The Case for Changeby Adam Selene
There are three groups of people within this nation of ours, generally speaking. You may not like it, but you are bound to fall into one of these broad categories.
The first group are those who think that things are generally okay, we just need to tune and adjust to improve where we’re headed. Most people who describe themselves as Republicans and a significant percentage of Democrats fall into this category. You are the folks who “just want Congress to do X”. X might be some sort of national health care or it might be tougher rules on drug crimes, or what have you. Think Hugh Hewitt or Arnold Schwarzenegger or Harry Reid.
The second group of folks are those who want dramatic change that involves the government in some fashion. You are convinced that if only we would empower our government to do something for us, we could have a wonderful life. For the most part, these folks are socialists (I know that’s not in fashion, they say “progressive” now, but I call a spade a spade) and want to empower a government that runs our lives for us. Think Jeffords or Kerry or Boxer. A smaller piece of this group thinks the government should be empowered to “make us moral”, the Jim Dobson’s of our political landscape.
The third group of folks, the smallest by far, also wants dramatic change that involves the government. They want to make government a much smaller part of our life, take power from government and return it to individuals. Think Milton Friedman.
I’m not speaking now to the second or third group in our political landscape. They both have a case for change in mind. In the latter case, I agree in some fashion. In the former case, you are tyrants whose approach has been tried in the past, it has been found wanting, and we have rejected it. Move to Cuba if you think that government control of individual choice is such a good thing.
That first group, probably 80% of the citizens in this country, is the group I’m addressing. So, the question is, why is change a good idea? You look around you and life is pretty good. You make a good income, have friends, are safe from crime and war. You’ve got it good, don’t you? So, why should you want dramatic change? Why remove the government from your life, when it’s doing such a fine job of making things work well?
I could make the moral argument. Humans have inherent rights and when government makes choices for you, those rights are usurped. Of course, except for a few folks, this argument carries no weight. You are happy with the government making those choices so long as they don’t intrude too deeply into your affairs. So long as you aren’t affected in your daily life (or think you aren’t), you don’t mind the government fighting a Drug War, intervening around the world with the military, deciding who you can and cannot see for your health care, regulating our economy and so on. So, although I could, I won’t make the moral argument.
Instead, let’s make the practical case for change, for this call to action.
So, what is that, when life is going so well for you? After all, your income is increasing, your taxes are low and stable, you have health care, nice electronics, safety, everything you want, right?
Let’s start with this. There is a minority of people in this country that don’t have what you have. Nor, with our current situation, is it likely they will ever have it except by herculean effort that only rewards a very small percentage of the disadvantaged. In order to protect you middle class from the lower class, the politicians have walled them off from you. They have prosecuted a War on Drugs to keep drugs in the inner city, knowing that they can never eradicate illegal drug use. They have confined violent crime there as well. Your jobs and income are safe and the sacrifice is the 10% of the population that will never have a stable job and income. You have health care while they languish on Medicaid (which pushes your healthcare costs ever higher).
Well, so what? Here’s so what. Radical change will be brought about by pressure from the folks on the edge of society, not by the comfortable middle class. Do you really think you can just shut those folks in their ghettos and all will be well? Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, Barack Obama, they are riding that wave of anger right now. Ted Kennedy and John Kerry are trying to continue to institutionalize the urban plantation, believing that will stave off the inevitable. George Bush and Trent Lott want to shoot ‘em all and let god sort ‘em out, believing that will solve the problem once and for all. The last two choices, as we’ve seen over the last 40 years, are not going to work.
The Drug War has brought more crime and violence to our neighborhoods. It has created cheaper, stronger, more addictive drugs. Crack, for example, would not have been invented if the black market price of cocaine had not been so high and the availability so limited. Kathryn Johnson would not have been killed by a fusillade of over 100 bullets, fired by thuggish cops, if not for the Drug War.
The War on Poverty has created permanent poverty. If you look at the statistics, we now have more folks living in poverty than we did in the 1960′s when LBJ started the Great Society. Pharmaceutical costs have risen steadily for everyone since the day that Congress declared that drug manufacturers must sell their products to the government (i.e. medicaid and medicare) at the lowest price they offer anyone (in other words, price fixing). The number of folks on medicaid, medicare or no health care has steadily increased. The number of people likely to get social security pensions has steadily declined while our social security contributions have steadily gone up.
The government has declared that it may take your home to benefit city tax coffers and private developers, whether you wish to sell at their price, or not. They have decided which person you can see to provide health care for you and your family. You must wear a seatbelt or face arrest (a traffic ticket is an arrest where you are released on your own recognizance) and fines. If you decide that you don’t want a muslim to pray on your property (US Airways), you are not going to be allowed to tell them no, even though it is your private property. You cannot choose how, when and where your children will be educated, or what curriculum they will be taught.
But, these things are not onerous, you say. They don’t change my daily life that much. Why should I care?
First, change is inevitable. Human change is driven by the urge for things to be better, for more wealth, more safety. Those have nots, both in this country, and elsewhere, want what you have. You have two choices in front of you. Pay the Dane his geld, the solution of the socialists. Or give the Dane his chance to create his own geld. There is no third option. Stasis is not possible. The answer of the conservative middle, that we can keep things as they are with, at worst, minor change is a chimera. History tells us that change is inevitable and that it will be those without, who wish more, who will bring about that change.
The great thing is that we have a way to bring about that change, to increase everyone’s wealth and safety without resorting to bloody revolution or bloody tyranny. Liberalism gives us just such a tool. The marketplace and the individual, together, without the interference of technocrats, do gooders and Mrs. Grundy, not only can bring about incredible, positive changes, but has done so already. The history of the human race is one long and unbroken line of misery, poverty and early death for 99.9% of all humans throughout time.
Until 300 years ago. There is a sudden, massive upward movement in the condition of all humans, worldwide. That change dates to the advent of Liberalism and the Industrial Revolution. This is not coincidence. Those two things gave individual humans, not privileged by lucky birth, the tools to create wealth and safety and comfort for themselves, without dependency on government or politically elite class. We have, for a variety of reasons, rejected most of those tools. We are now reaping what we have sowed. Look to Europe, the Middle East and Africa if you wish to see the gathering storm.
This, then, is the case for a change to embrace Liberalism. One that the political middle of America should heed. We know that we are not happy with the path the NeoConservatives laid down for us. But, we are no more happy with the path the NeoSocialists would have us follow. We didn’t elect Socialists this past election, whether Kos thinks it was a great triumph, or not. We elected more middle of the roaders who would keep to a conservative course. We were never presented the third choice, Liberalism. Now it’s time for us to throw off the blinders and shackles and embrace that third choice. We, in this country, have done so in the past. Are we not the same people? Are we not descended from men like Paine and Franklin and Washington and Madison? Shall we continue to meekly follow our “masters” or shall we demand our birthright, the choice to make our own decisions, be responsible for our own self, live life as free men and women, standing on our two feet?
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