The Right Opinion

Obama's Declaration of Collectivism

By Lawrence Kudlow · Jan. 26, 2013

One of the least remarked upon aspects of President Obama's inaugural speech was his attempt to co-opt the Founding Fathers' Declaration of Independence to bolster his liberal-left agenda.

Sure, the president quoted one of the most important sentences in world history: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

So far, so good. But he later connected the Declaration with his own liberal agenda: “… that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedom ultimately requires collective action.” (My italics, not his.)

He fleshed this out with his trademark class-warfare, income-leveling rationalizations. Such as: “The shrinking few do very wellm and a growing many barely make it.” He also talked about “Our wives, mothers and daughters that earn a living equal to their effort.” He followed that up with, “The wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship.”

Here's what I take away from all this: Mr. Obama is arguing counter to the Founding Fathers that the pursuit of happiness is the pursuit of equality of results, not the equality of opportunity, and that he will do what he can to use government to make everybody more equal in terms of their income and life work.

That is exactly wrong. We should be rewarding success. We should be promoting entrepreneurship. We should be encouraging individual effort and opportunity.

But this was no opportunity speech. This was a redistributionist, income-leveling speech. And it completely missed the point of the Founding Fathers some 237 years ago.

They were talking about the equality of opportunity, not results. Theirs was a declaration of freedom, not government power or authority.

In fact, the Declaration of Independence was written expressly to begin a revolution against the autocratic monarchs of England, who used their government authority to tax, regulate and oppress the colonists without any representation or voting rights, thus denying them the unalienable rights of liberty.

So while Obama was on the one hand preaching “fidelity to our founding principles,” on the other he was saying that preserving our individual freedom ultimately requires collective action.

Collective action? The Founders were talking about individual liberty and rights. Not the power of a collectivist government.

The “collective” is a socialist idea, not a free-market capitalist thought. And the story of the last quarter of the 20th century was of the absolute breakdown and end of the collectivist model. Collectivism was thrown into the dustbin of history by the weight of its own failure.

To me, Obama's mistaken opinions regarding the Declaration of Independence, and his total lack of understanding of the thinking behind the Declaration, is more troubling than any of the liberal programmatic proposals he set forth. Fundamentally, you have to wonder if the president really understands the American idea, and the American historical experience, beginning with the great wisdom of the Founders.

Collectivism also means, “If you've got a business, you didn't build that.” During his second-term inaugural speech, Obama actually said, “We do not believe in this country that freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few.” Were Steve Jobs and Bill Gates lucky? Was Henry Ford lucky? Was Thomas Edison just lucky?

How about they used their God-given talents of creativity, imagination and ingenuity, coupled with hard work, to create commercial ventures that financially empowered millions upon millions of people who were then able to live a better and more comfortable life?

That's what the founders had in mind. Freedom.

It was bad enough that the president had nothing to say about economic growth, or excess federal spending, deficits and debt. Nor did he show any interest in reforming the large entitlement programs that may bankrupt America. He did discuss the energy market. But rather than let market forces determine the most efficient and clean energy sources to power our economy, he insisted on more doomed green-energy projects subsidized by the taxpayer (like Solyndra).

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell likened Obama's speech to a declaration of the end of the era of small government. “One thing is clear from the president's speech,” he said. “The era of liberalism is back.” I agree.

But again I say it's Obama's misunderstanding of the founders' intent that is the most troubling. Equality of opportunity is the American ideal. Equality of results and income-leveling is foreign to the American ideal.

As conservatives and Republicans regroup, and as they seek to achieve a better America, I hope they keep the opportunity principle uppermost in their minds.

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19 Comments

Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

In regard to equality, at the expense of all else, Milton Friedman correctly stated, "Societies that seek equality before liberty will get neither, but societies that seek liberty before equality, will get a high measure of both!" Larry, God Bless you-Why don't you send O'Zilla a copy of every article you write?

Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 7:11 AM

Rozann in Iowa said:

"Fundamentally, you have to wonder if the president really understands the American idea, and the American historical experience, beginning with the great wisdom of the Founders." Stop being so naive! Of course he understands, but completely disagrees with the American Idea; he wants to "fundamentally transform" this once great nation into a socialist cesspool where the rich get poorer and so does everybody else. He and his socialist elite cronies will be the only "rich" in the land, living off the labor of the vast slave underclass. Let's be honest about his intentions and understanding. He knows exactly what he's doing and why.

Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 7:48 AM

Ct-Tom in NC replied:

Exactly right, Rozann. I can't imagine anyone saying it better.

Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 12:57 PM

Tex in Oklahoma in Oklahoma replied:

I also think Obama fully understands the concept of individual freedom and disagrees with that principle. I see Obama as a believer in Majority Rule and in the time-proven Machiavellian idea that people will lick the hand that feeds them. The corollary being that those that do not submit and love the leader are to be quickly overcome by force. Dear old Nicolo said having people love the leader is best but fear is an alternative that works quite well. Everything I see happening fits - if Obama does NOT believe in freedom of the individual.

