Skip to comments.Our Philosopher-King Obama [Victor Davis Hanson]
Posted on 01/21/2010 4:37:59 AM PST by Tolik
He doesnt mind pushing noble legislation that most people oppose.
In Platos ideal society, philosopher kings and elite Guardians shepherded the rabble to force them to do the right thing.
To prevent the unwashed from doing anything stupid, the all-powerful, all-wise Guardians often had to tell a few noble lies. And, of course, these caretakers themselves were exempt from most rules they made for others.
We are now seeing such thinking in the Obama administration and among its supporters.
A technocracy many Ivy-League-educated and without much experience outside academia and government pushes legislation most people do not want but is nevertheless judged to be good for them.
Take the Obama proposal for health care. A large percentage of Americans do not trust those who run the Postal Service to oversee the conditions of one-sixth of the U.S. economy.
No matter. Our philosopher-king president says of our fierce resistance: I . . . know what happens once we get this done. The American people will suddenly learn that this bill does things they like.
How about energy policy? Unlike Obama, most Americans believe we should fully utilize our own gas, oil, and nuclear resources so that we dont go broke waiting for a promised solar-and-wind revolution.
In fact, on a number of other major issues, polls show more than half of all Americans are at odds with the Obama agenda: more federal takeover of private enterprise, gargantuan deficit spending, and comprehensive immigration reform, for starters.
Why, then, does the Obama administration persist with such an apparently unpopular agenda?
Like Platos all-knowing elite, Obama seems to feel that those he deems less informed will suddenly learn to appreciate his benevolent guidance once these laws are pushed through.
Liberal columnist Thomas Frank once promoted similar assumptions in his book, Whats the Matter with Kansas? Frank argued that clueless American voters cant quite figure out what their own self-interests are.
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, another Obama supporter, also reflected the philosopher-king thinking in a recent column praising Chinas reasonably enlightened dictatorship. Unlike the messiness of American democracy, he argued, a few smart strongmen in China can ram through the necessary policies to move a society forward in the 21st century.
President Obama has now apparently convinced himself that his old promises about a new transparency get in the way of giving the American people what they need.
Obama campaigned against lobbyists in government. But lobbyists in government are now necessary to accelerate the Obama hope-and-change agenda.
The president on several occasions promised to air the health-care debate on C-SPAN. But now negotiations take place behind closed congressional doors. That must be a necessary price if the people are going to get the health care they must have.
Obama, in addition, once ridiculed John McCains idea of taxing Cadillac health plans. He promised not to raise any taxes on those who make less than $250,000 a year. And he lectured President Bush on his foolishness of pushing Social Security reform when only 35 percent of the people were in favor it.
But now our philosopher-king has determined that he really needs to tax some premium health-care plans even if that means additional costs will be passed onto those who make less than $250,000. And he certainly doesnt mind pushing noble legislation that most people oppose.
Other past declarations like the pledge to close Guantanamo within a year of taking office or the deadlines for the Iranians to stop work on their nuclear program are noble sorts of lies. They at least show us the presidents good intentions and his care for our welfare even if he cant follow through on them.
There is one other trait of this administration similar to those of utopian philosopher-kings. Our elite must have the leeway to be exempt from their own rules.
Higher taxes must be levied on many of us. But the Guardian of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner, now and then can cheat a little. So can the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Charles Rangel, who oversees the writing of tax law.
An evil Wall Street makes obscene profits and flies on private jets. But from time to time, Wall Street campaign donations and private-jet travel are permissible for our wiser Guardians if they are properly to plan for the people.
There is, however, one difference between Platos thinking and the Obama administrations agenda. Plato at least assumed that philosopher-kings were fantasy ideas and his utopia unachievable.
