Dinesh D’Souza had an op-ed in Friday’s Washington post, spouting off utter nonsense about Obama. I criticize Obama endlessly, but delusional attacks like D’Souza’s detract from good, substantive criticism of what Obama is actually doing wrong. D’Souza claims,
If you want to understand what is going on in the White House today, you have to begin with Barack Obama. No, not that Barack Obama. I mean Barack Obama Sr., the president’s father. Obama gets his identity and his ideology from his father. Ironically, the man who was absent for virtually all of Obama’s life is precisely the one shaping his values and actions.
How do I know this? Because Obama tells us himself. His autobiography is titled “Dreams From My Father.” Notice that the title is not “Dreams of My Father.” Obama isn’t writing about his father’s dreams. He is writing about the dreams that he got from his father.
So D’Souza makes an inference, that from the title of Obama’s book, Obama is somehow heavily influenced by his father. If only D’Souza had taken the time to open the book, or merely take 10 seconds to check Wikipedia, he would know that Obama hardly knew his father. D’Souza’s inference from the wording of the book’s title is wildly inappropriate. D’Souza sounds like a child without a full grasp of their first language, extracting meaning wrongly from mere prepositions.
Wait, maybe a couple of quotations, from Obama and Obama’s grandmother, stripped of context, can prove the connection? No, no they can’t.
In his book, Obama writes, “It was into my father’s image, the black man, son of Africa, that I’d packed all the attributes I sought in myself.” Those who know Obama well say the same thing. His grandmother Sarah Obama told Newsweek, “I look at him and I see all the same things — he has taken everything from his father . . . this son is realizing everything the father wanted.”
That’s apparently all that it takes to convince D’Souza that both Obama Jr. and Sr. share the exact same ideology. What is this peculiar, dangerous ideology, Dinesh?
Obama Sr.’s solutions are clear. “We need to eliminate power structures that have been built through excessive accumulation so that not only a few individuals shall control a vast magnitude of resources as is the case now.” He proposed that the state seize private land and turn it over to collective cooperatives. He also demanded that the state raise taxes with no upper limit.
Just in case the point is unclear, Obama Sr. insisted that “theoretically there is nothing that can stop the government from taxing 100 percent of income so long as the people get benefits from the government commensurate with their income which is taxed.” Absurd as it seems, the idea of 100 percent taxation has its peculiar logic. It is based on the anti-colonial assumption that the rich have become rich by exploiting and plundering the poor; therefore, whatever the rich have is undeserved and may be legitimately seized.
What is D’Souza talking about? The preference for redistribution has little, if anything, to do with anti-colonialism. Why is he categorizing ideologies in this way? Perhaps the best counterexample to D’Souza’s incoherent gibberish is Adam Smith’s body of work. Smith was a classical liberal, and as such, both a passionate defender of laissez-faire economic policies and a vehement activist against mercantilism. These two ideas are not only logically compatible, but logically linked to each other, because high redistribution, mercantilism, and colonialism are harmful policies imposed by governments.
Colonialism is a political nightmare in which states shuffle around rents in the international economy arbitrarily. Socialist states similarly shuffle around rents arbitrarily. It is best to reject both. Is D’Souza actually defending colonialism as a check against socialistic tendencies to redistribution? Am I missing something? How is D’Souza’s position even minimally coherent?