Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at thinking, intelligent individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

07 September 2008

Sen. John McCain's Nomination Acceptance Speech

Sen. John McCain's acceptance speech for the nomination of his party to run for president shared many calls for service to a higher cause than oneself with that of Sen. Barack Obama. However, where Obama never failed to couple calls for self-sacrifice with the pursuit of one's own goals, McCain's speech implies that it is very American to pursue one's own happiness. Whereas Obama implies that our efforts on behalf of others are performed through government programs, McCain sees much of this effort as being performed privately and voluntarily. Nonetheless, there is a call to unit solidarity in effect in McCain's speech remeniscent of military unit pride and comradery where the unit is America. Fortunately, he notes that Americans are "dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal and endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights." This is in flat contradiction to Sen. Joe Biden who angrily has claimed that people do not have inalienable rights, despite McCain's claim that we share this cause with Obama and Biden. Perhaps he makes this claim that Obama and Biden share this commitment to individual rights because he cannot understand how one can be an American and not believe in this central principle that makes us Americans.

Obama is probably too smooth an operator to have actually said that he does not believe in inalienable rights, but as a dedicated socialist he cannot be dedicated to the cause of individual inalienable rights. Sen. Joe Biden, another dedicated socialist, has at least been forthright and honest about his opposition to the standing of the individual with rights prior to any act of government and notwithstanding any act of government. He adamantly opposed this idea in Justice Clarence Thomas' confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court. John McCain has the greater, though not always consistent, dedication to the idea of individual inalienable rights. This is a very fundamental difference between McCain and Palin compared to Obama and Biden.

McCain pledges that the Republican Party is "going to recover the people's trust by standing up again for the values Americans admire." He goes on to list some of these values.

They are low taxes, spending discipline, open markets, rewarding hard work and risk-taking, letting people keep the fruits of their labor, strong defense, work, faith, service, a culture of life, personal responsibility, the rule of law, impartial justice, the values of families, neighborhoods and communities, creativity and initiative, personal choice, and government which helps to give us more personal choices.

The emphasis seems to be upon allowing individuals to manage their own lives, choose their own values, exercise creativity and initiative, pursue a positive and happiness-seeking life, and live productively in a society ruled by law with impartial justice. He also speaks of service and of family, neighborhood, and community values, which rather than constraining Americans to acts of self-sacrifice and uniformity as in Obama's case, seem to be offered in a vein of additional personal choices and opportunities in our living our own lives.

Where Obama called for a myriad government service agencies, McCain more admires people acting of their own choice and initiative to identify America's and the world's problems and personally dedicating oneself to solving those problems of special interest to yourself. For instance, he clearly admires Laura Bush and his wife Cindy for their work in helping others. Helping others often is a source of pleasure, so this desire for voluntary service is much less worrisome than is Obama's call for government funded and operated service. But because of McCain's military experience and the fact that he comes from a long-time military family, he does have a tendency to over-emphasize service and to occasionally advocate self-sacrifice. Mostly however, he holds the door open for Americans to choose to serve to the degree they wish and in the way they wish, which differs greatly from Obama's approach to service.

He says "we're going to change Washington and stop leaving our country's problems for some unluckier generation to fix." I hope this means that he intends to do more than just address corruption and reduce so-called discretionary spending. I hope this is a promise to rationalize the Social Security and Medicare programs which are soon going to be transferring huge wealth from the young to the retired Baby Boomers. For reasons I have explained in this post, I do not think he or anyone else will yet succeed in getting these problems addressed, but it is unconscionable not to try.

He contrasts his commitment to low taxes with Obama's to increase taxes, his efforts for increased trade to Obama's efforts to reduce trade, the creation of jobs by tax cuts, rather than their destruction by tax increases, and his opposition to Obama's plan to "force families into a government-run health care system where a bureaucrat stands between you and your doctor."

He notes that low taxes help small businesses grow and create new jobs. Rather than using tax credits to reward companies keeping jobs in America or tax increases to punish those that send jobs abroad, he wants to cut our corporate tax rate, which is the second highest in the world, in the understanding that doing so will allow companies to keep and create more jobs in America. He understands that competing in the global market is the best way to make America prosperous and that it challenges us to think. He promises to reduce government spending and failed programs so we will keep more of our own money to save, spend, and invest as we see fit.

