Albert Jay Nock, observing another alarming rise in state power during the 1930s, advanced a conception of the state in polar opposition to this president’s. “It is unfortunately none too well understood that, just as the State has no money of its own, so it has no power of its own,” the former New Republic scribe reasoned in Our Enemy, the State. “All the power it has is what society gives it, plus what it confiscates from time to time on one pretext or another; there is no other source from which State power can be drawn. Therefore every assumption of State power, whether by gift or seizure, leaves society with so much less power; there is never, nor can be, any strengthening of State power without a corresponding and roughly equivalent depletion of social power.”
The words that slipped off the president’s tongue didn’t arrive there via his teleprompter. Seeking to let Barack be Barack, the president’s handlers have unleashed him with note cards in hopes that a more extemporaneous speaking style will inject life into an increasingly pedantic politician. The strategy obviously carries risk.
Unscripted Obama told Joe the Plumber in 2008 that “when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.” He candidly held during that year’s primaries that working-class whites “get bitter” and “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
Off-teleprompter Obama always seems to reveal a smug ideologue at odds with the made-for-TV centrist. Campaign by teleprompter strips the president of the energy that catapulted him into the Oval Office four years ago. But it also protects the president from his own instincts, which, when voiced, often deeply offend voters.
The president’s rambling rhetoric in Roanoke said little about American businessmen. It said much about their tormentor.
“Well, then, since you were brought into the world and nurtured and educated by us, can you deny in the first place that you are our child and slave, as your fathers were before you?” Socrates imagined his state captors lecturing him. The philosopher balked at fleeing the state that he had served as a soldier. A creature of Athens became a casualty of it.
The Athenian way isn’t the American way.
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