Monday, September 24, 2012

Asking versus forcing folks to pay a little bit more

Asking versus forcing folks to pay a little bit more!

Tibor R. Machan

President Obama raised the issue of why anyone would object to asking the very rich “to give some more.”  As he put the matter, "What is wrong with ‘asking’ those who make more to pay a little more?"

As it has been pointed out by all too few people, of course what Obama & Co. advocate isn’t to ask anyone to give.  It is about confiscating from them what Mr. Obama & Co. want to have available for the redistribution of wealth just as they see fit.  (For, of course, you and I and other citizens are all doing some serious redistribution of our wealth already, with no need for help with this from Obama & Co.)  Yet hardly anyone in the mainstream media raises this objection.

Millions of Americans, including wealthy ones like Mitt Romney, are asked to give, mostly by organizations like the American Red Cross, and they come forth with generous contributions in response to the request.  I know I often do, though I am hardly what one would consider wealthy.  But millions and millions send contributions to victims of tsunamis or hurricanes or other disasters.  

The media is giving Obama & Co. a pass on so many fronts one wonders if they are sound asleep at the wheel. A point like the one about "asking them versus coercing them” is never raised even on the Fox TV talk programs. As if there were a kind of code of silence in place!

But maybe it is because so many folks, even those opposed to Obama's massive forced redistributions, support some such policies and know that if they raise the issue, then the case for taxing us all for their own pet projects--e.g., the war on drugs, aggressive wars fought abroad, etc.--paid for from such redistribution would get undermined.  

The slippery slope may account for this silence.  Talk of asking people gets mixed up with talk of coercing people and no one in the public forums objects. But competent journalists are supposed discern the difference between asking and making people pay!  (One can only speculate what sorts of questions are being rehearsed in schools of journalism.  It doesn’t seem like the students are enlightened about the difference between forcing and asking people for support.)

I am by no means being original in pointing out these matters but few if any prominent journalists, pundits, commentators, et al., make it a point to raise the issue.  Why?

American Exceptionalism Revisited

American Exceptionalism Revisited
Tibor R. Machan
A fairly prominent perception across the globe is that America has had certain exceptional features.  While these are mixed in with various traditional ones, they still manage -- or have managed -- to make the country unusual in human history.  The American revolution, for example, is widely taken to have undermined a central element of the ancient regime, namely, top down government.  Instead of the government being sovereign -- in charge of the realm -- it was to be individual citizens who assumed the right of self-government.  Indeed, that is what marks the difference between subjects and citizens.
As with other elements of public affairs, the switch from the ancient to the modern regime had not been complete.  America became a mixed system, economically and otherwise.  For example, while serfdom was pretty much abolished, so that no involuntary servitude was legally permitted in the country, taxation, the confiscation or extortion of resources from the citizenry, persisted throughout the country.  So, to a significant extent citizens remained subjects, at least as far as their work and resources are concerned.  If one works, one’s earnings aren’t deemed to be one’s private property to belong, in large measure, to society (to be used by the government as it sees fit).  Changes as radical as what the American Revolution involved, at least as spelled out in the Declaration of Independence, are easier to announce than to implement.   The country, accordingly, is still a mixed system in which top down government persists, never mind that the revolutionary rhetoric flatly contradicts that idea.
With America’s relatively open borders and immigration policies, and with the minimal requirement that new citizens swear allegiance to the Constitution (something very easily faked and betrayed), the citizenry never was sufficiently loyal to the original revolutionary ideas. Many became Americans only nominally, “in name” only.  (For example, the bulk of the academy where I have done most of my work for the last forty five years is outright hostile to the spirit and letter of America’s exceptional political philosophy!  Indeed, it tends to make use of both First Amendment rights and academic freedom primarily to undermine, even ridicule what makes the country exceptional!)
The only way that the exceptional tradition could be preserved and enhanced is by means of popular loyalty.  Yet because education is conducted mainly by intellectuals who aren’t fond of the exceptional elements of the country and are, in fact, part of a system that is alien to them -- forced education, forced funding of education, tenure at taxpayers’ expense, monopolistic decisions about textbooks, etc., etc. -- there is hardly any resistance to the efforts of educators/intellectuals to return the country to the ideas of the ancient regime.  So statism is now the status quote in America.
Unless this is changed, unless the original ideas so well summarized in the Declaration of Independence are revived and expanded, America will lose its distinctiveness and embrace the idea that government is the ruler of the realm, not the citizenry.  It would have to end that way but the likelihood is considerable.  Nor need it be a permanent regression but if permitted, it will take centuries to resume the developments of which American exceptionalism is a central feature.  Indeed, the one thing that is a silver lining to all this is that many people across the globe have actually learned quite well the lesson taught by America’s recent history.  Unless eternal vigilance is indeed maintained in support of human liberty, it will be lost.
What is the major obstacle to advancing the American political tradition?  It is the idea that “we are all in it together.”  Communalism or tribalism or modern socialism are put in juxtaposition to the idea of a fully free, individualist, capitalist or libertarian society.  Individuals are seen in these as cell in the larger body of society, entirely subservient to the whole.  Society or humanity is seen, as Karl Marx put it, “an organic whole (or body).”  Individuals must be made to fall in line with the society, which means with the often self-anointed leaders of a country who make use of the collectivist vision for the sake of realizing their personal vision, something they find very appealing even while the citizenry is ambivalent about it.