LA Times columnist Matt Welch reflects today (Sunday) on John McCain and his underlying political philosophy. Having read the man’s four books (so none of the rest of us have to — something I think both Rush Limbaugh and James Wollcott have alternately said), Welch writes:
Liberals and conservatives alike fail to truly reflect his views, McCain writes, because “neither emphasizes the obligations of a free people to the nation.” His main governmental inspiration is Teddy Roosevelt, the “Eastern swell who became a man of the people,” whose great accomplishment was “to summon the American people to greatness.” In Roosevelt’s code, McCain writes approvingly, it was “absolutely required that every loyal citizen take risks for the country’s sake.” This is an essentially militaristic view of citizenship, one that explains many of McCain’s departures from partisan orthodoxy. Unlike traditional Republicans, he will gladly butt into the affairs of private industry if he perceives them to be undermining Americans’ faith in government; unlike Democrats, he thinks the executive branch generally needs more power, not less.
Yes, I think many of us sensed this from McCain, his attraction to presidential power. And his desire to boost “national greatness,” which can be built on nothing but slave labor and sculls. For McCain, the state, and not the individual human being, comes first. Human communities (and nations) are not willeed into being by free and autonomous human souls working together, but in fact the community exists outside and separate from those individuals and it is the community (or nation) that wills the individual into existence. The individual, then, owes all to the greater community, and simply has no choice in the matter.
It is in moments like this I am reminded of what Murray Rothbard said in Man, Economy and State: Only individuals have ends, and can act to attain them. There are no such things as ends or actions by “groups,” “collectives,” or “States,” which do not take place as actions by various specific individuals. “Societies” or “groups” have no independent existence aside from the actions of their individual members.
Oh, but let’s let Welch continue his essay on John McCain, aspiring tyrant, totalitarian, and theologian of state worship:
“Our greatness,” he wrote in “Worth the Fighting For,” “depends upon our patriotism, and our patriotism is hardly encouraged when we cannot take pride in the highest public institutions.” So, because steroids might be damaging the faith of young baseball fans, drug testing becomes a “transcendent issue,” requiring threats of federal intervention unless pro sports leagues shape up. Hollywood’s voluntary movie-rating system? A “smoke screen to provide cover for immoral and unconscionable business practices.” Ultimate Fighting on Indian reservations? “Barbaric” and worthy of government pressure on cable TV companies. Negative political ads by citizen groups? They “do little to further beneficial debate and healthy political dialogue” and so must be banned for 60 days before an election if they mention a candidate by name.
If his issues line up with yours, and if you’re not overly concerned by an activist federal government, McCain can be a great and sympathetic ally. But chances are he will eventually see a grave national threat in what you consider harmless, or he’ll prescribe a remedy that you consider unconscionable.
And then there’s Welch’s conclusion:
One of the many charming confessions in “Worth the Fighting For” is McCain’s complaint that the man he replaced in the Senate — Republican icon Barry Goldwater — was “never as affectionate as I would have liked.” Small wonder.
Goldwater, a man who seemed to emanate from Arizona’s dust, was the paragon of limited government, believing to his core that the feds shouldn’t tell you how to run a business or whom you can sleep with. McCain, on the other hand, is a third-generation D.C. insider who carpetbagged his way into office, believing to his core that “national pride will not survive the people’s contempt for government.”
God, I hope not. National pride is simply not worth the price in tears, theft, suffering and death.