Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Liberal Perfect Storm

When I voted for Barack Obama in 2008 it was for reasons of national-security hygiene. I believed that the Democrats had been demagoguing on national defense and they needed to take the reins of power. They needed a rendezvous with reality. So Iraq was a mistake and Afghanistan was the real war; so Bush was a bumbling Texas cowboy. There was no way of resolving the question without putting the Democrats in charge of the national security apparatus and let them make some real decisions.

As we have seen, practically the entire edifice of liberal national-security doctrine has been vitiated. Iraq was a success, after all; Afghanistan is maybe important. Gitmo is still there; the Patriot Act is still in force. But the whole issue of nation building and democracy is back on center stage because it matters whether, e.g., Egypt goes radical Islam. The world is safe for democracy when the major states of the world practice democratic capitalism rather than thug dictatorism or some other pre-modern politics. So the liberal line on national security in the 2000s is pretty well blown to smithereens. Liberals didn't listen, didn't think conservatives had anything to say on national security, and now they are digging themselves out of a hole.

But now we see the liberals start to pay the price of ignoring conservative ideas on domestic policy for the last generation, as in:

  • Economic Policy. The kernel of truth in Keynesianism is that, in a financial meltdown, the government must step in to prevent a breakdosn of the financial system. That means printing money and bailing out the underwater financial players. But the whole edifice of "stimulus" to get the economy going again is rubbish. What is needed after a meltdown is smaller government, a smaller weight on the productive enterprises of the nation. What we call "stimulus" is really handouts to economic actors in the hope that the economy will recover and provide them with jobs again.
  • Liberal special interests. The fact is that liberals have been dealing themselves and their clients a ton of money over the last half century and it's got to stop. Conservatives have been warning that government employees are way overpaid for at least a decade. But liberals wouldn't listen. Now they are going to pay the price, big time.
  • Entitlements. Everyone knows that the entitlements have to be reduced. But liberals have been demagoguing on Social Security and Medicare for half a century. Now it's coming up to crunch time and the people hurt by retrenchment will be the people that liberals have encouraged to rely on the government. Apart from the political chicanery here, there is a bigger issue. People get dignity and a sense of self worth by providing for themselves and their family. If government does all that for you then, unless you are a creative artist, you are denied much of the satisfaction of life. The entitlements need to be recast as proper savings programs. They don't need to be totally individualized, but they do need to designed, in form and in fact, as money that people save against old age and infirmity.
  • Education. Education is a mess and has been ever since teachers started seriously unionizing. Again, the kids being hurt here are lower-income kids, the very ones that need education to convert from peasants into literate, numerate city slickers. For over a generation conservatives have argued that we need to break up the government monopoly in education and liberals have refused to listen.
  • Welfare and the poor. After a generation of argument, President Clinton signed a modest welfare reform in 1996. But in the last two years President Obama has pretty well reversed the welfare reforms. And we can see, in the off-the-books problem, that work and welfare for the low-paid is an unjust, corrupt, cruel mess.
  • Science and technology. Liberals think they are so smart on science, because they believe in evolution and conservatives believe in creation. But liberals have politicized science wherever they have touched it, from nuclear power to fossil fuels to transportation to global warming to the environment. And now the chickens are coming home to roost.

I could go on and on, but you get the point. Liberals are facing a perfect storm in the next few years, and it could all have been avoided if they had the decency and the humility to actually listen occasionally to their political opponents.

But still, I am surprised by the left-wing madness of the Obama administration. It's one thing to truckle to your base in the run-up to an election, but another thing to let the crazies take over the government. For that strategic error, the liberals are going to pay for a generation.

But then, the Greeks didn't fuss on about hubris for nothing.

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