Impromptus

A troublesome term, &c.

by Jay Nordlinger

Every now and then, something happens that reminds you why you arrived at your political views in the first place. At least that happens to me. And it happened to me the other day . . .

. . . when President Obama railed against inequality. He meant economic inequality. And he said that we Americans should devote ourselves to fighting it.

All children, I think, are in favor of economic equality. Why should some people have more than other people? This inequality seems unfair, and, in some sense, it probably is. Also, “equality” in general is a golden term. When I was growing up, the country had recently come through a long struggle for racial equality.

But economic equality? You can try to achieve it — but you almost inevitably make things worse. I eventually grasped this, when I was about 20. Often, people have been willing to use violence, in pursuit of equality. “Equality” has been the cry of murderers and totalitarians for as long as anyone can remember. Think of Robespierre, Lenin, Pol Pot, all of them.

If you know something about “dekulakization” — the Soviets’ murder of the better-off peasants in the Ukraine — you will shudder to hear a politician thunder about “inequality.” And beware the monster that is envy: It can kill.

You know this old Russian joke, don’t you? Ivan and Boris are neighbors. Ivan hates Boris because Boris is slightly better off than he is. For instance, he has a goat, and Ivan does not. One day, Ivan finds Aladdin’s lamp. The genie says, “You can have anything you want, in the whole wide world.” Ivan says, “I want that Boris’s goat should die.”

That’s the spirit.

My whole life, I have heard the “income gap” railed against — the “widening income gap.” At some point, a lesson got through my skull: Say that one fellow makes $25,000 and another fellow makes $50,000. Go ahead and double their salaries: They now make $50K and $100K. Each man is in clover; each man is better off. But you have widened the gap between them — in fact, doubled it.

And that’s bad, right?

Mrs. Thatcher was spot-on when she said that there are people in this world who would rather the poor were poorer, as long as it meant that the rich were less rich. I have known these people. There are a lot of them.

In a free country, there will be economic inequality, because people have different talents, different ambitions, and, yes, different luck. You can no more abolish economic inequality than you can abolish human diversity. Unfortunately, there are those who try.

When I was in college, I heard Jerry Falwell refer to socialism as “shared misery.” I thought, “What a simpleton, this Bible-thumpin’ yokel!” Well, the Bible-thumpin’ yokel was right. I came to see that, quickly.

The equality to respect, to fight for, is equality under the law, and also its twin — equality of opportunity. The dawning of this understanding is one reason I left the Left behind and became a conservative. (I regard myself as a genuine liberal, like all Reaganites, but that battle is vain and distracting . . .)

When Barack Obama was running for president, in 2007 and 2008, I had this thought: “He seems so old. His ideas are so tired for a man his age.” He was basically a McGovernite, with a vast store of gassy rhetoric. It’s as though the 1980s and ’90s, with all their lessons, had never taken place.

So, here is Obama today, calling for a hike in the minimum wage. Great, just great. Maybe a little Econ 101 would be in order at the White House? Is there a serious economist left who advocates or even defends a higher minimum wage?

I enjoyed the way George Will began a column last week: “Liberals’ love of recycling extends to their ideas . . .”

A scholarly group, the American Studies Association, has voted to boycott Israel. You and I could snort at this. “This association is like the U.N.! The only wrongdoer it sees, among the 200 governments of the world, is the government of Israel!” We could snort, and we probably should. But actually, decisions like that of the American Studies Association are sinister.

What they do, these decisions, is prepare the way for the destruction of Israel. They soften the blow. They chip away at the legitimacy of Israel. They dehumanize the Israelis: “These people must not even be dealt with, as fellow human beings.” So, when the day of destruction comes, the world, instead of being horrified, shrugs and says, “Yeah, but they were no good anyway, right? Isn’t that what we heard for years?”

I thought this headline was beyond parody: “Climate change is new enemy for Kerry in Vietnam.” The article is here. I was reminded of Gore on the internal combustion engine: “a mortal threat to the security of every nation that is more deadly than that of any military enemy we are ever again likely to confront.”

What is that familiar sound? It’s the clash of left-leaning pieties. On one hand, the Left likes wind power. A lot. Oil and gas, bad. Wind, good. On the other hand, they like endangered species. And bald eagles are supposed to be especially precious, right?

Well, what if something has to give? What happens then? I’ll tell you what happens, or rather, I’ll let the Associated Press:

“Under pressure from the wind-power industry, the Obama administration said Friday it will allow companies to kill or injure eagles without the fear of prosecution for up to three decades.”

Ah, choices. Ah, priorities.

Let’s do a little language. President Obama has the annoying habit of saying “folks” — at least it’s annoying to me. He is especially prone to saying it when trying to sound moderate, reasonable.

I noticed that this habit has trickled down to his staff. You know the story of Uncle Omar? Omar Obama, the presidential relative who has lived for many years in the Boston area? Two years ago, he was arrested for drunk driving. Thus he faces deportation back to Kenya.

In 2011, when the arrest occurred, White House officials said that the president had never met this uncle. That turns out not to be true. At a recent deportation hearing, Omar Obama said that his nephew had lived with him for a few weeks before starting Harvard Law School. They also kept in touch thereafter, he said. And the presidential press secretary, Jay Carney, confirmed it.

But why the denials in 2011? Okay, here’s what Carney said: “Back when this arose, folks looked at the record, including the president’s book, and there was no evidence that they had met.”

Oh, is that what folks did? Did folks look at “the record, including the president’s book”?

Ay, caramba, Obamites. Some of us folks are mighty tired of this folks business.

A little music? For a review of a Christmas concert by Chanticleer, the twelve-man a cappella group from San Francisco, go here.

Anything else for you? Oh, I have a lot, but I’ll dribble you these other items later. Thanks for joining me, and have a good one.

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