Streetwise Professor

September 4, 2012

In What Sense of the Word “Belong”?

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Professor @ 5:44 pm

Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Furher. Yes, that is over the top, but the attached video from the Democratic National Committee that says that government is the “one thing we all belong to” pegged the Creep-o-Meter and brought that phrase to mind because of the video’s collectivist overtones, especially given its release at the time of the personality cult extravaganza also known as the Democratic National Convention.

“Belong to.” Not an unambiguous phrase. It can mean “a member of”-which connotes a voluntary association. It can also mean “owned by”-which is anything but voluntary. Government is much nearer to the latter than the former, and is becoming more so every day. Deal with the IRS and you’ll get a very clear understanding of which meaning is operative where government is involved.

Note the folksy “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you” voice. As Reagan said: those are the nine most terrifying words in the English language.

The claim that government is somehow the collective embodiment of the people is also the stock trope of authoritarians and collectivists of all stripes. Contemporary example: Putin. Standing on the battlefield of Borodino, where 200 years ago the conscripts of one autocracy battled the conscripts of another, Putin called for unity-which in Russia means unity under the control of the wise state:

For the second time in five days he called for unity, underlining his concern that the insurgency could spread and threaten the integrity of Russia, home to many nationalities and religions.

“Only when Russia’s nations were united, were together, they achieved the best results in the development of their fatherland,” Putin told Russian and foreign dignitaries, including former French president Valery Giscard d’Estaing.

“By and large patriotism, which was the basis of all our major victories, comes down to the unity of the Russian nation.”

If you needed confirmation that the Democrats are the Party of Government then (a) you are a slow learner, and (b) you now have it.

Not that Romney and the Republican Party can be confused for even lukewarm libertarians. But at least they pay some deference to individuals acting outside the government. The Dems, on the other hand, raise up government above all other things-meaning that it subordinates us to it, and rejoices.

So if you want a sense of belonging, go right ahead and vote for the Party of Government. You may think you are voting for the warm, cuddly meaning of the word, but you will find out soon enough that you are getting the other.

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  1. Yeah, this one, and a million others like it really get to me. I can only conclude that none of these people have ever read a history book or political philosophy. Or they have and are incapable of identifying proper cause and effect. I’ve always stuck to a basic rule of thumb: Soviet Union bad, America good. Soviet Union lost, America won. Ergo, move away from Soviet methods, not toward them.

    Comment by Howard Roark — September 5, 2012 @ 3:34 pm

  2. Along those lines, George Will has an opinion piece today, Sept 6 2012, noting that Obama is a “progressive” – meaning progressing away from the Constitution, and, according to Will, the third president along those lines, after Woodrow Wilson and FDR.

    The sovok union fell apart for good reason – Obama is trying to re-create it in the US, make no mistake. That allows narcissistic egomaniacs like him to act like dictators.

    Reference – Bob Woodward’s new book, in which he quotes Obama to Eric Cantor (Republican): “elections have consequences, and I won,” as Obama rejected any bipartisan efforts in the first 2 years of his presidency, with Rahm Emanuel’s more explicit “f*** ’em” cheering him on.

    Opinion – September 6, 2012 0:00
    George F. Will: Barack Obama, the real radical

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Four years ago, Barack Obama was America’s Rorschach test upon whom voters could project their disparate yearnings. To govern, however, is to choose, and now his choices have clarified him. He is a conviction politician determined to complete the progressive project of emancipating government from the Founders’ constraining premises, a project Woodrow Wilson embarked on 100 Novembers ago.

    As such, Obama has earned what he now receives, the tribute of a serious intellectual exegesis by a distinguished political philosopher. In “I Am the Change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism,” Charles Kesler of Claremont McKenna College rightly says Obama is “playing a long, high-stakes game.” Concerning the stakes, Obama practices prudent reticence, not specifying America’s displeasing features that are fundamental. Shortly before the 2008 election, he said only: “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming” America. Tonight, consider Obama’s acceptance speech in the context that Kesler gives it in the American political tradition.

    Progress, as progressives understand it, means advancing away from, up from, something. But from what?

    From the Constitution’s constricting anachronisms. In 1912, Wilson said, “The history of liberty is the history of the limitation of governmental power.” But as Kesler notes, Wilson never said the future of liberty consisted of such limitation.

