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A Philosophical Divide between Obama and Romney?

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Earlier this month, the New York Times published a hilarious article. It was entitled, “Philosophic Clash Over Government’s Role Highlights Parties’ Divide” by Peter Baker.

The article revolves around President Obama’s suggestion that people don’t really start their own businesses all by themselves. He pointed out that they actually have received the benefit of many other factors, for example schoolteachers and government infrastructure. Presumed GOP nominee Mitt Romney ridiculed this notion, suggesting that when people start their own businesses, that choice is entirely their own.

What a ridiculous debate, one that actually sheds no light whatsoever on the so-called philosophical divide between Obama and Romney. Of course people are the products of their knowledge and experiences. And of course they make their choices and are responsible for them.

But what does that “debate” have to do with the following philosophical issue: What should be the role of government in a free society? That’s the question that Baker should present to the Times’ readers and then show what differences there are, if any, between Obama and Romney.

Why wouldn’t Baker and the Times address the issue at that fundamental philosophical level? Well, perhaps because that would reveal that there isn’t any difference at all between conservatives and liberals when it comes to the role of government in a free society. They stand for the same philosophy and, consequently, the same programs.

Consider the following domestic programs: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schooling, farm subsidies, paper money, central banking (i.e., the Federal Reserve), FDIC, SBA, economic regulation, the drug war, minimum-wage laws, and income taxation.

Now, ask yourself: Which of those programs do Barack Obama and other liberals support?

Answer: All of them!

Now, ask yourself: Which of those programs do Mitt Romney and other conservatives support?

Answer: All of them!

So, if there was a big philosophical divide between Obama and Romney, wouldn’t there be a divergence when it comes to at least a few of those programs?

Why do Obama and Romney support those programs? Because philosophically they, like most other conservatives and liberals, believe that it is the role of government in a free society to take care of people and to manage the economy. The last thing in the world they want to do, despite their professed allegiance to “free enterprise” is to leave such decisions to the private, free-market sector.

Oh sure, they might disagree on the particular ways to reform or improve the welfare-state, planned-economy way of life but the fact is that they both embrace this way of life.

What about foreign-policy programs, such as hundreds of overseas military bases, foreign interventions, invasions, occupations, foreign aid, torture, assassinations, regime-change operations, the war on terrorism, influencing foreign elections, drones, the CIA, the military-industrial complex, Guantanamo Bay, and the enormous domestic military?

Both of them ardently support all of it! Why? Because they believe it is the role of government in a free society to be a military empire, one in which a “national-security state” plays a permanent and dominant role in the world and in the economy.

What about civil liberties? They both believe in the traditional emergency powers that dictatorships embrace during times of “crisis,” such as the power of the military to arrest citizens and cart them away to concentration camps or military dungeons for indefinite incarceration, torture, and perhaps even execution after some sort of kangaroo military tribunal.

Why do they favor such things? Because they believe it is rightful role of government to assume dictatorial powers in times of “crisis” in order to protect the people from such dangers as communism, terrorism, drug dealers, and the like.

So, given all that, where’s that big “philosophical divide” that Baker and the Times’ refer to?

It doesn’t exist! It just part of the mythology that conservatives and liberals, as well as the mainstream press, have long sold the American people, from the first grade on up.

Enter the libertarians. Now, you’re talking about a genuine philosophical divide! But that’s precisely why conservatives and liberals wish that libertarians had never come into existence: We expose their mythology, their deception, and their delusion. We cause them and others to confront the reality — that there isn’t any philosophical difference between conservatives and liberals despite all the mainstream rhetoric to the contrary. Instead, the philosophical divide occurs between statists (which consist of conservatives and liberals) and libertarians.

Where do libertarians stand on all those above-listed domestic and foreign programs and infringements on civil liberties? We oppose them all. We would repeal them all. We would ditch immediately.

Why? Because we believe that it is not the role of government in a free society to take care of people or to be a military empire or to suspend freedoms for any reason including so-called crises. In fact, unlike statists we understand that such programs and infringements are directly antithetical to a free society. That is, any society that has such programs cannot truly be considered a free society.

We believe in the right of people to keep everything they earn and to decide for themselves what to do with it: spend, invest, save, hoard, donate, or whatever. We believe in the sanctity of private property and in the free market. We believe in the right of people to engage in any behavior whatsoever, so long as it is peaceful. We believe in a limited-government, constitutional republic.

For the next several months, the American people are going to be treated to the same standard bromides to which they have been treated since elementary school (and to which children in such schools are still treated). We’re going to be told ad infinitum, ad nauseum how Americans have a philosophical choice between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Hopefully, increasing numbers of Americans will recognize the inanity for what it is.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.