I think George Will is on to something:
In physics, a unified field theory is an attempt to explain with a single hypothesis the behavior of several fields. Its political corollary is the Cupcake Postulate, which explains everything , from Missouri to Iraq, concerning Americans’ comprehensive withdrawal of confidence from government at all levels and all areas of activity.
Washington’s response to the menace of school bake sales illustrates progressivism’s ratchet: The federal government subsidizes school lunches, so it must control the lunches’ contents, which validates regulation of what it calls “competitive foods,” such as vending machine snacks. Hence the need to close the bake sale loophole, through which sugary cupcakes might sneak: Foods sold at fundraising bake sales must, with some exceptions, conform to federal standards.
What has this to do with police, from Ferguson, Mo., to your home town, toting marksman rifles, fighting knives, grenade launchers and other combat gear? Swollen government has a shriveled brain: By printing and borrowing money, government avoids thinking about its proper scope and actual competence. So it smears mine-resistant armored vehicles and other military marvels across 435 congressional districts because it can.
Examples? Will provides plenty of them.
Here’s the point though:
A cupcake-policing government will find unending excuses for flexing its muscles as it minutely monitors our behavior in order to improve it …
“Improve” should be in scare quotes, because the deeper the medling, the more it “minutely monitors our behavior”, the less it improves it and the more it interferes with it.
But … that’s the state of being now in the US.
Nick Gillespie at Hit and Run agrees with Will but issues this warning:
He’s right that confidence in government is plummeting mostly because of the simultaneously stupid and overreaching actions of politicians, administrators, and bureaucrats at all levels. Recognizing such a reality may be the beginning of (libertarian) wisdom, but as I’ve written before, it also carries a very serious potential risk. Counterintuitively, distrust in government may lead to calls for more government.
And that’s one of the reasons we suffer Leviathan today. Many of our “problems” in the past have had their roots in government interference or over-reach. The real problem is we petition government for relief and government’s answer is always more government.
Here’s a clue: when you ask government to fix any problem it will always answer with more government, regulations, laws, whatever – nature of the beast. Unfortunately, we’ve been conditioned to look to government for relief from all our problems. The end-state of that is always more government control and less citizen control. And here we are.
A major ray of hope—indeed, the beam of sunshine that’s warming up this libertarian moment—is really the ways in which people are creating workarounds that simply bypass government whenever possible. Taxi regulations screw consumers? Create Uber. Public-school educators are unresponsive? Create your own curriculum or even your own school. Can’t sell unpasteurized milk products? Create a buyers club. Major parties won’t listen? Create the Tea Party. And on and on.
As Matt Welch and I discussed at length in The Declaration of Independents, workarounds are a great thing and easier to pull off than ever, but they have serious limitations (witness foreign policy, Ferguson, the drug war, and so much more). It’s well past time that we start insisting on a limited, trustworthy government that is actually competent and restrained at the few things that it should be doing. That will not only reduce the desire for more government, it will free up even more time and resources for the free-range experiments in living that will actually make the world better, more interesting, and more prosperous.
Btw, I disagree this is necessarily a “libertarian moment” (although like the “Tea Party”, I see the liberals loading up the rhetorical guns to shoot down anything that might take flight suggesting it). However, what Gillespie talks about above is where this sentiment that has grown tremendously over the past 6 years (surprise, huh?) needs to be herded. Whether that’s possible or not will tell us all how “libertarian” the moment has been.
Until then, enjoy your cupcakes.
Nick Gillespie and Reason do a good job of dispelling the myth that our problem is a revenue problem, the nonsense that always prompts the “tax the rich” mantra.
Taxes aren’t the problem, never have been – it is a spending problem. We’re spending more than we take in. Cut that difference and you cut the deficit to nothing. Cut it enough and you begin to work down the debt.
Taxing the rich at a higher rate might make the class warriors on the left feel good, but it does nothing to address the real problem.
