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    Doug McKenzie
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  1. I am in no way challenging Objectivism with my argumentation. Rather, I am challenging the idea that Objectivism, or Objectivist principles, are somehow American principles. While they do overlap, they are not the same. The United States has always been about working for the collective good, while protecting individual liberty. You can't split off the former and keep only the latter. Taxation was not a controversial idea to the founding fathers, they all thought it essential to the continuity and efficacy of the government. If you choose to call it theft, so be it. But you would not be in the same intellectual company as the founding fathers of these here United States. This is why I feel it is a grave mistake for Objectivists to delude themselves into thinking that it is America where Objectivist philosophy will take root. Just because this country is the closest land on earth to the Objectivist ideal does not mean that it is close enough. Objectivist political philosophy is a radical departure from the principles this country was founded upon.
  2. I recently came across this good site for Jefferson quotes. Here is Jefferson talking specifically about the benefits of wealth redistribution: And on welfare: I'm imagining this is you after reading that. But seriously, that site is a treasure trove of quotes from Jefferson on government.
  3. Intentions do matter. I will be judged differently depending on whether I accidentally shoot you dead while cleaning my gun, or shoot you dead because I hate your cooking. He does not believe in economic equality. That would be communism. He and just about everyone in this country believes in a progressive tax system to limit to some extent the wealth disparities the market tends to produce in society. I have explained above how the notion that the United States was based on individual rights alone is a fallacy. If you want to take issue with the comments that support this from Adams, Hamilton, Washington, and Marshall, go right ahead. Now would be the time. You're asking me to teach a course on this board in 18th century American political thought? Because that's what it would take to answer that properly. We don't have the time or inclination for that. What we have before us is the proposition that the country's ideals included not just the protection and celebration of individual rights, but also that the country was a cohesive union of patriots who had cause to seek the betterment of society has a whole. The quotes ai have provided have demonstrated that. Americans en mass believe in the progressive taxation system, and have for 100 years and more. And the progressive tax system is far less punitive to the rich than it ever has been. Furthermore, the Constitution gave the Congress authority to tax the citizenry, and so any use of those tax receipts can be seen as wealth redistribution; e.g: A bridge gets built to improve transportation. The contractor who builds the bridge benefits, the businesses that need the bridge to distribute their wares benefit, but the people with no reason to use the bridge do not benefit. Wealth redistribution is inevitable when you agree to tax the people. Unless those handouts were from your rich dad. Since life expectancy wasn't anywhere near what it is today in the 18th century, no one foresaw the need for social security or medicare. No one foresaw how modern urban living and industrialization, combined with economic upturns and downturns, would give rise to the levels of unemployment that would occur, and the subsequent benefits of unemployment insurance. No one saw the benefits of making sure children could get proper medical attention, or food, despite the economic status of their parents, so that they could become productive citizens as adults. It is perfectly rational to assume that, given the state of minds of many of the founding fathers as evidenced by quotes here, they would have acquiesced to these public programs to provide/promote the general welfare. In your post you kept conflating the concept of yearly income with wealth. These are two separate animals. Now, one learns this is in economics 101 at the college level, so I'm not sure how to address you on the matter because its unclear to me whether you have undertaken this level of study. Not trying to sound snotty but your familiarity of these concepts will determine how I should respond to you. Nevertheless, the Sowell article is political propaganda which, from my previous readings of him, is probably an intentional ploy to exploit people who don't know the difference between the two. Every economist knows people's income levels go up and down, but the level of wealth, the real determinant of prosperity and power, is more fixed (rock stars, professional athletes, and Madoff Ponzi scheme victims notwithstanding). So then it is Hamilton who is anti-American. And Washington tended to side with him rather than Jefferson, so lump him in there too. And Adams has to be included because of his wariness of the rich and insistence the government promote the common good. Why don't you try arguing that these founding fathers did not mean what they clearly meant in the quotes I provided. I don't disagree that Jefferson and often Madison were very skeptical of the general welfare clause's liberal interpretation, but theirs were not the only voices on the matter. He worried that if a Bill of Rights was written it would be perceived to be the ONLY rights people had where in actuality they would have much more. This worry was assuaged with the ninth amendment, which means that any right not explained in the Constitution is still a right of the people. He did not specify that only the specific powers enumerated in the constitution were granted. Here is an excerpt from this good summary: You don't need to provide quotes from Jefferson, or Madison or anyone else, because I never objected to their point of view (although I would argue they never would have agreed in a million years to a government based on Objectivist principles). Remember the quotes only are relating to federal government, not the state government, which they were more fond of. And I amazed that you feel that the idea of what constitutes providing for the general welfare was never going to change in 220 years, that it would remain fixed based on the prevailing attitudes of a sparsely populated, highly religious agrarian society. Ideas change and evolve, and its good that they do. In 1780 you couldn't vote here, or do a great many things without the consent of your husband. Should we accept the 1828 dictionary definition of everything, and reject the progress of the last 180 years? Couldn't see where Obama said it was a "right." He said all Americans should have access to it, but that's not the same thing as saying it should be enshrined in the Constitution. What in jumping jehosaphat are you talking about? You feel the government is making every American's life peaches and cream? People on unemployment, welfare, social security, etc. are just in the lap of luxury? Give me a break. A hell of a lot more was done by the government in the first 150 years to provide for the prosperity of the people besides "freedom and the law." I am not doing tutoring here, so I'm not about to begin an exposition of the history of the American government unless I am compensated fairly for my time (my Paypal info can be provided if this appeals to anyone ) I haven't responded to your posts because I feel the answers to your points were in my responses to others. Instead of me spending hours trying to cross reference Obama quotes and those of Hamilton, Adams, etc, why don't you just analyze the quotes I gave and indicate why you feel they were not advocating that government should, at least in some manner, be the steward of the greater good. If you can demonstrate this, then you would have a case that Obama is at least un-American because there would be no early intellectual fountain from which his ideas flow.
