Worst Moral Failure

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When Rick Warren asked Obama for the nation's worst moral failure, I paused the DVR and told my friend, "The worst moral failure of our nation is our repeated attempts to define away the rights of individuals, whether it is with slaves, or segregation, or (in my opinion) abortion, or even today in terms of property rights. We don't come out and say we are taking away rights, we simply deny that you have any rights, so that we no longer have any problem taking from you what is rightfully yours."

I unpaused the DVR and Obama said:

I think America's greatest moral failure in my lifetime has been that we still don't abide by that basic precept in Matthew that whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me ... and a notion of -- that basic principle applies to poverty. It applies to racism and sexism. It applies to, you know, not having -- not thinking about providing ladders of opportunity for people to get into the middle class. I mean, there is a purvasive sense I think that this country is wealthy and powerful as we still don't spend enough time thinking about the least of these.

To me the greatest moral failure is that the government steals from the people their very essence of liberty. To Obama, the greatest moral failure is that the government doesn't give enough to people.

Call me crazy, but I think stealing from people is worse than not giving to people. Active wrongs are worse than passive wrongs. Aggressively taking what belongs to me is worse than simply not giving me something that I have no right to in the first place.

I do believe, of course, that it is vitally important for us to help those in need, but this is not the primary responsibility of governments. The primary responsibility of governments -- as stated in our founding document -- is to secure individual liberty. And in many ways, our government has abjectly failed to do so, and continues such failures.

McCain took a similar tack as Obama, talking about giving to others, but focused his remarks on the failings of Americans as individuals, rather than its government:

I think America's greatest moral failure has been throughout our existence, perhaps we have not devoted ourselves to causes greater than our self interest although we've been at the best at it of anybody in the world. I think after 9/11, my friends, instead of telling people to go shopping or take a trip we should have told Americans to join the Peace Corps, Americorps, the military. Expand our volunteer, expand what you are doing. Expand the create missions that you are doing that you are carrying out not only here in America but throughout the world, especially in Rwanda ... The first words of your very successful book is this is not about you. And you know that really also means, serve a cause greater than yourself interest.

Yes, it absolutely is a moral failing that we do not do more for our fellow man. And together as individual Americans, that probably is our greatest moral failing. But corporately, as a nation -- embodied in the government -- no, our greatest failing is disregarding liberty and individual sovereignty.

Note carefully the language used, even though they sound similar. McCain speaks of individual choices to help others. Obama speaks of government programs that ignore liberty. I don't know what McCain would have said, had he spoken of the greatest moral failing of our government, but given everything he's said in the past, my guess is he'd be a lot closer to me than to Obama.

So Obama is wrong on two points: first, that "not giving" is worse than "stealing," and second, that it is the government's responsibility to "give" at all (for in order to give, it has to take).

And this is our choice, in a nutshell: individualism that includes respect and care for the rest of society, or collectivism that disregards individualism for the supposed sake of society.

The words expressed by both candidates regarding the Supreme Court -- where Obama sided squarely with jurists like Breyer who, by his own admission, does not respect the rule of law -- is enough to make me vote for McCain. And I have, actually, many reasons to vote for McCain. But even if I had no other reasons, the individualism vs. collectivism views would serve as a powerful reason on their own. slashdot.org

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<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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This page contains a single entry by pudge published on August 17, 2008 2:54 PM.

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