From time to time that same circular diagram that that professor drew on the black board pops into my head. The diagram continues to remind me that moderation may be the best action with the most reasonable results. But, the diagram also has its subtleties. For example, are government interventions always bad? How much government intervention is too much? Can one side of the political aisle claim to be the party of less government? Isn’t it true that extreme conservatives will eventually demand the government to take control - like the Fascists of World War II?
Unless one is a true libertarian, which is a very small portion of the American electorate, Americans actually want our government to take some control. The argument isn’t really about more government and less government as the Reagan Conservatives claim. The argument is about which things the government should have a hand in. Religious conservatives want the government to control the culture. Fiscal conservatives want the government to control the working class. Environmentalists want the government to control those who feel they have a right to rape the heartland. Whoever believes in the law wants laws enforced by the government.
So, if most people want the government to intervene in some way, the question should become “What do we want our government to do?”
When we finally stop arguing over the false dichotomy of whether we want more or less government we need to begin to construct an honest idea of what we want a functional government to do. Then we can begin to move in a direction toward a solution that the majority can agree to.
Liberals and Conservatives already have many positions on many issues, and these positions suggest what the total function of government might be. The majority of Americans will agree that government needs to create laws the majority can agree to except to live by. But, what should the purpose of these laws actually be? Should laws be created to restrict the general population, because the general population can not be trusted. Or, should laws be created to restrict those who have power, because those with power can not be trusted? Or, should laws be created to empower the weak because they are at a disadvantage? Should laws be created to protect the weak? Should laws be created to protect property so that the wealthy will not be able to lose their property, even if they are careless with it? Should the government encourage or discourage risk and investment? In the simplified view, should the government control, encourage, discourage or ignore what we do as citizens in order to protect us?
I think that it is interesting to study the two paths in which extremists on the left and on the right eventually come to the conclusion that totalitarianism is the solution. Totalitarianism is type of government that controls all aspects of our lives.
Extremists on the political right are Fascists. Even though many conservatives of today claim that they want less government, they certainly do not want to do away with laws and law enforcement. If these conservatives truly believed in the idea of more freedom and less government they would be happy to be placed in the middle of some failed state like Somalia. In Somalia people are at the will of he War Lords that maintain control by force without law. In reality laws do exist, because the War Lords create their own personal laws to suite themselves. The power of force - be it military, monetary or religious is placed over those forced to obey. Many conservatives view the world based on an extension of this view. Leaders are strong and powerful and they enforce their will by creating rules enforced by power. Since this is the nature of the world the only problem with it is the way in which the rules and laws are created and enforced. If the laws could be created and enforced more fairly everyone could live in peace. Conservatives can see that the main problem is that many different leaders created many different rules and laws. If there were a way in which one universal system of rules could be created then our problems could be solved. Religious conservatives already understand that the problem is solved, because God has given us the universal guide to law. Not all conservatives agree to this. In fact fiscal conservatives believe that business should be free of law and workers should be made to conform to society’s needs. Fascists take the conservative idea of laws to an extreme where every possible law is created in order to make society run a smooth as possible. Whenever a problem is encountered, then a new law is created to fix the problem. If people don’t comply with the rule or law, then the penalty is increased until society conforms and becomes efficient. The government ends up taking control of every aspect of life.
On the other hand the left begins with the idea that workers should be able to live a reasonable life with very little constraint. Workers should be able to have the jobs that they chose to do and be paid a reasonable amount for the work that they do. Immediately we realize that there is a problem here. How can workers demand to be paid for doing a job that society does not need or want? If every person decided to run his or her own company we end up with all chiefs and no Indians to use a politically incorrect metaphor. One way to fix the problem is to demand that people are allowed to do this work and be paid to do it by law. Extremists on the left quickly find that the utopia must be created and fueled by the government. And, the people quickly find that they are forced to do work that the government needs to be done and they are paid what the government decides to pay. The leaders will continually explain that this totalitarian government is only temporary until people realize that what the government is forcing them to do is what they wanted all the time anyway. However, the future never comes and the government wouldn’t know what to do if it did come anyway. The goal ends up becoming creating rules and laws until society conforms and becomes efficient. Which means that the government ends up taking control of every aspect of our life.
So, in America we praise freedom and liberty as a check on either type of extremist. Freedom of speech allows us to question the extremists before they build up enough momentum to make all of the rules and laws that end up controlling our lives. Under the Republican controlled congress and the Bush administration our liberties and freedom were beginning to be stripped away. This is the first step in the direction of either extremist movement. Fortunately the election of 2006 was able to wrest away the congress from the extremists. Similarly, if the left were to begin to make laws restricting our freedoms and liberties another election would give some check to the right. And, once again we would see that the checks and balances of American democracy really does work.
Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."
Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit