Posts tagged Obama

On Having to Fund Immoral Policies

Having to Fund Immoral Policies

Tibor R. Machan

At the outset I am talking about what someone considers immoral, not what is objectively immoral. Nonetheless, millions are coerced by governments, backed by other millions, to work and pay for what they consider morally wrong. Is that right? Is it avoidable in a democracy?

Back during the Vietnam war a great many opponents of that disastrous policy wanted to withhold their taxes, or the portion of it that went to fund the war. They were mostly from the Left but that doesn’t matter. The point is that such people argued that it is unjust to make them do this. And there is something to this: why would it be OK to require something to contribute resources he or she has produced and owns to a policy deemed to be morally wrong?

Granted requiring someone to make contributions to anything is objectionable but isn’t it more so if the policy is objected to by the victim of such coercion on moral grounds? Suppose the sources of the moral objection is one’s religion. Wouldn’t that contradict the idea of freedom of religion? You are supposed to be free to choose what faith you accept and practice but then you are forced to give up portions of your life for some other faith! Isn’t that inconsistent? You are both free to choose as well as not free to choose!

Doesn’t democracy amount to such this kind of confusion? Well, not if it’s property limited, as limited government champions have insisted it should be. All this stuff about funding or not funding contraceptives would be off the table, not up for the vote.

Today we have President Obama and his minions insisting that forcing Catholics, their churches and such, provide contraceptives and the like to people who want it from them is just fine. But Roman Catholics consider contraceptives an instrument for evil, like pacifists might guns. Would it be OK to demand that pacifists hand out lethal weapons to people who want it from them?

I proposed that this is no different from forcing people to fund a war in which they do not believe, which they regard unjust. I wrote this in a comment at The New York Times on line where one can contribute comments to columnists’ views and where these comments can be further commented on by others. Well, my comment received a bunch of bizarre follow-up comments claiming that there is a world of difference between wanting to withhold support for a war and wanting to do the same for government distributing contraceptives, a policy some consider unjust. But, in fact, the former is simply a different instance of the latter but it’s exactly the same kind of thing.

It reminds me of when people who often embrace democracy whole hog but then when the vote goes against them, cry foul! But if the democratic method is accepted as a valid approach to settling disputed issue, one has no business protesting the outcome. It is rank duplicity, even hypocrisy.

But here is the rub: Mr. Obama and his ideological cohorts are pragmatists and what is so convenient about pragmatism is that you can insist on some policy here, but reject it there, embrace it one hour and then denounce it the next. Because, you see, at least the type of pragmatism that Mr. Obama has often stated is his philosophy rejects principles from the git go. Yes, there are sophisticated pragmatists who defend their unprincipled viewpoint on grounds that principles are really impossible! Principled thinking is mere ideology, not based on reality, so they hold, since reality is too chaotic, too illogical to yield sound principles that can be used in guiding conduct and criticism. But Mr. Obama hasn’t bothered to provide a defense of his unprincipled stand on a great variety of issues, like undeclared wars, deficit spending, abortion, etc.

But then what is there if reason is passe? What would political campaigns be if candidates could not look for inconsistencies in their opponents? Well, then they would be what they have become, shouting matches, throwing dirt at one another, name calling, besmirching and such, that’s what. Because once logic is abandoned, once consistency is ruled out as a criterion of admissible thought and discourse as proposed by pragmatists, we are back just a step away from the jungle where reason has no place and force rules. As that famous painting of Goya says, “the sleep of reason brings forth monsters.”

Column on Egalitarian Fallacies Galore

Egalitarian Fallacies Galore!

Tibor R. Machan

I assume that writers like me want to be read, not ignored. But, alas, there isn’t much we can do about this except perhaps fine tune our craft. Even that merely improves the odds. None can make others read one’s works. Thousands are simply left unread. (Do they actually burn all those unread copies?)

Or take chefs who would naturally want the public to prefer their cuisine. Still, only a few customers will give it a shot. Or all those artists whose works hang in galleries but without being viewed by visitors. Or museums no one goes to. Or athletics no one cares much about, like the ones that were popular with my family, fencing and rowing. Just compare their fan base with football and baseball!

It’s all so unfair, one might shout out, especially if one is convinced that fairness is the highest value in society, which is the essential message of egalitarianism. From everything we know it is clear that life isn’t fair. What we forget is that there’s nothing wrong with that at all. People pick pretty or colorful flowers while weeds are not taken home and placed in vases, not most of the time. How unfair is that?! Most people have preferences for the company of certain types of other people, by no means for just anyone, let alone for everyone. Your favorite actor or comic or singer isn’t going to be everyone’s favorite. And so it goes, on and on without end.

As the title of one of the late Dr. Murray N. Rothbard’s books put it, “egalitarianism is a revolt against nature”. And some egalitarians are quite aware of this, which explains why under certain political regimes that want to transform societies to follow egalitarianism there is even a push not to allow parents to favor their own children with their love and care. When Mao was the dictator of communist China, news reports came out about a father who in a flood saved someone else’s and not his own child! This “father” was hailed as a hero!

That makes sense for a consistent egalitarian. As does the banning of friendship in a society since friends get special attention from us. Karl Marx’s preferred society was communism in which one had to love everyone equally! Which is why we hoped–indeed predicted–that communism will require a total transformation of human nature! And why under Joseph Stalin his pseudo-scientific agricultural guru, Lysenko, worked on manufacturing a society with everyone the same, with no unique individuals.

Interestingly, despite the fact that President Obama and his team of intellectual backers make a lot of noise in favor of equality–just go back and listen to the most recent state of the union speech which stressed egalitarian themes at every turn–the Republicans hardly touch the topic. They should critique it all over the place, point out some of the stuff Dr. Rothbard covered and is mentioned here! But either their advisers are falling down on their jobs or are scared of the topic since sadly a good many citizens, not to mention college professors in fields like moral and political philosophy, sociology, and the like, do hold such egalitarian ideals, at least implicitly, never mind how fantastic it all is.

Once I had a discussion with someone who defended Karl Marx, saying he was really quite democratic and advocated peaceful revolutions, not violent ones. Never mind the scholarship here, although there is something to it; the problem is that when one’s political ideal is so skewed, so much “against nature,” the only way to attempt to implement it is by means of massive violence, via a totalitarian police state. Everyone must be cut to the same size, made to fit the unrealistic vision of all citizens being fully equal. (Never mind that this bring about the most insidious inequality of all, some in society having inordinately more coercive power than do others!)

Why don’t the Republicans point this out against their political adversaries in any of their speeches and in the “debates”? Is it perhaps because they too have dreams of remaking society to fit some alternative vision that goes against human nature? Perhaps unlike liberal democrats and the fierce socialist among them, many Republicans and conservatives really want to bring about a society regimented along lines of spiritual equality, with everyone forced to get ready for their perfect afterlife!

Column on How To Win This One in November

How to Win this One in November

Tibor R. Machan

Seeing that it looks like Mitt Romney may well win the Republican nomination–though it’s too early to be sure about that–It has been a concern of freedom loving Americans whether the nod given to human individual liberty by the Tea Party back in 2010 will have staying power. When the Republicans began their primaries it looked like one or another of the champions of serious liberty, such as former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson or Texas representative Ron Paul, could either make it or at least have an influence on who will. This last is still a possibility but not very likely now. With Gingrich injecting the influence of the Beltway Republican insiders into the race and with Mitt Romney derailing any progress toward a consistent political philosophy of liberty among Republicans, prospects for repeating, let alone enhancing, the central trends represented by the Tea Party–which itself has never been fully focused on true liberty–are waning. And that is very disturbing because it looks more and more like Barack Obama has no interest whatever in individual rights, in a bona fide free society and market, or even in civil liberties. What he is after is a populist reformation of the American polity, one that will usher in democratic socialism, with its confusing “market” socialism added.

This is the politics of soft Marxism; which is to say it aims to establish a legal order that’s basically collectivist, communitarian to the core. The idea is that all Americans should be treated as one huge team lead by Obama or some similar minded politician and his or her cronies, with all property (including human labor) treated as public or social, with the serious implementation of the major step Marx and Engels identified on the road to socialism, namely, the abolition of the right to private property. The modern explication of this idea was laid out by NYU professors Liam Murphy and Thomas Nagel, in their book The Myth of Ownership (Oxford 2002). It is an unabashed attack on the principles of free market economics and individualism (i.e., on a system of law based on Lockean individual rights).

