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Spare Us

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

Alan Blinder writes that Barack Obama is “a gifted orator, and empathy and fairness are in his bones” (“The Case Against a CEO in the Oval Office,” Oct. 2).

Assessments of Mr. Obama’s oratory are matters of subjective tastes.  But the assertion that the President is suffused with “empathy and fairness” can be questioned by pointing to objective facts.

Where, for example, was Mr. Obama’s empathy and sense of fairness in 2009 for Chrysler’s senior creditors – people he bullied into accepting fewer cents on the dollar than they were entitled to receive under long-established tenets of bankruptcy law?  Mr. Obama’s “empathy” for the UAW – junior creditors (and political supporters) who gained what was stripped from the senior creditors – hardly excuses his lack of empathy for the senior creditors (and, by the way, also U.S. taxpayers) victimized by his political opportunism.

Much worse: where is Mr. Obama’s “empathy” for the hundreds of innocent Pakistanis killed – and the thousands daily terrorized – by the drone strikes that he authorizes?  As The Atlantic‘s Conor Friedersdorf now-famously explained, “Women cower in their homes.  Children are kept out of school.  The stress they endure gives them psychiatric disorders.  Men are driven crazy by an inability to sleep as drones buzz overhead 24 hours a day, a deadly strike possible at any moment.  At worst, this policy creates more terrorists than it kills; at best, America is ruining the lives of thousands of innocent people and killing hundreds of innocents for a small increase in safety from terrorists.  It is a cowardly, immoral, and illegal policy, deliberately cloaked in opportunistic secrecy.”*

What’s in Mr. Obama’s bones isn’t “empathy and fairness.”  Instead, the only motive forces seemingly operating in his bones are those that infect nearly every politician’s marrow: a disgraceful lust for power, pomp, and office.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

* Conor Friedersdorf, “Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama,” The Atlantic, Sept. 26, 2012.

UPDATE: My friend David Rose, Econ chairman at U.-Missouri at St. Louis, writes the following to me by e-mail (posted here with Dave’s kind permission):

I’m all for empathy as it affects your desire to do nice things for others with your own money. I’m less impressed by you acting on your feelings of empathy by forcing me to do nice things for others. I believe the appropriate term for those who act in the latter way is manipulator.


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