September 5, 2003 -- Entertainment celebrities with leftist political views are hardly anything new. What is unusual, however, is for one to reveal the deep foundation of their authoritarian opinions.
Al Franken, one of the original writers for "Saturday Night Live," has been known in recent years for his left-wing activism, with books like "Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot" (Rush is now quite trim) and "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right." Others have picked apart the errors of his books and observed that he is more nasty than funny — hardly a latter-day H.L. Mencken. As "National Review" editor Rich Lowry observed, "Comedians who aren't funny have to become political spokesmen — thus Al Franken's new career."
But unlike others of his ilk, Franken in a recent interview offered as a virtue the philosophically vile belief that leads to the repressive policies of the Left. Franken said that "I'm extremely lucky... I'm lucky God gave me some gifts. I don't have a formal religion, even though I'm Jewish, but I've been extremely blessed.... But the idea that this is all my doing and I don't owe anything to anybody for it.... That fuels the anger against people who are wealthy and equally blessed. They believe they don't owe anything to anybody else. They're entitled to their tax cut at a time when people at the bottom are losing Medicaid."
Al Franken expressed the essence of the "I'm not responsible, I couldn't help it" philosophy.
So there it is: the essence of the "I'm not responsible, I couldn't help it" philosophy. If we succeed in life it is not principally through our virtues, and if we fail it is not principally through our vices. Franken does not attribute our fates, for good or ill, to God, but he no doubt sees a "higher power" controlling our destinies. All he needs to add to complete the Leftist-altruist syllogism is that our fates are determined by "society." Based on this premise Franken and others of his dogma see nothing wrong with armed government agents robbing from productive individuals through taxes, regulation and nationalization, and giving to the poor to create a materially egalitarian society. Naturally, Franken prefers the government redistribution approach to, say, voluntarily giving up what he must see as his own, "unearned" millions. Hypocrisy often goes hand in hand with this belief, which no truly honest individual can hold.
Certainly most of us have received help in life from parents, relatives, teachers, or friends who deserve our thanks. But ultimately it is each of us as individuals who, through our reason, self-discipline, honesty, integrity and fortitude, create the material means of our prosperity and happiness. It is the "we're not responsible" premise that fuels the anger, hate and envy directed at any man or woman who earns their own wealth and well-being, who is proud of their achievements, who refuses to apologize for their virtues and who fights to keep materially and spiritually what is theirs.
It is important to remember that celebrities, politicians and all other Americans come to their political attitudes through their implicit or explicit philosophical premises. The belief that individuals are not responsible for their own lives must be challenged if we are ultimately to root out the policies that emerge from it.
Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.