The Corner

Inverting the Founders

President Obama has become a master at the trick of couching progressive prescriptions in the language of the traditional American creed — thus effecting a deliberate inversion of that creed’s actual meaning. That’s exactly what he did with his second inaugural address, using the language of the American Founding to promote collectivism in almost all areas of life. The hinge came in a single clause which sounded oh-so-reasonable and inarguable, but which instead was a non sequitur in terms of its logic and a bastardization of the principles of that creed. “Preserving our individual freedoms,” he said, “ultimately requires collective action.” From that moment on, he was off and running toward a vision in which individual initiative is not just unavailing toward its ends, but actually suspect. 

But why is “collective action” required to “preserv[e] our individual freedoms”? Or, even if one acknowledges that of course we need common defense and basic structures of government, which means “collective action” of a sort, does it necessarily require the kind of collective action Obama seems to advocate? There is the voluntary “collective action” of individuals acting without compulsion, which is fully consonant with the American tradition. But the rest of Obama’s speech, and his entire record, shows that his dream is of centrally directed, compulsory “collective action.” If this were boilerplate, it would be merely foolish. But because Obama is deadly serious about it, this is dangerous. We stand forewarned.

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