Burke and Obama
By Thomas Sowell
Edmund Burke (1729–1797) had a lot to say about the Obama administration
The other day I sought a respite from current events by rereading some of the writings of the 18th-century British statesman Edmund Burke. But it was not nearly as big an escape as I had thought it would be. When Burke wrote of his apprehension about “new power in new persons,” I could not help thinking of the new powers that have been created by which a new president of the United States — a man with zero experience in business — can fire the head of General Motors and tell banks how to run their businesses. Not only is Barack Obama new to the presidency, he is new to running any organization. One of Burke’s fears was that “we may place our confidence in the virtue of those who have never been tried.”
Neither eloquence nor zeal is a substitute for experience, according to Burke. He said, “eloquence may exist without a proportionate degree of wisdom.” As for zeal, Burke said: “It is no excuse for presumptuous ignorance that it is directed by insolent passion.”
The Obama administration’s back-and-forth on the question whether American intelligence agents who forced information out of captured terrorist leaders will be subject to legal jeopardy — even though they were told at the time that what they were doing was not only legal but a service to the nation — came to mind when reading Burke’s warning about the dangers of continuing to change the rules and values by which people lived. Burke asked how we could expect a sense of honor to exist when “no man could know what would be the test of honour in a nation, continually varying the standard of its coin”?
The current drive to take from “the rich” for the benefit of others came to mind when reading Burke’s warning against creating a situation where “any one description of citizens should be brought to regard any of the others as their proper prey.” He also warned that “those who attempt to level, never equalise.” What they end up doing is concentrating power in their own hands — and Burke saw such new powers as dangerous, even if they were used only sparingly at first.
He said, “the true danger is, when liberty is nibbled away, for expedients and by parts.” He also said: “It is by lying dormant a long time, or being at first very rarely exercised, that arbitrary power steals upon a people.” People who don't like “the rich” or “big business” or the banks may be happy that President Obama is sticking it to them. But such arbitrary powers can be turned on anybody. As John Donne said: “Send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” There is a lot of wisdom in those words.
The Constitution of the United States set out to limit the powers of the federal government, but judges have greatly eroded those limitations over the years, and the dispensing of bailout money has allowed the Obama administration to exercise powers that the Constitution never bestowed.
Edmund Burke understood that, no matter what form of government you have, in the end the character of those who wield the powers of government is crucial. He said: “Constitute government how you please, infinitely the greater part of it must depend upon the exercise of the powers which are left at large to the prudence and uprightness of ministers of state.”
He also said, “of all things, we ought to be the most concerned who and what sort of men they are that hold the trust of everything that is dear to us.” He feared particularly the kind of man “whose whole importance has begun with his office, and is sure to end with it” — the kind of man “who before he comes into power has no friends, or who coming into power is obliged to desert his friends.” Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, and others come to mind.
The biggest challenge to America — and to the world — today is the danger of Iran with nuclear weapons. President Obama is acting as if this is something he can finesse with talks or deals. Worse yet, he may think it is something we can live with. Burke had something to say about things like that as well: “There is no safety for honest men, but by believing all possible evil of evil men, and by acting with promptitude, decision, and steadiness on that belief.” Acting — not talking.
