Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Response to Barry Goldwater, Jr, Child of Means

In the March 14th issue of the Arizona Republic, former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Barry Goldwater, Jr. posits what is wrong with America in a rambling opinion piece.  Bear with me as I respond to him section by section.
Our president and the State Department sit in silence as country after country topples by people wanting freedom. Our foreign policy is a failure because we have no stated objectives or policy. We do not know the people of the countries we are involved with. To top it off, we have a president who has little experience in foreign statecraft, let alone in diplomacy. It is natural for humans to want freedom. We only need to look at America's experience.
I don't think neither President Obama nor Secretary of State Clinton have been silent over what is going on in North Africa and some of the Arabian Peninsula nations.  In fact, I believe that we are doing the right thing by not involving ourselves overtly in these matters.  One problem with our foreign policy in the past has been our assertion that we always knew what was best for a nation.  We helped to topple democratically elected leaders as well as kings if they were an obstacle to our objectives.

President Obama and Secretary Clinton both understand our history and have chosen to stand back and let events unfold as naturally as they can instead of inserting our views and our military.  This means that we actually have taken the time to respect the people and cultures of the nations that are in flux.  The worst thing that we can do in a place like Libya is be seen as taking sides.  It is smart foreign policy, one that a self proclaimed libertarian such Mr. Goldwater should support.
We are a country of many nationalities and what binds us together is that we are Americans. We came here seeking freedom. Never forget your rich heritage, but drop the hyphenation, for we are Americans not Italian-Americans, Arab-Americans, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans etc. Each of us has a responsibility to do what we can do to make America a better place to live, expand and protect those freedoms.
This is from a man who ran on the idea of creating concentration camps for those in this country illegally.  Mr. Goldwater is very good at claiming that we are all Americans until its time to run for something and then he has to lay blame on "the other", as many conservatives enjoy doing.  I wonder his opinion is on Sarah Palin's view that there is a "real America" and a "not real America".
We and our fathers left governments that enslaved their people, and we found liberty in America. Few ever want to go back to the type of government we escaped. The genius of our founding fathers was crafting a document, the Constitution, that limited government's power to control its people. It recognized that Americans wanted to be free, not taken care of by a powerful government. That each of us are individuals, not part of a group. Each of us has our own needs, ambitions, desires, beliefs and goals. Only by being free can we find that which we work for and desire.
Not all of our ancestors left their nations of origin of their own free will.  The above paragraph negates the history of slavery in this nation and how slavery helped to define this nation.  It also makes the false analogy that everyone who came to this nation did so to escape some oppressive government.  Many came to this nation to seek their fortune, to stake their claim to what would become the American dream.  Not to mention the many native tribes that inhabited this great land long before any European landed on its shores.

If you notice, the highlighted section of the paragraph is at complete odds with the previous paragraph.  In fact, individuals can and do belong to groups.  Mr. Goldwater claims that we are all Americans yet that we don't belong to any group.  This is how conservatives think.  We can't be any part of a group and still be free, but we do belong to a group as we are all Americans.
America is truly an experiment in liberty. Unlike most countries in history, it was founded on an idea - freedom. For the first time in human history, government's purpose wasn't to grant or deny rights as it saw fit, but to protect its citizens' natural rights.
No, America has always been a grand experiment in representative democracy and it wasn't founded on the idea of freedom.  It was founded on the concept of each man being allowed to have a voice in their government, to have their ideas and their dreams represented in government.  Our Founding Fathers would have been perfectly happy to still be part of the British Empire if only they had a true voice in British government.

