The central claim of the right has long been that bureaucracy is the chief impediment to free enterprise -- which big government too frequently gums up the works of a society that would be much more productive if left alone. As President Reagan put it in his inaugural address in 1981:
"Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem."
Conservatives have, in turn, argued that government undermines the core values of hard work and perseverance that arise naturally in flourishing communities. Bureaucracy, they say, disrupts the innovative spirit which might otherwise thrive.
The left, on the other hand, is inspired by a different view: that lack of opportunity is the nation's most pressing challenge, and that government has an important role to play in steering the nation toward a more widely shared prosperity. Notwithstanding a new focus on the culture of poverty, liberals have largely argued that better education, nutrition, health care, and infrastructure are crucial elements of the public mandate.
Both arguments, however, are predicated on the same notion: that the country should pursue a strategy that allows more Americans to tap into the strength and innovative spirit that is organically borne in their local communities.
While conservatives may argue that the best thing government can do is get out of the way, and liberals may believe that the proper strategy is to provide additional opportunity. B oth sides presume that the spirit of Tocquevillian community fuels the society at large. But in a nation bereft of middle rings, that assumption may no longer apply.
For those of us on the Left (given our inclinations to favor fairness and be more concerned about
equality versus inequality), the failure of conservatives to address the
economic imbalances and the obvious harm amounts to callous disregard. It may
be convenient to seek closure quickly and avoid troubling oneself with nuance
and a range of considerations affecting policy, but that strategy has its
Should anyone be surprised when conflict ensues? Ignoring the harm and limited opportunities available to those less fortunate is a time-saver, and probably an excellent sleep aid, but the consequences don't exist in a vacuum. We are all the poorer when blame is easily ascribed to the blameless. Certainly there are plenty of individuals who will take advantage of "the system" but painting with such a broad brush demonstrates a callous disregard difficult to justify.
Those adverse consequences--resulting from a deliberate unwillingness to use larger and more powerful institutions such as government to redress those failings--is unfathomable to those of us on the left. It's all the more disconcerting when two seconds worth of reflection and consideration demonstrate that the economic harms which millions now contend with are clearly not their fault.
Conservatives also want material improvement in people's lives, of course, but proving that their policies can produce such an outcome is a necessity that does not concern them. In general, conservatism isn't pragmatic because policy outcomes aren't the goal. Indeed, they're largely irrelevant. As we've seen in too many instances, Republicans aren't principally concerned with solving problems; their goals are ideological.
Exhibit A: Sixty-plus votes to repeal Obamacare [ignoring
for the moment the fact that the odds of President Obama agreeing with a
Congressional vote on the subject was sure to occur moments after we all learn
to make ourselves invisible]. Number of proposals to replace said legislation?
Zero. Zip. Nada! What is the point, assuming
there is one besides acting as show ponies for their handlers?
How about the Benghazi circus? Besides spending millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars to find anything remotely resembling justification, it was designed to accomplish what, exactly? Something nefarious, right? Mugging time in front of the cameras, right? Showing loyal followers just how committed they were to the search for one small crumb of evidence, while Rome burned, right? Keeping loyal and uninformed supporters agitated by a host of meaningless distractions does have its benefits, of course. Not to most of us, but there surely must be advantages gained for at least a few.
How about trying something different to give ourselves a slightly better chance of getting different results? Just a thought....
[Adapted from a blog post of mine.]