In relation to all that is occurring in the U.S. I am currently having a dialog with a Brit friend. After a couple of weeks of sharing our political and societal views he once said, "I think I see a difference in our thinking, you think of yourself as an individual and I think of myself as a member of a collective." I did not really understand what he meant. Collective? So, today I emailed him asking him to elaborate on his thinking. I had never viewed him as a liberal. But he does like the British version of national health care and seems unable to understand why we want more than a hunting shotgun. Maybe he and I are further apart than I had surmised. I must also ask him if he'd vote for Obama and why or why not.

Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 2:26 PM

C Breeze in Panama City, FLORIDA replied:

I hope you reminded your British friend that our Constitution (and particularly our 2nd & 3rd Amendment) came into being directly because of his (collective?) government and suppressive King (George) who invaded America and quartered soldiers in our homes, slaughtered our livestock and seized our food and our women. Our Founding Fathers vowed never again to be subjected to a Monarchy or dictator.

Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 5:55 PM

Tapdaddy in Indiana replied:

Well said, Rozann and great understanding of the great Transformer.

Monday, January 28, 2013 at 10:03 AM

JR in FL said:

Larry Kudlow for President!

Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 9:24 AM

Doktor Riktor Von Zhades in Western KY said:

Obama's speech in a nutshell: You will all be equally poor and miserable.

Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 9:52 AM

wjm in Colorado said:

News flash for Chairman Obamao, half of the country will never, ever, join the collective.

Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 10:10 AM

rab in jo,mo replied:

"resistance is futile...you will be assimilated."

Monday, January 28, 2013 at 8:31 AM

wjm in Colorado replied:

Soylent Green is PEOPLE!

Monday, January 28, 2013 at 10:27 AM

HP in KAlispell, MT said:

Once again 0 doesn't understand...BS. He understands enough to take over this country. He wasn't schooled in the ideals of America in his madrasah in Indonesia, he was schooled by communists, period! His drunken Daddy and whore Mommy left him to his Marxist, America-hating grandparents and it's our fault. Would all you mealy-mouthed conservatives get it straight and say it plain and simple. He is a Marxist intent on our destruction! Wake up!

Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 12:13 PM

Tony in Texas said:

ORIGINAL SCOTTISH VERSION - When they come a wull staun ma groon. Staun ma groon al nae be afraid. ENGLISH TRANSLATION - When they come I will stand my ground. Stand my ground I'll not be afraid.

Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 3:36 PM

Eleanor in AK said:

Fairness and equal outcomes have tainted many of our once noble institutions. How many times has someone totally unqualified been given a leadership position because it was his turn? The whole team suffers so one person can check that box on the resume. The nomination of John Kerry for Secretary of State, the nomination of Bob Dole and later John McCain for President, shows just how deep this idea of fairness has penetrated the political system. Of course, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama jumped to the head of the line. Was that fair?

Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 4:21 PM

C Breeze in Panama City, FLORIDA said:

Obama doesn't "misunderstand the Founders' intent";..He intentionally obfuscates and distorts America's Declaration, Constitution and History as well as minimizing the intent and intelligence of our Founding Fathers. Obama is trashing America and in his stunted, affirmative-action brain it's a good bet that he sees his tenure extending beyond the two terms described in our Constitution; I believe his gun-grabbing attempts are intended to enrage Americans in order for him to declare martial law at some point in this 4 year 2nd term thereby extending his tenure into a third term (like FDR's sashay into an extended presidency via WWII. NOTHING in America is beyond Obama's contempt. (This from a Democrat Patriot)

Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 5:38 PM

Lori in SC said:

This man has no idea what it means to be American. The founding principle was freedom to choose for ourselves, to succeed or fail by our own terms, without fear of an intrusive, obstructive government. Obama is a huge failure and will continue to be so. I just hope our country can survive his onslaught of the founding principles.

Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 10:25 PM

Hank in Texas said:

Those who love the individual liberty and limited government philosophy that fueled the growth of this country need to wake up. The democrats have become a party of collectivists and they pose a serious risk to the future of America. We have a lot of young folks and newcomers in this country and we ned to tell them the real story of our history and explain our why our ideas are better. If we don't, they'll succeed in their fundamental change scheme.

Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 11:13 PM

M Thompson in WA said:

In wearing my country's uniform during Viet Nam and the Cold War, I believed that I was defending our Constitution. A Collectivist model is not the Constitution. Once again, we need to protect our Constitution against this type of philosophy to insure the integrity and future for our younger generations.

Sunday, January 27, 2013 at 8:57 PM

rippedchef in sc said:

He is the fruition of LBJ's great society.He is the direct result of progressive democrats who have been waiting for a highly liberal,articulate black man they could escalate to POTUS.They tried with Jesse but he had too many skeletons.They waited patiently,then in 2006 at the DNC when he spoke I knew he was the next stooge for the libtards.He's a communist and is following Marx to the letter.The founders knew-"all it takes for evil to spread is for good men to do nothing" or something like that-point is they knew people would become complacent,take their liberty and freedom for granted, and eventually lose what we hold so dear.

Monday, January 28, 2013 at 6:41 PM