Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Biggest Mistakes in History Part 1

To be the Chief Executive of the greatest country in the world must take a leader with a great deal of knowledge, experience and insight. I think it takes a special ability to understand the principle of cause and effect concerning how government action impacts the lives of real people. Above all, it takes a keen understanding of history as well as deep insight into the philosophical principles that inform men today. The President of the United States must be wise beyond his years even if he is an older man.

The question of how the President should handle the most pressing issues of the day is the province, not only of philosophers who wrote centuries ago, not only of the intellectuals and college professors who teach in our universtities, but of the average citizen whose responsibility it is to vote in an informed way.  In the USA, the leader of the country is not the President but the informed citizen: YOU.  It is your responsibility to tell your chosen agents in the government what they should do, the principles to which they should adhere and, especially, when the nation has gone in the wrong direction.  You expect your designated representatives to make decisions based upon the widest available knowledge and when they do not, when they have gone off course, you have to replace them with the right people.

For instance, the President must have available to him the widest range of opinions possible on the key issues of the day. His advisors must be men of profound experience with the highest intellects, men with access to the widest accumulated knowledge as well as the historical precedents that animate and give rise to an understanding of the issues. In order for the President to make a final decision, nothing must be left unexamined and all relevant factors must be taken into consideration.  And, as you read about the ideas and actions of your leaders, you must be assured that they are objective and reasonable people.

I’ve often admired the ambiance of the White House. On the walls and throughout the building, you see ancient paintings and sculptures that remind us of the magnificent history of the country and the wisdom of many past Presidents. Each man is presented to us as someone who handled incredibly difficult questions and who possessed the knowledge and experience that made the country a better place.

One man honored at the White House, George Washington, struggled to build the nation in war and to preserve it as it strove to find its character. We are reminded of his famous advice to the nation that helped it prevail once his counsel was no longer available. I am privileged to have visited his home at Mount Vernon, enjoyed the beautiful countryside that he loved, stood upon the banks of the Potomac River there. I saw the bed where he died and stood next to his casket. I wondered, on that beautiful day, what he would think of today’s leaders.  In Washington's hands, our nation was a reflection of the ideals and moral premises of the people who put him into the leadership of our nation.  They saw in this great man the culmination of the spirit for life that made the people what they were; the spirit of adventure and freedom.

Then there is Lincoln, who struggled with many crucial questions about the nature of the Union, the principles for which it stood and how to preserve those principles.    The people elected him because they felt he reflected the love for freedom that belonged to all men of all colors and origins.  They expected that he would reflect their values and their dedication to freedom.  I wonder at the kind of dedication it must have taken for him as he stood on the balcony of the White House and looked out over the nation he led.  I admire his vast wisdom and his certainty in the rightness of his course, a certainty that knew the meaning of the principle that “all men are created equal”. I marvel at the brevity and universality of his Gettysburg Address.

One hopes for the wisdom of every holder of the Office of the Presidency. Our nation needs knowledgeable, experienced people who understand that the principles of this nation are universal and that they are wise and seriously considered. A leader of this country must respect the wisdom that built this nation, understand the reasons behind its principles and honor those principles when he takes the oath of office. Otherwise, he will be party to its destruction. One should not seek to be President of the United States without also having much wisdom and knowledge.  He or she must understand that this nation cannot be led by people who lie and cheat, scheme and steal.

Yet, the mistakes of the past were not made by wise men.  They were made by men uncritically following a host of intellectuals and citizens who offered a different standard of moral worth.  And, what's worse, the people who elected them did not do their job properly. They made their decisions too lightly, perhaps were not well-informed and, even more importantly, thought that a little bit of re-distribution was fine as long as it was not too much.  When the people are educated according to the ideas of collectivism, altruism and deception, then the country can get off course and the results are not only morally corrupt, they also impoverish the people.

In order to explain my meaning, I would like to embark on an analysis of some of the biggest mistakes in history. Through this series of blog posts, I want to show the importance of knowledge in the Presidency and how that knowledge can be used to solve some of our deepest problems. I’d like to show how the unwillingness to consider relevant knowledge can steer a nation off course and cause people to suffer. We will begin by analyzing some of President Obama’s actions since the start of his Presidency.

The first big mistake that the Obama administration made was to assume that it was responsible for making every decision in the economy. This mistake was based upon the idea of an "activist" government that is responsible, not for protecting rights, but for creating rights and then taxing citizens who must pay for the new "rights".  In practical terms, this view created a huge bottle neck for the entire country.  Both large and small businesses, because they did not know how coming decisions would be made, began to curtail vital business decisions waiting for the administration to act.

To illustrate this mistake, and to learn the deeper causes of it, let’s look at the idea of the Presidency that our new President held before he became President. In his speech on election night, he said:

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”(1)

The mistake here is to believe that the United States is a democracy. The trick here is a bait and switch; to say "democracy" while most people are thinking "democratic republic" which is a different concept.  This deception creates tremendous problems for the nation.

Our country is not a democracy and to act as if it is a democracy is to betray a poor knowledge of history and of political philosophy. A democracy is a nation where the will of the majority rules. The classic example in Greece held that the majority could wield the power of life or death over any individual. As long as the majority voted upon it, anything could be done by vote. This leaves the door open to the gang that convinces people it speaks for them and gives it the incentive to rig votes and take dictatorial power.

When he took power, the President operated as a "ruler" rather than as a leader of a republic. He ignored the fact that our government operates according to a division of powers with checks and balances.   Because he had talked about  "democratic" principles, he assumed that the election had given him a mandate to act unilaterally and ignore the Constitution.  His basic argument: "We won."

This was a huge mistake, not only for the President, but also for the people who voted for him, especially those who thought they were voting for a man who would preserve and protect the Constitution.

The argument that a majority elected President Obama to do THEIR WILL is a false argument.  This is not a democracy.  The majority elected President Obama to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States. It did not confer virtual dictatorial power upon him.

A constitutional scholar, as the President is reputed to be, should know this. The President can’t just do whatever he wishes. There are principles embedded into the Constitution that protect against the abuse of Executive Power and it is the President’s responsibility to do his job according to those principles. These are the principles of limited government which specify the rules under which the President can act. For instance, the President cannot act unilaterally. He can only enforce the laws passed by Congress. He cannot act alone and when he attempts to do so, Congress should stop him; the people should stop him.

What does the idea that we are a democracy lead to? Broken promises:

“America, this is our moment. This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past. Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. Our time to offer a new direction for the country we love.

The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations.

But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that:
• This was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal;
• This was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth.
• This was the moment -- this was the time -- when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals.”

A government that promises these kinds of results sees itself as powerful enough to bring them about:

• It can virtually take over a large part of the economy and manage it (the automotive industry)
• It can engage in graft and “encourage” political contributions and payoffs (crony capitalism, GE, unions, Warren Buffett)
• It can pick winners and losers in the competitive economy, rewarding those who pay bribes and punishing those who don’t (Solyndra and green energy subsidies)
• It can create a dependent segment of voters who don’t want to vote away their government-provided benefits (Health Care Legislation)
• It can be the arbiter of success and failure in the economy by creating regulations that favor friends and disfavor enemies (Economic Regulation)
• It can eliminate any restrictions upon its activities by blatantly violating the Constitution and forcing hundreds of Constitutional challenges that the Supreme Court cannot handle (British Petroleum, Executive Orders, Legislative Bribes in return for votes, etc., etc.)

Now we know why the President’s first term was such a disaster and why the Tea Party took shape. “These are the times that try men’s souls.”

(1) Election Night Victory Speech
(2) Primary Victory Speech

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