Posted by: Debby Durkee | February 11, 2010

The great left-right divide.

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The great left-right divide.

Daniel Henninger has some insights into why the left is so upset by the Supreme Court decision (right before the State of the Union address) on freedom of speech for corporations. He has looked into the dissent of Justice John Paul Stevens and Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority concurrence. Stevens’ dissent shows the great divide between the left and the right. This is from the Wall Street Journal:

Their dispute, and especially Justice Stevens’s view of corporations, reveals a lot about why Mr. Obama and liberalism’s left wing went nuts. It isn’t just corporate political advertising that’s anathema. Corporations themselves are anathema. Snip –

“Thomas Jefferson,” (Stevens) notes, “famously fretted that corporations would subvert the Republic.” A citation quoted by the justice notes that “the word ‘soulless’ constantly recurs in debates over corporations”; and “corporations, it was feared, could concentrate the worst urges of whole groups of men.”

But here’s the public-philosophy belief that flows from this view: “The Framers thus took it as a given,” in Justice Stevens’s opinion, “that corporations could be comprehensively regulated (my emphasis) in the service of the public welfare.”

In short, private corporations have not much, if anything, to do with the public good.

In his crack-back concurrence, Justice Scalia ridicules “the corporation-hating quotations the dissent has dredged up.” He notes that most corporations back then had “state-granted monopoly privileges” (sort of like Fannie and Freddie today—columnist’s footnote) and that modern corporations without these state privileges “would probably have been favored by most of our enterprising Founders—excluding, perhaps, Thomas Jefferson and others favoring perpetuation of an agrarian society.”

He ends with a conservative belief: “To exclude or impede corporate speech is to muzzle the principal agents of the modern free economy.”

America’s Democrats and Republicans, crudely defined, are with this presidency and this Congress living today on opposite sides of a moon that they both call the United States.

In the universe inhabited by Justice Stevens and President Obama, corporations—the private sector—are a suspect abstraction, ever tending toward “the worst urges” which have to be “comprehensively regulated.” The saints regulate the sinners.

If you think this way, what one does to the private sector, such as the proposed $90 billion bank tax, can never be wrong in any serious way, so long as the rationale offered is the “public good.” Private-sector players are seen as barely more than paid galley slaves on the ship of state. So it is with the health-care bill’s mammoth, comprehensive regulation of American medicine and insurance.

Mr. Obama seems genuinely perplexed that the opposition can’t just, you know, sign onto it. What’s their problem?

Evidently, the voters of Massachusetts have a problem with that and more.

In the past year, Mr. Obama and the Democratic Congress passed a $787 billion stimulus, seized banks and the auto industry, embarked on a $1 trillion reorganization of the private health-care system, and passed a fiscal 2010 budget that put spending as a percentage of GDP at 24.1%. These are very large claims for the public good.

This public-private tension is an ancient and never-ending debate in the U.S. But what we are seeing this year, in Massachusetts and elsewhere, is American voters arriving at a tipping point over the scale and role of government. Most Americans still go to work each day inside a private economy organized around tens of thousands of corporations. Their basic view of the world and that found inside Justice Stevens’s dissent and this White House are out of sync.

As Henninger points out, the left, and perhaps a majority of Democrats in Congress, seem to be at war with the goose that lays the golden egg in this country: private enterprise. Have they not figured out that without the money generated in the private sector, there could be no public sector? Henniger uses the analogy of different universes. I’d say conservatives and most normal Americans are Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, the left are the cast of the bar scene from Star Wars – they are the aliens, but they’re trying to make the country accept them as normal. It’s not working – we can see you now that you’re no longer wearing your human mask. Read it all here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704820904575055922496646104.html

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