Green Room

Great, Now He’s the Rewarder-in-Chief

posted at 1:30 pm on September 21, 2010 by

In the frenzy over the townhall questioner’s question yesterday – “Are hot dogs and beans my new reality?” – Obama’s response has been widely missed.  Yes, the response was dismissive and lame, discursive and yet virtually content-free.  But it contained a brief and perfect encapsulation of his philosophy of government, which is the philosophy of government toward which the political left spent the last century trending.  Video is here.

And this is the money passage:

The life you describe, one of responsibility, looking after your family, contributing back to your community – that’s what we want to reward.

I was driving and heard this on the radio – the clip was played endlessly yesterday – and my immediate thought was, “Who’s ‘we,’ keemosabe, and who died and made you God?”

The idea of a winning style of life being selected for us by a central authority – and being encouraged by “reward” – is a central tenet of Western leftism.  Back when I was in college, during the Cold War, campus leftists always assured us that when we implemented this kind of authority, it would be about rewards and voluntarism, as opposed to the unfortunate practice in all existing Communist countries of making it about coercion and punishment.  (They always had to be brought up short by a questioner about the “excesses” of Communist zealotry, because they never pointed it out themselves.)  Obama – a close contemporary of mine in age – no doubt heard the same things from campus leftists.

But this is a collectivist idea, period.  It cannot be rationalized in any political system in which individual freedom is the priority.  It’s antithetical to the American political idea of limited, constitutional, republican government.  Government anointing itself to set a schedule of lifestyle rewards for the people is government conceiving itself to be far too big, too intrusive, and too much aligned with a collectivist ideology.

Government does have proper functions, but as a servant of the people and with a limited charter.  There is literally no one of us with the competence to prescribe how others should live and then supervise them, with the power of the state behind us, in that project.  Government is just other people, whom we have handed a gun and authorized – for a very limited set of purposes – to point it at our heads.

The truth is, moreover, that government can achieve an effect only through one or more of the following:  punishment, taxation, purchase, and favoritism.  Government can’t work through lifestyle reward; it can only enforce conditions that allow the natural rewards of positive lifestyles to accrue to the people unhindered.  This truth is why the Communist proposition always – always – degenerates into punishment for nearly everyone and favoritism for a few.  It’s because those are the tools government has. Government doesn’t have inspiration, hope, or the synergy of innovation and market dynamics in its toolbox; and it can’t make the rest of humanity reward each of us, on an artificial basis, as humanity is naturally inclined to reward us if we live in certain, well-established and positive ways.

Government actively gets in the way of reward by trying to design it or fine-tune it – because government’s only tools for carrying that program out are punishment, taxation, and favoritism (with purchase thrown in under the favoritism heading, as when government creates new dependencies by subsidizing or buying the products of uneconomic industries). The more things government is doing, the more punishment, taxation, favoritism, and purchase (at taxpayer expense) are going on.  Government literally cannot work through other means, because it’s government.

So when Obama talks about the behavior “we want to reward,” think managerial government on the European model – but think also of Lenin and Stalin, of Castro, and of Mao.  If you didn’t learn about their use of punishment and favoritism in school, think about the lifestyle autocrats you did learn about.  When Obama says he wants to reward the people for behavior, he’s speaking like Oliver Cromwell, or like a European monarch of the Middle Ages with sumptuary laws and courts of religious inquiry, or like a Roman emperor offering to reward peoples who were willing to subject themselves to Rome with citizenship, administrative subordination, Roman troops on their soil, and Roman control of their trade.

In referring to government choosing the behavior it wants to reward, Obama is merely aligned with one of the perennial patterns of humanity.  Today’s leftists have slapped a different label on it, but it’s the same old urge to autocracy.  America’s very essence is the proposition that government need not and should not be autocratic:  that the people have not just the right but the authority to tell government, “Do this for me; but that’s too much.”  Of course we can say that to government.

After all, as a well-known president used to say, we’re Americans.

Cross-posted at The Optimistic Conservative.

