Biblical scholar Chris Rock breathed the spirit of a Pauline epistle last week, as he urged children to meekly submit to their parents: “The president and the first lady are kinda like the Mom and Dad of the country,” Rock said. “And when your Dad says something, you listen. And when you don’t, it will usually bite you in the ass later on.”
Wait…he wasn’t urging submission to mom and dad, but to Caesar as if he were mom and dad.
If you’ve managed to keep your last meal down, it gets worse. Because, when you reject the parental ministrations of progressive government, you orphan yourself. Or, shifting from patriarchal metaphors to relevant vocabulary, when you reject the smothering blanket of progressivism, the Left insists you are rejecting the very concepts of government and civilization.
Overly harsh accusation? Hyperbolic partisan rhetoric? No. Have you ever heard a liberal play the Somalia card? You don’t like government controlling health care? Government micromanaging America’s diet? Government choosing industrial energy sources, grocery bags or household light bulbs? What?! Do you want to live in Somalia? You say you believe in lassez faire? Really? Do you fancy undeveloped, malarial Africa?
It’s their go-to card. Rather than defend the absurdities and excesses of the modern American state, they accuse critics of advocating barbarism. They know they couldn’t win a straight debate about what we actually want our government to do, so it’s always the false choice: Embrace Big Brother or submit to anarchy.
Happens all the time.
A while back in a Colorado senate hearing, I questioned the need for an intrusive new regulatory scheme in a long-established industry. The witness sniffed back at me: “Well, some businesses would love the libertarian ideal of no regulation at all.”
I see. Question the next bureaucratic power grab and you’re demanding a seven-decade rewind, to the land before administrative rule.
Last week, speaking to a group of executives jointly with the former Speaker of Colorado’s House of Representatives, I criticized increased federal spending, and the incumbent’s odd dictionary that defines “balance” as all tax increases and no spending cuts.
My friend and opponent retorted that the right level of taxing and spending for many conservatives is zero; we just need to strangle government and move on.
Yes, if we think borrowing 40% of spending is too much, trillion dollar deficits are too big, and $16 trillion in express ledger debt is stifling now and especially to our children and grandchildren, then we are demanding the abolition of the state.
And, in too many debates to count on social networks, any argument about the increasing federal bite in personal earnings, in GDP, and in American productivity draws a trite retort about the value of roads, schools, parks, and police and fire protection.
The most recent such doe-si-doe was just yesterday (today, as I write) with a former reporter for a major regional newspaper, now a press flack for a government agency. As we arm-wrestled over the size and reach of government, he challenged: if I’m so opposed to socialism, then how can I countenance the Interstate Highway System established by the Republican luminary Dwight D. Eisenhower?
Well. If anything is to be done collectively, I guess there’s no reasonable objection to everything being done collectively.
Like Peter Finch, I’m mad as hell. Unfortunately, there’s no escape from continuing to take it. But if I could get in all their faces at once, boy would it feel good to rant…
No, Mr. Rock, the president is not my Daddy. I have a family and intimate relations that I treasure, and a government with constitutional limits that I respect. The two relationships aren’t analogous.
No, Mr. Regulator-Cheerleader-legislative-witness, questioning the value of new regulations is not advocating a return to the Wild West, anarchy, or law of the jungle. That’s not what supporters of liberty and limited government want. We want government that enforces the norms of civilized behavior: you can’t punch me, and I can’t cheat or defraud you.
You see the difference? We don’t want government that thinks it knows better than consumers and producers what should be produced, bought, or sold. We just want government to be a neutral referee and keep us from abusing each other in the process of our transactions.
That’s the gist: Government is a peace protector and rule enforcer, not a big-biceped coach and mentor. If you want government to be a quarterback that steers people and resources toward “good” opportunities, and deflects them from “bad” choices, you are a progressive statist, whether right or left.
But, if you want government to be a sheriff, that takes a dim view of people hurting, cheating, or forcing their neighbor, then you are a defender of liberty and limited government: Freedom except when fist hits nose.
Finally, if you argue that challenging the permanent 20% jump in spending and the relative size of the federal government we’ve experienced with this administration is tantamount to rejecting roads, schools, police and fire protection, you’re either ignorant or dishonest.
We’ve had all those public services for many decades in America, even back when the federal bite on our wealth was a fraction of what it is today. Indeed, virtually all the parade of civilized glories is state/locally funded and delivered. Uncle Sam has no call to justify his 25% lien on national wealth based on the vital local services our states provide for much, much less.
Can we debate what we actually need constitutional government to do? Or is that too nuanced for liberals?