"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Republicans' Power Fixation

David Boaz of the Cato Institute has published a good oped on the Republicans' intoxication with federal power. Arguing for a classical liberal approach to government, Boaz correctly accuses the Republicans of acting much like the Democrats whom their party had criticized for a half-century:

Republicans have come down with a serious case of Potomac Fever. They believe that their every passing thought is a proper subject for federal legislation. They hold three-ring-circus hearings on steroids in baseball. They sharply increase the fines for alleged indecency on television. They hold hearings on whether college textbooks are too expensive. They threaten to punish Major League Baseball if the owners allow left-wing billionaire George Soros to be a part owner of the new team in Washington. They vote for a federal investigation of the video game "Grand Theft Auto."

Many of these gambits do target real annoyances and even real problems. But in a free society citizens don't turn to the national government to solve every problem. Indeed, a free society is measured by the amount of life that remains outside the control of government. We may all be tempted from time to time to say "There oughta be a law!" when we're angry or frustrated. That's why we write a Constitution -- to protect us from our own temptations to turn our exasperation into laws, and to protect us from our fellow citizens yielding to the same temptation.

Republicans took control of Congress in 1994 by declaring that Democrats had given us "government that is too big, too intrusive, and too easy with the public's money." Now, intoxicated with their own power, they have forgotten those words. They too use the powers of the federal government to lavish money on favored constituents, summon us before congressional hearings to explain ourselves, and intrude into our most local and personal decisions.


Sad but true.

14 comments:

Tlaloc said...

"Boaz correctly accuses the Republicans of acting much like the Democrats whom their party had criticized for a half-century"

absolutely true and a wonderful example of what lord acton said about power corrupting. The problem of course is that the Cato institute refuses to acknowledge the exact same dynamic when it comes to corporate power. I love their editorial in which they refer to the massive fraud of nron as "an accounting irregularity."

Libertarians are people who see half the problem. Communists are the people who see the other half of the problem. Anarchism then allows us to address the entirety of the problem.

Tlaloc said...

sorry "nron" is of course "Enron."

Hunter Baker said...

Unfortunately, there are at least three sides of the problem. Anarchism misses the third side: original sin.

Tlaloc said...

"Unfortunately, there are at least three sides of the problem. Anarchism misses the third side: original sin."

I don't believe in original sin, but even if I were a Christian there's no reason you can't follow your individual relationship with god in a world devoid of authority structures. In other words even in the case that original sin exists its still not a problem for anarchism.

Hunter Baker said...

How exactly, then, does the restraint of evil occur?

James Elliott said...

Well, according to Rousseau, the very act of not having governments or giant corporations should do the trick. I believe he called it the "primitive state of innocence."

Of course, I'm just throwing in random arguments here. I'm no anarchist myself, nor do I agree with Rousseau on this score. But I don't believe in original sin, either. I think the idea that man is inherently evil and debased is about as destructive, nay evil, concept as ever there was. It's also mind-numbingly convenient from a "religion as crowd control" perspective (hat tip to John Cleese).

Now, if you want to get into a discussion on the restraint of inhibitions, then we might be able to have something constructive.

Tlaloc said...

"How exactly, then, does the restraint of evil occur?"

That presumes that there is some way to "restrain evil" which I find to be implausable regardless of whether you believe in an absolute or relative morality. Attempts to constrain behavior or inadequate and ultimately self defeating since they attempt to foist a societally approved code of laws onto an individual in place of their moral code.

The goal is a system of least harm. Clearly the harm done by the individual in nothing compared to the harm possible at the hands of an organization. The worst individual serial killers can only count dozens of victims, while the sadists of state can count millions upon millions of deaths.

Locke said...

Rousseau would have had us all in submission to some vaguely defined "general will." Better to move toward a Lockean scheme. Does that sound self-serving?

Tom Van Dyke said...

There is definitely a fear on the part of Republicans of losing their majority to the opposition's demagoguery.

The day that the Democrats propose real (and that's to say difficult, therefore unpopular) spending cuts, and the GOP says no, the Democrats have a healthy shot at my vote.

The idea that people should commit suicide to be true to their principles has been floated in other contexts hereabouts, and apparently in this context at the Cato Institute.

You've got to be kidding, sez I.

James Elliott said...

The day that the Democrats propose real (and that's to say difficult, therefore unpopular) spending cuts, and the GOP says no, the Democrats have a healthy shot at my vote.

cough... Clinton!... cough... Balanced budget!.. cough...

It's a little hard for the Democrats to propose anything when the power-mad GOP has declared that it will refuse to consider any bill proposed by a Democrat, whether it would pass (i.e. win a lot of Republican votes) or not.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Dem Senator X: I went to several of my Republican colleagues suggesting we cut funding for (insert popular but useless program here). They turned me down flat.

I realize it's a difficult cut, but I think we need to do it for the good of the country. But the Republicans seem to be more interested in buying votes than (insert condemnation of pork here, partisan rhetoric, I'm willing to make the tough decisions, etc., etc.).


Dem Senator X gets my vote. Wake me when this happens. I'll move to his or her state or send a check. Oh yeah, if there's anything on the Democrat side on illegal immigration that doesn't call somebody else racist, the above applies too.

I'm not hard to please.

Melchior Sternfels v. Fuchshaim said...

Libertarians are people who see half the problem. Communists are the people who see the other half of the problem. Anarchism then allows us to address the entirety of the problem.

Tlaloc, you have a remarkable gift for oversimplification!

Tlaloc said...

"Tlaloc, you have a remarkable gift for oversimplification!"

It was a slogan, those have to be simple, of course there is more to it.

Tlaloc said...

"Dem Senator X: I went to several of my Republican colleagues suggesting we cut funding for (insert popular but useless program here). They turned me down flat."

It's called the military and there have at times been dems willing to scale it back despite it's popularity.