Does America Deserve Obama?

President Obama is a socialist and a vapid demagogue who has been educated beyond the level of his intelligence.  He is the choice of a puerile and spoiled electorate who want to be taken care of and obtain handouts from a parental figurehead.

I can't believe the West won the Cold War.  The Cold War was a competition of economic ideologies.  In the 1960s, we used to have sincere debates about which economic system was better -- a socialist, centrally-planned economy, or a capitalist, free-market economy.  The debate is over.  By 1990, even the Russians and Chinese were forced to implicitly admit the superiority of market economies.  But while our former enemies were busy converting their socialist systems to market economies, we were happily rushing headlong into socialism.

People have been discussing economic systems for more than two thousand years.  As described in my books, Science and Technology in World History, Vols. 1 & 2, communism was advocated by Plato as early as the fourth century BC.  But Plato's student, Aristotle, disparaged communism by observing "that which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it.  Every one thinks chiefly of his own, hardly at all of the common interest; and only when he is himself concerned as an individual."  Aristotle concluded that the ills which are supposed to arise from private property in fact originated in human nature.

We have been aware of the superiority of market economies since Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations in 1776.  When a person is left free to pursue his own interest unimpeded, he is "led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention ... [and thus] by pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it."

In Principles of Political Economy (1848), John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) gave three reasons to severely limit government interference in a nation's economy and markets.  First, any increase in government power is a threat to human individuality, freedom, and originality, qualities necessary for the progress of the human race.  Second, market economies function more efficiently and produce more prosperity.  Third, laissez-faire economies inculcate moral virtues in citizens by making them more self-reliant, virtuous and intelligent.  "A people," Mill explained, "who expect to have everything done for them ... have their faculties only half developed."

The test of any theory is experiment, but it is virtually impossible to conduct large-scale controlled experiments in economics.  It is difficult to even make meaningful and unambiguous comparisons between countries.  Nations differ -- not only in economic systems, but in cultures, languages, traditions, geographies, and natural resources.  To test socialism versus capitalism, we would have to take one or more countries with similar social and physical characteristics and divide them in half.  After assigning a different economic system to each country, we would then sit back for fifty years and observe what happens.

But this experiment has already been performed through an accident of history.  We know the answer.  At the close of World War II, Germany and Korea were divided into socialist and market economies.  Socialism failed dramatically.  East Germany had to build the Berlin Wall just to keep people from fleeing.  North Korea is still in the stone age.  A satellite photo taken at night shows South Korea ablaze with the light of civilization.  But North Korea is dark, both literally and metaphorically.

In the U.S., we exist in a curious state of denial.  We acknowledge the inferiority of socialism but continue to become more and more socialistic.  Every attempt to shrink the size of government or repeal a regulation brings about a shriek, like a bottle being pulled out of the mouth of an infant.  I cannot recall a Republican president or Congress who reduced the size of the federal government.  No one wants to surrender a special privilege or entitlement.  We know what the best system is, but we lack the discipline to return to it.

Ronald Reagan used to say that liberals know only how to tax and spend.  If there was ever a man who embodies that aphorism, it is Barack Obama.  He has no clue as to how a free-market economy works or why it produces economic prosperity.  Obama continues to insist that government should determine what energy technologies we're going to have.  Thus the debacle of Solyndra.  Five hundred million dollars went down the drain needlessly.  Government can't pick winners because it doesn't know how to do so.  If a centrally planned socialist system worked, it would have produced prosperity in China, the Soviet Union, and North Korea.  It didn't.  Only a free-market system knows how to efficiently distribute resources.

Since the inception of Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society," we have had at least forty years of welfare programs designed to reduce poverty.  These programs have not worked.  The current U.S. poverty rate is the same as it was in the late 1960s.  So what do we do about it?  Instead of reversing course, we continue on the same path.  If the "Occupy Wall St." protestors have no jobs, it is because they are reaping the rewards of their own success.  Socialism has killed the prosperity produced by our formerly great system.  The U.S. is now ninth on the index of economic freedom and heading downward.

Yes, we have a clueless poseur for president.  But we have no one but ourselves to blame.  Obama was chosen by the people of the U.S.  He was elected democratically, and therefore is nothing more than an iconic representation of our own ignorance, greed, and infantile sense of entitlement.  Obama is not the problem, and his electoral defeat in 2012 will not magically heal the country or return us to prosperity and freedom.

 Elections change nothing, because they are not causes, but results.  The U.S. Congress now has an all-time low approval rating of nine percent.  This is nothing more than an indication that we have lost the ability to govern ourselves.  After all, we elect our congressional representatives.  We have the government we deserve.  Prosperity and freedom will return only if and when the American people again become educated, virtuous, and intelligent.

David Deming is associate professor of arts and sciences at the University of Oklahoma and author of the books Science and Technology in World History, Vols. 1 & 2.