The media are all ablither about Rudy Giulani's recent accusation that the President does not "love America."  

What does it mean?  It must mean something -- or more than one thing -- because so many people are reacting so strongly. It means different things to different people. A few guesses:

(1)  It may mean nothing at all, beyond a verbal litmus test.  Love America = good. Hate America = bad.  No in-between, no qualifications.  Which leads to...

(2) Obama, because of the socialists and lefties he was exposed to, not to mention Reverend Wright -- and because he is a man who appreciates balance and nuance, dares to point out America's faults, to acknowledge its errors and weaknesses, or to apologize for it abroad.  No one who loves America would do this.

(3) He loves the freedom that we pride ourselves on, even if it's little more than the freedom to complain and consume (actually, a dozen nations are more free, and none has more citizens incarcerated).

(4) He loves American exceptionalism -- a civic religion that says we are #1 in everything and the kind of society others should aspire to, even if we have to force them to do it.  That's why only we are qualified to be the world's policeman, guardian of the sea lanes, etc.. We are the good guys, always.

and (5), the root cause of the other four:

Obama has not, in Giulaini's eyes, had the requisite American apple-pie experience.  He did not grow up on the streets of NY or Chicago or San Antonio, or on a farm in Kansas or a ranch in Texas -- or anyplace really American.  He lacks the experience of living in a thoroughly American society -- and we have many, from Cambridge to Miami to Arizona and Wyoming.  Obama spent his formative years in Indonesia and attended an elite private school in Hawaii.  He may pretend to understand ordinary Americans, but he does not.  

So as this accusation is batted about for the next few news cycles, notice how no one is trying to define the phrase "love America."  Confucius said that you have to define your terms before you can have a discussion.  It's fun to watch the talking heads argue about words (and hey, they're only words!) that are, in context, meaningless.  

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Alan, because Obama is a man of several different cultures he can recognize more options than the Apple-Pie-American, educated in the propaganda schools of "American" exceptionalism, can. Because he has seen alternative governments at work, and because he trained at the Chicago Law school and pals with Chicago School of Economics graduates, he has a vision that wage-workers do not have. He has people around him who support his philosophy; he supports legislation that makes sense to him. However, his principals and pals and policies and practices do not bring working USA members along with the recovery. I think he is asking himself, "Why". I hope he finds the answer to that question before his term is over. 

Joan,  I agree...his idealistic belief in government is touching.  He should read Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom" (it's not a Hope-Crosby musical ;) 

Alan, I read Hayek years ago and had to go back and reread it. I have several quarrels with his theory 

1. Of course, the first one is his notion of a free market isn't valid because no market is free. There are always differences of abilities and talents, tariffs, access to raw materials, and other factors that result in an unfree market, costs to get products to markets. 

2. What is the responsibility of government to citizens? According to Hayek, government has no responsibility, people have the responsibility to care for themselves and families. A person born into poverty does not have the access to education that a wealthy person has, nor to other opportunities, i.e., access to power. Social structures have power to limit access to opportunity. Only government can break down those barriers. Look at the black situation until the Civil Rights Act or women before the work of the feminist movement broke some ceilings. Once those resistors stop impeding access, an individual has little power. 

3. The free market claims to distribute wealth in a fair and just manner.  We have evidence of the out-of-balance nature that sucks the wealth out of those who produce goods and services into the pockets of the wealthy. Depressions occur because capitalism is designed to advantage the rich. The Great Depression happened when the unemployment rate was 24%. This depression occurs because there are not enough jobs for those who want work. The US Census does not provide the actual number of unemployed. It does not count those who work at jobs lower than their talents deserve, or those who have given up looking for work. Many jobs went overseas to cheaper labor markets; some were replaced by robots. Those available job too often pay low wages because of the excess of workers.

4. I could go on, but you get the idea of what I am saying. Hayek's ideas do not solve the problems of too many people, not enough jobs, unjust distribution of wealth 

... his notion of a free market isn't valid because no market is free.

