Friday, October 5, 2007

The Better Angles of Our Nature

Yes, yes; I know. Mr. Lincoln said angels, the better angels of our Nature.

But here's the inside: Mr. Lincoln had in addition to the better angels of his nature the Blackwater of his administration. Call me Pinkerton. As in a privatized group of mercenaries and/or goons, who would later become strike breakers when the workers in the copper mines tried to, gulp, unionize. The word then, of course, was collectivize, which sounds--dare I say it?--socialistic.

What's the point here, Lowenkopf?

The point is that we of the homo erectus have built in such pairs of opposing thumbs as contrariness, crankyness, meanspiritedness, self-aggrandizement, and even, if you look closely enough, self-delusion, not to forget the wired in ability to do just that--forget.

For some little while, he says in ironic understatement, we have been propagandized. Someone may have picked up on it while reading Madam Bovary, or perhaps The Gilded Age, or the boosteristic hurrah of Babbit. What it comes down to is the meme of government being a morass, big government being a breeding ground for, gulp, bureaucracy. Ergo, government sucks. As tidy and inflammatory a syllogism as a conservative could devise. If, as they say, government were run like a business, there would be no need for regulatory oversight. I mean, listen to George Follansbee Babbitt. Business is good for what ails us.

Playing advocatus diaboli, I venture that bureaucracy is indeed a morass. It sucks. But it is by degrees less reprehensible than those true, compassionate conservatives who plump for privitization; far less reprehensible in fact that the enormous take-home pay and compensation packages of the CEOs and entrepreneurs. Those very elected officials in both houses of Congress who support the veto of SCHIP would wail like those being given root canal without anesthesia if their own socialist-medicine-funded insurance packages were revoked.

To err is human; it is a part of our genome that no stem-cell research will negate. But let us pause and think before we take careful aim at a target and then shoot ourselves in the foot. Government is not intrinsically bad any more than Ford Motor is intrinsically anti-Semitic and given to cut corners on production. Sometimes products need to be recalled to repair flaws; sometimes governments need to be recalled, given votes of no confidence. Sometimes presidential veto needs to be overturned.
In a very real sense, we are the government and to buy into the meme that the less of us involved in it is the better course of action is to condone having our decisions made for us by an individual whose posturing as a parent figure may be seen as delusional. If we think big government is bad, we are saying that we are the problem. That has been the denominator all along. We need to regard the better angels of our nature with the better angles of our nature.

The elephant in the room is not the GOP; it is us, and we will be taking a step however tidal toward controlling our destiny if we recognize that splendid fact.


lettuce said...

hmmm is it a splendid fact? sometimes it seems so, sometimes not so much.

(and, in fact, I'd suggest thats true of both the "splendid" and the "fact")

yours truly
running on very empty
(loved that post)


f:lux said...


R.L. Bourges said...

Shelly: in the words of the immortal Pogo: "we have met the ennemy and he is us."

John Eaton said...

Shelly Lowenkopf for President.

Ask for him by name,

John :)