Thursday, August 07, 2008

Corruption is the Nature of Politics, Not Political Philosophy

More insanity from the Nation, who wants you to believe that corruption is the end result of the conservative philosophy.

It is just this: Fantastic misgovernment of the kind we have seen is not an accident, nor is it the work of a few bad individuals. It is the consequence of triumph by a particular philosophy of government, by a movement that understands the liberal state as a perversion and considers the market the ideal nexus of human society. This movement is friendly to industry not just by force of campaign contributions but by conviction; it believes in entrepreneurship not merely in commerce but in politics; and the inevitable results of its ascendance are, first, the capture of the state by business and, second, all that follows: incompetence, graft, and all the other wretched flotsam that we've come to expect from Washington.

But put conservatism in charge of the state, and it behaves very differently. Now the "values" that rightist politicians eulogize on the stump disappear, and in their place we can discern an entirely different set of priorities--priorities that reveal more about the unchanging historical essence of American conservatism than do its fleeting campaigns against gay marriage or secular humanism. The conservatism that speaks to us through its actions in Washington is institutionally opposed to those baseline good intentions we learned about in elementary school.

Its leaders laugh off the idea of the public interest as airy-fairy nonsense; they caution against bringing top-notch talent into government service; they declare war on public workers. They have made a cult of outsourcing and privatizing, they have wrecked established federal operations because they disagree with them, and they have deliberately piled up an Everest of debt in order to force the government into crisis. The ruination they have wrought has been thorough; it has been a professional job. Repairing it will require years of political action.

Reason's Hit and Run blog took note of a similar trend earlier in the week, noting a trend in leftists stories that propose Republicans are losing because limited government ideas don't work and aren't popular. Missing in both cases is even the slightest bit of understanding that at no point in time did George Bush or his Republican Congress govern as limited government conservatives. (Also missing is the honest understanding that scandal and corruption are part and parcel of big government politics, regardless of political affiliation.)

Like Naomi Klein's absurd proposition that free market ideology led us to war in Iraq, the real problem here is the broad-brushed tar and feathering of all non-leftists. Arguments about limited government and free markets need not be given the full intellectual treatment so to speak, if they can be dismissed as impractical notions that only lead to corruption when implemented in the real world. It's a shame because the ignorant lap this all up- capable people continue to believe this nonsense, rather than grappling with the underlying philosophy. It's sad, and it's scary, particularly given the twists and turns of politics over the last decade.


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