Friday, October 22, 2010

Opinion round-up

Excerpts from some excellent opinion columns I have come across. First up is Jay Ambrose on the seductive power of big government:
Lots of pundits are trying to figure out why President Obama is facing disaster this midterm election, but few have said it better than Michael Oakeshott despite his disadvantage of having been dead for 20 years.

Oakeshott was an English philosopher whose specialty was politics and disposition was to prefer "fact to mystery," and "present laughter to Utopian bliss." He said all this in an essay titled, "On Being Conservative," in which he also trenchantly described politicians of the opposite sort, what I would call the Obama sort.

Such people, he said, see government "as a vast reservoir of power," and that power "inspires them to dream," to come up with "favorite projects" that "they sincerely believe are for the benefit of mankind." So they grab for the power, maybe increase it, and then use it to impose these projects on everyone else. To them, government is "an instrument of passion" and "the art of politics is to inflame and direct desire."
Absolutely dead on. To the extent the left admits imperfections and flaw with government, their cause is usually said to be poor management (typically by Republicans) rather than anything systemic, which only the election of intelligent leftists can correct. Government in the right hands and a sufficient amount of power, they believe, can work vast wonders. It's a massive and misplaced conceit.

Kyle Wingfield, meanwhile, notes a new study from the Heritage Foundation which highlights the country's growing dependence on government:
Heritage has compiled federal data on public spending dating back to 1962 on housing, health and welfare, retirement, education, and rural and agricultural services. The stalwart conservative institution then indexed them through the 2009 fiscal year.

The not-so-surprising result: Americans’ dependence on government is higher than ever.

One in five Americans — 64.3 million people — relies on government handouts to fulfill basic needs for housing, food and/or health care. That’s double the proportion before Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society,” and it doesn’t even include corporate welfare. Add the number of public workers, and almost three in 10 of us get our livelihood from government.

At the same time, two in five Americans in 2008 — 132.5 million people — did not pay federal income taxes and were not claimed as dependents by anyone who did. The percentage of nontaxpayers has nearly tripled since 1984.
Of course, in the eyes of some people this increased reliance on government, rather than self-sufficiency or civil society, is a good thing.

Speaking of people dependent on government, Jonah Goldberg notes recent events in Europe and asks a few questions:
As far as I am aware, no one has asked President Obama a simple question: If your philosophy is so great, how come the countries that have embraced it for generations are so much poorer than we are?

Nor have they asked: If guaranteed health care for everyone will make us so much more "competitive," how come we've been doing so much better than our "competitors" who already have socialized medicine, high tax rates, and lavish pensions?

Nor has the president been queried about the incongruity of saying his policies have laid a "new foundation" for economic growth and job creation when the countries he's trying to emulate are trying to dismantle the very same foundations in order to survive.

...The contrast with Europe is stunning. The streets there are clogging with protestors who desperately want to keep perks and pensions that are driving their countries into insolvency, while responsible leaders do everything they can to impose fiscal sanity before everything comes crashing down. In America, protesters (a.k.a the Tea Parties) have taken to the streets to keep our irresponsible leaders from going in the same direction. In response, Obama says America's irrational fear has made voters stupid.
But what's irrational about saying that we shouldn't be rushing into a condemned building everyone else in the developed world is rushing out of?
Following in Europe's footsteps is the definition of insanity.

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