Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Poverty of Choice in '08

Over at National Review, John Derbyshire laments the Hobson's Choice facing American voters in the coming election: two candidates, both of whom are committed to bleeding the nation's already dwindling resources dry in service to utopian fantasies. Derbyshire quotes Barack Obama's enthusiastic response to a question posed by Pastor Rick Warren regarding what the U.S. can do to assist the "148 million" orphans around the world. Could there be a plan like President Bush's AIDS relief program for Africa, Warren wonders. Obama almost wets himself at the suggestion:

I think it’s a great idea. … I think that part of our plan though has to be how do we prevent more orphans in the first place and that means that we’re helping to build the public health infrastructure around the world …

Derbyshire can only shake his head in dismay:

Heaven forbid that people in Nigeria, Nauru, Norway, or Nicaragua should build their own clinics and hospitals, without any help from Uncle Sam and his limitless bounty! Heaven forbid they should take care of their own orphans, and we of ours!

But then, as John McCain says: “America’s greatest moral failure has been, throughout our existence, perhaps we have not devoted ourselves to causes greater than our self-interest.” Except, of course, that nations are supposed to devote themselves to their self-interest, and to nothing else. That’s what sane people want their nation to do. That’s what all the other nations of the world do do.

As individual human beings, of course, all but a small minority of us routinely devote ourselves to “causes greater than our self-interest.” We gladly yield up our time, our money, and occasionally our very lives, on behalf of such causes — family, union, professional association, church, political party, neighborhood softball league, nation. Those of us who have deep religious convictions often go way beyond the norm, helping strangers in foreign lands. All good acts, all noble acts … by individual human beings.

A government, however, is not a human being. This rather elementary point of ontology seems to have escaped all three principals in Saturday’s gathering. Governments don’t go to the bathroom; governments don’t date; governments don’t catch cold. As a human being, John McCain is free to give up time and money to causes above his personal self-interest, and would be right to feel pleased with himself for having done so. As chief executive of our federal government, however, during his working hours he should attend to America’s national self-interest, AND TO NOTHING ELSE AT ALL.

McCain fares little better, demonstrating a near fanatical commitment to President Bush's treasury-emptying global crusade for democracy and mouthing the sort of bellicose nonsense that may yet get the U.S. into a nasty and unnecessary war in the Caucuses.

As Derbyshire complains: Is this really the best we can do?


At 2:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the most significant reasons why the U.S. federal government should only do what is in the strict self-interest of the nation is that much of its financial resources is taken involuntarily from the citizenry. We do not pay federal income taxes voluntarily -- if so, then no one would pay them. So literally ever working U.S. citizens is forced into a partial involuntary servitude. And it is increasingly a servitude to causes many would not voluntarily support, and many actually abhor. The government must tax and it must spend. It has constitutional permission to do the former, and it is constitutionally bound to do the other (on such things as an army and navy, for instance). But in order to avoid the evil of requiring a man to contribute to something with which he disagrees, the government should do as little taxing and spending as possible. The federal income tax should be abolished, and with it the vast majority of federal government spending. Only then will we live free.


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