The dumping of tea in Boston harbor wasn't about taxes, it was that those taxes were imposed without those being taxed having a voice.  Then again, conservatives are very good at revising history to match their ideology.  Just watch Bill O'Reilly if you don't believe me.
Government's legitimacy came from the consent of the governed, "We the People." Whether this Republic is successful will be up to us.
This section doesn't really need any response.
Over a century and a half ago, my great-great-grandfather came to America fleeing persecution in Poland. All he wanted in this new land was to be left alone to build his own empire. Instead of feeling entitled to free stuff, he felt thankful to be free.
What Mr. Goldwater neglects to say is that his great-great-grandfather was feeling being persecuted for being a Jew.  By omitting that salient fact, he can keep the facade that he is not persecuting illegal aliens when he talked about placing them into concentration camps.  He tries to escape his own history in order to push his own ideology.
Economic freedom is the world's greatest success story. It is based on trust. Each party must benefit by seeking to meet their own needs by meeting the needs of others. This interaction between people is often called the invisible hand.
Economic freedom is not based on trust.  Economic freedom is based on the idea that we are all free to strive for economic success on our own terms.  We are free to strive to become teachers, doctors, firefighters and even Wall Street bankers.  But we don't all start at the same place.  Some, like Mr. Goldwater, have a head start over others.  That is the true invisible hand that he speaks of.
Nations decline when they stop doing the things that made them great. Early in our history, the country focused on creating wealth, not redistributing it. Charity came from the heart, not government programs.
No, in our early history our nation didn't focus on creating wealth.  It focused on surviving and protecting the great experiment.  We almost didn't make it on several occasions, the Civil War being the biggest.  Government programs for the poor and the working poor are not charity.  They are a safety net for those who haven't succeeded at "creating wealth".
The preamble to the Constitution, where it speaks of "providing for the general welfare," was not meant to authorize the creation of a federal welfare state. We as a people have responsibility to create a safety net for those who really are in a bad way. When that safety net is abused by those who do not need it, and the rapid growth and size of government becomes a drag on hard-working, taxpaying Americans, then our freedoms are in jeopardy.
I think our government has a responsibility to help provide for those who have the least.  Are government programs abused?  Sure they are, but its not just those with the least who might take advantage.  The rich and powerful as well as businesses have been known to abuse government programs.  Wasn't Haliburton fined for abusing government contracts they had secured?

Our freedoms are not in jeopardy because of the social safety net we have created.  No, our freedoms are in danger because of people like Mr. Goldwater.  They are the ones giving our government more and more police powers.  They are the ones that endorse torture and warrentless wiretapping.  They are the ones that created laws that allow police to stop a person on the street and say "papers, please".
Today we are in a slow destructive spiral. We have traded the ideals of self-sufficiency and hard work for handouts, entitlements. Our country is on the brink of financial disaster.
The current $1.5 trillion deficits and $14 trillion debts present a clear and present danger to each of us and our families.
The only way out of the morass lies with the restoration of economic liberty, free markets, a constitutional republic and, above all, personal responsibility.
We have been in a destructive spiral for the last 30 years.  Not because of the social safety net, but because of adherence to Milton Friedman's concept of "free markets".  Our nation is on the brink of financial disaster not because the poor are poor and need government assistance, but because the "free markets" took us there.

What Mr. Goldman wants is for government to allow business to operate without any restrictions.  He wants them to continue to receive their corporate welfare while taking no responsibility to help the nation as a whole.  He doesn't believe there should be unions or minimum wage.  He believes that government has no place regulating businesses.

We have $1.4 trillion deficits and a national debt approaching $15 trillion because we cut taxes at the same time we invaded two countries.  We have increased military spending while requiring the least of us to sacrifice Head Start and Big Bird.  Instead of doing the right thing by rescinding the Bush tax cuts we are instead talking about cutting Medicare and Medicaid.
As Thomas Jefferson reminded us, "freedom is not free." Regardless from where we came, we are now Americans, and we can count our blessings.
This is a throwaway ending statement.  It doesn't really mean anything except to stir patriotic emotions.

Mr. Goldwater wants us to believe that we are all Americans, but don't belong to a group.  He wants us to believe that government is to provide for the general welfare but not provide a social safety net because someone might abuse it.  He wants us to believe that all it takes is trust and not regulation for a business to do the right thing.  The most important thing that Mr. Goldwater wants us to believe is that his being a "child of means" didn't give him a leg up on anyone else.

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