And who might that somebody be? Government, says Obama. It built the roads you drive on. It provided the teacher who inspired you. It “created the Internet.” It represents the embodiment of “we’re in this together” social solidarity that, in his view, is the essential origin of individual and national achievement.
To say all individuals are embedded in and the product of society is banal. Obama rises above banality by means of fallacy: equating society with government, collectivity with the state.
Of course we are shaped by our milieu. But the most formative, most important influence on the individual is not government. It’s civil society, those elements of the collectivity that lie outside government: family, neighborhood, church, Rotary Club, PTA, the voluntary associations that Tocqueville saw as the genius of America and source of its energy and freedom.
Moreover, the greatest threat to a robust, autonomous civil society is the ever-growing Leviathan state and those like Obama who see it as the ultimate expression of the collective.