Demanding Collective Action

In his second inaugural speech, President Obama calls for “collective action” on the part of the American people, claiming that:

For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people.

So who does Obama think he’s kidding? The need for collective action and government is obvious to, oh, pretty much everybody in this country. We live in a highly interdependent society where individuals act collectively all the time.

Millions of people work together in things called “corporations” through which they collectively produce a myriad of products in large quantities that millions of other people need and want. And millions of people interact through things called “insurance com-panies” for the purpose of sharing the risk of large, unpredictable healthcare costs. Indeed, the collective activity conducted through voluntary cooperative associations in the U.S. is practically unlimited.

The question is not one of acting collectively or acting alone, but whether we want to regulate our collective action through decentralized institutions (e.g., markets, compe-tition, and self-government on the state level) or through a centralized authority that places 315 million citizens squarely under its thumb.

When Obama demands collective action by the American people, he is not calling for collective action to replace individual action. Rather, Obama is only knocking down a straw man to misrepresent the facts as he stubbornly clings to his vision of Big Govern-ment. And cling to it he will, despite all the historical evidence showing that his vision of centralized government means less freedom, stagnation, and eventual decline for all of us.

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