Topic: Political Philosophy

McDonald’s CEO on Globalization and Eating Your Vegetables

In an age when most corporate CEOs shun controversy, it was refreshing to read a recent interview with McDonald’s Corp. CEO Jim Skinner.

In the August 2008 issue of the Wall Street Journal magazine Smart Money [sorry, the interview has yet to be posted online], Skinner was asked what responsibility his fast-food company has for combating the national “obesity epidemic.” Skinner replied: “We are not going to solve society’s problems. People have to do that on their own …[I]f you can’t get your kids to eat vegetables, why is it my job?”

Exactly. Why should parental responsibility be treated as such a radical idea?

Skinner does note that the restaurant chain has expanded its menu to meet demand for healthier foods beyond burgers and fries. For example, McDonald’s now buys 39 million pounds of apples a year, more than any other buyer in the country.

In the same interview, Skinner credited globalization as one of the reasons the company’s stock has roughly doubled in the past three years while the economy and the rest of the stock market have struggled.

You look at the proliferation of restaurants outside the U.S. since the last big recession, in 1990 to 1991. It’s an enormous offset. Half our sales come from abroad. And we are as well positioned today as at any other time in our opportunity to serve customers and not nick their pocketbook.

Which is just the point I made a few months ago in a Cato Free Trade Bulletin on how globalization and free trade have helped U.S. companies and the economy to better weather domestic downturns.

Turning Socialism Upside Down

Raúl Castro addressed the Cuban National Assembly this weekend for the first time since officially becoming head of state. There, he gave us this rhetorical jewel:

Socialism means social justice and equality, but equality of rights, of opportunities, not of income. Equality is not egalitarianism.

This is certainly not the brand of socialism I was taught by my college professors in Costa Rica. Otherwise, I might’ve ended up being a “socialist.”

However, I’m sure Raúl’s statement raised some eyebrows among the Communist Party officials gathered in the Assembly. So, in order to diffuse any misunderstanding, Raúl quickly added that he has “learned everything” from his brother Fidel.

Then, he received a standing ovation.

American Patriotism = Choosing Liberty

I’ve always thought of long-time Cato ally Tim Sandefur as one of the most thoughtful libertarians in the blogosphere. This holiday weekend he did not disappoint, offering a stinging rebuke to Matt Yglesias’s blather about how America is “awesome” but would have been “even awesomer had English and American political leaders … been farsighted enough to find compromises that would have held the empire together.”

Sandefur correctly points out that the British, while now our closest friends (along with Canada, the part of British North America that did not join in revolt), in the 1770s left the colonists with no choice:

Abject submission is what you get when you try to “compromise” with those who would destroy your liberty and reduce you under absolute despotism.

He then goes on to excoriate Yglesias for elsewhere saying of the difference between liberal and conservative patriotism that “liberals do a better job of recognizing that much as we may love America there’s something arbitrary about it – we’re just so happen to be Americans whereas other people are Canadians or Mexicans or French or Russian or what have you.” Sandefur points out that these other nationalities “are based on ethnicity and chance, while American nationality is based on choice and the assent to certain basic principles that make up our nation.”

That’s exactly right: America is anything but ethnic (or other) happenstance, but instead stands for government by the principled consent of the governed, and the Founding generation’s choice of liberty over continued subjugation. Consequently, America’s patriotism (qua nationalism) is civic rather than ethnic:

What July 4th is about is to remind us that all those who stand up for freedom and refuse to “compromise” their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, are brothers and sisters and at heart Americans; that all who today try to move their countries toward a fuller recognition and implementation of these principles are working hand in hand with our founders; that American nationhood is the first ever founded on anything but an arbitrary ethnic or historical basis, but on the basis of certain shared principles, principles that can be grasped by “a candid world,” and that give hope to all men for all future time.

As they say, read the whole thing.

