I'm passing the time reading Susan Schulten's essay on Obama, Lincoln & Dewey from the Denver University Law Review.* It's painstakingly well thought out and uses an expert knowledge of American history to draw up the similarities and discrepancies between popular comparison of Presidents Obama and Lincoln. It was written around the time of the inauguration and is an enjoyable read.
In a nutshell, it stresses the shared optimism of Obama and Lincoln and their views that the Union can always stand improvement. She carefully avoids anything really controversial in her analysis and Ms. Schulten doesn't make any predictions as to whether or not Obama will govern successfully. As a historian she remains impartial. Good for her. Of course, such predictions would depend greatly on just what is defined as successful. And for concerned citizens certain actions of their President and Congress become of paramount concern and they cannot afford the luxury of impartiality.
For many bureaucrats and politicians success in governing is viewed as isolating and consolidating power from the private world into the hands of the government. Each step that consolidates power thus has been hailed as beneficial.
In this vein, we need not worry whether or not Obama is worthy of comparison to Lincoln. We need fear that he governs in the manner of Roosevelt.
Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal is the model we are now dangerously following. While Roosevelt needed to threaten an aging Supreme Court with new laws that would limit Justice age, to get his unconstitutional programs rubber stamped, Obama has no need for such. He has had the latest Justice greased into the Supreme Court with ease. Obama, since his campaign, has courted the growing ethnic minorities in America and with Sotomayor's appointment he continues this pandering in much the same way Roosevelt courted the poor and unemployed with his New Deal.
It's very easy to appeal to the lowest common denominator of the masses. It's easier still to attempt to transfer the responsibility for health care to government control and call this an improvement and a great humanitarian victory. Unfortunately, we must broach the ever-unpopular question of the role and size of government in human affairs.
At any given moment, we must obey millions of laws. City, County, State and Federal laws govern our existence. Whether we dress or undress, how fast we can drive, how far we must build a swimming pool from a wall and countless other large and small rules we must follow and obey - or be punished for not obeying. The punishment for disobeying the government ranges from fines to incarceration and even includes execution. We live on a world where we are born into a nation which immediately limits our freedom. While this is hailed as the most free nation on Earth - every single day politicians and bureaucrats enact more laws, consolidate more power and take away human freedom.
So here we are awaiting the attempted passage of health care reform as promoted by President Obama. The sword of Damocles hangs over us all as we await for congressional fiat to claim this human activity as their domain. And what is next? Once the big pharmaceuticals shack up with the government and the medical industry 'socializes' and modifies its structure to feed off of the taxpayer funded government, we can watch as our freedom of choice erodes and the quality of health care drops dramatically as care is spread evenly over the nation like butter on bread.
The poor masses have always willingly sacrificed freedom for protection or freedom for food. History is replete with examples of how quickly freedom takes a backseat to survival. While it is popular to believe our nation was founded on the "I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!" rallying cry of Patrick Henry in his 1775 speech, the reality is that the masses almost always throw liberty overboard gagged and bound if their lives are threatened or even diminished in some way.
The more one studies history the more one realizes that our nation has taken great strides away from the value of individual liberty. We are constantly bombarded with propaganda from the government that they are the only panacea for all individual ailments. We must hand over our health care to the government - they know best. Our educational systems have been tilted so that they have always come down in favor of government control over individual choice. It is easy to see that smoking is hazardous to people's health. It is another thing to tear the cigarettes out of their hands or make it illegal to smoke. It easy to see that people should moderate their caloric consumption. It is another thing to make it illegal for people to consume more than their optimum amount. These are the choices we must look at if we are to remain a free people. There is a fine line between encouraging people to do what is in their best interests and robbing them of their freedom.
We are already waging a losing battle. The evolving US demographics paint the prospects of a nation pleading for more services at the expense of freedom. Minimum wage and Social Security were Roosevelt's benevolent burden - a poison pill wrapped up with a sugar coating. Obama wants his legacy to be socialized medicine - aka health care "reform" and the subsidizing of our largest industries with taxpayer dollars. We are helpless bystanders watching our nation's wealth producing capacity being shackled down with government controls. And what is the result? Already Social Security is bankrupting the nation. How will we pay seniors, give health care to everyone for free - including illegal aliens - and expect to do this when our wealth generation, which funds the government, is decreasing?
Susan Schulten's essay and expert knowledge of the Civil War era and Lincoln might end up being much more poignant in years ahead. Obama might very well be cast into the role of a modern day Lincoln if the nation becomes much more divided among those who seek a more socialist United States and those who seek to retain the balance in favor of individual liberty.
My fear is that the nation's services will implode. The dollar will go into free-fall and health care services will slow to below a crawl and then collapse under the burdens imposed upon them by the government, payment to seniors will stop and a crisis unlike any we have ever seen emerges needlessly - simply because people failed to understand that the government is not good at running services, is not the creator of US wealth and that empowering the government endlessly leads to the bankruptcy and poverty found in the former Soviet Union. The Reds had free health care too. The car factories were owned by the government. Surprisingly, all the benevolent "good for the masses" rhetoric the Russian schools indoctrinated their youth to wholeheartedly believe was in their best interests didn't pan out into reality. The early twentieth century offers countless lessons for astute historians to observe, learn and warn others about.
History is a many faceted gem that can be viewed in many ways. Each perspective is real and valid. The more perspective one has into the past, the better armed one is to avoid the pitfalls and partake of the pleasures. As citizens, each of us has a responsibility to attempt to broaden our horizons and see the consequences of actions. When we do this, we often see that what many claim "needs to be done for the greatest good" is only really good for those who make such claims.
*Schulten, Susan.(2009). Obama, Lincoln & Dewey. Vol. 86 Denver University Law Review