Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You, Ask What You Can Do For Yourself

Via Dr. Helen, I encountered this marvelous Milton Friedman quote:

The paternalistic "what your country can do for you" implies that government is the patron, the citizen the ward, a view that is at odds with the free man's belief in his own responsibility for his own destiny. The organismic, 'what you can do for your country' implies that government is the master or the deity, the citizen, the servant or the votary. To the free man, the country is the collection of individuals who compose it, not something over and above them. He is proud of a common heritage and loyal to common traditions. But he regards government as a means, an instrumentality, neither a grantor of favors, and gifts, nor a master or god to be blindly worshipped and served.

For a different approach to government, look no further than Thomas Friedman, who appears to be envious of totalitarian China. That government, he informs readers, is superior to the liberal democracy of the United States:

One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century. It is not an accident that China is committed to overtaking us in electric cars, solar power, energy efficiency, batteries, nuclear power and wind power. China’s leaders understand that in a world of exploding populations and rising emerging-market middle classes, demand for clean power and energy efficiency is going to soar. Beijing wants to make sure that it owns that industry and is ordering the policies to do that, including boosting gasoline prices, from the top down.

Our one-party democracy is worse. The fact is, on both the energy/climate legislation and health care legislation, only the Democrats are really playing. With a few notable exceptions, the Republican Party is standing, arms folded and saying “no.” Many of them just want President Obama to fail. Such a waste. Mr. Obama is not a socialist; he’s a centrist. But if he’s forced to depend entirely on his own party to pass legislation, he will be whipsawed by its different factions.

Democracy (or, as we have it, a democracy within a republic) is indeed inconvenient if one wishes to force one's policy proposals on an unwilling public.

I prefer to be my own master, and that such "reasonably enlightened" folk as the China's tyrants and Thomas Friedman had no power to benefit me with their better wisdom.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

it's not a milton f quote, that's an ayn rand quote. still an awesome quote, but still rand