In the Rolling Stone interview with Barack Obama previously addressed on TOS blog by Ari Armstrong and Craig Biddle, the president made this comment as part of his answer to the question, "Have you ever read Ayn Rand?":
You look at Abraham Lincoln: He very much believed in self-sufficiency and self-reliance. He embodied it – that you work hard and you make it, that your efforts should take you as far as your dreams can take you. But he also understood that there's some things we do better together. That we make investments in our infrastructure and railroads and canals and land-grant colleges and the National Academy of Sciences, because that provides us all with an opportunity to fulfill our potential, and we'll all be better off as a consequence.Lincoln was indeed a great president in many respects. He guided the nation through the Civil War. His moral opposition to slavery was deeply rooted; his belief being that slavery contradicts the Declaration of Independence's recognition of all men as equal in their rights.
But that doesn't mean that everything he did was great, or right, or consistent with America's Founding ideals, and Republicans committed to economic and political liberty and free markets should recognize that. Lincoln's "investments" required violating Americans' property rights; i.e., forcibly confiscating, through taxation, the money required to fund those "railroads and canals and land-grant colleges and the National Academy of Sciences." All of those endeavors should properly have remained private investments, if private citizens chose to make them. His granting of railroad monopolies has been wrongly blamed on capitalism, feeding the falsehood that capitalism necessarily leads to concentrations of coercive economic power.
The precedents established by Lincoln's policies have been a source of justification for government intervention into all manor of economic activity ever since. Obama has repeatedly invoked Lincoln, which is why Republicans should use the opportunity to repudiate those very Lincolnian "investments"--on principle. They should answer Obama as I did in a TOS blog post when he made similar comments about "things we do better together":
What does Obama mean by “together”? He means via government coercion. Notice the false alternative he offers in regard to fire fighting services. Either we have a government-funded fire department, or everybody must have their own fire service. Being “on our own,” in Obama’s worldview, precludes people from engaging in voluntary, cooperative efforts toward a common goal, such as organizing and funding a neighborhood fire company. The not-so-subtle premise behind Obama’s remarks is that without government forcing us to pay the government to create and run such things, there would be no firefighting services, roads, bridges, dams, schools, internet, charity, space programs, or basic scientific research. Therefore, whenever a task requiring cooperative effort is deemed important by government officials, government must force us to “do things together.”
Republicans should recognize that if it is to be the party of America's Founding principles, it must take on members of its own party--whoever they may be, even the great ones--whenever they led the country astray from its ideals. It must recognize that government's sole job is--as the Declaration of Independence states--"to secure these rights"; the rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Lincoln violated those principles on numerous occasions, and in the process contradicted his own belief in individual "self-sufficiency and self-reliance."
Obama's Flawed Vision of Lincoln
My Challenge to the GOP: a Philosophical Contract With America