Subtle Distinctions: Why good intentions aren’t enough!


Republicans every election cycle struggle needlessly with “Cognitive Dissonance”. Their dilemma is faced by all, who believe in liberty and self reliance. They struggle to justify their political stand with the “Golden Rule”. Their angst stems from a failure to comprehend the true basis for capitalism and the ramifications of Democratic Policies. When one judges based upon emotion, it is easy to miss the true ramifications of these policies.

Long ago I was told that you could easily cook a live frog by slowly raising the temperature of the water rather than simply tossing the frog into a pot of hot water. The frog will attempt to escape the pot with hot water, but will not attempt escape, when the temperature is slowly raised. Too many Republicans have been slowly convinced that by embracing capitalism they are abandoning Christian virtue. It is in fact true that when they embrace the policies of the compassionate state that they abandon their virtue.

Capitalism has for far too long suffered from the criticism that it is solely a tool of the greedy. As with a hammer, a knife or any tool, misuse is always possible. Individuals, who use their wealth solely to produce more wealth at the expense of others is an example of a failure of a person or group not an indictment of the entire system. Notice I used the word solely and the phrase at the expense of others in tandem here.

Greed and and other inappropriate motivations exist in society as a whole and as such exist in capitalistic societies as well. Capitalism’s superiority rests in the fact that individuals are free to choose their paths. Capitalism allows for the exercise of free will. Our Founders believed that freedom was the quintessential virtue that must be protected. It is what allows the individual to be a unique human being or one one among many as the individual chooses.

When I was a young boy in Catholic school, I was taught President Kennedy’s now famous quote. “Ask not what your country can do for you,but what you can do for your country”. Since he was the first Roman Catholic President, you can imagine, the tremendous identification I had with this larger than life heroic leader. So enamored by his persona was I that the statist nature of his message was viewed by me and many others as the ultimate expression of patriotism. Everyone saw this young leader as the ideal person with whom one could cast his or her lot. Thus began the America’s obsession with the concept of government service as a high calling.

Upon his untimely death the mantle of leadership fell to Lyndon Johnson. President Johnson built on the foundation laid by FDR and Kennedy. He promoted the Great Society. He provided what he saw as a moral goal. The elimination of poverty. (Aka prevention of adverse economic outcomes) FDR demonstrated that government could be advanced to accomplish tasks not contemplated at the birth of our nation and Kennedy fostered the idea of public service. ( “…what you can do for your country”) Johnson clothed the federal government with moral purpose. How can anyone stand against his objectives? The Republican view of the world as expressed by Barry Goldwater was characterized as pugnacious and selfish.
How could the Great Society achieve its noble goal. Use the power of government as a blacksmith would, to shape the new society using the hammer of government to control outcomes. Does it matter whether the Great Society is accomplished at a great cost, the loss of personal freedom? Many including many Republicans were willing to embrace the power of government. You see, free will can be messy when the direction of a country is dependent on the actions of the populace. It is not a linear path and its movement toward any goal even a worthy one is dependent on the good character of its citizenry. A powerful government can push even an apathetic populace. Doesn’t that noble end outweigh the loss of free will?

It is now time for self reflection. Are we closer now to the promised Great Society? Are we closer to a society where poverty is a distant object in society’s rearview mirror? Are we a more moral people? Is there more or less room for dissent in a society that requires the populace to celebrate all types of conduct and treats discomfort as a reason to curtail thought? Have government guidelines advanced or retarded the free exercise of religion? Do you feel more or less safe? Do you feel empowered to advance your economic interests? Do you and your neighbors feel the country is more educationally balanced?  Are there more or fewer barriers to entry into the economic realm?

I propose a replacement for President Kennedy’s most famous quote. Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do to help your neighbor. It is your choice to act or not to act. Advancement toward or away from any goal is dependent on the will of its citizenry not the state. Freedom is messy since it allows for advancement or failure based on the independent choices of the individual. Success is measured by its citizenry and adjusted by the sum total of their individual choices.

Government exists to preserve the natural rights of its citizens not to push them toward a collective goal. How is this moral with all the misery in the world? This path is based on the inherent right of the individual to be free. The ultimate right, free will. The populace can use their rights for good or ill. Federal Government exists for limited purposes.   It exists to preserve individual’s natural rights and promote national safety and establish a common currency and insure fair economic competition between the several states. It was not nor should it be an instrument to herd or control its citizenry. Tyranny is tyranny, whether by a sovereign or a group of voting citizenry.  We live in a Republic with limited powers and protected individual rights.  Our economic system, capitalism, is consistent with the concept of individual liberty.

Next time you are challenged about capitalism or the impotence of the federal government to swiftly advance societal change, remember the moral high ground is still yours. Capitalism offers the unique opportunity for each individual to achieve his or her highest potential in the economic marketplace. It offers the best opportunity to help, not control your neighbor.

Doubt me, then look at the standard of living in the old communist empire. Look at the standard of living enjoyed by those in the many regimes of the middle east or the dictatorships of Africa. Many of these regimes are in countries with vast amounts of natural resources, yet all standards of living pale in comparison to ours.

How is your neighbor best served?   Your neighbor is not better served by grand economic master plans, when we can have our plan crafted by millions of individuals creating the plan, which best serves them by making choices best for them every single day.  No one could gather sufficient data nor create an algorithm that could better serve the citizenry.

Where government oversight is needed, it is best exercised at the point closest to the populace it serves. Never forget, our republican form of government’s primary purpose is to protect  its citizens and preserve their natural rights. It is the responsibility of the citizenry by their choice to assist their neighbor, when assistance is requested.

Remember this truism a government, which attempts to do everything for everyone ultimately does nothing of value for its citizenry. Freedom of choice is the key to to personal advancement as well as economic opportunity. It is time to roll back marginal regulations, which do little to protect citizens, but act as a barrier to entry into a field of endeavor. It is time to return to limited government and personal responsibility.  Coveting or taking your neighbors goods is not moral simply because it is decided by a vote.  Individuals have the moral responsibility to serve their neighbor and the free will to choose to do so. The individual is served by being challenged.  Those individuals, who are incapable of assisting themselves should be helped by charity.  There are ample individuals, families and private organizations capable of assisting.  Government simply is not good at it.

Life is not totally safe and an attempt to make it so confines humankind to a short life in a cave under a rock. It is safe, but short and with no room for growth. Remember the individual is directed to help their neighbor not the collective.  Limited government is not accomplished by hope and change, but by the faith, hope and charity of the individual.

Author: graffman3030

former Ohio Public service executive. Conservative for life. Life long Ohio resident

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