I read President Obama’s stump speech given on Friday, July 13 at Roanoke, Virginia. I urge you to read it; it’s not too long. It is a kind of manifesto of current left-wing thought in America; it describes almost every policy and concept that leftists support and are working to implement. In general it is wrong, based on a wrong, long discredited philosophy, on wrong and disproven social concepts, on wrong economic ideas, and on mostly wrong facts stated as truths. One could say they were lies, but I think we all understand that this is what politicians do and it is why they are held in such low esteem.
I rarely get hyperbolic, and I don’t intend to start here. So when I say that this speech represents an attack on the philosophy, ideals, and economics that made America great, I don’t think this is stepping over the line, rather it is a statement of fact. Read it yourself and make your own decision and let me know where I am wrong.
I have written recently on the fact that the U.S. is fast becoming indistinguishable from the European model of the social welfare state. That isn’t good for the country that has been entrepreneur to the world. In those mostly socialist countries, business people, especially the successful ones, are admired for their wealth but despised for their success. This is becoming the trend in America. We do have a tradition of individualism and entrepreneurial spirit that comes from an “anyone can make it in America” social model. Achievement is seen as based on individual effort, pluck, intelligence, good judgment, and luck.
So when I see President Obama tearing down these ideals, I don’t chalk it up to mere campaign rhetoric. I think our president means what he says.
He represents the views of the currently ascendant leftists and Progressives. In part of his speech he takes a collectivist view of individualism but it is really a backhanded way of denigrating Mitt Romney, tearing him down because of his success. Here is the excerpt I am referring to:
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. (Applause.)
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.
The president goes on to say how government has played a critical role in making people successful.
Think about this statement. He is saying that the secret of our success is because we were all born into a country with an excellent infrastructure and with wonderful government programs to assist us. It has nothing to do with the courage of an individual staking everything on an idea and pursuing it to success. It has nothing to do with great companies hiring hundreds of thousands of people who, without the idea and courage of an individual, wouldn’t be employed. When the president refers to “cooperation”, he isn’t talking about the mechanism of the free market that efficiently and effectively coordinates voluntary human action toward mutual goals. He thinks like the community organizer that he is: if we just all sit down together and work on an idea, great things will happen. The committee theory of social organization has most likely never in history started a great and successful business.
If we pursue the road that President Obama is taking, then we will lose our greatness over time. If anything has been proven, it is that these socialist welfare states can last for a long time. While the government may eventually run out of our money, the U.S. has an enormous reserve of capital that could take generations to dissipate. It is a slow road, one that can survive economic collapse, inflation, new regimes, and wars. It can so survive if the majority of voters believe that government is the source of wealth and power and that businesses are tools of the democratic majority. Eventually welfare states extinguish the initiative and drive for which we Americans are so famous. Look to Europe for proof.
Again, without sounding too dramatic, the president and his advisers remind me of a composite of characters in the novel, Atlas Shrugged, which, unfortunately, is becoming prophetic. I will leave you with some quotes from Atlas Shrugged. You will find the rhetoric too familiar. You can shrug it off or be inspired to take action.
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Statement of Dr. Floyd Ferris to a group of cartelized businessmen, including James Taggart (page 540):
“Genius is a superstition, Jim,” said Dr. Ferris slowly, with an odd kind of emphasis, as if knowing that he was naming the unnamed in all their minds. “There’s no such thing as the intellect. A man’s brain is a social product. A sum of influences that he’s picked up from those around him. Nobody invents anything, he merely reflects what’s floating in the social atmosphere. A genius is an intellectual scavenger and a greedy hoarder of the ideas which rightfully belong to society, from which he stole them. All thought is theft. If we do away with private fortunes, we’ll have a fairer distribution of wealth. If we do away with the genius, we’ll have a fairer distribution of ideas.”
Speech of industrialist and entrepreneur Hank Rearden, on defending his motives for being successful (page 480):
“… I work for nothing but my own profit—which I make by selling a product they need to men who are will and able to buy it. I do not produce it for their benefit and the expense of mine, and they do not buy it for my benefit at the expense of their; I don’t sacrifice my interests to them nor do they sacrifice their to me; we deal as equals by mutual consent to mutual advantage—and I am proud of every penny that I have earned in this manner. I am rich and I am proud of every penny I own. I have made my money by my own efforts, in free exchange and through eh voluntary consent of every man I dealt with—the voluntary consent of those who employed me when I started, the voluntary consent of those who work for me now, the voluntary consent of those who buy my product. I shall answer all the questions you are afraid to ask me openly. Do I wish to pay my workers more than their services are worth to me? I do not. Do I wish to sell my product for less than my customers are willing to pay me? I do not. Do I wish to sell it at a loss or give it away? I do not. If this is evil, do whatever you please about me, according to whatever standard you hold. These are mine. I am earning my own living, as every honest man must. I refuse to accept as guilt the fact of my own existence and the fact that I must work in order to support it, I refuse to accept as guilt that I am able to do it and to do it well, I refuse to accept as guilt the fact that I am able to do it better than most people—the fact that my work is of greater value than the work of my neighbors and that more men are willing to pay me. I refuse to apologize for my ability—I refuse to apologize for my success—I refuse to apologize for my money. If this is evil, make the most of it. If this is what the public finds harmful to its interest, let the public destroy me. …”
Statement of Wesley Mouch, who has become economic czar, and who is about to impose centralized control of the economy (page 536):
“The picture is now this,” said Wesley Mouch. “The economic condition of the country was better the year before last than it was last year, and last year it was better than it is at present. It’s obvious that we would not be able to survive another year of the same progression. Therefore, our sole objective must now be to hold the line. To stand still in order to catch our stride. To achieve total stability. Freedom has been given a chance and has failed. Therefore, more stringent controls are necessary. Since men are unable and unwilling to solve their problems voluntarily, they must be forced to do it. …”
All quotes are from the 35th anniversary edition of Atlas Shrugged, 1992.