You could argue, of course, that other new world (or immigrant) countries like Canada and Australia (or Argentina) are also not based on ethnicity, but there, quite obviously, there is no “national idea” – focusing on liberty or otherwise. Canada is constantly having national conversations on “what it means to be Canadian,” which typically fails to produce any answers beyond “well, we’re not Americans” (at least for those outside of Quebec, which has never been fully assimilated into the Canadian “nation”). And of course, many other countries that are or were based on an idea (Communism, etc.) lack the consent of the governed. Having been born in then-Soviet Russia and raised in Canada, I have all too much experience with countries lacking either a civic basis or popular legitimacy.

For what I think of the American Idea, scroll/click through this.

State-Worship, McCain Style

Here’s a snip from John McCain’s Parade magazine essay on patriotism:

Patriotism is deeper than its symbolic expressions, than sentiments about place and kinship that move us to hold our hands over our hearts during the national anthem. It is putting the country first, before party or personal ambition, before anything. (emphasis mine)

Before anything? I always thought the Buckley clan had some insights on prioritization of duties.

Not a Last Resort, but a “Never” Resort

An article at Doublethink Online quotes me as saying the following regarding Medicare reform:

Cannon asserts that: “For Medicare, we have to realize we simply cannot provide unlimited amounts of free healthcare to every senior. We only have two options: bring more money in or cut benefits. If we simply increase taxes, they would eventually reach 40 percent of GDP. We shouldn’t arbitrarily cut back, either. We are better off finding an amount of money that we can spend per senior on healthcare, and allow them to choose their own options according to the spending guidelines…Politically, you may need to raise taxes, but it should be a last resort.”

Hmm.  Doesn’t.  Sound.  Like.  Me.  The first (positive) part of that sentence certainly could be true.  But the second (normative) part legitimizes something I think is categorically illegitimate.  I consider tax increases not a last resort, but a “never” resort. 

I can hear Josh Patashnik now…

Our Collectivist Candidates, Past and Present

I’ve just been reading Bill Kauffman’s fine book Ain’t My America: The Long, Noble History of Anti-War Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism (see him talk about it here), and I ran across this quotation from Bill Clinton in 1997:

It’s hard when you’re not threatened by a foreign enemy to whip people up to a fever pitch of common, intense, sustained, disciplined endeavor.

Indeed it is. Outside of wartime it is difficult, even impossible, to rally millions of free citizens around a common aim. When you’re not threatened by war or occupation, people have their own endeavors, their own purposes, their own “pursuits of industry and improvement,” as Jefferson put it, to worry about. That’s why collectivists and statists are always trying to gin up war fever in metaphorical wars like the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, and the Energy Crisis.

And as I wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal, this martial spirit remains a temptation to our current candidates. Barack Obama told Wesleyan graduates that “our individual salvation depends on collective salvation.” John McCain calls on us to serve “a national purpose that is greater than our individual interests,” preferably by doing calisthenics in uniform in front of city hall. Politicians like that, as Michelle Obama, “will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual.”

Shall. Not. Be. Infringed.

To echo Tim Lynch’s previous post …

Bob Levy, Alan Gura, Dick Heller, and the other original plaintiffs in District of Columbia v. Heller are to be commended for securing a landmark Supreme Court ruling affirming that the Second Amendment protects the right of law abiding individuals to keep and bear arms.  It’s silly and sad that we needed such a ruling, and we should not forget the uncertainty and the threats to liberty that were made possible by so much constitutional revisionism over the past 40 years.

Levy and Gura deserve special recognition for their foresight and courage in pursuing this ruling despite considerable resistance.  That resistance came from a lot of people, with a lot of knowledge about the Second Amendment and the Supreme Court, a lot of influence, and a lot at stake in the outcome.  They argued this cause shouldn’t be pursued now, and they said it should be pursued by someone else.  Levy and Gura, as it were, stuck to their guns.  They have been vindicated, and we owe them big.

Praise is also due many such as Sanford Levinson, Robert J. Cottrol, and Stephen Halbrook, whose honest, careful scholarship ultimately defeated a very appealing myth.

Indeed, a good week for the Bill of Rights.