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Good for nothing

July 12, 2007

Never put a conservative in office. It ought to be one of those no-brainer bromides that everyone learns at her mother’s knee. Right up there with “Never eat anything bigger than your head” or “Never start a land war in Asia.”

There may be versions of conservatism, long defunct, for which the maxim fails to hold. But for the last thirty or forty years, however differently it may have behaved itself, “conservatism” has defined itself as Reaganism, and Reaganism has defined itself by Ronnie’s bedrock principle: “Government isn’t the solution. Government is the problem.”

Now, when people (just for fun, let’s call them liberals) believe that government can and should do good things for people, what tends to happen when those people get into power is that, at least for awhile until power works its corrosive corrupting magic, they start trying to do good things for people. Sometimes it fails, as with inner city housing projects, or has mixed results, as with LBJ’s war on poverty. More often than not, it succeeds very well, as with TVA, or WPA, or Social Security, or FEMA under Clinton, or Medicaid and Medicare.

But when people who believe that government cannot possibly do good things for people get into office, they will naturally make no attempt to use their power to do good things for people. Still, if they’ve got power, they’ll have to use it for something. Since it can’t be made to do good for the citizenry at large, they will tend to draw the eminently practical conclusion that they might as well make it do good things for themselves and their cronies. And so power’s corrupting magic flourishes instantly, and on as large a scale as the new incumbents feel they can get away with.

It’s not that conservatives are more evil than liberals, or more naturally corrupt. It’s that their philosophy creates a vacuum of motive the moment they begin to govern. And evil and corruption, dwelling nascently as they do in every human being, stand ever ready to rush into that vacuum.

Let’s put that into a form suitable for lessons at mother’s knee. Those who believe that government is good for nothing will use government for nothing good.

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One comment

  1. […] Good for nothing « Tinsel Wing Never put a conservative in office. It ought to be one of those no-brainer bromides that everyone learns at her mother’s knee. Right up there with “Never eat anything bigger than your head” or “Never start a land war in Asia.” […]



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