What Do We Cherish "as Americans"?
In a recent talk, responding to the Arizona law that's said to be aimed at containing illegal immigration, President Barrack Obama stated that this piece of legislation "threatens to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans...." I am not enough of a student of the Arizona law to pass judgment on it now but I am definitely skeptical about the claim that Americans as such cherish "basic notions of fairness".
To start with, there is nothing in any basic American political document that mandates fairness across the land. Neither the Declaration of Independence, nor the Bill of Rights (or the U. S. Constitution) insists that Americans be fair. And a good thing that is, since such a demand cannot be met. Fairness is a fantasy, a dream, one that has been widely shown to be impossible, not only throughout recent human political history but also in some of the most politically astute literature. It barely works at the level of family life, let alone in a huge country.
As to the former, the attempt to institute a system of total fairness across a major society went miserably astray in the former Soviet Union and its colonies. It is a failure in all remaining socialist systems such as those in North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela, each of which has leaders that stick to the rhetoric of fairness and equality as they keep their countries in a perpetual state of underdevelopment and act like fascist dictators (which certainly doesn't follow egalitarian principles).
As to the latter, George Orwell's masterful novella, Animal Farm, amounts to, among other things, a fierce indictment of the effort to politically engineer a society to be equal. Ayn Rand's novella, Anthem, is no less a superb fictional work that shows the viciousness of such an effort. And Kurt Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron is a fine presentation of both the pros and the cons of a completely egalitarian world in which even good looks must be eliminated so as not to leave some folks disadvantaged.
Among the classic political economic works defending egalitarianism one will find that Rousseau's Social Contract, Karl Marx and Frederick Engel's The Communist Manifesto, R. H. Tawney's Equality, and Ronald Dworkin's Sovereign Virtue are some of the most prominently published and widely embraced in political philosophical circles. Not each lays out the same position and, Marx and Engels, especially, present a somewhat nuanced type of equality as the social norm. But they all champion equality above individual liberty as the prime principle of social organization.
Today the dream of egalitarianism is with us in full force via Hollywood's political culture – the movie Avatar, for example, presents a idillic society of species of near-humans who behave as one might imagine those in a society wherein everyone is equal, and indeed uniform, akin to all the bees in a bee hive.
What is so off about President Obama's remark is that America is precisely the country which is distinctive among most others for placing individual liberty as the first political principle that must be implemented and which government must secure. The equality Americans prize is "equality under the law," manifest, most evidently, in how before a court no one accused of a crime is supposed to be treated either favorably or unfavorably because of his or her race, sex, place of birth, and so forth – what in jurisprudence is referred to as procedural equality, not the substantial type fantasized by egalitarians.
Rightly or wrongly, Americans as Americans do not cherish equality but individual liberty – that is what comes closest to being the official political philosophy of the nation. If Mr. Obama finds this misguided, he should state it instead of lying about the matter, which is what it amounts to saying that Americans as Americans cherish basic notions of fairness that. It is especially bizarre to make such an allegation in connection with the criticism of the Arizona law since immigrants to this country, be these legal or illegal, do not in the main cherish equality but liberty. The great majority of them come here because their liberty is routinely curtailed in their native countries and they hope that they will be able to live as free men and women and choose to pursue their happiness according to their own, not their government's, lights.
Posted by FB on 06/10/10 09:37 PM
I see that the conservatives who run this rag have censored my last comment?
And won't they defend their bigoted stance on 'illegal' immigration?
Reply from The Daily Bell
Censorship is for governments.
Posted by Cj Coates on 06/09/10 10:40 PM
Personally I have an aversion to hearing Obama speak. Regarding the border issue, I think it is fair both sides can cross easily, with a friendly atmoshere. Now that is fair. I have crossed the border to go to Rocky Point numerous times, and the border controls are busy, polite and thorough. Back further inside the AZ line the Apachee Helicopters buzzing around were pretty cool, so were the 4 wheelers screaming in and out of the cactus.
It seems they have their work cut out for them. I have no opinon on the actual merit of the law, but the responsibility for the Police to enforce such a law, will draw more than just critisim. It will draw bullets. For this reason, I dont support it.
Posted by William3 on 06/07/10 08:04 PM
Kathleen -- "'Americans' do cherish equality and fairness."
I agree with Kathleen. Fairness is not a political doctrine; it is a doctrine of personal weakness, and it is common in the world. It is the concept of leveling others to make oneself seem better or worse than he/she really is. It is irresponsible behavior, but alas it is more common than I would like to see.
But as a political doctrine, I agree with Dr. Machan. Fairness would only align with collectivism.
Posted by FB on 06/07/10 03:12 PM
Yes, I stated a fact. People associated with Ron Paul have a track record of bigotry. They share the same 'philosophical' principle of the KKK. Now, you can explain what 'illegal' immigration is.
"Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Posted by Ryan on 06/07/10 01:43 PM
The example of a beehive as a supposed egalitarian collective is not exactly an apt one. A beehive has a rigidly enforced caste system. It is actually a better demonstration that 'equality' cannot be enforced without making exception to 'equality' for the enforcers.
Posted by FB on 06/07/10 03:15 AM
What argument? I am only stating the fact that you are a bunch of anti-immigration paleo conservatives.
Would you be so kind as to explain what is an 'illegal' immigrant?
You can start your argument with these premises : "all men are created equal" : They have "unalienable Rights..to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Reply from The Daily Bell
"What argument? I am only stating the fact that you are a bunch of anti-immigration paleo conservatives."