  4. Man you're not even paying attention. We needed to set the record straight about the interview and Sophia was misinterpreting the point he was making. But that is a sideshow. The real point of the discussion, and this is very important, is what it means to be an American, what are the founding ideals. This post split off from Capitalism_Forever's original essay on how Obama goes beyond un-American into full bore Anti-American. And I am challenging his assumptions on what exactly constitute the ideals of the founding fathers. My point is, and to correct your erroneous summary, is that the founding fathers did believe in individual rights, but also in the general welfare of the country as a whole. You might think of it like the Chinese concept of yin yang, which is used to describe how seemingly disjunct or opposing forces are interconnected and interdependent, giving rise to each other in turn. (from wiki) Now I've moved in academic mode and I am being very particular about what the founding fathers said so that there is no confusion.
  5. I'm not sure of the point you were trying to make, but in this country we learned in grade school that the colonists were opposed to taxation without representation, not to taxation itself. Interesting you brought up Franklin, because it was his idea to propose the general welfare clause to the constitution. More from Hamilton from the Report on Manufacturer's in 1791 (the definitive exposition on this view of the general welfare clause); Hamilton declared unequivocally that the Federal government had the right to promote manufactures under the General Welfare Clause of Article I, Section 8. The objects for which Congress can raise money, Hamilton explained, "are no less comprehensive then the payment of the Public debts, and providing for the common defense and the general Welfare.'' He continued: "The terms `general Welfare' were doubtless intended to signify more than was expressed or imported in those which Preceded; otherwise, numerous exigencies incident to the affairs of a nation would have been left without a provision. The phrase is as comprehensive as any that could have been used; because it was not fit that the constitutional authority of the Union to appropriate its revenues should have been restricted within narrower limit than the `General Welfare' and because this necessarily embraces a vast variety of particulars, which are susceptible neither of specification or of definition.'' Hamilton then says that it is left to the discretion of the legislature to determine what matters concern the general welfare, adding: "And there seems to be no room for a doubt that whatever concerns the general interests of {Learning,} of {Agriculture,} of {Manufactures,} and of {Commerce,} are within the sphere of the national Councils, {as far as regards an application of money.}" In his Final Address to the Congress in 1796, George Washington endorsed Hamilton's view. Washington noted that "Congress have repeatedly, and not without success, directed their attention to the encouragement of Manufactures,'' and he argued that much more needed to be done, especially invoking the idea of the dangers of the country remaining dependent on foreign supply. Washington also argued that, "with reference to individual, or National Welfare, Agriculture is of primary importance,'' and he proposed the creation of institutions for promoting agriculture through "premiums, and small pecuniary aids, to encourage and assist a spirit of discovery and improvement.'' An illuminating anecdote from the Constitutional Convention provides a window into the discussion: Charles McHenry of Maryland suggested the inclusion of a power to enable the legislature to erect piers for the protection of shipping and as an aid to navigation. Gouverneur Morris advised McHenry that this could be done under the General Welfare clause. And finally, I will post this item from a good web page on this subject. It pertains to the first Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall, and his interpretation of this matter:
  6. Obama is saying that the court is an inadequate mechanism to enact such change. So therefore he would not want such change to be initiated there. He said he and almost any law scholar could concoct a plausible rationalization to do so, but he would not do so, even if given the chance. If you go through the courts, you won't get a comprehensive approach (as anyone who has studied constitutional law can say), so its actually can be counterproductive to do so. Just because he wants a certain outcome doesn't mean he isn't prudent enough to know the best way there. As Obama said, the Constitution outlines what the government can't do, now what it can do. If the founding fathers tried to enumerate every single thing the the government could do to best protect individual rights, national security, and the general welfare, it would have been a completely unworkable and shortly outlived document. Now you're getting to the interesting part. One of the main concerns of the founding fathers was the presence of factions in society and their detrimental impact. Here is John Adams in a letter to Jefferson in 1787: "You are afraid of the one-I of the few. We agree perfectly that the many should have a full fair and perfect representation. You are apprehensive about monarchy, I of aristocracy. " Even at that early time, Adams and others considered the wealthy to be a faction that could wield undue influence contrary to the common people. In A Defence of the constitutions of government of the United States, he writes: "If a majority are capable of preferring their own private interest or that of their families, counties and party to that of the nation collectively, some provision must be made in the constitution in favor of justice to compel all to respect the common right, the public good, the universal law, in preference to all private and partial considerations." Is John Adams anti-American? Hamilton?
