on their own, but the education, friendships, partnerships, negotiations, and collaborations it took to build this great nation were not all planned and facilitated by the federal government. He fails to understand that there is no Union unless the Union is voluntary.  Johah Goldberg stated it clearly in this recent article in National Review Online.  In reference to that same final paragraph he wrote:
This nation isn’t great because we work as a team with the president as our captain. America is great because America is free. It is great not because we put our self-interest aside, but because we have the right to pursue happiness.
Those of the liberal/progressive bent do not trust us to work together voluntarily, and they certainly don't want us pursuing too much happiness (they like to refer to it as greed), so they have undertaken to teach us all the error of our ways through the patient establishment of education and journalism professions that are largely sympathetic to their cause.  But they will never convince everyone, and recent trends in talk radio, television news, and alternatives to traditional public schools have made their job more difficult.  So the President's utopian vision will come about only if resort is made to those techniques that have worked before (and are the only ones that will ever work), totalitarianism and terror.

There was a moment in the speech when he used this quote from Abraham Lincoln:
"That government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more."
Would that it were so!  This President plans on doing everything for us, or at the very least, telling us how to do everything.  Does he ever see a situation and think, you know, this'd probably turn out better if I just left things alone.

And this one's a howler.  When he was talking about energy, and the vast quantities of natural gas and oil that companies have recently figured out how to liberate from shales and other "tight" rocks, he said this:
"And by the way, it was public research dollars, over the course of 30 years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock - reminding us that government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground."
Now I'm sure that there have been some professors and graduate students around the country who have done some publicly funded research projects that have contributed to the discovery of methods and technologies that allow hydrocarbons to be produced from rock formations that were previously ignored.  But to imply that they were a critical element is ridiculous.  Smart men and women, working on their own or for companies like Chesapeake, EOG, EnCana, and Devon, driven by profit potential and the excitement of discovery, are the reason that the United States is now known to be the host of vast reserves of natural gas and oil that were virtually unknown less than a decade ago.  To suggest otherwise is an insult.  The President wants us to do big things, like Hoover dams, and Golden Gate bridges, and interstate highways.  Finding enough natural gas to last the country for 100 years isn't big enough for you?

I'll leave you with this thought, formed freely and without coercion in my own mind.  Commerce, conducted freely, among all activities conducted by men, is perhaps the greatest agent of tolerance and cooperation of them all.  Given the propensity of this President to interfere, at every level, with the free conduct of commerce, is it any wonder that he is the most polarizing President I have known in my lifetime?