    Instead, he said, “every means … by which society may be perfected through the instrumentality of government” should be used so that “individual rights can be fitly adjusted and harmonized with public duties.” Rights “adjusted and harmonized” by government necessarily are defined and apportioned by it. Wilson, the first transformative progressive, called this the “New Freedom.” The old kind was the Founders’ kind — government existing to “secure” natural rights (see the Declaration) that pre-exist government. Wilson thought this had become an impediment to progress. The pedigree of Obama’s thought runs straight to Wilson.

    And through the second transformative progressive, Franklin Roosevelt, who counseled against the Founders’ sober practicality and fear of government power: “We are beginning to wipe out the line that divides the practical from the ideal” and are making government “an instrument of unimagined power” for social improvement. The only thing we have to fear is fear of a government of unimagined power:

    “Government is a relation of give and take.” The “rulers” — FDR’s word — take power from the people, who in turn are given “certain rights.”

    This, says Kesler, is “the First Law of Big Government: the more power we give the government, the more rights it will give us.” It also is the ultimate American radicalism, striking at the roots of the American regime, the doctrine of natural rights. Remember this when next — perhaps tonight — Obama discourses on the radicalism of Paul Ryan.

    As Kesler says, the logic of progressivism is: “Since our rights are dependent on government, why shouldn’t we be?” This is the real meaning of Obama’s most characteristic rhetorical trope, his incessant warning that Americans should be terrified of being “on your own.”

    Obama, the fourth transformative progressive, had a chief of staff who said “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” More than a century before that, a man who would become the first such progressive said a crisis is a terrible thing not to create. Crises, said Wilson, are periods of “unusual opportunity” for gaining “a controlling and guiding influence.” So, he said, leaders should maintain a crisis atmosphere “at all times.”

    Campaigning in 1964, Lyndon Johnson, the third consequential progressive, exclaimed through a bull horn: “I just want to tell you this — we’re in favor of a lot of things and we’re against mighty few.” He learned this progressive vernacular from his patron, FDR, who envisioned “an unlimited civilization capable of infinite progress.” Poet Archibald MacLeish, FDR’s choice for librarian of Congress, exemplified progressives’ autointoxication: America has “the abundant means” to create “whatever world we have the courage to desire,” and the ability to “take this country down” and “build it again as we please,” to “take our cities apart and put them together,” to lead our “rivers where we please to lead them,” etc.

    In 2012, Americans want from government not such flights of fancy but sobriety; not ecstatic evocations of dreamlike tomorrows but a tolerably functioning today; not fantasies about a world without scarcities and therefore without choices among our desires and appetites but a mature understanding of the limits to government’s proper scope and actual competence. Tonight’s speech is Obama’s last chance to take a first step toward accommodation with a country increasingly concerned about his unmasked determination to “transform” what the Founders considered “fundamentals.”


    Comment by elmer — September 6, 2012 @ 1:28 pm

  3. Correction – Obama, the fourth “progressive” after Wilson, FDR and Johnson. Sorry.

    Comment by elmer — September 6, 2012 @ 1:31 pm

  4. @elmer. George Will is slow on the uptake. I compared Obama to Wilson in March, 2010. They are similar both in political philosophy and personality. A toxic combination. Wilson was an utter disaster as president. Obama shares that as well.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — September 6, 2012 @ 4:00 pm

  5. I’m not so sure that Will is slow on the uptake.

    What he wrote bears repeating right now, even if others have said it before or first.

    Obama is a disaster.

    Comment by elmer — September 6, 2012 @ 8:04 pm

  6. And another thing, speaking about “belonging”

    Did you even notice how Obama talks about “my” this and that?

    “noone’s going to do that to MY coastline”

    “the problem is being looked at by MY bipartisan commission”

    “MY vice-president took care of the war in Iraq”

    He says it repeatedly, as if he owns the entire country like a corporation – or a dictator.

    Comment by elmer — September 6, 2012 @ 9:03 pm

  7. […] thoughts on two Medicare plans. Think hard about what they are saying. It should creep you […]

    Pingback by Breakfast Links | Points and Figures — September 7, 2012 @ 5:47 am

  8. The state corporatist mindset at work. This also fits into the definition of a Washington Gaffe: when someone actually tells the truth.

    Comment by sotos — September 7, 2012 @ 2:44 pm

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