Pres. Obama and the Role of Government

Aside from the particulars of the policy proposals made by the President last night, I was happy to hear his robust defense of the role played by government at the federal level. Our ideal of a representative democracy composed of 50 states is not 300 million maverick independent contractors trying to cut in line to get the best reward. There has to be a fair balance of competition and cooperation. Some things, big things, as he said, are done best when we act together. Some things won’t get done unless we act as a majority. At large in the land is a gathering attack on the idea of governing at the federal level, of national public action funded by tax dollars. I won’t repeat Pres. Obama’s examples and exhortation to get back on the high road of responsibility and vision. I was glad to hear his words on this and his passion. There is a reason that places like Massachusetts chose the word “commonwealth” as a way to describe the organization of the state. The “United” in USA doesn’t mean that certain states share borders like Vermont and New Hampshire. The President talks often of the nation as a work-in-progress making its way to a “more perfect union.” I liked his urgency last night. I liked his faith in Americans to do five things at once. To do big things now and for the future.

6 Responses to Pres. Obama and the Role of Government

  1. Corey says:

    Not much bothers me more about the current American political climate than the idea that we’re “rugged individuals.” Unless you’re living off the grid or at most in a very self-contained town (do any even still exist?) you’re not rugged, you’re selfish and naive. The Jeffersonians lost, deal with it.

  2. Greg Page says:

    Corey, much agreed about the ‘rugged individual’ myth. It always cracks me up when people who depend on government for most or nearly all of what they do talk about this stuff without even a hint or shred of self-consciousness. And even people who don’t depend on Uncle Sam directly are often the ones with the biggest stake in preserving stability and order in the current system. The *owning* class would lose the most if things really started breaking down..

    Another one that I like to poke holes at is the whole “self-made person” idea. When you look at something like the Forbes 400, they’ll break out heirs and heiresses (i.e. the Waltons) from the ‘self-made’ folks like Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, or Larry Page.

    Even though all three of those guys built fortunes without the head start of an inheritance or trust fund, they all came from upper-middle class families in which well-educated parents afforded them the chance to attend great schools, explore their interests, broaden their horizons, etc. They also built their businesses with the help of talented people like Charlie Munger, Paul Allen, and Sergey Brin who ALSO had the chance to take advantage of some of the best opportunities around in order to leverage their innate talent and drive.

    It doesn’t take anything away from what they’ve accomplished or the myriad ways they’ve benefited our society, but I just cringe a little bit when I hear ‘self-made.’

  3. Corey says:

    I was arguing with an anti-statist (so virtually anarchist) libertarian online last night. I mentioned specific historical examples of how and why government has grown, and got back generic philosophy in exchange. Once he’s done with school, he’s going to leave this fascist country he said. Aside from being unable to answer the question “where in the world are you going to find a place with less government interference and a need for college-educated students?”, he probably has been too blinded by the anti-government religion to see the humor in being anti state and going to a college with “State” in the name. *sigh*

  4. DickH says:

    When it helps me, it’s good government. When it helps you, it’s socialism. For many Americans, it’s as simple as that.

  5. Becky Chandler says:

    It’s too bad that [classical] liberal and libertarian philosophy has come to stress the “rugged individual”. Its not accurate and has been the reason for political disagreements that really shouldn’t exist. Ludwig von Mises (who came to be called “the last knight of liberalism” almost called “Human Action” — his masterful economics text, “Social Cooperation”. There is brief, but very good analysis and explanation of this here: