Thursday, October 28, 2010

Now that's what I call hope
Tom Smith

I agree it's never a good idea to get cocky, but with the odds of a GOP takeover of the US House now sitting at 92 percent on intrade, I think a little blessed relief may be permitted.  Also, if I may observe, those darn Framers seem to have saved our butts yet again.  

Here is what I mean.  For no doubt deep reasons that I do not entirely comprehend, there seems to be a strong internal logic that governments have to get bigger and bigger, to take more and more from their citizens, thereby reducing them more and more to mere worker bees who produce the honey that the state then allocates as it sees fit.  This is accompanied by an efflorescence of ideology, a kind of phonily compassionate scientism, that might be tolerable were it not so deeply insulting to one's intelligence because of its nearly entire falsity.  This road to serfdom probably ends not so much in Hayek's totalitarian state as Toqueville's smothering nanny regime, but either way, it has been a road trip it sucked to be on.  Kind of like being trapped on a rapidly decaying Greyhound bus going somewhere you didn't want to go whilst being lectured the whole time by a sociologist from hell.  

And the last two years starting with the election that inspired feelings that in my own little life can only be compared to those of a parent watching a child make a very, very bad choice?  It doesn't seem so long ago.  It wasn't very long ago.  The ginormous stimulus packages.  The health care bill.  Watching that thing emerge joint by horrible joint from Congress, like that little evil monster in Alien.  The crashing financial crisis and that awful little man from Chicago saying it was a crisis not to be wasted as if he had in mind a sort of coup, here, in our country.  Which they probably did.  All to the ecstatic cheers from our mendacious national media.  I honestly thought, this is it.  And so, from their glee, did they, apparently.  So this is how the whole republican experiment thing, the hope of nations, the future of liberty, would come to a pathetic, ignoble end, mourned by the honest and inarticulate, snarked by hipsters and cheered by fools.  I mean, holy shit;  that's pretty bad news no matter how you look at it.

But then something quite unexpected, at least by me, happened. Ordinary people, reading the web, sending emails, painting signs, and evidently planning to vote in a week or so, just sort of said -- oh no you don't.  It might be the most consequential calling of bullshit in the long history of the concept. This is not just the Tea Party.  For every angry grandmother there must be scores of "independents" who simply have realized their folly.  And all of it made possible by the implementation of a then new science of politics that a bunch of oddball minor league statesmen cooked up more than two centuries ago. How very remarkable.  That it must be absolutely killing the self-proclaimed brightest and deepest thinkers about our politics, Thomas Sowell's "annointed", only makes it that much more to be cherished.  A complicated frame of government that makes it very difficult indeed to pull off the crisis cram-down that the gang from Chicago has been rubbing their hands together and chuckling over.  A system of government which if now mostly sadly defunct, educated enough virtue into, goodness, one could almost call them the citizens, such that they are able to resist the yapping sheepdogs who would herd them into the coral.  So wonderfully, beautifully ungovernable.

I'm probably too optimistic, but I think we really may have passed through or maybe around the best chance ever to turn our country into a European style (except more pompous, corrupt, inefficient and violent) socialist state, or corporatist-socialist (or maybe the ugly neologism hasn't been invented yet), or at least a huge stride down that grim road, and mainly because of the combination of widespread popular resistance to so going and the good luck of having constitutional institutions that make that resistance meaningful.  I mean, republican government; what a concept.  I absolutely agree that the work has just begun, but damned if I don't see a lightening of the sky on the horizon.  I mean, honestly, thank God, who I have not the slightest doubt has something to do with it. And just to be fair, thanks to all you hardworking atheist libertarians out there as well.

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Tom Smith


Very well said. I too was despairing two years ago. I could not understand how "my people" could so out of their minds enthusiastic about this guy and his comrades.

I remember how happy many of my neighbors were at the polls that day. How a new change was coming and how it would all be better soon. (I live in Davis). It made my stomach turn a bit. Couldn't they see what a phoney the guy was?

Yeah, I really heard comments like that, from people I know, respect and admire in many ways.

I really thought the great experiment, the unique beacon of freedom had changed. That Americans no longer desired to be in charge of their own lives, but wished to hand those duties over to others.

I hope this reversing of tack will lead our fellow citizens to reexamine their desires for government control in many other aspects of life.

Posted by: Hank Archer | Oct 28, 2010 2:27:45 PM

Hank -- I lived in Davis for a year (acting prof at the law school). Quite a place.

Posted by: Tom Smith | Oct 28, 2010 2:41:50 PM

I hope the likely takeover of the House by the Republicans makes up for Governor Brown and Senator Boxer. Your California state taxes will most likely go up in the next four years, Professor Smith. Governor Brown will cut spending, but a Democrat cannot ignore public sector unions and maintain political viability.

Posted by: Akash Byrne | Oct 28, 2010 4:30:32 PM

One other point - there was an extraordinary survey of American attitudes in the NYT today.
Here is the link (the n, or sample size, seems correct):

Americans are angry with all politicians - but they still generically prefer Democrats to Republicans and although they are disappointed in Obama, they prefer him to every other politician as can be seen in multiple polls. There will be large Republican gains next week - probably the best showing for Repubs since 1994 with up to 55 new GOP seats. But the survey also shows that Americans are vehemently opposed to Medicaid and Social Security cuts of any kind and a small majority supports taxing people who make over $250,000. My prediction? We get Speaker Boehner and a new class of Repubs in Washington, D.C. Maybe the government even gets shut down, like in the Clinton years. But the long term trajectory is for small, if any, spending cuts, a gradual increase in SS retirement age, and permanent increases in the federal income tax and perhaps a VAT (which is what former Reagan adviser Bruce Bartlett predicts). I just don't see the Health Reform Act being repealed.

Posted by: Akash Byrne | Oct 28, 2010 5:11:58 PM

Gee, the New York Times says Americans prefer Democrats? What a shock. Of course polling only Upper West Side fans of Che Guevara will probably get one just that sort of result, no?

Posted by: Andrew | Oct 28, 2010 11:15:47 PM

Let us not forget that saying yes to the miricle at Philadelpia means saying no to hope and change of the disaffected, the outsiders from civil society. The American contribution to world civilization has been our idea of limited government. Our idea is profoundly undemocratic, as almost everyone else in the world thinks of democracy. We protect ourselves against the tyranny of a majority faction. This very concept is unintelligible to non-Americans

Our Constituition would not have been ratified, had the federalists not convinced the states and the people that they were not trading King Log for King Stork, or even King Stork for a closer King Stork. The reason there is a United Stated at all is that the United States government has been denied the power to reach into civil society to deform how we think and how we live.

This is what drive the Tea Party movement. It is not racism, but is stands against racisl politics and thwarts minority aspirations; it is not xenophobia, but it embodies a distrust of immigration cheats; it is not riligious fundamentalism, but it defends against government interference with traditional institutions.

The Tea Party is about what our civilization holds about its proir, superior institution, about what it means to be a free person, a property-holder, what it means to be a man, a woman, a married person, soldier. These permanent things are not the property of the state in our way of life. Call out the instigator, 'cause there's something in the air, and party like it's 1773.

Posted by: Lou Gots | Oct 29, 2010 4:04:32 AM

Andrew, if you look at the way the survey was conducted you would realize that it was a broad-based NATIONAL survey, not just "the Upper West Side fans of Che Guevara." The poll was conducted properly and I have not seen anyone dispute the survey's methodology. In fact, conservative websites like National Review Corner and PajamasMedia were discussing the survey.

Posted by: Akash Byrne | Oct 29, 2010 8:31:38 AM