OK, is there any chance to nipping all this in the bud? I can only think of one way to do it, namely, to conduct a political campaign that is relentlessly focused on the threat of the loss of American liberty not just in American but around the globe. This liberty is the true hope of humanity, no the egalitarian nonsense that Obama & Co. preach. What it needed is to run an articulate, self-confident, and unapologetic campaign that emphasises the minimalist thesis of liberty as against the totalitarian thesis that all of us must be herded into a collective mass (of which the best current manifestation is North Korea).

If the Republican candidate for the presidency, or per chance someone else with sufficient support, keeps to this theme and forthrightly refuses to get entangled with side issues like illegal immigration, funding Planned Parenthood, etc., etc.–details that can easily be made to serve to distract Americans from what really is politically important–there is a chance of unseating Obama and his team in time to continue the momentum of the American revolution. The candidate to do this may not yet be in evidence but whoever it will be needs to focus clearly and be superbly articulate and intellectually competent in the effort to advance the cause of liberty.

Now Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney do not sound bad in debate and on the campaign trail but their ideas are muddled and so their leadership is seriously wanting when it comes to opposing Obama’s populist appeal. That appeal rests on phony hopes and aspirations, on false promises and on magical economics. But packaged in the cool style and rhetoric of Obama and absent competent challenge, it can continue to take the country toward a major setback on the road to realizing its destiny, the fulfillment of the ideas of the Declaration of Independence and, less exactly, the Bill of Rights. It is this mission that must be the candidate’s central purpose, put in the clearest and most informed terms that American citizens can appreciate and support. I am convinced it has a chance in November.

Column About the Cain Fracas

What about the Cain Fracas?

Tibor R. Machan

I am not a devoted supporter of Herman Cain although I do find him an appealing person, someone who seems to be a straight shooter when it comes to discussing the issues facing candidates these days. But I have not committed to him in part because there are others among the Republican lineup whose views I consider much better, e.g., Gary Johnson and Ron Paul.

But the current problems Cain faces seem to warrant a few observations about the matter of the onus of proof when it comes to such “He said, she said” situations. Plainly put, Cain is accused of having harassed some women some years ago who, however, let the matter go for one or another reason. No charges have ever been filed, from what the news reports say. In one case someone who complained quit her job and received severance pay that appears to have been based on the organization’s wish not to deal with the situation any further than that. Over the years none of the women have pursued any grievance procedures until very recently when several have made claims of having been groped and such by Cain, claims that have not been proven true beyond any reasonable doubt beyond some friends of the woman saying they heard them before.

Given that Mr. Cain appears to me, from his various public presentations and discussions, to be a decent and bright enough individual, given that his candidacy is likely to pose a serious obstacle to Mr. Obama’s smooth reelection in 2012, and given the unprincipled conduct of many who support Mr. Obama–they proudly assert that they are pragmatists (who do not hold to any principles at all, thinking them all unfounded and unsupportable)–I admit to favoring Cain’s side in this controversy. “Show me,” as the state motto of Missouri states! Or “where is the beef?” And consider some of the dubious sources involved in the charges, nearly all of them in the Obama camp.

But aside from my own sentiments, there is the more important issue of who has the onus of proof here and what would such proof have to amount to in order for it to be compelling. Eye witnesses who can reasonably be taken to be impartial would work. Some kind of correspondence, emails or notes, telephone messages, etc. could strengthen the case against Mr. Cain but there are no such things in evidence here. It seems quite obviously no more than a case of some people who can reasonably be assumed to be opposed to Mr. Cain’s politics and candidacy making unsubstantiated claims that Mr. Cain had behaved in ways that amount to sexual harassment.