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J.E.,
I think every time this bho opens his mouth off prompter, he says things he wants and believes we American’s should do. This bho and team have been heck bent getting this done from day one with the help of the d’s and rino’s. We were warned before this bho was elected, he told us what he wanted to do. People wanted his hope and change without any thought of what it would mean to them. Now we have him, now we need to stop him from any other harm to our Republic come Nov. election.
L

letget on September 21, 2010 at 1:51 PM

The Irony of it.

Why did Obama laugh? It was the irony, here is this black woman, upper middle class, government employee complaining to Obama about how tough it was to continue to defend him.

Obama laughed

This woman was the very demographic that Obama’s policies are designed to benefit, black, middle class, government employee, and she was still complaining when she
should have been thanking him
for all he had done, and all that he was continuing to do. Yet for the woman, it wasn’t enough. It never is enough, it will never be enough.

It’s the conflict between emotion and intellect. Emotionally she is unfulfilled, intellectually she knows why but has to deny intellect; she clings to the emotion of hope. Ruled by desire, she wants more and expects the President of the United States to give it to her by taking it from someone else, because they are the same race.

Skandia Recluse on September 21, 2010 at 2:06 PM

The truth is, moreover, that government can achieve an effect only through one or more of the following:  punishment, taxation, purchase, and favoritism.

I’ve seen that written in slightly different way but with similar concepts
Generally there are three forms of Government coercion:

It takes from some (Punishment, taxation)

It Hands out to others (favoritism)

And it regulates the piss out of everything else.

Each of these forms of coercion control the populace in different ways, but control they do.

Chip on September 21, 2010 at 5:48 PM

Terrific post, J.E. Well said.

inviolet on September 21, 2010 at 10:36 PM

I had the same thought yesterday, but you said it so much better!!

txmomof6 on September 21, 2010 at 11:00 PM

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docjohn52 on September 22, 2010 at 5:13 AM

The government already rewards certain life styles over others. It’s called the tax system. Married couples have a reduced tax burden, same with those who have children. Just as long as these things are actually beneficial to society it’s fine, if he tries societal engineering with it, then it isn’t fine.

SnKArcbound on September 22, 2010 at 5:30 AM

SnK: Your argument begs a _very_ important question.

Who decides what things are ‘beneficial to society’? Replace ‘married couples’ with ‘unmarried parents’ and ‘those who have children’ to ‘those who have had abortions’, and the _premise_ of your argument does not change in the least.

Now, granted, I am not saying you would agree with the switch. But a Liberal would.

With this statement, you have ceded the argument that government _should_ be used to reward some at the expense of others. When you do this, you lose any moral argument against what the Democrats have done since 2006. Now, there is a reckoning about to occur, but the principle has been lost.

When you agree _in principle_ that government should be given the authority to pick winners and losers in life, then Obama’s “I won” is a perfect defense against his policies. After all, he did win a clear majority of the votes in 2008, and he did campaign on exactly the platform that he has tried to enact.

Scott H on September 22, 2010 at 12:18 PM

I am coming to this late in the game, I have a few questions, any responses will be welcomed!!

Yeah, who died and made Obama god?? /s

The life you describe, one of responsibility, looking after your family, contributing back to your community – that’s what we want to reward.

Actually, what I heard was this: “You have done things for your community….and we will reward people who do the right thing…”

Not that different grant you…but begs the questions, who is this ‘WE’?

How will the ‘WE’ know who is doing the right thing?

What is the ‘REWARD’?

Do we want to be ‘REWARDED’ by ‘WE’ for doing the right thing, or is our heavenly reward enough?

Methinks Obama has got a ‘god’ complex…being able to ‘REWARD’….anyone from within the ‘WE’!!

Oh boy, I am getting all we we’d up!!

RoxanneH on September 22, 2010 at 2:21 PM

RoxanneH — Perhaps when he said “we,” Obama was using the royal “We.”

But I do like “we-we’d up.” Very nice. I may have to use that in your honor.

J.E. Dyer on September 23, 2010 at 12:42 PM