Column on Two Stupid Ideas

Two Stupid Ideas
Tibor R. Machan
Time for morning exercises! One will involve repairing some bad thinking
on Barack Obama’s part, another trying to fix the mental mess on the part
of a columnist for the New York Times who wants to fix the housing mess
with a $25K federal grant to first time home buyers.
As to Senator Obama, he told a Pittsburgh audience that when he gets to be
president, he will not be working for special interests and lobbyists but
for the people. Talk about confused elitism–are those special interests,
like farmers, union members, doctors, patients, students, professors,
truck driver and such not among the people? Are they frogs or geese or
what? For the umpteenth time: the people are made up of all those who
belong to the special interest groups, period.
Now it is not entirely Senator Obama’s fault that he gets away with this
kind of doubletalk. His audience gave no sign of protest, no criticism of
his silly ideas but just sat in awe of him, never mind what he said. With
that kind of constituency why should a candidate work hard at making any
sense at all? Just babble on, without rhyme or reason, in a tone of
know-it-all, and they’ll gobble it all up, the gullible bunch that they
are. They may even elect you precisely because you sound so bright as you
befuddle them all with your nonsense. Maybe that’s what the people believe
we need for the presidency.
Now as to the suggestion that the feds provide a $25K grant to first time
home buyers, how about making it clear that the feds do not have any funds
to give out. No, they must first extort the funds from citizens, take a
good chunk of it for themselves–do folks even have a clue now many perks
those guys in Washington get–and then hand a bit of it back to some of
the people. The feds have no funds they do not first take, or that they
borrow against the work of members of future generations. None!
But columnists and journalists across the country keep writing and talking
as if the federal government were some kind of productive and rich person
or organization that made lots of money and now has the option to give
some of it away, like Bill Gates. All that is a fraud. The feds confiscate
that money and keep some and then give it to people who they hope will
keep them in office.
Are these notions too difficult to grasp? I cannot believe that. Many of
my college and university students over the last four decades have been
able to understand this take on how government works–it is one among
several that we cover in the political philosophy course I teach. And they
know well enough that this is one interesting, probably even correct, way
to see politics in our day. But then why do they become blinded when they
read the apologists for reckless federal largesse?
Similarly, I have had many students who understand that there is no such
entity as “the people” but only a bunch of individuals and groups of
individuals with various agendas they’d like politicians to support at
other people’s expense. Yet maybe after they learn that idea in college
they become afflicted by stupidity, by the crazy hope that they are both
part of “the people” as well as members of the evil special interest
groups, carrying on some endless fight between the two parts of themselves.
Of course, there are many ideas students encounter during their higher
education, including the post-modernist notion that logic and reason are
obsolete methods by which to figure out the problems people face and that
it is best to just embrace some form of magical thinking. Yes, you can be
both “the people” and a member of one of those nasty special interest
groups. You can both be and not be, all at once, all the same way.
Nonsensical thinking is ancient–folks like Heraclitus and Cratylus
promoted it in ancient times and today it’s certain European and American
pseudo-philosophers who peddle it fast and furious. So is it any wonder
that our leading politicians get away with laying such stuff out for the
voting public?

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