At a time when President Obama resorts to populist rants against CEOs, dipping his toe in the dangerous waters of class envy, the formidable Charles Murray demonstrates what the janitor and CEO should expect from Obama’s emulation of Old Europe. In a brilliant lecture delivered at the American Enterprise Institute annual dinner, Murray shows that Barak Obama is the model Swede – expanding the role of the state at the cost of individual responsibility, family and private enterprise.
Murray carefully examines the sources of human happiness as developed in the Federalist by the American Founders. He identifies American exceptionalism with the lack of class envy and freedom of one’s own destiny. He believes not in comprehensive equality, but for happiness “in the sense of lasting and justified satisfaction”.
His thesis maintains that although Europe offered a respectable and viable alternative to the United States, its model is now doomed – but surprisingly not primarily for economic reasons. Rather, Murray is concerned that the culture of the welfare state is draining “too much of the life from life”, thus depriving the individual of a source of deep satisfaction which rests on self-determination and managing ones own life. Murray detects four crucial institutions that qualify as sources of deep human satisfaction: family, community, vocation, and faith.
Seen in this light, the goal of social policy should be to ensure that those institutions are robust and vital. The European model doesn’t do that. It enfeebles every single one of them. The problem is this: “Every time the government takes some of the trouble out of performing the functions of family, community, vocation, and faith, it also strips those institutions of some of their vitality – it drains some of the life from them.” Importantly, this applies as much to the lives of janitors as it does to the lives of CEO’s.