On the cusp of adulthood, and in the first generation of my family to obtain a college education, it seemed to me perfectly reasonable that some people were smarter and more moral than others. It also seemed sensible that these people should run society for the benefit of all — especially the less qualified.
I had not yet run into the Lord Acton’s caution that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Hence it seemed to me, that as one of the best and brightest, this would never be my fate. I was too pure, too insightful and too committed to be seduced into what we later called “the dark side.”
Evidently Barack Obama came to a similar conclusion. He must always have known he was smarter than his peers and must surely have had confidence in his own motives. He would thus be the one in his family to reconstruct the world along more “just” lines; lines his parents, and mine, could never produce.
Clearly Obama is still intoxicated with this flattering assessment. He still believes he knows better than others because he is smarter and less tainted than they. As a result, he constantly lectures us on why his signature programs are indispensable. We may not understand the wisdom of his stimulus package or Obamacare, but he understands what we do not.
Liberals, in general, have an inflated sense of their own abilities and intentions. For this reason, they dismiss the intellectual capacities and moral aptitudes of both ordinary people and their political adversaries. This being so, these others must simply shut up and do what they are told.
So pure do Obama and his liberal fellow travelers feel that they have no compunctions about distorting the truth. If less talented, or virtuous, individuals do not comprehend what is good for them — or for society at large — it is essential that they be manipulated into complying with the policies of their superiors.
Mind you, Obama and his Democratic allies are no less intelligent or less moral than others. The problem is that they are no more so, and therefore are often seduced into behaving foolishly. Their judgment is so thoroughly warped by intellectual arrogance that they regularly misperceive reality.
Obamacare is in big trouble, but they do not see it. The economy is being held back by their fiscal irresponsibility, but they are oblivious to the connection. The budget deficit is unsustainable, but they are not worried because the collapse is not yet upon us.
Obama and his allies could use a dose of humility; nevertheless, their overriding concern is with winning the political wars. They are so convinced of their own merit that they deem it vital to sweep away the opposition so they can grow the government and save the less gifted from themselves.
Sadly, too many Americans are willingly swayed by impossible promises and unrelenting invective. Ceaselessly told that their president knows best and that Republicans are dastardly villains, they are prepared to give the nation’s chief executive yet another chance.
Plato’s model for his Republic was Sparta. Unlike Athens, this state was a military camp run from the top down. Moreover, in Plato’s time, Sparta had just defeated his native city in the Peloponnesian War. Thus, from his aristocratic perspective, it looked like the wave of the future.
It was not. Sparta was soon exhausted by its overweening ambitions and reduced to a backwater. The lesson here is that people frequently do not become alert to a danger until there is a catastrophe — and then often when it is too late.
Let us hope Americans realize their peril before Obama’s self-certified brilliance and immature narcissism lead us to our doom.
Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D., is professor of sociology at Kennesaw State University.