Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mr. Obama's Socialism sounds strange to hear Mr. Obama promote lowering taxes, for example, when he also advocates "spreading the wealth" as a form of "neighborliness." Mr. Obama and his followers go to some length to avoid identifying themselves as advocating the political and economic philosophy of socialism, but he let his rhetorical guard down when he told Joe the Plumber on national news that "spreading the wealth" around is precisely what his policies will seek to do.

Today's political discourse makes determining what might be called the political philosophy of the current crop of Presidential candidates difficult to understand, for as candidate Obama has said, "words mean things."

In a Presidential contest where the Republican candidate demonstrated some knowledge and understanding of capitalism, Mr. Obama's verbal slip would have been seized and used to great political advantage.

Unfortunately, today's Republican Party shows all the marks of an institution that has lost its way, and proof is found in the candidacy of John McCain.

What have we come to when supporters of limited government, lower taxes, reduced government expenditure and protection of individual rights might actually believe that Mr. Obama would be the better choice?

Mr. Obama campaigns on a pledge to reduce the taxes on 95% of all Americans; only those making more than $250 thousand annually will be subject to having an increased percentage of their earnings confiscated by the government in the form of increased taxes, to be redistributed by Mr. Obama to those citizens he believes merit the fruits of other people's labor.

Since all Americans do not pay income taxes, Mr. Obama's proposal will, in fact, provide "welfare checks" (i.e., "tax credits") to a lot of Americans, further blurring the moral distinction between money we earn and money that is given to us by having government first take it from others. We will be asked to view Mr. Obama's robbing Peter to pay Paul as a form of economic "fairness." A simpler notion of what socialism means could hardly be described.

Do Americans really want a government that has the power and inclination to rob some citizens for the unearned benefit of others? McCain has certainly made the point, all too briefly, during the last Presidential Debate, that Obama's tax policies will engender a renewed sense of "class warfare," but how many Americans really understand what McCain is talking about?

Obama makes the point that the McCain candidacy is merely an extension of Bush Administration policies. McCain retorts that he has opposed Bush any number of times on important legislation and, most particularly, in arguing for changing the military strategy in Iraq.

But is there a philosophical thread that runs through the McCain proposals, as there is in Obama's proposals?

McCain's responsibility as a Presidential candidate is to provide a consistent alternative to Obama's socialism. But McCain is failing to connect with the American people. His is a campaign of tactics, not strategy, for the good reason that he really has no grand strategy and no general stand on what government should or should not do.

It simply is not a fully worked out answer to this question, to oppose the raising of certain taxes. Nor does his tendency to pander, or to miss the many rhetorical opportunities Obama has given him, afford us insight into his wise thinking on this central moral issue of the campaign.

The question posed is whether people who earn their own living are better able to use and dispose of the fruits of their labor, intelligence, and talent than are a group of politicians pandering to favored constituencies, yet protesting their devotion to the general welfare?

There is a prudential argument implied in the question, and practicality bears upon the moral problem: Does man have an unconditional and exclusive right to the fruits of his own life? Does man's life belong to the state, to the deity, to some earthly leader, or does it belong to the man himself?

Here is the critical distinction between socialism and capitalism. Under capitalism, the people who make the money make the decisions on how to spend it; under socialism, that choice is, to a greater or lesser degree, taken from the people and given to politicians acting as agents for the government.

Mr. Obama should be applauded for making more clear than does the typical politician that he believes one of the primary functions of government is the pillaging of the few for the unearned benefit of the many. An effective opponent does not oppose such class warfare by arguing that the few should be able to pillage the many--what Mr. Obama and socialists generally believe happens when people's rights and property are respected.

An effective opponent of socialism argues instead that no citizen should be pillaged, and that if rich people, such as Warren Buffett or Bill Gates, wish to give their resources away to others, that is their right to do so, but it is not right for government to confiscate private wealth, for the simple moral reason that wealth, as opposed to plunder, must first be created. Who has a greater claim, those who create the wealth or a gang of politicians who have succeeded in getting themselves elected to office?

Clearly Mr. Obama believes that political gangs have greater moral claim to the creator's wealth than does the creator.

Whence comes this idea?

The idea that government has a greater moral claim to a people's wealth than the people do derives from the belief that people's lives belong to the government. If the government owns your life, morally and legally it has the right and even obligation to use and dispose of your life any way it sees fit. This is the central idea of socialism, fascism, communism, and every other form of government men have devised to steal the people's wealth, make war, and enrich themselves at the expense of others.

It is certainly legitimate to make the argument that organizing society on the basis of such altruism cannot work. It has been tried over and over again and failed as often as it has been tried.

But why aren't the great moral arguments against socialism brought out by the Republicans? Could it be that Republicans have come to accept the same flawed morality?

As religious conservatives and traditionalists have gained influence, the Party finds itself intellectually incapable of opposing a political philosophy--socialism--whose moral premises they share. Whether you believe man's life belongs to a deity or to a government, either choice denies the fundamental truth that man owns his own life and a proper, decent government does not presume to overrule a man's choices, unless he violates or threatens to violate another's rights.

Do you have an unconditional right to your own life?

That is the fundamental question in this election campaign that Mr. McCain fails to see clearly. Mr. Obama suffers from no such handicap and each day advances his answer.

Tom Anderson
October 2008

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