A few excerpts from Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius‘s inaugural address from January 2007:
Yet our opportunities will be limited only if we fail to come together around a shared vision for our state. Only a failure to act as “One Kansas” can compromise our future and dash our hopes.
We all recognize, in our hearts, that we are only as strong as the most vulnerable among us. It’s not enough to allow a few to reach the stars while others live a life of limited horizons. The promise of our state is best realized when all our citizens are able to achieve their highest potential.
Therefore, we must embrace a new politics of true empowerment, understanding that diversity of thought, of belief, of opinion creates a vibrant, prosperous state. We must recognize that our differences make us stronger, yet those differences are never greater than our similarities.
We can form a more perfect union, we can achieve greatness, and we can honor our birthright as a state only if we join hands and meet the future as one.
Together, we’re humble enough … Together, we are a mighty chorus …
In her speech the governor is telling us — although she does not say this explicitly — that the State of Kansas is more important than the people who live in Kansas. She tells me that if I do not subscribe to her shared vision for Kansas, it is I who will be responsible for its failure. Well, Madame Governor, there are very few areas where I agree with you and your vision for the future of our state.
In case you don’t recognize it, the name for what the governor espouses is collectivism. Collectivism places the interests of the state above the interests of individuals. It says that man exists not for his own end, but instead exists to serve the state, and the state’s needs outweigh all others. If your goals are in harmony with the state’s goals, and if you are willing to condone a coercive state pursuing those goals through force, that’s good for you. The next election, however, may bring a different governor who has a vision that you don’t share, this time backed by an even-stronger state apparatus to enforce it.
Collectivism is the enemy of freedom and liberty. When the Ludwig von Mises Institute commemorated F.A. Hayek, it summed up his main contribution to political economy as “Collectivism is Slavery.” His important book “The Road to Serfdom” illustrates how central planning for the common good — that would be the “shared vision” of the Sebelius-led “One Kansas” — leads to the loss of all individual economic and personal freedom.
Collectivism is the opposite of individualism. Individualism does not mean that a person lives in isolation from others, although people certainly may do that if they wish. Instead, individualism means that people live their own lives as they best see fit. And I hope that most people don’t see themselves as a tool the state uses to serve the ends of others under the direction of Governor Sebelius. Instead, they live for themselves, seeking to improve their own situation and that of others around them, on a voluntary basis.
That is the difference between liberty and what Governor Sebelius wants for Kansas. We can rely on voluntary arrangements made freely by consenting people. Or, we can have state mandates backed by electoral majorities or bureaucratic action, enforced by law. Done in the spirit of “One Kansas,” of course.
In her speech, the governor promoted diversity of thought, but she opposes any move towards helping the citizens of Kansas escape the most conformist bureaucracy our state has: its public schools. Allowing parents to choose the school they send their children to, thereby releasing the forces of entrepreneurial creativity in schools, would dramatically increase the diversity of education in our state. As it is, most Kansas parents have no real choice but to send their children to the government schools, which, by their very nature, induce conformity and allegiance to the state. “One Kansas” is, thus, perpetuated.