Notes From Babel

No Such Thing as "Warrantless Distrust" When It Comes to Government

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Ezra Klein laments his fellow citizens’ lack of faith in the beneficence represented by the federal government’s efforts to provide universal health care, going so far as to diagnose our democracy as “sick” for its faith-deficiency:

What we’re seeing here is not merely distrust in the House health-care reform bill. It’s distrust in the political system. A healthy relationship does not require an explicit detailing of the “institutional checks” that will prevent one partner from beating or killing the other. In a healthy relationship, such madness is simply unthinkable. If it was not unthinkable, then no number of institutional checks could repair that relationship. Similarly, the relationship between the protesters and the government is not healthy. The protesters believe the government capable of madness. There is no evidence for that claim, which means that there is no answer for it, either. That claim is not about what is in this bill, or what government has done in Medicare and Medicaid and the VA. It is about what a certain slice of Americans think their government — and by extension, their fellow citizens — capable of.

Other liberals are also concerned that our messy political process is woefully ill-suited to provide people the programs and services they need–for heaven’s sake, we can’t let a little thing like people not wanting something prevent them from getting it.

Will Wilkinson does a fine job reminding Ezra why our distrust is justified. But it’s important to add that, even were our distrust not so well-earned, red-faced tirades against “the man” are a healthy thing in any event. It should be a badge of honor in a limited republic for legislators to have such a terrible time passing programs and regulations. So-called sick and mindless mobs, in conjunction with the cryptic machinations of our governmental and political processes, help to limit the access by factions to the enormous power vested in the federal government.

Modern progressives have hoped to join forces with the populists, who were also enraged at the system in which they struggle while others enjoy stratospheric success. But, just as the first progressives a century ago, modern progressives are dismayed to find that the populists aren’t interested in uprooting capitalism–they just want a shot at being its beneficiaries themselves. The economic bubble-bursting talk went a long way to temporarily drive populists into the progressives’ tent, but the highfalutin talk about Keynesian economic theory and egalitarian redistribution of wealth will not resonate with the common “ignorant” American for long. As the town halls are showing, the honeymoon is already over.


Written by Tim Kowal

August 12, 2009 at 4:05 am

Posted in Health Care, Politics

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