A few weeks ago, I wrote a journal entitled the Smashed Pillars of Conservatism. This got me branded as a liberal, as if that was some sort of dirty word. Now I'm going to lash out against the left, so it'll be time to be called a fascist, I suppose.
The truth is that neither the left nor the right work. In the past, they've both had their moments, but they are now exposed for their weak ideological cores.
Ideology doesn't work in the modern world, because it is too simple to adequately address the complex realities in which we live. The president applied his 'less government' ideology to FEMA when he entered office, dismissing it as a liberal entitlement program. So he absorbed it into Homeland Security, downgraded it from a cabinet position and put it under the leadership of a man with no experience in the complex field of disaster response.
The result? We lost a city. This happened because ideology was applied too consistently. SOME government is necessary. SOME government is essential. Approaching the real needs that government must serve through the filter of ideology is a presecription for disaster in the modern world. It has evolved past simple answers.
Conversely, I will never forget the day I sat down to read Hillary Clinton's health care plan. It had been devised by as rigid a left-wing ideologue as exists in or near American government, Ira Magaziner. I was appalled by what I read. This was old-style socialism of the kind that has made the Canadian and British health care systems so miserable.
The right wing seeks to control our moral choices and cultural life; the left to control our social choices and economic life. And this health care plan was as outrageous an invasion of social choice as had ever been proposed in this country. Had it passed, responsibility for health care decisions would have been completely removed from both the individual and his doctor.
I was not the only person chilled by the plan. It shocked the entire country and led to the Democrats' loss of congress in the midterm election, and deservedly so.
The left's history of enforcing social choice and imposing economic planning is awash in failure and blood across the world. Communism, which is an extreme form of this, killed millions and was the curse of this planet for nearly a hundred years. Economic planning leads to economic stagnation, and social control to outrageous injustice, and the two together sap initiative and destroy the quality of life.
And yet the American left continues to pretend that there is something valid about the hoary old 'progressive' ideology that attached itself like a barnacle to our urgent social needs during the Depression.
President Roosevelt's new deal was a socialist's dream, but it wasn't put in place by a socialist, but rather by a pragmatist who realized that the country was going to be starved into rebellion if the government did not provide the jobs that business could not. At one point, thirty percent of the workforce was unemployed, and literally thousands of Americans were starving. This was when Roosevelt came to power, and when a whole array of social controls that are still important to us today were instituted.
Most of the emergency New Deal programs, such as the WPA, are long gone, of course. What remain are the regulatory mechanisms that make illegal the most outrageous manipulation of financial markets, that insure bank deposits, and that deliver the assurance that people who spend their lives productively will not be left to starve when they retire.
All three of these residues of the New Deal are necessary to the effective functioning of our society. Fortunately, the president has, at least for the time being, given up his ideologically inspired effort to corrupt the social security system--not because he doesn't want to, but because, with his approval rating through the floor, he can't. For now.
What amazes me is that these two opposing--and quite stupid and discredited--ideologies seem to be all that are available to us politically. I hear talk that the 2008 presidential race could be between Hillary Clinton and Condoleeza Rice, a battle between two worthless ideologues if there ever was one.
Surely there must be moderates somewhere. As, indeed, there are, but they get no press. Their good sense is boring to Fox and CNN and the lying radio talk shows. They thrive on controversy, so they court the extremes. That's fine, as a form of entertainment, but if that's all that's left to us in the real world of politics, our country is going to be ruined.
We need Hillary and Condi like a hole in the head. Or Kerry or Bush, or any of these extremists of either stripe.
So, what DO we need. If only the center can govern, then do we even need a two-party system? Well, yes we do, because good government is a complex process in the modern world. Flexibility is essential, and a party that is more weighted toward meeting social needs is as important as one that is more weighted toward encouraging economic activity. Not that the two things are mutually exclusive, but they are often at odds.
An example would be the need to raise the minimum wage being weighed against the need to encourage business growth. Right now, Condi would opt for no minimum wage, while Hillary would go for a national minimum income guarantee to all.
Either choice would harm the country irreparably, and this is the problem when our choices are limited to extremes. The truth is that neither the Democrats or the Republicans are capable of governing this country, and will not be as long as they are controlled by the ideological extremists. And yet, they're the only choice we have, except for vote-wasting alternative parties.
What we need are leaders in both parties who respect the center and use the ideological extremes in the role that they are good for: as resources for innovation. Both extremes should be allowed to propose innovations--but, for God's sake, not to ram them down our poor throats. They should be near power but not in power. As resources, they are useful. As government, they are awful.
I always feel a chill when I hear people using the word 'progressive' in describing their ideology. This is because I associate that word with its historical origin in the communist movement and all the horrors that came with it. It amazes me that anybody in this world could still call themselves a Marxist, given how completely history has discredited the idea that central economic planning is anything but a disaster. And yet, the American left is controlled by people who call themselves 'progressives.' Give such people the horrifying powers of arrest granted by the Patriot Act, and you have the potential for the creation of an American KGB. The fact that right wing ideologues have these powers now is bad enough, and it is the shame of this congress that it granted them. It is fantastic and outrageous that any secret arrest can be made in this country now or at any time. But, mark my words, this new power is beloved of all ideologues, and as long as moderates remain out of control, these sick, evil powers will only grow.
Ideologues are never as effective as moderates. They cannot be, simply because the world we live in demands more flexibility and compromise than they can provide.
We need to encourage moderate candidates at every level, to seek them out, to contribute to their campaigns, to elect them.
I was delighted to see that the ratings of right wing radio are plummeting--and that left wing radio is not growing to replace it, thank God. People are listening to sports. In other words, they're beginning to opt out of the whole dance of death between the left and the right.
Good, may they both fall on hard times. If so, perhaps people of reason will fill the vacuum, and our country will be saved from the stupidities and evil of the extremists, left as well as right.
NOTE: This Journal entry, previously published on our old site, will have any links removed.