22 September 2011

An Interesting Omission

In a brief post called "Presidential Plagiarist?" Ira Stoll was sharp enough to notice that in Barack Obama's "jobs speech," the president made a point that he pretty clearly took from the new book by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum without giving any attribution to the authors. Now, considering that Mr. Obama is hell bent on destroying our country and the future of Americans, plagiarism is far from the greatest of his offenses, but what caught my eye is what the president did not lift from the passage.

Stoll quotes a paragraph from That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It invented and How We Can Come Back, in which Friedman and Mandelbaum make the following basic argument. (Below, I am paraphrasing and condensing the authors' statement to clarify the point I am going to make.)[1]

President Lincoln's administration passed several pieces of legislation to spur the transition from an agragrian to an industrial society:(1) the Homestead Act of 1862,(2) legislation related to the transcontinental railway,(3) the creation of the National Academy of Sciences, and(4) the establishment of land grant colleges.

In his speech, the President made nearly the identical statement. (Again, I am paraphrasing.)

President Lincoln's administration passed several pieces of legislation to spur the transition from an agragrian to an industrial society:(1) legislation related to the transcontinental railway,(2) the creation of the National Academy of Sciences, and(3) the establishment of land grant colleges.

Do you notice anything missing in the president's speech? Mr. Obama conspicuously dropped the Homestead Act from the items that Friedman and Mandelbaum had listed. Interesting, is it not? The Homestead Act is the one piece of legislation out of the four Friedman and Mandelbaum mentioned that does not constitute government meddling in the economy, science, or education--and Mr. Obama left it out.[2]
I can think of only two reasons why the president may have done so. Either he simply forgot it, being unable to mentally grasp or retain any freedom-respecting policies like the Homestead Act, or he deliberately omitted it because in his worldview, the purpose of government is to command and control individuals, not to set them free. Either way, it is interesting to see that Mr. Obama can't even get something right when he is copying others' work.


1. Ira Stoll, "Presidential Plagiarist?", Future of Capitalism, September 8, 2011, http://www.futureofcapitalism.com/2011/09/presidential-plagiarist.

2. The Homestead Act is a good example of government functioning properly.
In her essay, "The Property Status of Airwaves," Ayn Rand wrote, "A notable example of the proper method of establishing private ownership from scratch, in a previously ownerless area, is the Homestead Act of 1862, by which the government opened the western frontier for settlement and turned 'public land' over to private owners. The government offered a 160-acre farm to any adult citizen who would settle on it and cultivate it for five years, after which it would become his property. Although that land was originally regarded, in law, as 'public property,' the method of its allocation, in fact, followed the proper principle (in fact, but not in explicit ideological intention). The citizens did not have to pay the government as if it were an owner; ownership began with them, and they earned it by the method which is the source and root of the concept of 'property': by working on unused material resources, by turning a wilderness into a civilized settlement. Thus, the government, in this case, was acting not as the owner but as the custodian of ownerless resources who defines objectively impartial rules by which potential owners may acquire them.

This should have been the principle and pattern of the allocation of broadcasting frequencies." 

From Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (New York: Signet, 1967), p. 124.

No comments: