Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Five Years And A Brief Question

I meant to get this up yesterday, but ran out of time as the day got away from me. But yesterday, June 8th, was the five year anniversary of this blog. I started up at the end of my first year of law school and five years is longer than I've done just about anything in my life.

It's interesting to see the changes in tone and the evolution of my political philosophy over these past five years. Most of my positions have remained similar, but my focus has become more and more about individuals and the effect of the law on individuals, for better or for worse. I've gotten away from much of my post 9-11 reactionary foreign policy blogging because none of it seems cut and dry and I'm not sure what to think any more. I was a strong supporter of the war in Iraq and I haven't backtracked from my viewpoint that the war was morally justifiable, but I've spent much of the last four years questioning the cost and the necessity. But much as it's difficult to assess the working of big government on the domestic front, it's even more difficult to make sweeping judgments in the area of foreign policy and I've basically just stopped trying.

It's much easier to look to people, to look to individuals, which is why I've leaned more and more libertarian on the civil libertarian front and perhaps why I've grown more and more liberaltarian on the social welfare front. Which brings me to my question: If libertarians are all selfish, what would that make a libertarian who believes in social welfare and support for the poor, but also in reducing the size of government and scrapping the regulatory state?

Since I've started this blog, I've seen more and more of these sort of viewpoints being expressed and I've yet to see anyone other than libertarian purists denounce this line of thought. In the health care debate I saw this line of reasoning from some libertarians and conservatives, basically making the point that we could help the poor and needy without a massive government controlled health care system. And again, it's an argument that's never taken seriously by the left. What's interesting is the ways in which the health care debate (and some of these other discussions as to the role of government) has placed many on the left in the position of first and foremost defending the role of government and not as an advocate for the poor and the oppressed.

The problem is, opposition to any concept of a social safety net has been part of the rhetoric of libertarian circles and the free market right for decades now and looking back, it may represent the movement's biggest mistake. One need only look to the Clinton-era welfare reforms to see the popularity of anti-welfare rhetoric. So while there was some successes in battling the expansion of the welfare state, the regulatory state grew and grew and grew, giving us the unsustainable government we have today. Changing popular opinion in a more liberaltarian direction is possible, but it does involve changing attitudes, about the poor and about government in general. But the biggest argument to move in such a direction is the ridiculousness of the debate over welfare spending, which amounts to such a small percentage of government budgets at all levels. It takes more than a few undeserved welfare recipients to equal out the salary of an undeserved six-figure federal employee (and how many of those are there?) But ultimately, if our concern is the size and scope of government we should worry more and more about what government does before worrying about money going to the poor.


Post a Comment

<< Home