Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Country Isn't a Club

Tibor R. Machan

A fundamental flaw in President Obama's thinking is that he views America as a club or team that we all joined for some common purpose. But a country isn't a club, nor a team. People are born into a country, they do not join one, although of course they do indicate their preference to live in it when they remain there. But a club, like the Rotary or Kiwanis or Elk club, is an organization intentionally set up for some purpose that those who join consider important and want to support.

A country is, in contrast, a place wherein citizens can undertake innumerable and highly diverse task, pursue a huge variety of different goals, have enormously different purposes, just so long as they do not encroach upon others, do not violate other people's right to do likewise. Even your neighbor is not a fellow club member but an independent citizen whose company can only be enjoyed if he or she chooses to join in some common venture with you but who is normally free to do as he or she wants. In a free country, especially, citizens may not be conscripted to contribute to goals that are not their own. The Amish or Roma Catholics, or scientist and artists and farmers and steel workers--all these folks have different agendas and in a free society that's exactly right. And a free society is what is right for human beings, not some dictatorship or totalitarian regime.

Of course, there are times when citizens of a country may have to unite for a while to achieve some truly common goal, such as defending the country from aggressors from outside. And different regions of a country will at times emergencies that effect them all that all those in such regions will have to contend with, often together so that they manage it effectively. But this isn't the norm. Rather in a free country the routine is that all varieties of goals are pursued by all varieties of individuals and voluntary groups.

The president in a free country isn't someone who leads everyone toward some common end since in a free country the ends of citizens vary enormously. What the president and his administration exist for is to make sure conditions are proper for this great variety of endeavors the citizenry undertakes. If this is forgotten, the citizenry start being treated like members of a military, they get to be regimented about for purposes they did not consent to pursue. This is done through all kinds of coercive means--the main one being taxation. Others include government regulations and public policies that everyone is required to support.

In totalitarian countries it is the norm that everyone must submit to such regimentation, regulation, and dictation but in a free country that is entirely out of order. And the trouble with totalitarian regimes is precisely that they fail to appreciate the individuality and diversity of the citizenry. Just recall the pictures from North Korea, the old Soviet Union, and the Third Reich where millions of citizens are all dressed up in the same way and made to march together to give a clear indication that they are understood to be part of the same team, the same club, lead by some dictator toward the same goal.

How can someone like President Obama be so misguided about this? After all, one of the worst legacies of America is slavery, where millions of individuals were violated, deprived of the chance to choose their own goals in their lives, to take charge of it, to be sovereign citizens. That is the condition that millions of black Americans remember as their ancestors' lot and they of all Americans should completely reject the idea that they belong to some club that is being directed by a leader.

Mr. Obama is the presiding officer of the administration of America's laws, not some Fuhrer to drive us all to go in a direction of his choosing or even of the choosing of a majority of Americans. Yes, many Americans fail to resist being drafted into this club but they are wrong. They should realize that others can have very different ideas as to what goals to pursue and not thwart them in this effort.

Alas, the collectivist vision is still a powerful, has been throughout human history, starting with when men and women operated in tribes or clans, when that was necessary for bare survival. But those times are gone and in our day the individuality of everyone should take precedence and not be subjugated to some common purpose.

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