Column on Obama’s Self Job Description

Obama’s Job Self-Description

Tibor R. Machan

In his book The AUDACITY of HOPE, Barack Obama provides readers with a
pretty clear sense of his understanding of politics and why he finds the
Declaration of Independence unsatisfactory as his guide in matters of
governance. Very early in the book Obama mentions the genesis of his
political career and what kept him going even in the face of obstacles
such as his strange name, something called to his attention by a media
consultant who pointed out the fact that the "political dynamics have
changed" by showing a newspaper to Obama with the name "Osama bin Laden"
prominently featured on the front page. Nevertheless, Obama pressed on and
he explains why: It was "the legislative work, the policy making that had
gotten [him] to run in the first place."

Now in a free country the legislative work and policy making is confined
to figuring out how best the secure the rights of the citizenry. As the
Declaration states, governments are instituted to secure our rights, so
politics is about that, nothing else. By this approach the job description
of a politician is to work hard to make sure that we have our rights well
secured, protected. These rights, if you will recall, include our life,
liberty, pursuit of happiness and similar conditions of freedom. The
American political tradition is all about such negative rights, as
political theorists call them–rights that specify what others may not do
to us, rights in terms of which our sovereignty is established. Unlike the
regimes of the past, in which politics involved to a very large extent the
management of society–religion, science, art, commerce and all–in the
new American political system politics was not about these tasks at all
but about serving the public by fending off domestic and foreign

As the world evolves the proper way to secure our negative rights must be
adjusted because the violation of these rights can take numerous novel
forms. It is the function of the legislature of a free society to keep up
with these novel threats to our individual rights so that government can
keep being effective in securing them all. In the bloated welfare state
that America has become the job description of a politician isn’t figuring
out the best ways to secure the rights of the citizenry. In welfare states
and in the even more robust systems of socialism and fascism the job of
the politician changes from a concern about how to protect our individual
(negative) rights to "policy making." Which is to say, politicians are
once again the managers of the society and make policy instead of securing
the rights the protection of which make it possible for the citizenry to
engage in their own peaceful, non-aggressive policy making.

The souls of our politicians are different from how the American Founders
understood they should be. Politicians who were to serve us after the
American Revolution–which rejected government that would manage us all as
if we were subjects (as we are under the king)–would not be making
policy. They would be at work on how to make it possible for us all to
make policy in our lives, professions, businesses, arts, and all other
human endeavors. Like referees at a football game, politicians are
supposed to be there to play the game–to make policies about the
innumerable undertakings of free men and women–but to provide protection
against those who would seek to make trouble by breaking the rules, by
violating our rights.

Sadly, Barack Obama, along with all the other welfare state politicians in
our era, did and does not see his job description in the light that the
American Founders laid out. Rather he wanted very badly to make policy for
the rest of us. And of course, then, the Declaration of Independence would
not contain the political philosophy he would wish for. Instead it is the
old regime, whereby monarchs ran society, that would suit him much better.

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2 Responses to Column on Obama’s Self Job Description

  1. Unknown says:

    In 1630, my ancestors arrived on this continent seeking relief from the oppression of the King of England. They remained subjects of the king, but at what they thought was a sufficient distance. It took nearly 150 for their descendents and their fellow countryment to realize that the distance wasn\’t adequate and that they had had enough of British rule. Those descendents fought in the Revolutionary War. One of them was one of the privateers who, in their small boats, set fire to some British ships anchored off the coast of New Jersey.Later, other descendents fought in the Civil War to help preserve the Union. My father was killed in the Second World War. So, you can imagine that the desire for liberty runs in my blood.What saddens me most about our recent Presidential election is not the self-description of Barack Obama\’s job, but the willngness of so many people to discard the liberty for which our ancestors fought. To them, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are to be ignored, even discarded. As I heard ordinary people referring to Barack Obama as the "Messiah", I cringed at the thought of where out country is headed. At one time we were the model for the world of liberty and economic freedom. Even before Obama, we had slipped to eighth place.It took the countries of Eastern Europe seven decades to throw off the shackles of communism. Will those people who idolize Obama take as long to realize what they\’ve done to the most brilliant political documents in the history of mankind, the documents that created a system of government that made the United States the envy of the peoples the world over?If not, our children and grand-children will.

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