Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Nonsense On Stilts

Generally speaking, I enjoy the columns of Bill McClellan in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. McClellan is really something of a throwback to the days when newspapers had a much more blue collar air to them, back when reporters and editors thought of themselves as something other than our moral and intellectual superiors.

That being said, McClellan is not above throwing some real silly stuff out there. Yesterday, in a column arguing that Rock and Roll icon Chuck Berry should get a statue in St. Louis (about which I agree wholeheartedly), McClellan makes the following statement about Abraham Lincoln:

As regular readers know, my family has never forgiven Lincoln for the cavalier way he treated Gen. George B. McClellan. "If you're not going to use your army, would you mind if I borrowed it?" Oh, he was a sarcastic one!

I only wish that this country would have had the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity back then. They would have seen Lincoln for what he was — a socialist. Just think of his second inaugural address: "With malice toward none, with charity for all ..."

Charity for all? That's socialism, folks. Read more of that address. He talks about caring for widows and orphans. He's talking about income redistribution right there. He's going to take our money and give it to widows and orphans.

Now, obviously, there is a lot of this that is the result of McClellan's tongue being planted firmly in his cheek. However, that doesn't mean it isn't nonsense.

The idea, for example, that Obama's attempt to enlarge the scope and power of the Federal government, and its myriad bureaucrats and petty functionaries, to a level unheard of in American history is the moral equivalent of Lincoln's call to...

...strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations....

...Is nothing other than rubbish. Furthermore it is rubbish of a particularly mean and intellectually shallow character. Sure, someone could label Lincoln's call for "charity for all" as nothing more than "socialism," but only if they were completely ignorant of both the doctrines of real socialism and the Christian understanding of charity.

Obama's drive is to expand the power of the central government and to have society at large ruled by elites in Washington (call them "experts" or "czars" if you want - it all means the same thing). There is a name for such a political doctrine. It's called socialism.

Indeed, Obama's repeated call for "unity" can also be seen as an example of the same drive for socialism. After all, the entire point of the doctrine of Karl Marx was to bring about a state where politics would cease. According to Marx we would no longer be separated from one another by social classes, because socialism/communism would result in a classless society. A society with no classes means a society with no politics. Voilà unity.

This ideal of "unity" is in contradistinction to the liberal idea of people pursuing their political ideas in a competitive environment. The reason Obama is having so many difficulties is not that meanies like Beck and Limbaugh call him names, but because Obama doesn't understand that most of the country is still committed to their own understanding of politics as an ongoing competition. Obama's belief that he could merely say "I won" and politics were supposed to cease does not indicate to me that he understands the political to be anything like Federalist #10.

Evidently, according to the McClellan's of this world, all of this is illegitimate. He seems to feel we should not be allowed to try to categorize or otherwise make sense of the political actions of President Obama, or attempt to make sense of his principles. To do so, we are informed, would be the equivalent of calling Lincoln a socialist...

Yeah, I don't get it either.


Larry Sheldon said...

Just to clarify.....
Charity is not socialism.

Charity something an individual does with his own wealth for his own purposes for beneficiaries of his choosing.

Socialism is something that some dictator does for his purposes with our wealth. There may or may not be beneficiaries in the usual sense in the picture.

Zut Alors! said...

Jesus of Nazareth is my favorite socialist and he was a community organizer to boot.

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

Larry, yes, Charity is not socialism. Actually, Charity is almost impossible to have in a socialist system. It is well known that the less economic freedom a country has the less citizens give to charity. (Just as the more Democratic a state is the less they give compared to Republican states.) Under socialism everyone can always think "I gave at the office" and have done with it.

On the other hand, remember socialism needn't require dictators as such. You can easily have democratic socialists.

And Zut: re: Jesus. Nope. He was a carpenter, dont ya know. Independent craftsman and all that. Plus he associated with fisherman (independant owner operators you see). I missed the part of teh Bible where he says the romans should micromanage those economic activities.

Larry Sheldon said...

Not going to quibble, but every example of socialism I know of had a dictator somewhere. Sometimes voluntarily elected, but nevertheless prescribing exactly what must be done by whom.

Even the Shaker Communities and such.

And I know of know record of Jesus saying that the wealth of the believers was to be confiscated by the government. (Some later collections of people using His name did some of that.)

Larry Sheldon said...

The closest I can think of Jesus being to modern day socialists is the stories of him hanging around with prostitutes and tax collectors.