  7. I have to echo The Egoist's point in that you paint Obama as a political arsonist who's aim is to destroy America. You don't even acknowledge the likelihood that he has good intentions. I don't know how you can have read anything about the man and come to that conclusion. Your opening essay, while long on rhetoric, is short on specific criticism. Your disagreements are implied but clear: you oppose his positions on progressive taxation, campaign finance reform, and the Fairness Doctrine. Although it is an entertaining rant, I found it hyperbolic and hard to take seriously intellectually. Your credibility with me was completely gone when I got to: And most of them are genuinely at a loss to understand how a philosophy...is going to help defend them from the very concrete machine guns of Obama's agents. I can only assume you meant we dissenting Americans can expect to be rounded up by "Obama's agents" in the still of night? Way over the top. Your reading of American history is that of someone who selectively chooses the parts, and the views of only certain individuals, that bolsters their ideology. This country was and always will be one that celebrates and strives for both individual freedom and the good of the country as a whole. This is indisputable. There were many founding ideals that were at odds with each other, and they had to be resolved by the great American tradition of compromise. The reason Objectivism is not fully compatible with American ideals is that it cannot be compromised with, it is a closed ideology. The political seed for Objectivism will not be planted on American soil.
  8. You said: "He is clearly implying(as clear as he ever is) that the courts did not go far enough." That's why I said you were misreading the quote and the context of the interview. You were defending Sophia's take on the interview, and she is still insisting that he said in the interview, not outside of it, that he wanted the court to be more involved in deciding redistributive public policy. Summary: I said: "So the quote has Obama saying that it was good the Warren Court did not get into that business of redistributing wealth." (Post #3) Sophia said: "No... in this quote Obama expresses his criticism. He finds it regretful that it did not. He wishes it did. " (Post #4) Here is Obama later in the interview: You know, the court's just not very good at it, and politically, it's just -- it's very hard to legitimize opinions from the court in that regard. So, I mean, I think that, although, you can craft theoretical justifications for it legally -- you know, I think you can, any three of us sitting here could come up with a rationale for bringing about economic change through the courts -- I think that, as a practical matter, our institutions just are poorly equipped to do it. So how can this be interpreted as "he wishes it did"? That's the whole point of the disagreement. You can't slither around it now and say, "Well, he favors redistribution in general." Of COURSE he favors redistribution of wealth, just not through the courts. That has been the American tradition for over 100 years (and even longer if you look at the attitudes of those such as Hamilton -see quote I provided- towards a society that looks out for the least wealthy. And it is based on the empirical evidence of hundreds of years of observation that capitalism pools wealth disproportionately. That's why I say Objectivists should not too closely associate themselves with American ideals, because American ideals, while overlapping at times with Objectivist principles, are fundamentally different. I take exception to the troll remark. I am not making inflammatory statements, and they are supported with argument and evidence. Don't reduce this to attacks on personal integrity.
  9. Considering that he explicitly said that the courts are not there to decide such public policy, I find it quite bizarre that you continue to insist that he advocated for it. Not at all. Feel free to enlighten me though. That would be ignoring the entire remainder of the document, which limits quite significantly what the government can do to provide for the general welfare. Keep in mind Madison as president did approve money for national infrastructure, because he thought it was in the general welfare. The argument we are having is the same one Madison and Hamilton had over 200 years ago. Although I'm sure even Madison would cringe at your severely limited interpretation of state power. Let's also bring Hamilton into the discussion, because he was the main driver of the more liberal interpretation of the general welfare clause. In Federalist 36: "Happy it is when the interest which the government has in the preservation of its own power, coincides with a proper distribution of the public burdens, and tends to guard the least wealthy part of the community from oppression!" The point is there is no definitive way to say what "the founding fathers" believed, because they disagreed. And that is essentially the point here, that the founding fathers were not of one mind on such matters. We're not even taking into account that most of this is moot anyway because the Congress justifies most of its power through the use of the Commerce Clause anyway.
