Free Markets, Free People
A few days ago, David Brooks wrote an op-ed in the New York Times entitled “The God That Failed” which is still bubbling in various blogs. Here’s how Brooks began his piece:
During the middle third of the 20th century, Americans had impressive faith in their own institutions. It was not because these institutions always worked well. The Congress and the Federal Reserve exacerbated the Great Depression. The military made horrific mistakes during World War II, which led to American planes bombing American troops and American torpedoes sinking ships with American prisoners of war.
But there was a realistic sense that human institutions are necessarily flawed. History is not knowable or controllable. People should be grateful for whatever assistance that government can provide and had better do what they can to be responsible for their own fates.
That mature attitude seems to have largely vanished. Now we seem to expect perfection from government and then throw temper tantrums when it is not achieved. We seem to be in the position of young adolescents — who believe mommy and daddy can take care of everything, and then grow angry and cynical when it becomes clear they can’t.
Glenn Greenwald and a host of other lefty blogs are now assuring us that this “hysteria” over the crotch bomber is a result of our immaturity as a nation because of our concerns about terrorism:
This is what inevitably happens to a citizenry that is fed a steady diet of fear and terror for years. It regresses into pure childhood. The 5-year-old laying awake in bed, frightened by monsters in the closet, who then crawls into his parents’ bed to feel Protected and Safe, is the same as a citizenry planted in front of the television, petrified by endless imagery of scary Muslim monsters, who then collectively crawl to Government and demand that they take more power and control in order to keep them Protected and Safe. A citizenry drowning in fear and fixated on Safety to the exclusion of other competing values can only be degraded and depraved.
Nonsense. This outrage isn’t just about terrorism and our fear of it. In fact, this isn’t a regression. It is a reaction to the continuing failures of a government which has repeatedly claimed it is the answer to all problems and repeatedly fails to live up to its claim. It is also an indication of the growing citizen anger at its continued unchecked expansion.
In a mature nation, President Obama could go on TV and say, “Listen, we’re doing the best we can, but some terrorists are bound to get through.” But this is apparently a country that must be spoken to in childish ways. The original line out of the White House was that the system worked. Don’t worry, little Johnny.
Really? Well let’s think about that for a second, shall we? Prior to the complete takeover of airline security by the federal government, any president might certainly have been able to stand up and said that. And most of us would have likely agreed. Airlines, which were responsible for their own security screening at that time, would certainly have reacted appropriately and taken new measures designed to heighten safety. And naturally, airlines which didn’t would most likely see passengers vote with their feet since a heightened chance of having your planes routinely blown out of the sky, when compared with the competition, isn’t good for business, is it?
Instead –and it happened under a Republican administration- the Fed decided that only it can properly provide the security necessary to ensure airline safety. A huge and costly system with its attendant bureaucracy was put into place based on that premise. And the implicit promise of the premise was that while under the airlines, “some terrorists are bound to get through”, under government, it would be safer than that. That was the purpose of the takeover. And it is that which both Greenwald and Brooks miss.
In the case of this particular incident, you couple that with a little stupidity (Napolitano: “the system worked”), a dollop of denial (Obama: “an isolated extremist”) and typical non-responsive overreaction (TSA: stay in your seat the last hour with your hands in your lap) and you begin to understand why the president couldn’t go on TV and say something like Brooks claims he could say in a “mature nation”. This has nothing to do with the maturity or lack thereof of the nation. It has to do with an inept government unable to fulfill it’s promise and the righteous anger that causes.
This incident is just one of many which are awakening the public to the falsity of the pernicious myth that government is “the answer”. It was the financial crisis that began the process. As it developed, people were suddenly confronted with the realization that those who had assured us they were in control and knew what they were doing really didn’t have a clue. Add that with the rapid takeover of the financial sector and GM, TARP and the “stimulus”, extended trillion dollar deficits, health care “reform” and cap-and-trade legislation and now this airline security failure and you begin to understand both the rising alarm and the rising anger.
I’m sure there are those out there who still think the Tea Parties were about health care and/or Obama and the Democrats. In fact, they were an early outward manifestation of the phenomenon – the rapidly growing realization that a) government can’t fulfill its promises but b) despite that, it continues to attempt to accrue more power and c) really doesn’t care if the public wants it or not.
They also are beginning to realize the mammoth cost of the leviathan in place is bad enough (and it is only going to get worse). And they are terrified of the cost of what is being promised as the government takes over more and more of our lives.
You can begin to understand why the growing anger is directed at this administration and government in general is the result. The attempted bombing incident and the resultant anger is no more just another indicator of that general anger and dissatisfaction.
What Brooks and Greenwald don’t seem to understand – and I’d think it is a safe bet to make the same claim about Republicans – is this isn’t anger just directed at this administration or Democrats alone. They’ve simply managed to bring it to a head with their over-reaching. It is anger, in general, at the depth, breadth, cost, intrusion and control government has and seeks to broaden. In a larger sense, what Greenwald and Brooks would like to write off as an immature tantrum about a security failure is just another manifestation of the growing anger and discontent directed at government in general and as result of the swiftness and scope of the recent expansion.
The culture of dependency that politicians have carefully engineered over the last 80 years is finally seeing a backlash. Ironically it is the financial crisis and the Democratic ascendancy, along with their attempts to broaden that dependency, which has suddenly alarmed and angered the public. As dependency was incrementally increased over the decades, the public’s alarm at government’s increased powers was muted. With the sudden power and control grabbed by the government, precipitated by the financial crisis, the alarm –and anger- is no longer muted.
That, by any measure, is a good thing. What it isn’t, however, is an immature reaction. It is, if anything, not strident enough.