Obama led the US economy into a fiscal trap containing a monetary time bomb : Obama and his brilliant economic advisors have led driven the US economy into a fiscal trap containing a monetary time bomb. And the markets are taking notice. Money supply is out of the control as is the Democrats' mania for spending and borrowing. The US could find itself with galloping inflation and rising unemployment
Americans now owe $64 trillion, and still counting: Each American household now owes $546,668, four times what they owe for mortgages, car loans, credit cards and other debt. Looking long term is where it really gets scary. Recently, we learned the U.S. had $101 trillion in retirement and health care obligations over the next 75 years. The only problem is, at current tax rates we'll have only $53 trillion to pay for it all. That leaves a gaping hole of $48 trillion. Guess what? President Obama and Democrats think that's too small so they are going to make it bigger — a lot bigger
Carbon capture and burial — a stupid answer to a silly question : To extract the 2.6 tonnes of CO2 from every 9 tonnes of exhaust gases, compress it, pump it hundreds of kilometres in specially constructed pipelines and then bury it in carbon cemeteries is environmental and economic lunacy. It would break the economy. Nevertheless, this is what some of our politicians are proposing
The Obama revolution: Liberals have been working to replace our democracy with a dictatorship, and our free-market economy with a command economy controlled by the government. The liberals couldn't say this aloud, because if they did the American people would have tossed them out of office on their ears. So liberals worked covertly, feigning support for democracy and for the free market while working diligently to undermine both
You may be surprised who will knock on the door in an Obama world : Ever since Obama called for a new domestic army many people waited for the next shoe to drop after his election as president but who would have expected the jackbooted knocker on your door to come from the Federal Communication Commission — 'I'm from the FCC and I'm here to confiscate your computer
The Obama administration at work : The Obama administration was hard at work last week issuing more petty while merrily bankrupting the country. In the meantime, its 'foreign affairs policy' of appeasing tyrants is rapidly falling apart with the thugs in Iran and North Korea thumbing their noses at the civilised world and openly threatening nuclear war. Obama will be a disaster in more ways than one
The public oppose automaker bailouts: "By Thanksgiving as the bailout request dominated headlines, opposition to taxpayer-backed loans for GM and equally troubled Chrysler rose to 55%. But in December, President Bush, convinced that the automakers were essential to the economy, went ahead with a $17.4-billion auto bailout package anyway. Since then, the story has remained largely the same. By February when the automakers returned to Congress and President Obama for more help, opposition to additional taxpayer-backed loans had risen to 64%. That number was virtually unchanged even after Obama’s new auto task force dumped Wagoner as head of GM and gave the company 90 days to come up with a radical reorganization plan or else go into bankruptcy. The plan wasn’t good enough, and today GM declared bankruptcy, although it’s part of a structured plan that gives the government a majority say in the company. But 67% of voters are opposed to the plan that would provide GM with billions in federal funding and give the government a majority ownership interest."
Top secret clearances flawed at Pentagon: "The Pentagon may have issued top-secret clearances last year to as many as one-in-four applicants who had "significant derogatory information" in their backgrounds, including a record of foreign influence or criminal conduct, a little- noticed government audit says. Flaws in the system for granting clearances to Defense Department staff and contractors pose a risk to national security, and the right tools to measure how well the process works are essential, said Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, California Democrat and chairman of a House intelligence subcommittee that oversees personnel and management issues. "At present, we're basically operating on faith"
Who’s dismantling GM? “Call me crazy, but I don’t find this cute. As the news was breaking of General Motors going bankrupt, The New York Times business section ran a front page article about the 31-year-old in charge of ‘dismantling General Motors and rewriting the rules of American capitalism.’ The 31-year-old in question, one Brian Deese it turns out, was, for the first few months of Barack Obama’s administration the only full time member of the auto task force. Now he’s risen to become ‘one of the most influential voices in what may become President Obama’s biggest experiment in federal intervention.’”
Police state is wrong venue for Obama’s speech, says Robert Fisk!: “Maybe Barack Obama chose Egypt for his ‘great message’ to Muslims tomorrow because it contains a quarter of the world’s Arab population, but he is also coming to one of the region’s most repressed, undemocratic and ruthless police states. Egyptian human rights groups — when they are not themselves being harassed or closed down by the authorities — have recorded a breathtaking list of police torture, extra-judicial killings, political imprisonments and state-sanctioned assaults on opposition figures that continues to this day.” [Fisk is Britain's most one-eyed Leftist journalist]
As the dollar falls off the cliff : "“Economic news remains focused on banks and housing, while the threat mounts to the US dollar from massive federal budget deficits in fiscal years 2009 and 2010. Earlier this year the dollar’s exchange value rose against currencies, such as the euro. UK pound, and Swiss franc, against which the dollar had been steadily falling. The dollar’s rise made US policymakers complacent, even though the rise was due to flight from over-leveraged financial instruments and falling stock markets into ’safe’ Treasuries. Since April, however, the dollar has steadily declined as investors and foreign central banks realize that the massive federal budget deficits are likely to be monetized. What happens to the dollar will be the key driver of what lies ahead. The likely scenario could be nasty.”
The fallacy of economics by coercion: “Some months ago I wrote a series highlighting Lawrence Reed’s classic 1981 article, ‘7 Fallacies of Economics,’ and my last article dealt with what he called ‘the fallacy of economics by coercion.’ One would think that a government can coerce people into creating economic prosperity, but think again. We now have a government that openly holds to that view.”
Save the Motherland: Buy GM!: “For those of you who carefully have avoided piddling away your hard-earned dollars on a General Motors vehicle, resistance is futile. You’re a majority ‘investor’ now. Rejoice. Taxpayers, our president has decreed, are impelled to preserve a prehistoric, poorly run, unprofitable private corporation. Now the only question becomes: What does all this sacrifice mean?”
My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena
List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here
The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)