President Obama laid out his vision for a second term in his January 21, 2013 inaugural address. It is a collectivist vision, cloaked in our individualist Founding ideals:
What makes us exceptional, what makes us America is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.
That they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Today we continue a never ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time.
The "realities of our time," in Obama's interpretation, requires expanded government and solidification of the welfare state, as he makes clear throughout his speech. It means transferring more of our wealth to government; of giving government ever more authority over ever more areas of our lives. "We the people" is a phrase repeated over and over, and it's clear what Obama means. He means we the government, turning on its head the exact meaning of those words.
For we have always understood that when times change, so must we, that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges, that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.
For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future. Or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores
Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.
This is a common theme running through Obama's ideology; the false choice between either submitting to government control or "acting alone." Voluntary private cooperation toward a common goal doesn't enter into Obama's equation. The Founding ideals now mean, not the sovereignty of the individual, but the supremacy of the collective, because putting government in charge is the only way for things that require cooperative action to get done. "Times change," indeed!
What about those unalienable rights, by which the Founders meant individual rights held equally and at all times by all people? What about equality, by which the Founders meant; equality before the law; the equal legal protection of those rights?
Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life. It does not mean we all define liberty in exactly the same way or follow the same precise path to happiness.
Progress does not compel us to settle century’s long debates about the role of government for all time, but it does require us to act in our time.For now, decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.
After paying homage to the principles upon which this nation was founded, he declares that they are not absolute. What, exactly, is a non-absolute principle? Thus does Obama clear the way to make an end run around what this nation stands for. If principles are malleable, then anything goes.
We cannot afford to waste time objectively defining liberty and rights, he declares. We cannot waste time debating the proper role of government, which the document he so eloquently quotes from clearly articulates, and which he conveniently neglects to cite: "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men."
What if one person believes he has a right to keep and spend his own money as he sees fit, under the protection of government and law; and another believes he has a right to healthcare and a college education, paid for by somebody else, and the government's job is to seize that money on his behalf?
Those are moral questions requiring answers grounded in moral principles, which by definition are moral absolutes. But we must not "mistake absolutism for principle." We cannot "agree on every contour of life." We don't all "follow the same precise path to happiness." Some of us want to be free to take care of ourselves, and some of us want to force others to take care of ourselves. Who's to say who's right? It's not necessary to answer that question "for all time," says Obama. "Progress...requires us to act in our time."
We must act!
We must act now!
No time to answer the profound questions that the Founders asked--and answered--in the Declaration of Independence.
You oppose Obama's agenda, based on the principles of unalienable individual rights and limited government? Don't be absolute! Don't make a political spectacle of yourself. Don't call his agenda what it is--a mish-mash of fascism and socialism. That's "name-calling," not "reasoned debate." Don't discuss. Don't question. Don't identify. Don't define. Reasoned debate means not knowing what one is talking about--and evading inconvenient truths and facts.
"Reasoned debate," in Obama's world, means accepting his premises, and quibbling over the details, rather than the propriety, of government programs.
Obama, of course, clings absolutely to his ideology. In the age-old battle of the individual against the collective, Obama chooses the collective--i.e., the state. On this, Obama is absolute. Freedom and individual rights? Those are not really unalienable, but privileges courtesy of "we the people." But we can't quibble over such trivial details as the rights of the individual. Time is of the essence. "We"--Obama--has a railroad to run.
I have said that Obama is the most philosophically astute president of my lifetime. His call to disregard fundamental questions of political philosophy tells me that he fully understands that his agenda cannot withstand scrutiny under the bright lights of our Founding principles. Yet, he understands that those principles still resonate in America. So, he seeks to blur them into non-absolute incoherence; to stifle debate; to ensure that no one looks too closely at their true meaning, lest they discover that those ideals are the only antipode to his ambitious statism.
Obama's speech held no surprises, except that he believes that he can get away with cloaking his collectivist/statist vision in America's Founding ideals. Can he--will he--get away with it?
We must not let him. Obama brought up "the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Let's hold his feet to the fire of those ideals.
Obama's Way vs. the American Way
Obama's Second Inaugural Address vs. What Made America Great, by Ari Armstrong
Obama's Pitch for Power, by Laissez-Faire
Obama's Collectivist Manifesto, Parts 1, 2, and 3
Constitutional Distortions-the "General Welfare" Clause