Can The Country Survive?
I’ve also said before–and every time I do, people like Oliver Willis call me crazy for saying it–we’re preparing this country to split apart. There are two political camps in this country: collectivists, and and indvidualists. (Forget party labels. The parties are, at best, loose approximations of those two camps.) It’s a fairly even split between the two camps. And the fundamental philosophies of those two camps have become irreconcilable, for a number of reasons, but primarily as a result of centralization of power in Washington.
Unfortunately, if the solons in Washington declare we must do X, there’s no way to escape the consequences of that decision. And so, every political decision is now fraught with national, rather than local consequences. As a result, the incompatibility between collectivists and individualists is reaching a boiling point. The centralization of power in Washington, and the nationalization of practically every domestic issue, has done nothing but poison our politics, and degraded our political discourse.
He goes on to point out that he doesn’t think we’re headed towards a violent civil war, but that we’re putting decisions on irreconcilable first principles in the hands of a central authority that will force one side to submit — and as we see with health care, they intend for the individualists to submit. Given an American cultural and historical opposition to authority, being forced even to do something we might have freely chosen is not something that we appreciate.
Dale focuses somewhat on federalism and the Red State / Blue State divide. I find that a bit odd, as we’re both living in Southern California, a state that might be worse than the Feds if they were given a free hand. I do see some advantages to federalism as a supporter of liberty; competition between state governments may drive ALL of them towards freedom to survive. But I think we’ve moved beyond a Founders-era conception where we thought of ourselves as citizens of a state first and the United States second. I am an American first and foremost, and a resident of California second.
The greater damage from centralization, though, is destroying the bond between a citizen and his government. The farther away a decision is made and the more competing voices one must overcome to affect policy, the more he feels that his government is completely out of his control. He doesn’t believe the government represents him, and he loses faith in that government. This is where the individualists are today. This is where I am today.
In California, Dale and I each have a vote. The Congressman of my district, John Campbell (R, CA-48) represents a population of roughly 640,000 people*. My vote is one for or against his party, and he is then a vote among 434 other Congressmen. The Senators of my state, Boxer and Feinstein, represent a state of 30M+ people. They are then two votes amongst 98 other Senators. The President is elected by the states, meaning that again my vote for President is one of 30M+, and this is for a state which controls over 10% of the nation’s electoral college votes, which is probably the largest voice I have.
When decisions are made in Washington, my voice as expressed by a vote is merely noise to those in power. I have therefore lost my belief that government has the ability to represent me. I am an American, but this is not MY government**.
Proponents of small government watched as Republicans spent us into record deficits when given the reins of power. We are now watching as Democrats pour gasoline on the spending fire. We individualists have nowhere to turn. We are not being represented and we are being forced into acquiescence with whatever Washington declares.
We have no control, we have no voice, and we are being forced into actions that we fundamentally — down to the core — believe are unfair, wrong, and illegitimate. We’re on simmer. We’ve boiled up a bit with the Tea Parties and now with these town hall meetings. But the government is continuing to turn up the heat, and it’s only a matter of time before we boil over.
* PS – Yes, I’m using raw population, not eligible voters. Yes, I understand that this overstates the odds. This is shorthand and take it with that mentioned grain of salt. The numbers are still large enough to ensure that my voice in government is nearly meaningless.
** PS2 – For those of you who are new to this blog, please do not take that as an anti-Obama statement. This is a sentiment that I’ve felt (and expressed here in the archives of this blog) back during the Bush administration, and am simply too young to take it back all the way to Clinton and before, as my political beliefs were gut feelings rather than principles at that time.