Our president and his modern-day Guardians in contrast havent quite figured that out yet. Perhaps after this weeks election in Massachusetts they will
Just a partial list: http://www.freerepublic.com/tag/victordavishanson/index:
Just a partial list. Much more at the link: http://www.freerepublic.com/tag/victordavishanson/index
Why The Great And Growing Backlash? What Scott Browns election portends for the Obama agenda "Let me be perfectly NOT clear" & "Make lots of MISTAKES about it" [Victor Davis Hanson on Obama's lies] Our Sorta, Kinda War on Terror - President Obama has not signed up for a serious effort against radical Islam Truths We Dare Not Speak. Five propositions that simply have become taboo When Conservative Felonies Become Liberal Misdemeanors 2010: Our Year of Decision Beating the Dead Terrorist Horse. September 11 taught us many lessons. To our peril, we have forgotten them Bush Did It! And, Really, Bush Did It! And Bush Really Did It! A Humpty-Dumpty View of the World 2009 Chickens and Their 2010 Roost Where Did These Guys Come From? The Origins of Obamism The War Against the Wannabe Rich. Why attack the productive classes who want to be rich? The Long March From California to Copenhagen [Hanson on debate between capitalism and socialism] The Palin Wonder Why Are We Tiring of Obama? Change, Weakness, Disaster, Obama: Answers from Victor Davis Hanson If Iran Refuses To Cooperate, Block Its Ports Resetting the Reset Button [Victor Davis Hanson dissects 0's pathetic diplomacy] Riding the Back of the Tiger [Victor Davis Hanson on Obama not understanding What Causes Wars...] What Bush Inherited, and What He Left Left Behind Who Are They? To Obama, they are responsible for all our troubles. Problem is, they are most of us Afghan Mythologies. We have everything we need to defeat the Taliban. The Discreet Charm of the Left-wing Plutocracy Truman and the Principles of U.S. Foreign Policy. Jimmy Carter rejected the postwar consensus. President Obama appears to be following a similar path Dr. Barack and Mr. Obama - The backlash is sharp as voters learn that Obama is not the man they thought he was Obama and "Redistributive Change". His real agenda The War Against the Producers President Palins First 100 Days. Imagine if Sarah Palin had Obamas record Thoughts About Depressed Americans Our Battered American [gets angrier - Must Read Rant]
Let me know if you want in or out.
FR Index of his articles: http://www.freerepublic.com/tag/victordavishanson/index NRO archive: http://author.nationalreview.com/?q=MjI1MQ== Pajamasmedia: http://pajamasmedia.com/victordavishanson/ His website: http://victorhanson.com/
(p.s., Yes, I know there's a typo in it)
Great article! obama’s ego is such that he can never concede his “noble” plans for the masses will not work. He is a spoiled brat who was encouraged to believe that collective ideals are the way forward in America.
He will never figure it out while president. I just hope others figure HIM out before he destroys the country.
Spot on, as is the usual VDH.
The secret societies that installed him as their puppet and front man
to impose socialism and population control no doubt think it's funny.
The affirmative action Philosopher-King (as Fabian Socialist).
The joke's on you and your tax bill.
"Most of us believe socialism is what the socialists want us to believe it is - a share-the-wealth program. That is the theory. But is that how it works?... If one understands that socialism is not a share-the-wealth program, but is in reality a method to consolidate and control the wealth, then the seeming paradox of super-rich men promoting socialism becomes no paradox at all. Instead it becomes the logical, even the perfect tool of power-seeking megalomaniacs. Communism, or more accurately, socialism, is not a movement of the downtrodden masses, but of the economic elite." - Gary Allen, None Dare Call It Conspiracy
A very brief look at Greek history shows that Greece rejected the concept of an oligarchy. The figured out that it was better to be ruled by the decisions of many rather than the decision of a few.
I hope the lesson is permanent.
1. Hypothetically speaking, a benevolent monarchy is arguably the best form of rule. A “good” king/queen is a fixture of fantasy books. In reality, though, how many “good” kings were there? How long did they last, who succeeded them? Reality check says: leave it to fantasy books.
