Sunday, March 17, 2013

Baracked, Banalized and Bewildered

Andrew Roberts, one of my favorite Brits, parses Obama's second inaugural speech:
In his 18-minute, 2,100-word speech, Obama delivered a paean to big government, something that only truly resonates with a minority of Americans. Union membership in the private sector has fallen from 24 per cent of workers in 1973 to 7 per cent in 2011, for example, although over the same period in the public sector it rose from 23 per cent to 37 per cent. This was more of a State of the Union speech masquerading as an inauguration speech, so replete was it with policy statements and digs at opponents, as opposed to the overarching worldview expected of presidents on such occasions. One suspects it will not be inscribed on any walls anytime soon. 
In almost all political speeches there is some banality, of course — Obama actually said: "You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country's course" — but close analysis of Obama's banalities gives clues to his intentions. For this was the "You didn't build that" speech, full of what government had achieved for the country, albeit through the repeated use of the straw man argument, as in: "No single person can train all the math and science teachers we'll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people." The fact that nobody has ever suggested that one single person could train all America's hundreds of thousands of maths and science teachers makes that sentence as otiose as: "Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers." Small wonder that Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell has interpreted the speech as meaning that "the era of liberalism is back. His unashamedly far-left-of-centre speech certainly brings back memories of the Democratic Party in ages past."

1 comment:

Carlos Perera said...

The "You didn't build that" argument put forward by Obama is _exactly_ the justification used by the totalitarian government that runs the collectivist hellhole I hail from, to help itself to anything the citizen owns or produces. And, just as the soft-totalitarians socialists of the West are now doing, the hard-totalitarians of Cuba started by despoiling the "one-percenters," much to the approbation of the masses; thus, as they worked their way down the economic ladder, the folk on the lower rungs no longer had a moral basis with which to oppose _their_ own despoliation. Of course, the end-game of the process is the complete ruination of the economy--which is taken over by the central government in any case--but, somehow, the state is able to scrape enough resources from the people's misery to fund a powerful military and the organs of internal repression. Once upon a time, I thought that the end-game could never be reached in practice in polities, like the U. S., rooted in the Anglo-Saxon legal and historical traditions . . . but I no longer believe that.