Robert Reich wrote about the fiction of a "free market":

In reality, the "free market" is a bunch of rules about (1) what can be owned and traded (the genome? slaves? nuclear materials? babies? votes?); (2) on what terms (equal access to the internet? the right to organize unions? corporate monopolies? the length of patent protections? ); (3) under what conditions (poisonous drugs? unsafe foods? deceptive Ponzi schemes? uninsured derivatives? dangerous workplaces?) (4) what's private and what's public (police? roads? clean air and clean water? healthcare? good schools? parks and playgrounds?); (5) how to pay for what (taxes, user fees, individual pricing?). And so on.

These rules don't exist in nature; they are human creations. Governments don't "intrude" on free markets; governments organize and maintain them. Markets aren't "free" of rules; the rules define them.

The interesting question is what the rules should seek to achieve. [...]

(read the whole thing: "The Myth of the 'Free Market' and How to Make the Economy Work for Us")

Grinning Cat, this excellent piece on the not free market says it all. I like his:

"If we want to reduce the savage inequalities and insecurities that are now undermining our economy and democracy, we shouldn't be deterred by the myth of the "free market." We can make the economy work for us, rather than the other way around. But in order to change the rules, we must exert the power that is supposed to be ours."

~ Robert Reich 

It always comes down to use the power that we have instead of being a pawn for wealth accumulation for others. 

Thanks, Joan and Cat...I am well aware of the weaknesses of a "free market."  The question is always "how much govt.?"  For politicians, govt. is the solution to every problem, and govt. perpetually grows.  Hayek represents the other pole - reminds us that every decision given over to govt. limits our freedom, takes our money, and creates its own bureaucracy and a sense of entitlement among beneficiaries.  

John Stossel has a list of maybe 100 unconstitutional things that govt. is doing and that can be done privately with more transparency and lass cost.

I know you are aware of the free market weaknesses. You are informed on such things. I take your point that government can over-regulate and does if it can get away with it. That is why we have to pay careful attention to what is happening at the law making level and make our support or non-support known. 

I also am aware that most people have not read Hayek.

I like the system in the Scandinavian countries, especially Sweden. They have a two-tier welfare state and enterprise state. Their social welfare takes care of all education, through to a terminal degree if a person wants it and if the economy needs the skill. They have cradle to grave health care. I visited an old folks home that also included a childcare facility. It was fun watching the little kids from babies in diapers to school age kids talking, playing, reading, singing, dancing with each other. Everyone seemed to benefit. For those who didn't like kids they didn't participate. For those who did, there was a lot of sharing and caring. 

The enterprise tier included silverware, furniture, automotive production, aircraft manufacturing, shipbuilding, locomotive production, sports goods, tool manufacturing, firearms and ammunition.  


Swedish tax rates (2013)

Local taxes in Sweden range from 28.89 per cent (Vellinge municipality) to 34.32 per cent (Hofors municipality).

National income taxes
None on income up to SEK 413,200
20 per cent on 413,201 to 591,600
25 per cent on income over 591,600

Income from capital
30 per cent (state tax)

Corporate income tax
22 per cent

Inheritance tax was abolished in 2005.

Sources (links in Swedish): Swedish Statistics BureauSwedish Tax Agency


Thanks for the insightful reply and all the good data.  IMHO, happy welfare states (and the Danes are some of the happiest people on earth) are possible only in small nations with ethnic homogeneity.  There's a lot more trust of politicians and each other.  We're all family.  Nobody games the system or abuses it (cf. the billions in Medicare fraud here)

In ethnically heterogeneous states, there's too much conflict over the basics, over power, too much religious strife, and generally the lack of trust you need for the rule of law and a generous welfare state (where no one tries to take undue advantage, unlike the US).  . 

Alan, I agree with you, it takes an ethnically homogeneous state to function, such as the Scandinavian countries. While doing research there, I fell in love with the people and the beauty of the land.  

I could not help but compare the experiences I had in Scandinavia and the small countries in Asia and Indonesia. When I went into the small villages in that part of the world, some of them still lived in dirt floor houses with pigs and chickens running free. I don't say they were worse off, however, they didn't have the comforts you and I have come to expect. 

The corruption in Thailand was so blatantly obvious it just made me wretch. In the airport in Bangkok, handbags sold for $1,500. each. I visited a small manufacturing place with atrocious working conditions and the makers of those identical handbags earned $2.00 per week! I saw their living quarters and you would not put your dog in one. 




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