My colleagues Yaron Brook and Steve Simpson have a timely op-ed at The Daily Caller taking on Utah Sen. Mike Lee, who recently made headlines by saying: “The conservative vision for America is not an Ayn Rand novel. It’s a Norman Rockwell painting, or a Frank Capra movie: a nation ‘of plain, ordinary kindness, and a little looking out for the other fellow, too.’”
How, the op-ed asks, does Lee’s stated vision for the Republican Party differ from President Obama’s program-in-progress for the Democratic Party? As it turns out, not much.
So what is Sen. Lee’s vision? A ringing endorsement of the American spirit of independence and productivity? Hardly.
“The United States did not formally launch our war on poverty in 1964, but in 1776,” the senator said at a recent Heritage Foundation poverty forum. Since then it “has waged the most successful war on poverty in the history of the world” by becoming the wealthiest nation on earth.
Really? American colonists fought the most powerful nation on earth as a precursor to a mid-20th century welfare program? Would it be too much to expect a simple “you did build that” from a senator put in office by the Tea Party? Apparently so.
Sen. Lee no doubt views himself as a champion of America’s founding principles. But how do his views really differ from President Obama’s? They both think America’s defining purpose is its ability to solve big social problems. They both think America’s wealth comes from some group — “community and cooperation” in the senator’s view and “one nation and one people” in the president’s. Their only dispute seems to be about how we should distribute it.
Where, then, do both Lee and Obama go wrong?
So Sen. Lee has it backwards. The true foundation of America is individualism, not “community and cooperation.” And President Obama is equally wrong to claim that only groups are responsible for success because cooperation is often necessary to get things done. Individuals built this nation and created the wealth and prosperity that pulled us out of poverty. Sometimes they worked together, sometimes they worked alone. But individuals built it, and they will keep building it, only if we recognize that individuals — their initiative, their thought, and their work — are the fountainhead of all progress.
Read the whole thing here.