In an editorial the Wall Street Journal criticizes Sarah Palin for criticizing Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign. The point seems to be that such talk from the Ms. Bully Pulpit is innocuous or benign. The writer makes an analogy with Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign.
Now if Michelle Obama were just a Chicago-based community activist who was organizing a nation-wide propaganda campaign to urge people to eat healthily I would have no objection.
Although Ms. Obama does not hold any official office she is a spokesperson for the White House and her husband, the president. Nothing she does or says happens without political vetting, approval, strategizing and so forth. In this sense she is an arm of the executive branch.
I do not believe it is the job of the federal government to teach us anything. It is simply part of the apparatus of compulsion and coercion whose job it is, at most, to main the basics of social order. When we allow it to become our Teacher we are elevating it to a role for which it has no comparative moral authority. Why should itsvalues be authoritative? Why not my values? Why not your values?
It is not as if this advice emanates from a source (the White House, including President Obama) that has a reputation for moral integrity. The deceptions surrounding Iraq and Afghanistan policy come readily to mind. (When were the troops supposed to come home?)
And yet not even this is the main point. The advice comes from a person who has decided to devote her life to accomplishing goals by the political means. These goals are not the gradual reduction of political power (obviously) but its increase. It is wrong to think that granting moral authority, as all teaching authority must be, to such people is benign. One of the main differences between conservatives and classical liberals is that liberals do not look up to the state. They look down to it as a necessary evil.
Of course, what comes from the White House is rarely just advice but is part of an overall strategy encouraging the dependence of people on the state. We are weak. We must be helped in every area of our lives by our “betters” – those who wield power but so generously give of themselves to us.
If I weren’t a “health nut” I would eat some potato chips in protest.
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