  10. The quote you provided says nothing of limiting the power of the state to XYZ, only that it is best for state government to wield that power. Madison waffled back and forth between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. And here is Madison in the same paper: "It is too early for politicians to presume on our forgetting that the public good, the real welfare of the great body of the people, is the supreme object to be pursued; and that no form of government whatever has any other value than as it may be fitted for the attainment of this object." It is clear to me that it is you who are ignoring the context of the entire constitutional convention and the squabbles that took place. Yes the Constitution limits the powers of the government, nobody would dispute that. But can you possibly believe that the founding fathers saw themselves as omniscient enough to decide what actions would be needed by the government on into the future to ensure the general welfare? They left this purposely vague for a reason, while still limiting the government's power to limit people's freedoms with the Bill or Rights and the checks and balances system. What I find so vexing is the insistence among Objectivists that America is somehow congruous with Objectivist ideals, when the powers granted to the government to tax and ensure the general welfare are explicitly written into the founding document.
  11. He is saying is that "wealth redistribution" is not guaranteed by the constitution, so it would constitute a radical shift in the way we view the constitution for a court to require wealth to be redistributed. That says nothing about what a legislator or executive can do in regards to positive public programs, and the resulting behavior of lower courts. The essential point: The constitution is such that it restrains the government, the Warren court wasn't radical because it's ruling are compatible with this view. Positive public programs are neither constitutionally required nor flatly unconstitutional, they are a matter of legislation. Now as to Obama on property rights, here he is in his book Audacity of Hope: "Our Constitution places the ownership of private property at the very heart of our system of liberty.... The result of this business culture has been a prosperity that's unmatched in human history.... Our greatest asset has been our system of social organization, a system that for generations has encouraged constant innovation, individual initiative and the efficient allocation of resources." Sorry, but if Objectivists believe a statist is about the worst thing you can be in politics, I find it profoundly hypocritical that someone would post a quote from one of the most notable statists in American history. At best it is poor form, at worst it is akin to celebrating a quote from FDR or Keynes.
  12. I didn't see anything specifically saying why he was anti-American, just things you disagreed with him about. You basically said that the only way to be an American is to be an Objectivist.
  13. Who is this "they" you are referring to? Were all the founding fathers in uniform agreement about what this country should be about? Absolutely not. Why only pay attention to the writings of Jefferson, the Anti-Federalist? What about Hamilton, Jay, Madison, etc? Understand that not everyone got their say in what the Constitution ultimately became. It is a document of compromise, recognizing the inevitable differences of opinion, and it resolved those differences in a satisfactory way for almost everyone. It is not a document that reflects the views of the Federalists or the Anti-Federalists, but a mixture of the two. No, lets' get it right: to provide for the general welfare. And it means whatever the Congress, that we elect by the way, deems it should mean, subject to the limits of the Constitution. It was written purposely vague so that the national legislature could decide for itself at any point in the future what it considered in the general welfare of the nation. As the world grew more complex, it was obvious the purview of the federal government was going to have to change. Name me a president in the last 100 years, hell since Jefferson, that wasn't a statist. All have interceded in the personal, social or economic matters of individual citizens when it was in the state's interest to do so. And I would say the same. Although I find it peculiar that you quote TR in your signature. TR was a huge statist.
  14. Seems we'll have to differ on that, but I can't see how a person thinking rationally could take it to mean what you think it means. And seeing how most people never brought it up again it once it was out of the headlines (headlines in conservative media that is), I think the whole thing was much ado about nothing cooked up by people with ulterior motives. I'm not sure how you arrived at the definition of "promote", but since the founding fathers did not more clearly define what they meant, it is open to interpretation. I suppose they could have been more explicit, but it looks like they wanted to allow future generations to think for themselves a little bit. Luckily they bring it up again, using the language that you say authorizes the welfare state. Section 8 of Article one reads in part: "The Congress shall have Power To...provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States..." How is Obama anti-American?
  15. Obama said that the civil rights movement relied too much on the courts in its efforts to bring about political and economic justice. He thought they should have been more focused on community organizing to mobilize people. Any other way of looking at that quote is just a futile attempt at spinning. Him speaking about negative liberties is just in reference to the false expectation that the court should be expected to do things it is not designed to do. Anyway, I am still wondering why Obama is considered anti-American?
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