Never express yourself more clearly than you think. —Niels Bohr
Barack Obama and the political architects of what will be his administration have expressed themselves rather clearly with respect to their plans for imposing mandatory community service on young Americans. The puzzle is figuring out just what they are thinking!
Here we have Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama’s White House chief of staff, in a 2006 interview with Ben Smith of the NY Daily News. Perhaps Emanuel was not expecting to be in a position to have to own up to his own words when this interview took place, but some of his most outrageous utterances seem to have inspired Obama’s “master plan” for America.
Right before the nine-minute mark of the podcast we hear it straight from the horse’s mouth:
Citizenship is not an entitlement program. It comes with responsibility.
By that phrase Emanuel perversely means “responsibility to the government”, hence the tentative rationale for mandating universal enrollment into futuristic soup-kitchen armies.
Citizenship is not an entitlement program? Well Mr. Emanuel, the nation’s top 1% earners who shoulder as great a tax burden as the bottom 95% would not argue with you over that. For them citizenship is more like a charity program. In fact, the nation’s highest-earning one-fifth of households receive $0.41 for every dollar paid in taxes —the rest going to finance entitlement programs for the bottom one-fifth which receive $8.21 in government spending for each dollar paid in taxes.
Anyone for whom citizenship can be conceived of as a welfare program owes such privileged existence to the productive citizens whose socks are being taxed off. The government cannot expect gratitude or reciprocation from the recipients of its “generous benevolence” funded by the compulsory taxation of other people’s dime.
Emanuel’s pronouncement sounds like a vernacular paraphrase of John F. Kennedy‘s “…ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country…” regarding which Milton Friedman had the following to say (and I couldn’t have said it any better):
In a much quoted passage in his inaugural address, President Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” It is a striking sign of the temper of our times that the controversy about this passage centered on its origin and not on its content. Neither half of the statement expresses a relation between the citizen and his government that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society. The paternalistic “what your country can do for you” implies that government is the patron, the citizen the ward, a view that is at odds with the free man’s belief in his own responsibility for his own destiny. The organismic, “what you can do for your country” implies that government is the master or the deity, the citizen, the servant or the votary. To the free man, the country is the collection of individuals who compose it, not something over and above them. He is proud of a common heritage and loyal to common traditions. But he regards government as a means, an instrumentality, neither a grantor of favors and gifts, nor a master or god to be blindly worshipped and served. He recognizes no national goal except as it is the consensus of the goals that the citizens severally serve. He recognizes no national purpose except as it is the consensus of the purposes for which the citizens severally strive.
The free man will ask neither what his country can do for him nor what he can do for his country. He will ask rather “What can I and my compatriots do through government” to help us discharge our individual responsibilities, to achieve our several goals and purposes, and above all, to protect our freedom? And he will accompany this question with another: How can we keep the government we create from becoming a Frankenstein that will destroy the very freedom we establish it to protect? (Capitalism and Freedom)
The political conglomerate of pseudo compassionate anti-establishment collectivists we commonly refer to as “the Left” in America, has furthered its agenda by appealing to the electorate’s passion for radical personal freedoms since the 1960s. Social liberalism represents one side of the libertarian-philosophy coin, and its adoption by Leftist activists has been one of the few redeeming qualities of the Democratic Party. It seems as though in the face of ideological degeneration by the Republican Party, —manifested in its abandon of fiscal responsibility and free enterprise ideals (the other side of the coin)— Democrats are lowering their own standards too by compromising on their support for personal freedoms. In such an environment of intellectual slack the mask is finally slipping on the Left’s true agenda.
Being in the opposition party no longer, being the anti-establishment rebels no longer, they have no more need for their staple “stick it to the man” oratory flaming up our culture, and no more affinity for “personal freedoms”. The Left is mainstreaming and its agenda is achieving dreadful consistency.
The dichotomy between economic freedom and personal freedom had always been a faux rhetorical construction. Economic tyranny, even within an unrealistic bubble of personal freedom, can be reduced to a state of limited autonomy within bureaucratic boundaries dictating severe redistribution of the fruits of any successful efforts. Economic tyranny entails an indirect and often passive infringement of personal freedoms. Personal tyranny is directly intrusive and the active intervention required to enforce it cannot go unnoticed or un-resented by the citizenry. Infringements of either personal or economic liberties are all steps toward the same absolutist political direction, whatever their different nuances on the radicalism scale.
History reveals economic planning and social engineering to be sister tyrannies. In none of the countries where communism ever took over were personal freedoms of speech, association, or personal expression (dress code), reproductive rights, or privacy considerations respected. The absolutist self-declared representatives of the proletariat dictated not only the logistics and priorities of economic production but also conformist uniform morality to the masses. Personal freedom without economic freedom was always unsustainable middle ground.
The new administration is insinuating itself very boldly in the spectrum of personal freedoms previously assumed to be off-limits for the Left. Obama and Emanuel will not be satisfied with allowing us to lead our individual lives as we please while merely contingently burdening us with heavy taxes in case we “overly” succeed at making a living. No. They also want your sweat and blood. They want to not only ration the funds in your bank account, but also the hours in your week during high school and college, as well as a bloc of a few months between the 18th and 25th year of your life.
Is the Left getting bolder, or is it just getting consistent?