Friday, March 1, 2013

Beyond Sequester

Over at America's go-to website on government spending, we have a little notice displayed in these sequestered times.'s numbers are based on official budget numbers. Until the president's budget is released in mid-March, we won't be able to show the impact of the sequester. Meanwhile, see budget detail page here.
Actually, of course, if you went to and created your own custom chart, you probably would need a magnifying glass to see the difference before and after sequester.

You can understand President Obama's situation.  He is sitting on an untenable budget situation.  Unless and until the feds cut spending sharply we are going straight towards debt default and maybe hyperinflation.

But what can a Democratic president do?  The whole of left-liberal politics is founded on "more."  More spending, more programs, more administrative welfare state.  The Democrats just don't do "less." That's why they call spending cuts "austerity."

But how do you do the politics of "less?"  It's a good question, and the answer is not very palatable.

You wait until the wolf is at the door.  The verdict of the 2012 election made that clear.  Yes, the American people know there is a problem.  But they are not ready, yet, for the turn-around artist to come in and fix things.  The moral drama was palpable.  Here you had Mitt Romney, whose entire life has been devoted to turning around "dysfunctional" organizations.  Here you had Barack Obama, who entire life had been devoted to left-wing activism.  The American people chose Obama, by a few percent.  But they kept the Republicans in control of the House of Representatives, just in case.

Let us recall the point of politics, as described by H.L. Mencken.
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
Or take the prophetic words of Rahm Emanuel:
 You never let a serious crisis go to waste.
These are meaty quotes, but they underlie a truth about the human condition.  Politics is for emergencies.  It is for the moment when everything is at risk.  At moment of peril humans come together and look for a leader to lead them out of the land of Egypt.

The eternal problem is to make the politicians go away after the emergency is over.

And so we will never do anything about the welfare state until our nation is threatened with ruin if we don't do something.

In my view, the business of being social animals is characterized by the yin and yang of politics and religion.  Politics is the force end of the animal, and is easily corrupted into a project of freebooting and freeloading.  Its fully corrupted form is the robber band that rapes and pillages.  Religion is the project of converting humans into willing cooperators.  Its means is not the club of force, but the conquest of the mind.  It is easy converted into a battle of orthodoxy against heresy.  Its fully corrupted form is the union of politics and religion in totalitarianism.

The challenge for conservative politics is not so much the politics as the religion.  We all know the systems we need to impose to reduce the degree of political and governmental force in our society: more markets, more civil society.  But we don't know how to build a moral movement to persuade the American people to give up the politics of free stuff for the culture of free-dom, the culture of the marginalized self for the culture of the responsible self.

My guess is that the movement and the moment will come.  But not before a bone-rattling financial Armageddon.

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