Guest Editorial: Craig Cantoni
No one gasped in shock when Obama said he was
committed to the will of the people
By Craig Cantoni | July 1, 2009
During his recent visit to Cairo, President Obama said he was committed “to governments that reflect the will of the people.” There, in a nutshell, is the problem with his thinking, as well as with the thinking of his predecessor, the thinking of almost all members of Congress and the Supreme Court, the thinking of most of the nation’s intelligentsia and commentaria, and the thinking of most Americans.
What’s wrong with what he said? Well, imagine in a prior life that Obama had visited the antebellum South before blacks had become a majority of the population. Imagine that during the visit, he had complimented Southern whites for having governments that reflected the will of the people: “Hey, y’all, my compliments for reflecting the will of the people and maintaining slavery.”
An extreme example? Yes, but it shows that a moral government is not necessarily a government that reflects the will of the people. Rather, a moral government is one that protects the rights of the individual, especially against the transgressions of the majority.
What Obama should have said in Cairo was that he was committed to governments that protect the rights of the individual – that is, to governments that safeguard the life, liberty, speech, and property of each person. Such a government wouldn’t allow a woman to be stoned for adultery just because a majority believes that Allah says it’s okay.
Obama didn’t speak this way, because in his view of government, the individual is secondary to the will of the majority, the collective, the common good, and a charismatic leader.
Take nationalized healthcare. Obama has said physicians are going to have to “sacrifice” to fix the problems with the healthcare system – problems, by the way, that have been caused by the government. What he meant was that for the common good, physicians will be forced to make less money. This isn’t as draconian as the Incas sacrificing virgins for the common good, because, after all, “only” doctors’ livelihoods will be sacrificed, not their lives. But the thinking is the same.
The danger is that if physicians can be sacrificed one day, you can be sacrificed the next day. In fact, you will be sacrificed under nationalized healthcare. The underlying premise of nationalized healthcare is that you don’t own your body; instead, the collective owns it. As such, the collective can dictate what medical care you receive, at what price, and by what provider.
Sadly, it isn’t necessary to trample on individual rights to fix the problems with healthcare, just as it isn’t necessary to trample on individual rights to fix any social problem.
To the contrary, almost all social problems have been caused by trampling on individual rights. For example, the horrendous socioeconomic problems among inner-city African Americans have their genesis in slavery, followed by Jim Crow, redlining, and the forcible taking of money (property) from taxpayers to support a welfare system that has brought two-parent black families to near-extinction and triggered severe academic problems, dropout rates, and crime.
The use of force for other than the protection of the individual never has a happy ending.
It took mankind thousands of years to develop a political, economic, and social system in which the individual wasn’t at the mercy of the mob, tribe, collective, majority, alpha male, chieftain, shaman, or monarch; or at the mercy of other people’s envy, superstitions, ignorance, and irrationality. The chains that kept individuals in slavery, serfdom, subservience, penury, fear, and blind obedience to some collective will and higher authority were broken by the concepts of individual liberty, property rights, free trade, the division of labor, and specialization. The result was an explosion in prosperity, creativity, innovation, longevity, and health.
The shocking thing is not that President Obama is hurriedly reconnecting the chains of collectivism and statism. The shocking thing is that no one is gasping in shock.