You didn't state a fact. You clearly implied that Tibor Machan's argument was one that would resonate with the KKK. You even used the letters "KKK." To claim otherwise is disingenuous.
Posted by FB on 06/06/10 06:37 PM
Machan is not a real amerikkkan - he should be kicked out of amerikkka.
Reply from The Daily Bell
You only reveal the weakness of your argument by attempting to smear Tibor Machan with the label KKK.
Posted by FB on 06/06/10 06:35 PM
More anti-immigration propaganda from the paleo conservative crowd? This is sick.
Posted by Liberty666 on 06/06/10 10:31 AM
The problem with the word "fairness" is that it means various things to people. The word "fair" is completly ambiguous, as Shakespeare said "fair is foul, and foul is fair".
Posted by Clayton on 06/05/10 01:14 PM
Rothbard said, "Equality is a revolt against Nature."
Equality, just like the concept of Zero, is a purely Mathematical phenomena. Its misapplication to economics, politics, and sociology is one of, if not the greatest, evils of our age. Its use by Jefferson and the late Enlightenment philosophers has led us into this degraded state of Democracy. It is a fundamental barrier to rational living. Its adoption as the social norm has compelled otherwise intelligent people to stumble about in the darkness of unresolvable self-contradiction.
What does it mean to say, "A Government of the People, by the People, for the People?" How is that compatible with "a Government of Laws?" So we find ourselves living in the Covenant of Whim, forced to submit to whatever happen to be the ever changing delusions of the Age.
The alternative, more catholic world, would require a Rock upon which men might rest their expectations for Justice, without which there cannot be any lasting Peace. Where is such a Rock to be found? In my opinion, it is inside us. It is that inalienable aspect of ourselves, Rationality and Compassion, in the contest of our pursuit of Self-Interest.
Which writers have given us the clearest vision and action paths to this Covenant of Liberty? Von Mises, Rothbard and Hoppe.
Posted by Tom C on 06/05/10 12:41 PM
Dr Machan highlights the pure sophistry of contemporary liberalism. Obama, the 'constitutional scholar' who speaks of the central state as the source of 'rights,' is slowly being recognized by the general public (these things take time) as a politician in over his head. His sophomoric rhetoric and 'populism' (called demagoguery in simpler times) marks him the fool. Dangerous to the health of the republic but still the fool.
Posted by Bryan on 06/05/10 10:36 AM
I do cherish fairness under the law, but not fairness as an emotional, teary eyed, principle. If Obama and the US govt cherish fairness, how come everybody who claims economic problems is not being "bailed out". It is clearly and totally unfair that only those "too big to fail" are saved from their own doings.
Posted by Mary H on 06/05/10 07:52 AM
If the President is not enough of a student of the Arizona law, he is not enough of a student of American law, since the Arizona law was mirroring the federal law,which is very disturbing being the commander in chief. I agree that Americans don't want fairness, we wish to pursue our happiness in the freedoms of this great country!
Posted by Floyd on 06/05/10 07:45 AM
In simplification it's just another "follow the money" thing. The ones shouting the fairness thing are the poor and lower middle class while the upper middle class and the rich just don't understand what all fuss is about. Even some those who inherited their wealth and never had to work a day in their life just don't get it.
Posted by Grekko on 06/05/10 07:43 AM
I used to live in Arizona and can feel their pain. Fairness is a wonderful concept. Does Mr. Obama believe it fair that illegal (meaning "against the law") aliens use the resources of the productive to better themselves? It sounds nice on the outside, but under closer observation, those resources I mentioned all come from the wallets of the US Citizens. Who pays for the schools, hospitals, handouts (ie: welfare checks and food stamps), highways, parks, government employees, military, etc, etc, etc.? Sure, it's nice to be fair, so how about being fair to the taxpayer for once. You know, the people who actually built this country. I guess the word fair has a different meaning for Mr. Obama and his government ilk. But then again, what do you expect from a lawyer?
Posted by Ronald on 06/05/10 06:57 AM
Great, great article. Dr. Machan is a wise man indeed.
Posted by Ichabod on 06/05/10 06:56 AM
Equality has a different meaning in collectivist thought. It means equality of outcome. So now we indeed have outcome based everything: medicine, science, education, law. Everything is politicized to achieve the collectivist dream of equality.
But it comes with a caveat. It doesn't apply to the elite who control the affairs of the country. That's true in each of the areas. Certain companies were covered for all their losses in the bailouts. Too big to fail means some are more "equal" than others. And it's true in every area of life.
After the Reformation, law was largely based on the bible. (See R.J. Rushdoony's "Institutes of Biblical Law.") They flow from the Ten Commandments. See also "The Second American Revolution" by John Whitehead.
Collectivist programs as pursued by Obama are aggressively undoing every vestige of the biblically based collective common sense that produced a unique America where "Liberty and justice for all" meant equal opportunity and not equal outcomes based on race or politics.
Posted by Kathleen on 06/05/10 06:33 AM
I would have to disagree here with Dr. Machan. "Americans" do cherish equality and fairness. You hear it quite frequently among "Americans". Americans, on the other hand, do cherish individual liberty, but we are vastly outnumbered here in "America" by the majority of "Americans".
Posted by Victor Barney on 06/05/10 06:23 AM
We cherish becoming "educated a---oles"! I know, I became one after starting out in a Technical School to become a Machinist!