He addresses our many failed schools as the principal civil rights issue of this century. He is partially right here, though there really is also a failure of families to value education in many of the communities with the worst schools. He plans to "shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition, to empower parents with choice, remove barriers to qualified instructors, attract and reward good teachers, and help bad teachers find another line of work." It is not clear how he will be able to do this as President, but at least he is on the right side of a huge problem. Sen. Obama is on the other side and simply wants to give the union-controlled monopoly schools more money to spend. McCain wants schools to answer to parents and students, exactly who they would have to answer to if we had a free-market educational system.

He also addressed energy availability and said we are going to stop spending $700 billion a year with countries that do not like us very much by drilling new wells offshore, building more nuclear power plants, developing clean coal technology, increasing the use of wind, tide, solar, and natural gas, and developing and using flex fuel, hybrid, and electric cars. Unlike Obama, he would have us pursue a broader range of energy-producing options to include more drilling and building more nuclear power plants. No details on how this would be done were given. At least, for a change, he did not say we would achieve energy independence. We would not, but we can achieve more energy choices with increased energy availability and reduced costs. Of course, we would still be sending the better part of $700 billion a year to other countries and some of them would still not like us very much. This contrasts with Obama's ridiculous claim that in 10 years he would achieve energy independence by pursuing increased wind and solar energy output, while ignoring substantially more drilling and the building of nuclear power plants.

McCain says "The constant partisan rancor that stops us from solving these problems isn't a cause, it's a symptom. It's what happens when people go to Washington to work for themselves and not you." He is partially right here. But, the reason politicians are sent to Washington who are not working for us is because neither we the voters nor the politicians understand clearly enough that their function is supposed to be to limit government to those powers strictly delineated in the Constitution, while performing them in a manner consistent with the General Welfare. The general welfare is provided for when government recognizes that the individual American has an inalienable right to his life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The individual exercise of these rights is maximized when government consistently leaves as many options as possible to the individual and allows the individual to manage his own life.

McCain partially understands this, while Obama does not. Unfortunately, we know that McCain is sometimes confused by the very general lack of understanding by the politicians and bureaucrats he has been surrounded by for more than 30 years. While he is something of a maverick, the Washington political culture has nonetheless seeped into his bones even as he rails against it. Sometimes, his viewpoint is also affected by his commitment to military service, which has evolved into a commitment to public service. He understands the need for productive and creative work, building the economy, seeking personal happiness, and taking care of one's family, but he still views sacrificing oneself and family for the happiness of others as a higher value. He is a basically good man who is confused by a confused culture. He knows we have an American purpose and cause, but he can only approximately name it. His approximation is at least much more correct than is Obama's or Biden's.

McCain finishes his speech with a request that we join him in his fight for the American cause. He asks us to:

"Fight for the ideals and character of a free people."

"Fight for our children's future."

"Fight for justice and opportunity for all."

"Stand up to defend our country from its enemies."

I have long been in this fight and I see Senator McCain as something of a bumbling helper. I hope that as he has to explain why he is seeking the office of the President that he will learn more clearly what the American cause really is. Sometimes we learn best when we try to teach others and to his credit, he appears to be trying to teach Americans what the American cause is. At the least, he is likely to throw a number of the political scalawags off their game of taking advantage of the American people.

When the Republican controlled Congress was voting to spend $190 billion on the 2002 farm bill, he voted against it. He voted against the ($783 billion through 2018) 2003 Medicare drug entitlement bill. Through 2082 it is expected to cost $8.4 trillion, though such estimates always prove to be too low. He also voted against the 2005 highway bill for $286 billion. McCain clearly understands that government does not have unlimited resources and cannot call upon the people for taxes to support every project on every politician's wish list. He has also shown this by not requesting earmarks, which in 2005 reached a high water mark of 13,996 earmarks by other members of Congress. He roundly scolded the Republican Party for participating in the earmark debacle and for reckless spending in his speech.

Senator McCain does not have a basic philosophical approach to ethics and government and he sometimes falls into populism and calls for self-sacrifice, but he believes basically in the rights of the individual, in limited government, and when he calls for self-sacrifice, he usually does so in a context of voluntary choice. This makes him a much more ethical and less dangerous man than is Senator Obama.

If only we could get him to repudiate the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 that unconstitutionally limits the freedom of speech before elections! We also need to hope that Sarah Palin will be useful in persuading him that anthropomorphic global warming is unproven, pointless to spend money on, and not necessarily even a bad thing. At least he did not discuss global warming and the environment in his speech. We should also hope that she persuades him to allow more oil and gas drilling in Alaska and on other federal lands.

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