“Liberalism” really isn’t all that liberal. Obama revealed as much in some recent comments he made which served to minimize the irrationality of racism, particularly anti-Semitic racism.
In an interview with The Atlantic, Obama said:
“The fact that you are anti-Semitic, or racist, doesn’t preclude you from being interested in survival,” Obama said, speaking of Tehran’s [Iran] leadership. “It doesn’t preclude you from being rational about the need to keep your economy afloat; it doesn’t preclude you from making strategic decisions about how you stay in power; and so the fact that the supreme leader is anti-Semitic doesn’t mean that this overrides all of his other considerations.” [Sources: businessinsider.com 5/21/15, and TheAtlantic.com 5/21/15]
How many things can you find wrong with this statement?
I’m reminded of Ayn Rand’s idea that there are no conflicts among rational men. “Rational men,” in this context, refer to individuals who do not seek to initiate force or fraud against others. She’s right, that there need be no conflicts among rational people by this definition. So long as everyone is committed — 100 percent — to leaving others alone (defined as free from the initiation of force or fraud), then there are no differences that cannot be worked out or tolerated in any society.
Government, properly speaking, exists to protect citizens from force, enforce voluntary contracts and, in the process, to uphold the principle that everyone has an equal right to be left alone.
But what about anti-Semitic or racist people, specifically the ones who engage in politics and government? Don’t they, by definition, qualify as initiators of force? Advocates of slavery in the early American South certainly advocated force; slavery is the ultimate example of initiating force. Later advocates of state-enforced segregation likewise advocated force. Government laws forced private business owners to discriminate against black individuals. As for Nazi Germany’s initiation of force against peaceful citizens, no elaboration is required.
While not necessarily all advocates of racism advocate force, it’s in the nature of racist ideology to seek force out. Certainly that’s what racist ideas, consistently implemented in a political system, inevitably foster and encourage. Nazi Germany, apartheid South Africa, the segregationist American South: These were all political systems based on racist ideas which initiated force against certain citizens in order to advance the racist ideology.
To consistently rational people, preservation of individual rights is the most important thing, politically and socially speaking. Without private property rights, intellectual property rights, and a competent and ethical police force and military to restrain or punish violent or fraudulent offenders, no rational goals can ever be attained.
While it may be true that Nazis, Islamic totalitarians or other racists have military and economic concerns, those concerns have little or nothing to do with the priorities of a rational individual or culture. And these concerns have nothing whatsoever to do with freedom, or the right of individuals to be left alone.
Nazi Germany wanted a strong military in order to impose its anti-Semitic racist attitudes on the world, among other things. Nazis wanted a strong economy to prop up their racist ideas and have a physical means of imposing their will on as many people as possible. Obama, in his comments, implies that the economic wants and needs of a totalitarian government (such as Iran) are morally equal to the economic wants and needs of a free people, who only want to advance economically by nonviolent, honest means.
Rationality, in principle, logically implies freedom — defined as the preservation of individual rights — in practice. Racism, in principle, logically implies just the opposite: the imposition of some form of a totalitarian state.
Obama’s premise is that racists or other totalitarians can be rational too. But how? Totalitarians like the Nazis of the 1940s — or the Islamic religious totalitarians of today — don’t respect rationality. They explicitly denounce it. In both theory and practice, they stand for the will of the group, or some supernatural authority, and they ignore the rights and reasoning of any individual when it conflicts with the state.
Racism in theory leads to injustice in practice, the extent to which racists seek or gain government power. This isn’t to imply that those with racist views have no right to hold and spread those views as they wish, with their own funds and on their own property, websites, etc.; a racist, however irrational, should have the same individual rights as anyone else, so long as never imposing those views by force on another.
Obama’s statements would only make sense if applied to a government run by personally racist authorities who nevertheless respected everyone’s individual rights equally. Such authorities, if anti-Semitic or anti-black, for example, would say, “I personally feel that blacks (or Jews) are morally and intellectually inferior; however, their status under the law is or must be equal.”
If Obama sees no discernable or fundamental difference between a society based on the preservation of individual rights and a society based on totalitarian rule (based on racism, or any other rationalization), then we’re in bigger trouble than many of us may realize.
Obama’s statements, like anyone’s, must be put in full context. The lengthy interview is available at The Atlantic‘s website. However, there’s every reason to believe that Obama means what he says. His unyielding and consistent policy of appeasement of Iran is consistent with it. He obviously believes that it’s fine for Iran to have nuclear weapons; otherwise, he would not propose treaties that make it easier for them to attain them.
If racist apartheid South Africa or the segregationist state and local governments of the American South existed today, it’s implausible to think that Obama would support them. In fact, he would almost certainly actively intervene to disrupt or eliminate those governments. He would not claim, “You can be racist but still have economic and other rational needs and concerns.” He’d understand, in those cases, that this is not really true, or beside the point. Why does he fail to appreciate this fact when dealing with the racist and totalitarian government of Iran? One can only speculate.
Obama appears to believe that there’s no difference between a racist and totalitarian government like Iran wielding a nuclear weapon and a largely rights-respecting government like Israel (or the United States) having nuclear weapons. This is incredibly, profoundly and irrationally ignorant and evasive. One is left to wonder whose side Obama is actually on. If, like a lot of “liberals” and “progressives,” he does not believe there really is a “right” or “wrong” side, then you can be certain this will be to the advantage of the wrong side.