Thursday, September 04, 2008

Never Trust Someone Who Wants You to Put Country First

The Republicans' new slogan is "Country First". It is intended to praise McCain as a man who put his country before himself or his political interests. It is reminiscent of Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country speech". For that reason, I am reminded of Milton Friedman's response to that speech from the introduction of Capitalism and Freedom:
The free man will ask neither what his country can do for him nor what he can do for his country. He will ask rather “What can I and my compatriots do through government” to help us discharge our individual responsibilities, to achieve our several goals and purposes, and above all, to protect our freedom? And he will accompany this question with another: How can we keep the government we create from becoming a Frankenstein that will destroy the very freedom we establish it to protect? Freedom is a rare and delicate plant. Our minds tell us, and history confirms, that the great threat to freedom is the concentration of power. Government is necessary to preserve our freedom, it is an instrument through which we can exercise our freedom; yet by concentrating power in political hands, it is also a threat to freedom. Even though the men who wield this power initially be of good will and even though they be not corrupted by the power they exercise, the power will both attract and form men of a different stamp.
A free man doesn't put the good of the country first. A free man helps friends, family, and other people he cares about, including people who don't happen to be in this country. A fair man doesn't see people who happen to live on the other side of an arbitrary political border as being less deserving of respect, concern, and help.

As for the Democrats, I tried to search Obama's acceptance speech for a similar kind of collectivism. This is the best I could come up with:
The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and independents, but they have fought together, and bled together, and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a red America or a blue America; they have served the United States of America.
That doesn't really have the same sentiment as "Country first", though. It is true that Obama comes up with a laundry list of government interventions, but he seems to avoid "you must serve the country" rhetoric. This line made me laugh, however:
You know, passions may fly on immigration, but I don't know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers.
I can, off the top of my head, easily think of some people who benefit from the hiring of illegal workers: The illegal workers.  A bit more thought might suggest that consumers benefit, too, but that's more difficult to explain.

UPDATE:
Never mind, someone found the John F. Kennedy angle in Obama's acceptance speech. Here it is.