My friend Jeff asks about some of the mildly violent and strongly threatening blowback to the recently passed health care legislation, and wonders why liberals don't do this. Thing is, they don't, but the left does. You just don't always hear about it. The far right and the far left do a lot of violent and stupid things the rest of us ought to reject. The resort to guns (or bricks and cinderblocks, which have been both thrown through Democrat legislators' windows, and dropped on buses of Republican delegates to the national convention) is the beginning of the end of civil society and democratic self rule. You don't hear about it necessarily because the righty press reports nicely on leftwing violence. The mainstream media which, aside from Fox and talk radio is slightly to somewhat center left liberal, reports on leftwing violence. A lot of you guys probably don't listen much to the other side but each reports on the other.
Thing is, rightwing violence isn't conservative violence, it's rightwing, just as leftist violence isn't liberal, it's leftwing. The use by conservatives and liberals of the extremists of either side to discredit the mainstream philosophy of the other makes me laugh at first, then ill later. As a rhetorical tactic, it doesn't win anybody to your side, but I think it does a good job of marginalizing and maybe radicalizing quite a few folks. In the short run it's probably emotionally satisfying (see, e.g. Ann Coulter and Keith Olberman) but in the long run it's going to be disastrous if our national arguments are framed as "you're either with me on the issue of marginal tax rates, or you're evil." Sure, the results of some policies may be evil, but I don't think most people get to their political viewpoints out of mal intent, quite the opposite in fact.
On the larger issues, as a civil liberties attorney I find it highly ironic (in a painful-ironic, not Sarah Silverman 'hah, that's funny-ironic" way) that the same people, generally on the right, who were unworried about the encroachment of the state on general civil liberties two years ago are now wildly upset about this most recent encroachment on economic liberty, while most of the people who were near hysterical about the depredations of the PATRIOT Act two years ago, or at least grimly muttering about Bush's fascism, cheered when Congress handed extensive control over 1/6th of the nation's economic life and a big zone of personal privacy to the government.
I feel lonely as somebody who sees both sides of the coin and sees our foundational principles being chucked out in the interest of dependency on an ever-larger central government power. I am not anti-government at all, you need to have an effectively functioning federal government, but I am realistic about the ability of the government to be a savior of us all. The hope that it will is misguided as prophecy, useless as a guiding principle in the crafting of public policy, and is ultimately going to be truly dismal in execution, in little ways well beyond our imagining today. Statism is *always* shabby and dehumanizing, whether its origin is in rightish or leftish thought.
The Federal Government - not just ours, but every other one in every other country larger than a mid-sized city - is simply not good at the details. It is too big and too distant to know the key details about your situation, too busy to be effective at handling the details, and not interested in looking out for your interests in particular, just some general notion of the common good. The problem with that is that you are not the only stakeholder with an interest in the common good; there are a lot of other stakeholders who have interests that are opposed to yours. In the sausage-making baby-splitting exercise of governance, your needs are not paramount in a nation of 300+ million people, some of whom can afford personal lobbyists or Senate seats.
It appears to me to be a fundamental truth that the bigger an organization gets, the less humane its results will be. I've never experienced the opposite. As a corollary, I think the bigger that a government gets, with its police and economic and social and regulatory and carmaking and medical power, the less likely it is that its touch will be sensitive when it lays its hands on you. I think that's true regardless of whether it is sticking a piece of electronics up your hindquarters for police surveillance, or for detection of an enlarged prostate. I'd much rather that those powers be left in the hands of your state, where your vote matters more, or better yet in your hands. You should be able to say, "pull the damn thing out, I've had enough."
But that's just me. Maybe I should be more trusting of government, at least when people of my own ideology happen to be in power. Seems to work for most people. The only problem with that is that the power I give my guys to mess with you, doesn't leave office when your guys take over.
And in bicycling news, Delardening II: The Return of My Waistline seems to be working. The first hopeful sign is that my pants did not whimper when I pulled them on this morning. I was also able to get my belt tightened up to the Seriously Fat Notch without cutting off all circulation to my legs. Oh, happy day!
I think I'll celebrate this accomplishment with a rest day.*
*But seriously. My legs are sore and I have a ridiculously bad schedule today. No choice but to have a rest day. I'd ride, were it an option.