Author doesn‘t understand her own words
Ms. vanden Heuvel said, “President Obama, too, picked up on this theme in his State of the Union address when he said, ‘No one built this country on their own. This nation is great because we built it together. This nation is great because we worked as a team. This nation is great because we get each other’s backs.’ … Former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich says, ‘…Miller and Lapham clearly show that personal success is closely tied to the supports society provides.’ ”
Obama and Reich, they are both absolutely correct, and so is Ms. vanden Heuvel. Indeed, let us quote one of the founding fathers of America, discussing the nature of society, so that we can learn more about how everything we have is thanks to society:
“Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins.”
That was Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, one of the most important Revolutionary War tracts. So yes, President Obama is correct, that America is what it is because we worked together, and Reich is correct that we are indebted to society. But as Paine informs us, society is not government; society is something outside of government and foreign to it.
So if Obama and Reich understood their own words, they would realize that they are indicting government and celebrating the private free-market. If Obama and Reich would listen to their own words, they would say, with Henry David Thoreau (“Civil Disobedience”), “This government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. It does not keep the country free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got in its way. For government is an expedient, by which men would fain succeed in letting one another alone; and, as has been said, when it is most expedient, the governed are most let alone by it. Trade and commerce, if they were not made of India rubber, would never manage to bounce over obstacles which legislators are continually putting in their way; and if one were to judge these men wholly by the effects of their actions and not partly by their intentions, they would deserve to be classed and punished with those mischievous persons who put obstructions on the railroads.”
That is not to say that the Republicans are any better than the Democrats in this regard. One need look only at the rampant crony capitalism espoused by the Republicans—witness Bush’s steel tariffs, and their orgy with the military-industrial complex—to realize that Republicans despise the free market as much as Democrats do. Republicans today are still following Abraham Lincoln, who in turn followed Henry Clay, who in turn followed Alexander Hamilton, the greatest enemy of capitalism America has ever seen (and the greatest advocate of crony capitalism), in contrast to Thomas Jefferson, capitalism’s greatest exponent (Jefferson even edited the English translation of the work of Antoine Louis Claude Destutt, comte de Tracy, one of the greatest economists of the French liberal school). Nevertheless, the point is that if Ms. vanden Heuvel understood her own words, she would realize that she has refuted her own thesis about the value of government.
Mar 4 2012 - 12:54pm