Would You Rather Have Obama Golf or Govern?

After seeing Barack Obama's golf swing, I'm confronted with the staggering possibility that he might actually be better at governing than golfing. And this is despite the fact that he seems to devote more time to the latter, an impression that has won him much bad publicity.

Given that George W. Bush was hammered for spending less time on the links (proportionately), it's not surprising that conservatives would consider turnabout fair play. As for Main Street, since golf is a Wall Street game, time spent golfing never plays well among the folks who cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like themselves (like golfers, I suppose). Yet I must part company with most on the right. I want Obama to play as much golf as possible, even if we taxpayers must pay his greens fees.

This isn't just because Obama's sporting passions confirm that he isn't actually a clone of golf-hating Marxist Hugo Chávez. It's mainly because we're better off having the president scaring earthworms everywhere than double-bogeying domestic affairs, shanking foreign policy, hitting the budget fat, landing in a bunker with Iranian nuclear ambitions, and making water a hazard with oil.

All joking aside, reactions to presidents' leisure activities are so often irrational. For example, hacker documentarian Michael Moore used footage of Bush playing golf to paint the 43rd president negatively, yet the reality is that if even if it had been the only time Bush played golf, it would still have been used for propaganda purposes. But do we really think a president isn't going to kick back like the rest of us?

Many will say there's no equivalence, as the commander-in-chief sits at the helm of a nation that must navigate perilous waters. Yet, not only is there always some crisis somewhere, but there's also a more important issue here: Do we really want a president so hands-on that he has his hands on everything? That's how you end up with statism.

My point here is not that we should lay off Obama -- it is a larger one. When you scrape away the effort to score political points and the fact that Obama can't get his priorities any straighter than his drives, what is actually being expressed through the criticism of vacationing presidents is that they aren't governing enough.

In reality, though, our government governs too dang much.

Where we often see this misguided lamentation is when people complain, as they have in the past, of a "do-nothing" Congress. But, when saying this, do we ever ponder what a legislature does? It produces new laws, regulations and mandates, which are, by definition, removals of freedom. This is because such measures state that there is something you must or must not do. Thus, do you really want Congress to be more productive? Remember, when a car company is more productive, you get more cars; when a gold mine is more productive, you get more gold; when American workers are more productive, you get a higher GDP. But what do you get when the government is more productive?

Less freedom.

Oh, yeah, you do get more laws, regulations, and mandates, those removals of freedom. You like that trade-off?

Since government is a necessary evil, it should be used only when necessary. For example, I spent a month in Maine some years ago and didn't see even one police cruiser in all of the central and northern parts of the state. Obviously, crime was so rare that a noticeable police presence just wasn't necessary. Now, should Mainers have complained about a do-nothing police force?

Remember also that a healthy civilization doesn't rely on its central government to play puppeteer. First, government isn't the only entity that governs -- there's also something called society. If society functions properly, most citizen behavior is controlled through its traditions and social codes. Chinese sage Confucius called this "ritual" and pointed out that it was a much more effective way of governing man than laws are.

Even insofar as we need government, remember that we are supposed to be living in these United States. Our Constitution (ya know, that dead-letter thing) grants only "few and defined" powers to the Feds; most functions are meant to be performed by the states. This is wise, as it accords with the Principle of Subsidiarity. This states that the smallest unit of society that can possibly perform a given function should be the one to do so. In other words, if the family can handle a task, it shouldn't be the domain of a larger entity; if the family can't, but a church or community organization can, the task shouldn't be co-opted by the state government. And so on and so forth up the hierarchy of size.

In light of this principle and our Constitution, how much of a "do-something" central government should we want? It is not a local police force, which may have to patrol 24/7; or a daddy and mommy, who are ever "on call." Most matters can be handled by the multitude of entities, public and private, below Uncle Scam. This may not please the self-important Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (let's not forget the federal government's largest court, now), but we don't need Washington to be as bloated as their egos.

Remember that if Obama and the Congress had spent enough time golfing, we wouldn't have a government takeover of health care, bailouts and trillions more in unsustainable debt, new taxes, and a move toward European-style socialism. The problem is not that our government officials spend too much time on the course. It's that the nation is off course because, wherever our officials are, they just aren't up to par.   

