As to those philosophical gentlemen, those Citizens of the World as they call themselves, He owned he did not wish to see any of them in our public Councils. He would not trust them.—Gouverneur Morris, per James Madison’s notes on the Constitutional Convention.
Those who have questioned whether Barack Obama is a citizen of the United States have missed the larger question: Whether he considers himself a citizen of the world. On taking office, he ratcheted up funding for the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and continues to defer foreign policy to the United Nations. The Apology Tour and his 2008 Berlin speech could certainly make a person wonder, but think about this remarkable statement by Obama during the 2008 campaign: “We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times … and then just expect that every other country is going to say, ‘OK.’”
Why would we need foreigners’ permission to enjoy the benefits of our free enterprise system? Instead of judging us, they should ask how they can get and do the same thing. The Chinese and Indians asked this question and adopted selected free market principles. Even toying with semi-capitalism in these countries lifted more people out of poverty than any other action in world history.
Yes, we have built a great and powerful nation with human comforts for everyman that were once the private preserve of royalty. Bully for us! We have energy galore if we have the will to tap it. Engineers gave us leisure with appliances that saved labor in the home, in the factory, and on the farm. SUVs are safe, comfortable, hold a whole family’s worth of stuff … and here’s the good part, most Americans can afford one. And is Obama telling us it’s not OK to “eat as much as we want?” Actually, he is. Some of us should eat less and exercise more, but our food was not taken from “every other country.” We grew it on the most productive farms in the world, processed it so it was healthier than any other nation’s food supply, packaged it for every type of consumer, and distributed it to supermarkets that in our hyperbole-prone culture actually deserve the name.
Breadwinners (gee, I wonder where that term came from) can pull their SUV over on the way home and fill their kitchens with an unbelievable variety of food for a smaller fraction of their wages than any other nation. And we should be ashamed? No. Instead, we should be ashamed that 15.2 million Americans are not buying food while driving home from gainful employment. Our unemployment rate is what’s embarrassing.
But we still have more than most of the world and that seems to bother our president. The only reason we should be ashamed of our wealth is if we lived in a zero-sum world. That is the kind of world where the only way someone can get something is to take it away from someone else. This is apparently the Barack Obama view of the world. It is ignorant. It shows he has never held down a real job. Capitalism is the great cornucopia. It spews out goods and services where nothing existed before. The only way a person could believe otherwise would be such a willful disregard of evidence that it amounts to a blind faith in leftist orthodoxy. The world hasn’t been zero-sum since the Dark Ages.
You could say 1776 was a hard turning point for the enlightened part of the world. (It was, after all, called the Age of Enlightenment.) In that year, two big things happened; a fresh kind of liberty-loving nation was born and Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations. From that point forward, wherever free markets took hold, people flourished in business, the arts, the sciences, sports, or whatever else took their fancy. Did everyone get a fair piece of the pie? Unfortunately, no. But those excluded got a chance at their fair share as soon as we opened up free enterprise to people who had been shunted to the side.
President Barack Obama does not share this view. In The Audacity of Hope, Obama wrote, “For half of the world’s population, roughly three billion people around the world living on less than two dollars a day… These people are looking for … food, shelter, electricity, basic health care, education for their children, and the ability to make their way through life without having to endure corruption, violence, or arbitrary power.” He’s right, world wealth is askew. But hopeless poverty is caused by strong-armed dictatorial leaders, not big powers taking advantage of helpless nations. That’s why throwing huge sums of money at countries like Haiti does absolutely no good.
His “you didn’t build that” diatribe extended beyond small business. He believes it includes the entire nation. A simple extension of his logic is that we didn’t build the United States of America, somebody else make that happen—unwillingly for the most part. The message is that they are still out there and they’re angry and we should feel guilty.
The world is a mess, but we have problems right here at home. The labor participation rate is the lowest since WWII, yet we are on the brink of another recession. The national debt has climbed so high that a return of interest rates to historic norms would be catastrophic. The CIA says 148 nations have stronger economic growth than us, with the United States a full two points under the world average. These conditions are the result of bad economic policies by this administration. And here’s a bit of news: we can’t help the rest of the world until we get our own house in order.
Obama said in Berlin, “With an eye towards the future, with resolve in our heart, let us remember this history, and answer our destiny, and remake the world once again.” We need a president who will stick closer to home.
James D. Best is the author of the Steve Dancy Tales and Tempest at Dawn, a novel about the 1787 Constitutional Convention. Look for his new book, Principled Action, Lessons from the Origins of the American Republic.