He sure can talk the talk...

On cosmic justice and unintended consequences:

And one of the things that I strongly believe is that we are not going to – as individuals – be able to erase evil from the world. That is God’s task. But we can be soldiers in that process. And we can confront it when we see it.

Now, the one thing that I think is very important is for us to have some humility in how we approach the issue of confronting evil. Because a lot of evil has been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil, in the name of good. And I think one thing that’s very important is having some humility in recognizing that just because we think our intentions are good doesn’t mean we are going to be doing good.

On Hayekian spontaneous order:

But you know, the truth is that my education was a pretty standard, liberal arts education. So I was exposed to thinkers on the left. At the same time, I was reading Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek, and I was growing up when Ronald Reagan was ascendant. So the political culture of my formative years was much more conservative.

It partly explains why, if you look at not just my politics, but also I think who I am as a person—in some ways, I'm pretty culturally conservative. I was always suspicious of dogma, and the excesses of the left and the right. One of my greatest criticisms of the Republican Party over the last 20 years is that it's not particularly conservative. I can read conservatives from an earlier era—a George Will or a Peggy Noonan—and recognize wisdom, because it has much more to do with respect for tradition and the past and I think skepticism about being able to just take apart a society and put it back together. Because I do think that communities and nations and families aren't subject to that kind of mechanical approach to change. But when I look at Tom DeLay or some of the commentators on Fox these days, there's nothing particularly conservative about them.

Whether he will walk the walk remains to be seen. But this stuff sure beats "I want to inspire a generation of Americans to serve a cause greater than their self-interest."

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Sounds good

But I'm wary of the tendency to pick out stuff one likes and cling to it, which allows a politician to say contradictory things and then have opposing sides pick out what they like and hope he doesn't really mean the rest. Obama more than other candidates has acquired a reputation for telling people what they want to hear.

The first quote says that the road to hell is paved with good intentions - an idea that any speaker of English should be familiar with. The second quote points out that conservatism has gone downhill, and while that happens to be true, I can't help but wonder if he's saying it as a way to seem to embrace (safely dead yesterday's) conservatism while not really embracing any (actual living) conservative politicians. I can't help but suspect that were he speaking 20 years ago he would be saying that Reagan was no Eisenhower.

Of course, Obama has gone

Of course, Obama has gone beyond simply talking about encouraging national service: he issued a rather creepy "call to service" speech and proposes large and ill-conceived federal programs to enforce 'em.

Transcript: http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2008/07/02/obamas-remarks-on-service/?mod=googlenews_wsj

Erratum: http://www.worldnetdaily.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=69784

The CliffNotes version:

* Public schools will have their funding cut unless they force their students to perform 50 hours of service a year. Since for most people, public school is the only choice they've got, this amounts to a mandatory service program for every child in a public school in the country...in the meantime, he's going to inject the government into local private industry, forcing them to accept these kids and their 'service'.

* For college students: "I have proposed an annual American Opportunity Tax Credit of $4,000. To receive this credit, we’ll require 100 hours of public service." This is one of those things that sounds okay on the surface. It's voluntary, right? The problem is that it's such a good deal for students that they'll all take part in it. That's $40/hr, more than most of us will make at graduation (minus ibankers, of course), and several times more than a summer internship would pay - particularly for lab slaves. So instead of gaining experience in private industry or academia while in college, he would rather have us jammed into makework government programs. Businesses that rely on summer students will be destroyed, career paths, particularly for poorer students, will he hijacked...and a huge injection of cash into the college environment might simply result in tuition inflation. So now kids will HAVE to work these jobs.

* Finally, if you're young and don't have a job, he's going to create a huge government jobs program and enlist you in it. I assume it won't pay just the current minimum wage, since Obama opposes that. So it will displace all the current jobs that rely on young minimum wage workers. Imagine - a new government program employing 2 million young people, plus all the overhead to manage it. This would be a huge expansion of government.

Beyond the typical Obama moralizing, there's also a disquieting undertone that that spending your time working for the state is somehow more noble and more valuable to society than spending your time working for a private company. By tying such "service" to public education - a mandatory good for most families, particularly poor ones - his proposal resembles Heinlein's suggestion that citizenship be granted only on the condition of completing a certain amount of state service, a notion that the Left decried as Fascist.

And of course, the eternal question - how are we going to pay for this enormous expansion of government? What with energy subsidies, middle-class tax cuts, and now what amounts to a federal labor subsidy, his Tax Increases on the Rich are getting an awful lot of work.

What's the inverse Godfather quote?

Every time I think I'm in, they pull me back out...

That's what she said!

...well, it is.