Contact Selwyn Duke
After seeing Barack Obama's golf swing, I'm confronted with the staggering possibility that he might actually be better at governing than golfing. And this is despite the fact that he seems to devote more time to the latter, an impression that has won him much bad publicity.

Given that George W. Bush was hammered for spending less time on the links (proportionately), it's not surprising that conservatives would consider turnabout fair play. As for Main Street, since golf is a Wall Street game, time spent golfing never plays well among the folks who cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like themselves (like golfers, I suppose). Yet I must part company with most on the right. I want Obama to play as much golf as possible, even if we taxpayers must pay his greens fees.

This isn't just because Obama's sporting passions confirm that he isn't actually a clone of golf-hating Marxist Hugo Chávez. It's mainly because we're better off having the president scaring earthworms everywhere than double-bogeying domestic affairs, shanking foreign policy, hitting the budget fat, landing in a bunker with Iranian nuclear ambitions, and making water a hazard with oil.

All joking aside, reactions to presidents' leisure activities are so often irrational. For example, hacker documentarian Michael Moore used footage of Bush playing golf to paint the 43rd president negatively, yet the reality is that if even if it had been the only time Bush played golf, it would still have been used for propaganda purposes. But do we really think a president isn't going to kick back like the rest of us?

Many will say there's no equivalence, as the commander-in-chief sits at the helm of a nation that must navigate perilous waters. Yet, not only is there always some crisis somewhere, but there's also a more important issue here: Do we really want a president so hands-on that he has his hands on everything? That's how you end up with statism.

My point here is not that we should lay off Obama -- it is a larger one. When you scrape away the effort to score political points and the fact that Obama can't get his priorities any straighter than his drives, what is actually being expressed through the criticism of vacationing presidents is that they aren't governing enough.

In reality, though, our government governs too dang much.

Where we often see this misguided lamentation is when people complain, as they have in the past, of a "do-nothing" Congress. But, when saying this, do we ever ponder what a legislature does? It produces new laws, regulations and mandates, which are, by definition, removals of freedom. This is because such measures state that there is something you must or must not do. Thus, do you really want Congress to be more productive? Remember, when a car company is more productive, you get more cars; when a gold mine is more productive, you get more gold; when American workers are more productive, you get a higher GDP. But what do you get when the government is more productive?

Less freedom.

Oh, yeah, you do get more laws, regulations, and mandates, those removals of freedom. You like that trade-off?

Since government is a necessary evil, it should be used only when necessary. For example, I spent a month in Maine some years ago and didn't see even one police cruiser in all of the central and northern parts of the state. Obviously, crime was so rare that a noticeable police presence just wasn't necessary. Now, should Mainers have complained about a do-nothing police force?

Remember also that a healthy civilization doesn't rely on its central government to play puppeteer. First, government isn't the only entity that governs -- there's also something called society. If society functions properly, most citizen behavior is controlled through its traditions and social codes. Chinese sage Confucius called this "ritual" and pointed out that it was a much more effective way of governing man than laws are.

Even insofar as we need government, remember that we are supposed to be living in these United States. Our Constitution (ya know, that dead-letter thing) grants only "few and defined" powers to the Feds; most functions are meant to be performed by the states. This is wise, as it accords with the Principle of Subsidiarity. This states that the smallest unit of society that can possibly perform a given function should be the one to do so. In other words, if the family can handle a task, it shouldn't be the domain of a larger entity; if the family can't, but a church or community organization can, the task shouldn't be co-opted by the state government. And so on and so forth up the hierarchy of size.

In light of this principle and our Constitution, how much of a "do-something" central government should we want? It is not a local police force, which may have to patrol 24/7; or a daddy and mommy, who are ever "on call." Most matters can be handled by the multitude of entities, public and private, below Uncle Scam. This may not please the self-important Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (let's not forget the federal government's largest court, now), but we don't need Washington to be as bloated as their egos.

Remember that if Obama and the Congress had spent enough time golfing, we wouldn't have a government takeover of health care, bailouts and trillions more in unsustainable debt, new taxes, and a move toward European-style socialism. The problem is not that our government officials spend too much time on the course. It's that the nation is off course because, wherever our officials are, they just aren't up to par.   

Contact Selwyn Duke