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Thursday, September 29, 2011

YOU SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION?

“There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”
-John Adams

Like most people who are aware of politics, I've imagined a scenario where we had someone in power who could do whatever they needed to in order to straighten things up and get America on the right track again. Someone with the power to carry out what needs to be done without the danger of being removed from power.

For me that someone would strip back the federal government significantly, turn over much of the welfare and other spending to the states, reduce regulations and burden on the US, set up a national sales tax in place of the income tax, strip down our overseas military bases to to a minimum few scattered in strategic places, get us more aggressively into space, eliminate Roe V Wade, New Lincoln vs Kelo, and several other idiotic supreme court decisions and so on... then step down from office.

I imagine others have their own hit list of things they'd prefer to see. The reason we think about this is that the founding fathers deliberate set out to make the federal government slow, inefficient, and reactive to the public whim. This was, they argued quite convincingly, the best way to preserve liberty.

The problem is that bad changes, once finally instituted, just never get reversed. Ever. We still have a tax on the books to finance the transcontinental telegraph system, which is utterly extinct and has been for almost 100 years.

So when bad things make it through the slow, deliberately restricted system, they stay there, because getting rid of things is even harder in the system we have in America - because like everywhere else, once money starts changing hands, its tougher to get rid of the idea.

So we imagine what it would be like to, in an emergency, temporarily suspend the system just long enough to get things done, then start it up fresh. And in a way I imagine that's what Thomas Jefferson meant when he said

“Every generation needs a new revolution.”

He was worried that with time and the ever growing burden of bureaucracy, eventually liberty would be eroded without regular demolition.
Which brings us to a few things leftists have recently said. North Carolina's governor Bev Perdue quipped:
I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won't hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover.
Which is more or less what I did above. Of course her solution would be significantly different than mine - and make things immensely worse in the process - but the sentiment was similar. She later tried to act like it was a joke, but she wasn't joking.
Another leftist Democrat, Peter Orszag, wrote in The New Republic recently about how Democracy has gone too far:
To solve the serious problems facing our country, we need to minimize the harm from legislative inertia by relying more on automatic policies and depoliticized commissions for certain policy decisions. In other words, radical as it sounds, we need to counter the gridlock of our political institutions by making them a bit less democratic.
...
It is clear to everyone that a failure to act will lead to undesirable outcomes in these areas. But polarization means that little action is possible. This is why I believe that we need to jettison the Civics 101 fairy tale about pure representative democracy and instead begin to build a new set of rules and institutions that would make legislative inertia less detrimental to our nation’s long-term health.
Now, Orzsag's approach is less radical than Governor Perdue, but they follow the same basic pattern. He wants more laws which automatically trigger in certain circumstances, claiming that existing ones such as the unemployment insurance program (which expands when things get worse) help absorb bad economic times.

All of his solutions involve more government interference with and control over the economy, unsurprisingly. He also wants a commission that sets up solutions which, unless congress rejects them, automatically take place. He acknowledges that this would make government less accountable to voters, but like most people on the left, believes that a small group of really enlightened commissars trumps the will of the citizens of the United States.

And of course, he trots out the old "ungovernable" line the left always does, every time the country refuses to go along with their ideas. The problem isn't that they have bad ideas, its that you stupid citizens just can't be governed.

So why are these Democrats suddenly talking like this in public? I mean they've likely been saying it in private for a while but why now in public? Well there are a couple of reasons, as I understand it.

WHY NOW?
For one thing, they watched the Democrats ram through one incredibly unpopular idea after another and pay the price in 2010. They can see its likely to happen again in 2012, with Democrats getting shellacked in the general election. They tried to do what they figured should be done, hoping people would get used to it and even like it when they saw success, and found out there was no success and people still hate it.

So now they want to just bypass the system because its getting in the way of remaking America into their leftist image. That's the major difference between what I want and what they want: we both have an image of what we'd like to see America be like, but theirs is about a leftist scheme largely envisioned by late 19th century European thinkers, and mine is based on thinking by the men who fought for, bled for, and founded the nation originally. I want to return to America's origin and spirit; they want to abandon it.

For another, the Tea Party Movement isn't the tiny joke made up of old people but a powerful coalition of people across all boundaries in America who are sick of the federal government ignoring them and wasting money. That movement is a genuine grass roots movement of the people which usually the left loves. In this case, however, they hate and fear it because the goals of the Tea Party are to move back to the vision of the founding fathers and the constitution, both of which violently conflict with the leftist agenda for the nation.

And finally, the left can see the nation's mood abandoning them in a way that is unprecedented in modern history. For about 100 years, especially the last 50 or so, the left has gained increasing power, influence, and control of the culture, academia, society, legal system, and government of the United States. A lot of good came out of that, but a lot of bad as well.

That seems to be reversing not just in America, but world wide. People gave leftist ideas decades of chances to work and all that's happened is that things have gotten significantly worse. In just about every metric you can pick - crime, education, finance, and so on, things have gotten worse despite specific leftist programs and ideas to fix them. And the things that have gotten better have done so in spite of leftist interference and attempts to restrict progress - medicine, life expectancy, world peace, and so on.

People gave this all a chance and have seen that it doesn't just suck but it might have destroyed our chance at a future. That it may have begun to demolish western civilization entirely. And people can see not just a possible problem in the distant future but an almost certain massive crisis in the very near future.

So the left can see their power fading away, not just temporarily but possibly for a long time. And the truth is, its probably too late. Which is why I fantasize about what it would be like for one good, trustworthy, wise, and powerful man (not me, in other words) to take control and force things to change. Because I can envision no possible way for it to happen under the system.

THE GLASS HALF EMPTY
People may talk about the need to cut and trim back, they might be unhappy at the size and scope of the federal government but the instant any real cuts, austerity, and controls begin to happen, those people take to the streets and start rioting. The people who got the work done will be hurled out of office, and the leftists controlling much of the media and popular culture will take every waking instant to talk about how evil it was and how horrible things got because of those tries.

And then they're given another chance, to do more of what got us into this mess to begin with.

So I do understand the frustration and concern that prompted these two leftists to talk like this. Its just there's a big difference between me, having no power and influence, on a little blog, mentioning something I'd oppose in practice anyway... and people in power and with influence promoting something they'd absolutely agree with and defend.

I know that unless someone is historically unique to a degree that stuns and shocks the world like Cincinnatus, people don't give up power when they get it, and the more power they get, the less likely they are to give it up. I'm not sure they care.

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