Spending addiction – something Michael alludes too below. What we have are the addicted trying to handle their own addiction, and essentially their solution has nothing to do with the problem.
That’s what Nick Gillespie at Reason hopes the death of Ted Kennedy signals.
Gillespie says that when all the lionizing of Kennedy is said and done, a little perusal of what he has been responsible for during his tenure is called for. And, while doing that, we should ponder the effect on our national culture those pieces of legislation have had. After making that analysis, freedom loving people should vow, “never again”.
The legislation for which he will be remembered is precisely the sort of top-down, centralized legislation that needs to be jettisoned in the 21st century. Like Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) and the recently deposed Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Kennedy was in fact a man out of time, a bridge back to the past rather than a guide to the future. His mind-set was very much of a piece with a best-and-the-brightest, centralized mentality that has never served America well over the long haul.
Bigger was better, and government at every level but especially at the highest level, had to lead the way. In an increasingly flat, dispersed, networked world in which power, information, knowledge, purchasing power, and more was rapidly decentralizing, Kennedy was all for sitting at the top of a pyramid and directing activity. In this way, he was of his time and place, a post-war America that figured that all the kinks of everyday life had been mastered by a few experts in government, business, and culture. All you needed to do was have the right guys twirling the dials up and down. As thoughtful observers of all political stripes have noted, this sort of thinking was at best delusional, at worst destructive. And it was always massively expensive.
We are, at this very moment in time, confronting both the cost and the damage wrought by the Kennedy legacy. And the administration in place is, hopefully, the dying gasp of that sort of 20th century thinking brought forward by political impetus alone.
The real message of the August townhalls is that the American people have had enough of that sort of thinking and that sort of legislating. What you’re hearing and seeing are a people beginning to understand and reject the Byrds, Stevens, Kennedys, Obamas and Pelosis of the political world because the price, both literally and figuratively, has become much too high in terms of the their money and their liberty.
Ted Kennedy did what he believed was right and good for America. He was, as Gillespie says, a man of his time. As with all men, his time has passed. It is also time to bury his legacy because just like him, its time has passed as well.
Nick Gillespie at Reason is none too impressed with the new Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act just signed into law.
At a mere 5.7 billion dollars +200 mil in “stimulus” funds – and yes I’m being facetious (and don’t worry, they’re saving 100 mil among the administration cabinet) – we get legislation that:
reauthorizes and expands national service programs administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency created in 1993. The Corporation engages four million Americans in result-driven service each year, including 75,000 AmeriCorps members, 492,000 Senior Corps volunteers, 1.1 million Learn and Serve America students, and 2.2 million additional community volunteers mobilized and managed through the agency’s programs.
Or an expansion of the Community Organizer’s Full Employment Act if you really want to come clean about it.
Paid “volunteerism”. Is that government’s job?
And as Gillespie points out, the language under which this is organized – and I use the term loosely – is rife with opportunities for urban entrepreneurs to “benefit” mightily from things which will be extremely hard to measure (even though it claims, in the language, to have it covered):
The Serve America Act, which goes into effect on October 1, would increase and enhance opportunities for Americans of all ages to serve by increasing AmeriCorps from 75,000 to 250,000 positions over the next eight years, while increasing opportunities for students and older Americans to serve. It will strengthen America’s civic infrastructure through social innovation, volunteer mobilization, and building nonprofit capacity. The new law is also designed to strengthen the management, cost-effectiveness and accountability of national service programs by increasing flexibility, consolidating funding streams, and introducing more competition.
Ye gods – what could go wrong with that?
And this, as Gillespie points out, in the face of attempts to limit charitable tax breaks for the income class which makes most of those donations and are the engine for much of the charitable giving. Make sense?
Well, it does if your entire focus is to see how dependent on government you can make the population, certainly. This is another example of a liberal wet dream.
But what you should keep in mind is it was begun under Clinton and survived 8 years of a Republican administration.
Tell me – whose fault is that?