Campfire Blog

What Do We Owe to Our Government?

Everything, President Obama argues

In his “You Didn’t Build It” speech, President Obama argued that you succeed in America, because crazy ol’ Fortuna has taken a temporary liking to you, not because you’ve worked hard or taken bold risks.

At his eponymous blog, Keith Hennessy says this focus on fortune is the key to understanding Obama’s policies, which he says are based on two principles:  One: Because success is based on luck, incentives are pointless and high taxes won’t curtail enterprise. Two: Because you only got your fortune through luck, you didn’t earn it so it can be taken away.

Great wealth is a blessing, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t take hard work to achieve success. Christians would argue that everything in life, even the struggles, are a blessing—“in all things give thanks”—and you do what you can with the abilities God has given you. Human agency is still essential: That’s the great game of life, what you do with what you’ve been given. The Sower casts seeds far and wide, it’s up to you to decide what kind of ground it falls on.

But in President Obama’s world, fortune and blessings are Gifts from Government. And because the Government giveth, it can—and does—taketh.

At the heart of Obama’s philosophy is a stranger, contradictory principle: If you’ve done well in life—say, launching a business and creating jobs for others, paying a lot of taxes, donating to charities, or just enjoying a good life with your family and friends—you owe something to Government, he consistently maintains. If you haven’t done well, if you haven’t made a whole lot of what you’ve been given or if you’ve hit some bad breaks, if you’re miserable, everyone else owes something to you.

So in one case those who actually give back to society (and the government) still owe the government something. But those who don’t give back, who rely on others less than themselves, they are owed something by the people. Per Obama’s logic, they have the same roads and infrastructure of everyone else, so why the heck didn’t they do something with it?

Maybe because it takes a little more than infrastructure to build great enterprises.

If success and wealth are truly the results of Government-bestowed Fortune, then why doesn’t Government bestow it on everyone? Because it can’t. Because success takes hard work—and value can’t be created out of nothing. Realizing it can’t just hand out prosperity on everyone, and desiring to be seen as the source of all that’s good, a Government obsessed with control performs a trick:  It sucks the wealth away from the successful, bringing everyone to a similar level, so that everyone is nearly equally (un)fortunate. It makes good fortune impossible, hoping that people forget about what kind of success is possible.

In such a state, everyone will be reliant on government. President Obama wants us all to live the “Life of Julia,” a life where in all things we thank Government. Which sounds a lot like Government is an entity entirely separate from the people. But, wait a second, I thought in America, government was supposed to be of, for, and by us, representative of us. For President Obama, it is before us, over us, and surrounding us.

Check out Hennessy’s comments here (about a page).

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