Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Over at Fresh Bilge, Alan Sullivan takes note of an article about a rising star in the Republican Party, Florida's Marco Rubio. The article is titled "The Republican Obama," and I suspect that, at least on a sense-of-life level, that may be the case. Or, as Sullivan puts it, "[the] most recent immigrants [are] more American than most Americans..."
The significance of this last observation is twofold. First, let's recall what a "sense of life" is:
Long before he is old enough to grasp such a concept as metaphysics, man makes choices, forms value-judgments, experiences emotions and acquires a certain implicit view of life. Every choice and value-judgment implies some estimate of himself and of the world around him--most particularly, of his capacity to deal with the world. He may draw conscious conclusions, which may be true or false; or he may remain mentally passive and merely react to events (i.e., merely feel). Whatever the case may be, his subconscious mechanism sums up his psychological activities, integrating his conclusions, reactions or evasions into an emotional sum that establishes a habitual pattern and becomes his automatic response to the world around him. What began as a series of single, discrete conclusions (or evasions) about his own particular problems, becomes a generalized feeling about existence, an implicit metaphysics with the compelling motivational power of a constant, basic emotion--an emotion which is part of all his other emotions and underlies all his experiences. This is a sense of life. (Ayn Rand, "Philosophy and Sense of Life," The Romantic Manifesto, p. 25)Now, consider the following scene in the above light:
His trick consisted partly of echoing the great themes of conservative America: opposition to big government, support for free enterprise, a determination to defeat "radical Islam and the threat it poses through terror." But he breathed life into these ... notions by infusing them with his own life story, which proved their worthiness and their applicability. Unlike many a prominent Republican, Rubio could not be said to have been born with a silver or even stainless steel spoon. The son of Cuban exiles--his father worked as a bartender and mother as a maid--Rubio first attended college on a football scholarship. His is the classic story of the American dream fulfilled.On a sense-of-life level, it seems safe to me to say that Rubio and Obama are complete opposites.
In his speech, he related how his grandfather, who had grown up in rural Cuba, had told him "that because of where he was born and who he was born to, there was only so much he was able to accomplish. But he wanted me to know that I would not have those limits, that there was no dreams, no ambitions, no aspirations unavailable to me. And he was right. ... I have never once felt that there was something I couldn't do because of who my parents were or weren't." [bold added]
Unfortunately, as Ayn Rand also indicates, a sense of life can be no substitute for a rational philosophy -- a coherent, explicit, integrated view of the world. Rubio's political positions, being all over the map, bear this out. According to Wikipedia, Rubio is best known for soliciting advice from his constituents, which he published in book form as 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future and used as guidance when he became Speaker of the Florida House.
There is certainly nothing wrong with being open to suggestions -- another way Rubio seems to differ from Obama. However, Rubio's selection criteria leave much to be desired and show us that, ideologically, he is an inconsistent, mixed-economy type at best.
There were three requirements for a submission: 1) It had to be relevant to daily life, 2) It had to focus on the future, and 3) It could not unnecessarily expand government.Not only does this immediately raise the question, "For what might government expansion be necessary?" there is not a peep about, say, better protection of individual rights, or even something like, say, "Must help reduce government to its proper scope."
A few of the "innovative" ideas are listed below, followed by my comments in bold.
[Replace] the current school standards with "a new, world-class curriculum" Not only is this vague, but this could be done very effectively by getting the government out of education altogether and letting the market go to work on the problem.As I said, at best Rubio is a mixed-economy type. At worst, he's a big-government conservative who knows how to sound like an advocate for freedom.
[Give w]histleblower protection to prostitutes informing on their pimps. The problem here is that prostitution (excluding that involving minors) does not violate individual rights and so should not even be a crime. Making it easier to prosecute people who would not even be criminals in a free society sounds like an entrenchment of improper government activity to me.
[D]eny sex offenders and stalkers access to Internet networking sites like MySpace, [and] require schools to issue instructions as to what information students can post on such sites. These two are mixed-up at best. On the one hand, it should be easier for the government to stop pederasts from acting on their impulses, but on the other, we're issuing orders to educators and, in today's intellectual climate, coming perilously close to inviting state regulation of communications.
Sadly, with his ability to appeal to voters who are sincerely concerned about the erosion of freedom in America combined with his lack of ideological coherence, Marco Rubio is the diametric opposite of Barack Obama in another, more important respect: Whereas the danger to freedom represented by Barack Obama's political ideas is clear, that of Marco Rubio's is not. Barack Obama incites opposition to statism. Marco Rubio would likely disguise a mixed economy as capitalism and perhaps lull awakening America back to sleep.