2. In science, one genius is smarter (well, duh!) and can advance science better than hundreds of “not geniuses”. In the day-to-day life decisions a few geniuses are never smarter than millions of people. Just one recent example is Alan Greenspan who was lauded for his wise stewardship of economy, and was called a genius - people reacted to his parsing of words and shades of gray. Within less than 10 years it was clear to everybody, including himself, that he made very costly mistakes.
3. Any type of western free democracy (our republic, their parliamentary, etc.) is chaotic and messy. People do value stability and predictability that capitalism, free markets and free elections do not provide. That is another reason why socialists and other Utopians keep attracting sympathizers. But as freedom has its price, absence of freedom has even higher price. While I rarely agreed with Tom Friedman, I thought better of him.
Pardon me if I seem a bit confused, but I have to ask, do you think better of Friedman because of his remarks vis-a-vis China, or did his remarks viz. China reduce your respect for him?
Sorry, I was not clear. Once in a while I would find him saying something I’d be in complete agreement. Not too often. But I retained a respect of him as one can respect a person you disagree with. Now, he was seduced by Chinese. He is not the first westerner who finds it cool to admire authoritarians from aside. He would not be that agreeable if it’s him, who would feel firsthand the blunt force, or be a side-affect, a collateral damage. Shame on him. So, whatever respect for him I still had is quickly dissipates.
Ah, thanks for the clarification. I think that we are in more or less complete agreement as regards Mr. Friedman.
Control, accumulation of power in a government elite--all the things America's Founders fought against and wrote a Constitution to disallow from ever happening in America.
Yet, a presidential candidate in 2008, at a rally in Virginia, was recorded saying, "If you'll stand with me, then I know that we can win Virginia and we can win this election and we can finally bring the change we need to Washington . . . . I feel like we got a righteous wind at our backs here," he stated.
Ironically, a similar phrase can be found in the sayings of another political head: "The ill wind of opportunism is falling, the righteous wind of socialism is on the rise." - Chairman Mao
After a year, how's that "righteous wind" feeling to most Americans? Given the source of the phrase, perhaps it is more like a chilling blast from the past sad histories of nation after nation where the power of "the People" was turned over to an elite group who promised much and delivered little but oppressive taxation and loss of liberty.
Plato’s Republic was not a democracy so VDH’s analogy can extend only so far, however, democracys were the closest to tyranny and that is where the analogy can be picked up again. What informs the philosopher/kings? Contemplation of the forms or laws. There is no law with Obama, but should he start with modern natural law, which is embodied in the Declaration of Independence and stay only within the constitution, it would be a good start.
Victor’s last point is the important point. Plato was smart enough to know that his communistic community defied nature and could only come into existence if chance or fortuna was beaten. The modern project thinks it can be conquer chance — Machiavelli in The Prince likened fortuna to a woman who should be slapped into submission. That attitude of conquering chance and nature (and human nature) is what drives the Enlightenment and, politically, what drives communism. Communism is a child of the Enlightenment, born out of man’s faith in reason to solve his problems — rather than appealing to god or a religious understanding of man. Religion sees the corruption (sin) in man as a permanent part of his nature, part of his inheritance from his fall from the Garden of Eden. Communism is the attempt to correct mankind and create a heaven on earth without religion. This is where pride in the perfectibility of man through unaided reason leads to some of the 20th century’s biggest mass graves and graveyards. Plato was smart enough to know where the limits of political philosophy (reason) and reality met. Obama is from the school that doesn’t care to know... or worse, believes there is no reality, that there are only (as Hamlet would say) “words, words, words,” only narrative.
Obama is like the Frankfurt School Leftists out of The Closing of the American Mind. Product of affirmative action, pampered, smug, condescending, pseudo-elitist arrogance. They assume the "bitter" masses will just take it lying down and not even notice the Alinskyite and Fabian Socialist agenda. This is like a seminar class for him at Columbia or Harvard. He can't understand why the affirmative action free pass is running out.