The contesting viewpoints guiding this election: (1) overweening government versus (2) individual rights.
Approach number one: One side of the debate advocates a large, energetic, active, powerful national government. It believes central planners can use their “expertise” to direct many aspects of economic affairs, and that stern regulators are needed to protect Americans from numerous ills both natural and man-made. Capitalism is seen as fraught with danger, and while its energies are appreciated, its “excesses” must be severely harnessed and sometimes redirected in order both to avoid recessions and to make sure nobody grabs too big a “slice of the pie.”On a similar note, a letter to Europe about their overwhelming support for Obama:
The Constitution, according to this outlook, is antiquated, almost hopelessly so – except insofar as its “spirit” can be discerned and applied to meet changing circumstances.
. . . Approach number two: The other side of the debate believes that government, especially the national government, must be strictly limited to powers and duties assigned to it by the Constitution ratified by the people. Freedom is paramount, in the form of “ordered liberty” – the “order” being maintained through laws firm and clear, but not numerous. Individual citizens, not the government, are usually the best judges of their own best interests. And free enterprise and capitalism are seen as a bit messy but overwhelmingly productive and constructive. Capitalism might require a safety net, but not a harness.
The Constitution is revered, not just because wise Founders created it (which they did), but also because its structure is sound and its principles are noble in and of themselves. Its meaning remains fixed, unless and until the people themselves change it via the formal amendment process. And it does not grant rights, but merely recognizes universal human rights that are ours by the grace of God.
To my European friends:
I see from various polls that very nearly all of you support President Obama’s reelection. The numbers are remarkable, indeed incredible. More than ninety percent of you would vote Obama (94% of Italians, for example, and the numbers for Great Britain, France, Spain and Germany are even higher). ...
All of which reinforces my belief—speaking as the grandson of Russian immigrants who arrived in Harlem and Western Massachusetts early in the last century–that the American Revolution was a great thing, and that Americans were right to abandon authoritarian Europe for the possibility of creating a free country across the ocean. Anyone who truly values liberty, has to see that Obama is a threat. He wants to turn the United States into a version of Europe: big, meddlesome government, constantly higher levels of taxation and intrusive regulation of almost everything, combined with a deliberate and systematic weakening of military power and a foreign policy that shrinks from decisive action against freedom’s enemies.
That’s you, sadly. So it’s understandable that you’d favor Obama (although the numbers—reminiscent of plebiscites rather than normal elections—are ridiculous). It’s yet another sign of the decadence of Europe.
When I started my studies in Europe back in the mid-sixties, I was enthralled. European literature, music, fashion, philosophy, scholarship, cuisine, movies and theater were manifestly better than most of what America had to offer a young intellectual. Conversations were more cultured, and in many ways I was more comfortable, more stimulated, more alive in Europe than in the United States.
No more. In most areas of culture, America is more creative. Europe is boringly predictable, and there is very little that compares to the energy of America, nothing approaching the “can-do” spirit of the American people, nothing comparable to American entrepreneurial creativity. The clearest evidence of the decadence of the European spirit is the dramatic drop in birth rates. We’ve got lots of children. You’ve seemingly given up on that most important kind of creativity.
The Europe I loved, and still love, is increasingly a theme park. It’s fun to visit, but it’s no longer a source of creative inspiration. Europeans seem to me to have abdicated their liberties to their governments, provided that the governments provide them with an easy life, replete with free medical care, plenty of vacations, and no international obligations.Ouch.