Streetwise Professor

January 22, 2013

If You Had Any Doubts Before Now that Obama Was a Dishonest Intellectual Lightweight, Read His 2d Inaugural

Filed under: Economics,Politics — The Professor @ 6:51 pm

Obama delivered his Second Inaugural Address yesterday.  Despite paeans from the usual suspects (e.g., Chris Matthews, who should really get a freaking room) that compared Obama’s speech to the Gettysburg Address  or Lincoln’s Second Inaugural FFS, in reality it was just a predictably turgid pile of progressive platitudes.

The speech was chock-full of typical Obama tropes.  The most typical-and most despicable-of which was his old standby, the Straw Man.  Is Obama capable of giving a speech without one?  Speech, hell: is he capable of uttering 3 sentences without resorting to this most grating of rhetorical tricks?

To wit:

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.

Pardon me, but WTF ever said “a single person” can achieve great things?  (And by the way, “training teachers” doesn’t come first in any list of Great Accomplishments, except at an NEA convention.)

Let’s consider Edmund Burke.  Did he assert such a thing? No, that great conservative spoke of “little platoons”-private cooperative endeavors.

What about De Toqueville?  Again-no.  He wrote about the American genius of private associations that citizens formed, spontaneously and independently of government, to achieve the benefits of cooperation.  Yeah.  Collective action. Without government.

The late, great James Buchanan? No.  He showed in his Theory of Clubs how private cooperation could produce (excludable) public goods.

Look.  Firms are cooperative enterprises that engage in collective action to produce things that people value.  Markets facilitate cooperation between diverse individuals who may not even know of each others’ existence, and who do not intend to cooperate, but end up doing so while pursuing their own self-interested objectives due to the way that price signals convey information about benefits and costs, and provide powerful incentives to act on that information.  The price system coordinates, and thereby permits multitudes to cooperate.

In other words, the market system is a mixture of cooperation and competition.

In contrast, in Obama’s cramped vision, government and government alone is the sole nexus of cooperation in society.  That it is coercive “cooperation”, rather than voluntary cooperation (a la Burke, de Toqueville, or firms operating in markets) escapes his attention, or at least doesn’t bother him one whit.  To him the alternatives are: cooperation mediated through government and government alone, or atomistic competition, red in tooth and claw.  A regurgitation of the Social Darwinian crap he heaved up a year or two ago.

I do not know whether Obama’s Straw Man is the product of extreme intellectual limitations or extreme intellectual dishonesty.  I’m voting “both” actually.  But regardless, it is embarrassing to witness such a display, and even more embarrassing to see it praised as some great oration.

The real Straw Man here is Obama.  Straw Man as in the Wizard of Oz.  Because he really needs a brain.

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  1. An idea for your LLC-countdown app showing days, hours, minutes,and seconds left in his term.

    Comment by pahoben — January 22, 2013 @ 7:45 pm

  2. What amazes me is that not only does the Obama theory of government call for ever expanding government power, it fails to even consider there are things government isn’t good at of (gasp!) Government has failed at.

    There are small yet important things that cost nothing that government could do to help the people and the economy. One obvious thing would be a simple prohibition on employers using credit reports in hiring decisions. Getting good people back in the workforce and helping them rebuild credit and savings should be a no brainer, but not to this crew.

    The war on marijuana has failed. Decriminalizing marijuana and partially redeploying the financial resources to mental health would be FAR more productive than continuing the prohibition on marijuana and adding an ineffective gun ban that takes firearms from law abiding people and does nothing to address handgun violence of the root cause of the recent mass shootings but would add billions to the cost of government and require thousands more government employees to enforce it.

    It is senseless to expect this administration to consider there is even a theoretical limitation on the size and scope of government. My hopes are for intractible gridlock.

    Comment by Charles — January 22, 2013 @ 9:19 pm

  3. @Charles. With this lot, failure is just an excuse to expand government. If they failed, it’s because they didn’t spend enough or didn’t try to control enough.

    Gridlock would be a blessing.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — January 22, 2013 @ 11:10 pm

  4. I think there’s another way to explain it: intellectual indoctrination. I think he has been indoctrinated in these tropes and memes from his earliest college days or even before, as Radical in Chief explains, and he can’t think outside these categories.

    Comment by Catherine Fitzpatrick — January 23, 2013 @ 10:50 pm

  5. > And by the way, “training teachers” doesn’t come first in any list of Great Accomplishments, except at an NEA convention.

    Great point. People, who say that America needs to have good teachers and a good school math and science curriculum, are simply subversive communists who don’t understand the division of labor in a free market. What is the point of American schools producing good math and physics students, when India and China can produce 100 times more at one tenth of the cost? If you look at successful high-tech firms here in the USA, you will see that at least 95% of all scientists and engineers were educated in China, India, Russia and Europe. It’s like the US national chess team: not one born in an American state. On the other hand, the KFC and In-and-Out-Burger cooks are predominantly American-educated.

    Face it: real math is hard. All these “axioms” and “lemmas”. It makes a bureaucrat’s and teacher’s brain feel like it’s running a sub-4-minute mile. Who needs that exercise? Better replace real math curriculum with exercises of converting cubic miles to cubic inches and back to ounces.

    Comment by Vlad R — January 24, 2013 @ 3:54 am

  6. […] on Obama the intellectual lightweight. He’s a skinny sort-of-black guy who looks good in a suit though, he must be a […]

    Pingback by Linkdump « Rhymes With Cars & Girls — January 27, 2013 @ 8:40 am

  7. “Pardon me, but WTF ever said “a single person” can achieve great things?”

    Ayn Rand? At the very least, some of her more autistic followers have made identical or highly similar. I’ve also known a couple of (admittedly unintelligent) neocons natter on about how they did everything for themselves by themselves, and never received a handout from anyone. Admittedly, I’m not talking about the foremost of libertarian/conservative/classical liberal thinkers here, but that doesn’t mean that there were never any idiots who bought into and consequently asserted that a single person, by his or her self, can achieve great things.

    Comment by Simon Grey — January 28, 2013 @ 1:39 pm

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