So what is one who has some interest in this matter to believe? Based on the tradition of due process in American criminal law and the common sense idea that when people come forth with damaging claims against others they need to make a good case in order to be taken seriously, the sensible attitude now is to leave Mr. Cain to his campaigning activities and ignore those who keep harassing him with unfounded accusations. Never mind public opinion, which is very largely driven by partisanship in the face of no solid evidence in sight. If such evidence were to emerge, one’s views may need to be updated. But not before then. For the time being Mr. Herman Cain ought not to be regarded as being guilty of any wrongdoing of the kind he is being accused of by the women, anonymous or not.

Is my suspicion that some of this is motivated by politics unreasonable? May there be some echoes of the Clarence Thomas hearings here as well–meaning that the prospect of an intelligent, likable black conservative political figure irritates liberal democrats so much that at least some of them, the more opportunistic, pragmatic types, would be willing to resort to dirty tricks to discredit such an individual? You bet you! But this is not very much more than speculation, an at least not uneducated guess.

Machan’s Archives: Equality or Diversity–a Leftist Conundrum

Machan’s Archives: Equality or diversity? Which one do Leftists want? You can’t have both

by Tibor R. Machan

For the last couple or so decades the universities and colleges where I have taught–and by all accounts, most of them in the USA–have had two mutually exclusive social objectives. (Yes, Virginia, higher education is now mostly embarked upon pursuing social policies, not so much educating students.) These two are equality and diversity.

On the one hand there is a big push toward eliminating any kind of inequality in the way students are being regarded and treated. Everyone is equal, just as Barrack Obama’s Vice President Joseph Biden insisted in one of his rallying cries. As he put it in the course of a moving eulogy for his mother (according to the Associated Press), “My mother’s creed is the American creed: No one is better than you,” he said. “Everyone is your equal, and everyone is equal to you. My parents taught us to live our faith, and to treasure our families. We learned the dignity of work, and we were told that anyone can make it if they just try hard enough.”

Of course Mr. Biden didn’t mean we are all equal today or will be tomorrow. What he meant is that in a rightly ordered world, one ruled by him and his associates, there would be total equality among human beings, on the model of, say, ants in their colony (excepting the chief ant, of course, just as this would be and has been the case with any large scale egalitarian experiment). I am not exaggerating. Just go and read Vice President Biden’s comment in full (here) and check out the many very prominently published books on the issue denouncing such dastardly inequalities, among others, as being more beautiful than someone else. Take, for example, Naomi Wolff’s The Beauty Myth from the 1980s and the recently published work of Deborah L. Rhode, The Beauty Bias (2010).

But at the same time that the push for full equality among people is carried out with official support, we also find widespread academic support for the idea of diversity –an idea that assumes, of course, that people aren’t the same at all but quite different–so our various prominent institutions must be inclusive of widely different people.

The differences at issue tend, of course, to be controversial. Some support ideological or philosophical or religious differences, so that those with different ideas, faiths, convictions and the like need all to be included. Some focus upon diversity in racial or ethnic or gender membership. Some stress differences in socio-economic status.

Whatever is the sort of diversity being considered, it is evident beyond any reasonable doubt that people are not equal by a long shot and their unequal status needs to be taken account of in how the relevant institutions–universities, high schools, clubs, corporations, etc.–are being managed, administered or governed. This is not merely a fact of life but a celebrated fact of life, given how so much of educational policy and administration is devoted to doing it justice.

One need but take account of the demographics of the United States of America, let alone the globe, in order to apprehend the underlying basis of this fact. People are not only of the same species, homo sapiens, but are at the same time individuals and members of innumerable special groups, most of them entirely legitimate (unlike, say, membership in the Ku Klux Klan or the Mafia). As a favorite social philosopher of mine, Steve Martin the very inventive and funny actor and writer, put it in the novel, The Pleasure of My Company, “People, I thought. These are people. Their general uniformity was interrupted only by their individual variety.”

So, on the one hand the objective is supposed to be, as VP Biden suggests, to erase all differences and render everyone equal in all important respects. On the other hand, as much of educational administrative policy suggests, diversity is to be celebrated, and the homogeneity that would be part and parcel of an egalitarian world, is to be rejected.

So then which will it be? An acknowledgment of benign human diversity or an insistence of homogenization so as to fulfill the egalitarian dream? There is no doubt about it for me: diversity is not just a fact of human life but a highly welcome one at that.