9.09.2009

Liberty vs. Submission to the state

Camille Paglia has a great column up at Salon. While it is mostly about the President and the Democrats' failure on health care, there's much more that she goes into and it is absolutely spot-on. My only point of contention is her defeatism in Afghanistan. She correctly points out that Afghanistan has been the graveyard of empires for centuries, but there is a fundamental difference between the actions of past powers and our current battle: we are not there to conquer.

I realize that this may seem to be a simplistic argument on my part - and I promise to elaborate in a future post - but I do believe that such a distinction is extremely important. We have no intention of running Afghanistan. Our goal is to create an environment in which the Afghans can govern and protect themselves.

There will be more on that later, but I want to get back to Paglia's column which you really must read.

Why has the Democratic Party become so arrogantly detached from ordinary Americans? Though they claim to speak for the poor and dispossessed, Democrats have increasingly become the party of an upper-middle-class professional elite, top-heavy with journalists, academics and lawyers (one reason for the hypocritical absence of tort reform in the healthcare bills). Weirdly, given their worship of highly individualistic, secularized self-actualization, such professionals are as a whole amazingly credulous these days about big-government solutions to every social problem. They see no danger in expanding government authority and intrusive, wasteful bureaucracy. This is, I submit, a stunning turn away from the anti-authority and anti-establishment principles of authentic 1960s leftism.

How has "liberty" become the inspirational code word of conservatives rather than liberals? (A prominent example is radio host Mark Levin's book "Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto," which was No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list for nearly three months without receiving major reviews, including in the Times.) I always thought that the Democratic Party is the freedom party -- but I must be living in the nostalgic past...

But affluent middle-class Democrats now seem to be complacently servile toward authority and automatically believe everything party leaders tell them. Why? Is it because the new professional class is a glossy product of generically institutionalized learning? Independent thought and logical analysis of argument are no longer taught. Elite education in the U.S. has become a frenetic assembly line of competitive college application to schools where ideological brainwashing is so pandemic that it's invisible. But affluent middle-class Democrats now seem to be complacently servile toward authority and automatically believe everything party leaders tell them. The top schools, from the Ivy League on down, promote "critical thinking," which sounds good but is in fact just a style of rote regurgitation of hackneyed approved terms ("racism, sexism, homophobia") when confronted with any social issue. The Democratic brain has been marinating so long in those clich├ęs that it's positively pickled.

This is exactly what has been troubling me for a long time about the modern Democrat Party and modern politics in general. There is a truly disturbing, knee-jerk reaction that all problems can be solved by the state or through a government program.

The popular phrase is "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" but it could just as easily be the road to socialism or the road servitude.

Anyone who has taken a political philosophy course in college or a history class on the Soviet Union knows this warped view of the world. The Communist Manifesto is always assigned reading and in it we see the summation of communism by Marx as "the total abolition of private property." We also undoubtedly hear "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs." Ignoring the fact that everywhere communism has been tried the result has always been a brutal police state, without fail, someone in the class will make the statement that communism and socialism have only failed in the past because the "right people" were not in charge.

Such a statement seems to sum up the entire liberal elite establishment. It is filled with a belief that the government can do anything and will always be a force for good, because they are in charge. This is misguided to say the least.

One of the greatest moments in the last 50 years is the triumph of the civil rights movement. Granted, it did end with state action - action that was required to enforce the Constitution, not social engineer behavior - but it began without government aid. The heroes who brought forth such enormous change did not wait for a call to action by the President or some pointless piece of legislation. They saw injustice and acted. They convinced others of the righteousness of their cause and they won by their own blood, sweat and tears.

President Kennedy's famous call to action, "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," has been twisted and flipped on its head. Kennedy was calling for an end to the entitlement culture - that government owes its citizens something for nothing - and a call to make the country better; through volunteerism and selfless service, not through subservience to, or reliance upon some government program.

My how times have changed. Gov. Doyle today published a column about the National Day of Service and Remembrance. This is part of the Serve America Act and turns September 11 into a "day of service." A day of service to what? The state? The President? Do we really need legislation to convince Americans to volunteer or perform good works? Only those who believe that the state is all powerful - and should always be so - would think that laws are required to compel service.

This is foolish. We do not volunteer and serve one another out of admiration for the state. We do so out of compassion and caring for one another. Even in the military, acts of bravery and heroism do not stem from a love of country or a willingness to give one's life for the Stars and Stripes, but from a deep love and commitment to one's fellow soldiers and loved ones back home. To be sure, men and women join the military out of love of country and out of a sense of duty, but their bravery comes from someplace else.

Why is it that Americans donate more money to charities and spend more hours volunteering than any other nation on earth? It is not because of gratitude to the state or government action, but out of caring and compassion for our brothers and sisters in need.

The National Day of Service is liberal arrogance at its peak. It is the notion that nothing good will happen unless government acts or calls for it. This ignores the countless charities and good works done by religious organizations and non-profit groups. Missionary work that feed the homeless and provide clothing and shelter to poor families and children have existed long before government programs. They needed no mandate from Washington, simply compassion and love.

The problems facing our nation today will not be solved with more government intervention. No force on earth is as powerful as the spirit and determination of free people. This history has taught us time and time again. We will overcome our economic crisis and our social problems through the power of the American Dream and the hard work of the next generation's leaders and entrepreneurs.

It is right to remember those who were slaughtered on September 11. It is good and right to serve a cause greater than one's own self-interest. But it should never be mandated or enshrined in federal law. Each American will observe the passing of September 11 in their own way, as it should be. Some will mourn. Some will pray. Some will go on with their lives with barely a second thought. Some will fight in the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan. That their right, their freedom as Americans.

As for me, I long for the day when all the world will be free of terror and tyranny. I look forward to the day when all people are as free as we are in America. Our nation is founded upon a sacred faith in the power of Liberty. That faith has made the United States the most powerful, yet compassionate force the world has ever seen. The key to our future and the future of the world is a continued faith in - and defense of - Liberty and Freedom.