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Collectivist Presidential Candidates

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The Volokh Conspiracy has a very interesting post on how both parties’ presidential front runners are both collectivist and the meaning behind the collectivist idea should concern us. They quote the Cato Institutes’s David Boaz, who (as summarized by Volokh writer Jonathan Adler):

notes, both candidates discourage the individual pursuit of happiness, particularly if it has anything to do with money. They disparage success in business or economic pursuits, implicitly denigrating those who have done the most to ensure this nation’s prosperity and wealth.

Boaz goes on to say,

They’re wrong. Every human life counts. Your life counts. You have a right to live it as you choose, to follow your bliss. You have a right to seek satisfaction in accomplishment. And if you chase after the almighty dollar, you just might find that you are led, as if by an invisible hand, to do things that improve the lives of others.

Boaz is spot-on. One of the many, many things that is great about this country is that we are able to work for our own (and our families) betterment. The Declaration of Independence was written initially borrowing the concept from John Locke saying “life, liberty, and estate (or property).” Jefferson’s change to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” opened up a set of important human rights to not just property, but other rights such as those included in the Bill of Rights (free speech, etc.). These candidates believe that working personal gain is something that should be frowned upon. The founders would have frowned upon this.

Obama and McCain are two-faced on this front. They themselves are seeking personal gain, as the vast majority of politicians do, by seeking a higher office and more power. The founders were the same way. Politics was a second career for aristocrats, who had enough wealth in their estates to sustain them as they sought power and prestige elsewhere. This makes the collectivist rhetoric used by the candidates needless.

Being a recent college graduate, I am not the least impressed by these comments. Once I get established in my career, I can become more heavily involved in local charities where the community, career and employer will all benefit from my work.

But it will be my choice which charities I serve, not some communal government.

UPDATE May 29 @ 12:25p: Megan McArdle links to Boaz as well, but adds another perspective on Obama’s collectivism. Is he the most hypocritical of the two candidates on the collectivism front? I’d have to see the data as well, but it would make sense.

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Written by walonline

May 29, 2008 at 8:24 am

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