OBAMA, THE FOUNDING FATHERS AND THE NEW MAN
Armando Ribas, February, 2009
USA’s financial crisis is not the greatest danger we face, although it has had and is having a recessive impact on the economy. In spite of the fact the economists with their apocalyptic predictions have turned themselves into the Pythagorean Cassandras of the XX century, the American economy was growing at a 3% annual rate until de second quarter of 2008. Fortunately, everything seems to show that they are avoiding making the same mistake done in 1929 letting the banking system to collapse and shutting down the economy through the Smoot Hawley Act. I can then say that the greatest danger is political and, as Ortega wrote, the greatest danger is the State. And that political danger arises from the possibility that the necessary intervention of the State to overcome the present crisis, can be construed as the justification for the substitution of the system that, for the first time in the world’s history, has allowed the creation of wealth.
It is in that sense that President Obama’s concepts expressed in his inauguration speech can cause some concern. As Lenin said, ideas are actions, and the ideas expressed by the President could be taken into action by this Administration, contradicting the system that constituted the greatness of the US and that he himself recognized in multiple opportunities as such. In a part of his speech he referred specifically to the Founding Fathers and to “our founding documents”. In these we find the Declaration of Independence in which a fundamental principle is recognized, “the right of man to the pursuance of his own happiness”. This founding principle is at the same time fundamental of the ethical conception on which the American political system of the Rule of Law is sustained. It means the ethical recognition of private interests and not the search of the new man who does not sin seven times. Respect and defense of the individual rights (which are not the human rights) is derived from this recognition, and consequently the limitation of political power in accordance to the National Constitution.
Unfortunately, in another paragraph of his speech the President said, “…the divine promise that we are all equal, we are all free and we all deserve the opportunity to achieve complete happiness”. This predicament apparently means the President considers that the currently denominated American creed does not provide that opportunity. It appears to me that we find ourselves here with a contradiction between the right to pursue happiness and the possibility of achieving it. In the first case, happiness is the individual’s responsibility, but according to what the President said the possibility arises that it is the Government who should provide that happiness to those who have not achieved it. From that supposedly moral possibility arises the justification for the Government’s unlimited power. Allow me to bring up one of Hamilton’s observations in The Federalist when he wrote, “A dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of the zeal for the rights of the people”
I must tell the President that following that line of thought he is confusing individual rights with the so called human rights. It is, I believe, because of that confusion the he says, “…the question we make ourselves today is not whether the government is too big or small, but if it does work”. Supposedly its operation is to satisfy social needs because he specifically refers to “…help families find work…” (sic). I can understand that due to the crisis, a greater government intervention is required, but the possible generalization of this principle would mean the violation of the principle which limits political power as established by the Constitution. But let’s remember Madison’s words, “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal control on government would be necessary”.
By the same token we must acknowledge that the magnitude of public spending is a problem ‘per se’ that is suffered today by the European Union, reaching 52% of the GDP in France and Germany. As George Gilder said in “Wealth and Poverty”: “It is not principally the federal deficit what causes inflation. If the deficit were closed by higher tax rates, –and the money supply were held constant–, the price level would likely rise in the orthodox way of the law of costs”. But still more, even Marx himself in his criticism of Hegel’s “Theory of the State”, recognizes the actual behaviour of burocracy in contradiction with Hegel’s assumption that it represents the general interest and so he said: “For the individual burocrat the state’s purpose becomes his private purpose of hunting for higher positions and making a career for himself”.(SIC)
Another paragraph that deserves a profound analysis is the one in which the President recognizes the virtue of the market to create wealth. Notwithstanding this correct assesment of the market he includes the following statement: “…a nation cannot be prosperous for long if it favors only the rich people”. Allow me to insist in the necessity to change the idea of the market for the prevalence of individual rights. This other approach does not mean that those rights could be detrimental to other people’s individual rights. It is then the law, –justice–, the one in charge of avoiding that possibility. Though it is considered that the present crisis was caused by lack of regulations, the truth of the matter is that the speculation in the real estate market was mainly due to Carter’s demagogical provision that each American had the right to own his own house.
The credit expansion provided in order to satisfy that demagogic purpose, together with the lowering of the rate of interest caused in the market what Minsky defines as pure speculation. That is when goods are bought not for use but to resell them. I ask myself how was it possible that those wise economists that today are making apocaliptic predictions, were not capable to perceive that such speculation would lead to create a bubble that would finally explode the way it did? But more than that, we should be aware that such speculation did not benefit anyone, whether rich or poor. Fannie May as well as Fredy Mac were governmet creations in order to comply with The Community Reinvestment Act, enacted by Carter and followed by Clinton.
The above quoted paragraph continues with another controverial proposal that will not lead to economic growth, but to the so called wellfare state. That is the prevailing system in the European Union, which has ended up being a “badfare state”, as it has been observed in recent articles by Paul Johnson and Darendorf. Needless to say how much it worries me the appealing to the common good that it no other thing that the pretention to chain human nature. That is Rousseau’s proposal followed by Hegel to create the new man, who had no other right that his belonging to the state.The common good as well as the reason of the state, are the ethical assumptions to justify absolute power in the name of the people and the nation in order to violate individual rights. Unfortunately this is the present world view that today oppresses the majority of the Latinamerican countries.
The future American foreign policy as it was proposed by the President is also deeply controversial. Mr Obama proposes that the United States should be committed to save from hunger and poverty those countries which today are suffering them. Nothing may be more alien to the possibilities of the United State in the world. The wealth of the United States is not a priviledge of nature, neither the result of the explotation of other countries as it was suggested by Lenin in his “Imperialism, the Last Stage of Capitalism”. That was the result of the enforcement of what has been called the American creed (The Rule of Law. Respect for individual rights and the limitation of political power). Those are the principles that the poor countries are committed to reject in the name of antiimperialism, denominated today as American hegemony. Mr Obama then continues saying: “We cannot allow any longer the indifference with regard to the sufferings outside our borders”. What are then his plans to deal with Cuba, whose oppressive and criminal regime appears today in front of the hypocritical eyes of the world as defender of human rights?
And the President continues his speech saying: “Because the world has changed, we have to change with it”. I am convinced that the American policy should be the other way around. The one which has to change is the rest of the world in order to be able to achieve what the United States did by applying the American creed. If it is the United States the one that changes, then the Americans will suffer the maladies that afflict the largest part of humanity living under the shadows of socialism. And let us remember that socialism was the denomination given by the Enlightenment to demagoguery. In other words it will be the end of the American dream.