Monday, July 16, 2012

July 16, 2012

Does the President Think the Government Got Him Where He is Today?
by Erick Erickson
July 16, 2012

It is a lie premised on Marxism. It really is. It is not hyperbole to say it. Prior to Marx, people did not clearly think of economics as class divided and did not think of the collective overriding the individual. Certainly the thinking was there sociologically, but not crystalized in economics.

As Daniel Henninger noted in the Wall Street Journal recently, “There is no theory anywhere in non-Marxist economics that says growth’s primary engine is a social class. A middle class is the result of growth, not its cause. Barack Obama not only believes in class-based growth but has built his whole growth strategy around it.”

Thus we arrive at President Obama’s very troubling statement in Roanoke on Friday. He told the crowd

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. 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. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

This begs the question: does the President think government policies got him where he is?

The implication of Barack Obama’s statement is that we owe something to the government. The implication is that people succeed because of the collective conducting its actions via government. Most entrepreneurs would tell you they succeed in spite of the government. Barack Obama views it differently.

He clearly believes we all owe our success to government.

Does he not attribute his success to his parents and, more particularly, his grandparents? What about teachers at his private school? Or was it government policies?

Few people would ever acknowledge it. Most people know intrinsically that it was, contrary to what the President believes, their hard work and ideas that got them were they were. No one denies that others played roles in their lives, but the people who played roles were, in fact, people. The President clearly believes that individuals give back to society by paying into government. But people give back all the time through volunteerism, charitable contributions, raising families, and their own individual work product.

No one denies there is a role government plays, but most people — the President notwithstanding — are more likely to view their lives as their lives, not the government’s. They view their accomplishments as their accomplishments while acknowledging others who helped them.

Libertarianism for Dummies
by Max Borders
July 13, 2012

There is no denying it. Libertarianism is hot. This has a lot of people on both the left and right nervous. Some of the territory liberals and conservatives believed they had staked out long ago is being taken over by a new center — one that seems to borrow from aspects of each of the dominant partisan tribes. But libertarianism has its own elegant symmetry, as we’ll see.

The two tribes’ anxiety toward libertarianism rears its head in a number of ways. Most critics stitch together libertarian voodoo dolls from scraps of hearsay and Newsweek articles, then needle the dolls to get a reaction. Others say libertarianism is passé — a mere echo of discredited Enlightenment thinking. Still others claim libertarianism is a dogma that could never exist in the “real world.”

This article is intended as a general antidote to these criticisms. But more than that, it’s an invitation. So feel free to bookmark it. Whenever one of your social network “friends” starts in on some rant, you can save time and simply link to this piece.

1. Myth: Libertarianism is about blind faith in market processes.

Libertarianism starts with skepticism about government power, not faith in markets. Because markets are just an abstraction, what we’re really talking about is decentralized people power. We do have faith in people because people can and do solve problems. Governments are people, too, of course. So the most basic question is: which form of organization does a better job of solving problems and making the world a better place — centralized organization or decentralized? In other words, why do libertarians prefer market processes to government power in most areas? Libertarians are skeptical of government power not merely because of Lord Acton’s admonition about “absolute power.” We also think voluntary association is pro-social.

2. Myth: Libertarians think there should be no government. 

Some libertarians engage in philosophical debates about the possibility of no government. But most libertarians believe government should be restricted to certain basic things — namely those things that protect you and your neighbor’s life, liberty and property.

3. Myth: Libertarians are selfish.

Some libertarians are selfish, but libertarians are no more likely to be selfish than non-libertarians. You see, libertarians don’t think compassion is something you leave at the voting booth. And if it’s compulsory, it’s not really compassion at all, is it?

4. Myth: Libertarians don’t care if poor people starve, and sick people die.

In the interests of some grand compromise, most libertarians would tolerate some sort of minimum income or safety net — but it would look nothing like the monstrous entitlement system we have today.

5. Myth: Libertarians think people should be able to do whatever they want.

No. Libertarians think people should be able to do whatever they want as long as: they don’t harm others or others’ property; they are not contractually bound to forego certain activities; and their own freely chosen moral systems don’t proscribe it.

6. Myth: Libertarians have a narrow “don’t tread on me” ethos.

Well, this isn’t a complete myth. Let’s just say it’s a myth of omission — that is, only part of the story. It’s true that in our guts we don’t want anyone to tell us what to do. We don’t think anyone should decide what we may put into our bodies, how to spend our money, or how to live our lives. We don’t want to be used as slave labor for all or part of the year. I guess we could be accused of sounding like most teenagers — only with a big caveat about personal responsibility.

7. Myth: Libertarians are corporate apologists.

Libertarians and classical liberals from Adam Smith to Milton Friedman, James Madison to James Buchanan, and Frederic Bastiat to Friedrich Hayek have been warning us about corporations since there were corporations. It’s not that corporations are evil per se, however. Companies are just people cooperating for common goals. Bad things happen when corporations collude with the state against the people. When you hear the words “crony capitalism,” there is a 95 percent chance that’s coming from the mouth of a libertarian. That’s because liberals, conservatives and populists cannot so easily distance themselves from it. The left has had its Solyndras. The right has had its Halliburtons. Both tribes have had their banksters. And libertarians have had enough. We believe cronyism will destroy this Republic as surely as it destroyed Rome.

8. Myth: Libertarians agree on everything.

Here’s a mini top ten list of things about which libertarians are fairly divided:
  1. Austrian or Chicago economics 
  2. Abortion 
  3. Origin of rights 
  4. The status of children and teenagers 
  5. War and pacifism 
  6. Strategy of reform 
  7. Tactics of reform 
  8. Whether to compromise 
  9. Intellectual property rights 

9. Myth: Libertarianism is untried and would never work.

I have two responses to this myth: The first is: “So you think this is working?” The second is: History has shown that, by degrees, the freer the people, the happier and more prosperous they are. I can say all of this with confidence because there is a strong correlation between freedom and prosperity. Just look at examples in the Fraser and Heritage economic freedom indices.

10. Myth: Libertarianism is a “materialistic” worldview.

Saved this one for last. In fact, one of my friends skewered this turkey in his new book with great finesse: “‘Materialist values’ is a vague term, but if — as seems to be the case — [E.J.] Dionne thinks the chief justification for capitalism is that it generates lots of stuff for consumers, he’s mistaken,” writes Donald Boudreaux.
While capitalism emphatically does improve material living standards, all the great champions of economic freedom (a.k.a. capitalism) ultimately justify this system because only it affords true dignity to individuals — the dignity that is denied by interventionist systems which arbitrarily diminish each person’s freedom to choose. For “Progressives” such as Mr. Dionne not to share the value of freedom is fine. But it’s rather cheeky to accuse, with one breath, proponents of capitalism of being unduly focused on material goods, and with the next breath to insist that a major problem with capitalism is that some people get fewer material goods than do other people.

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