Thursday, May 4, 2017

Don't Give Me Your "Governing Well" Rubbish

Yesterday I was reading a piece about the liberal meltdown in the aftermath of the Trump accession; it was a piece by Roger Kimball at American Greatness, titled "Trump Critics Exude Desperate Political Nihilism."
And then it suddenly struck me.

I am am talking about the deep reason why liberals have gone ape-you-know-what since the Trump ascension.

The key is in Roger's quote from Peter Wehner, a kind of conservative. Never mind the maudlin meanderings of the New Yorker’s David Remnick that Trump’s election was
nothing less that a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism.
Golly, reading that you get to wonder that maybe liberals actually believe their lies!

But that was not what really caught my attention. David Remnick is not a serious person. What gave me a sense of epiphany were the words of Peter Wehner.
What troubles many of us… who have devoted much of our lives to politics is that we have a president who doesn’t believe in the the higher purpose of his office, which is grounded in the conviction that governing well can advance human good.
OK, Petie boy, I got it! Those loaded words: "grounded" "conviction" "governing well" "human good." You are using these words as magic incantations, a magic spell. I get it.

So Roger Kimball is wrong. The Trump are not desperate nihilists; they are religious believers, driven to madness by the profaning of  their sacred relics.

The trouble with Trump, the reason that he has provoked such wailing and gnashing of teeth in Liberal Land, is that his ascension to the presidency strips the holy aura that every ruling class -- and particularly this ruling class -- conjures up to cover over the ugly nakedness of politics and power and elevate its rule into a noble, even a holy calling. Trump's crudities reveal government for what it is: grubby, incompetent, and not requiring any particularly refined talent or intellectual training. And that cannot be allowed! It is heresy! It is sacrilege! It is not to be endured, as my girl Rosalind says in As You Like It.

And so the Trump critics feel compelled to Resist! and do something, anything to restore the aura, to cover the blotched nakedness of their crumbling faith with the gorgeous shimmer of high fashion and good tailoring. That is why they have turned themselves into whirling Dervishes. It is a desperate attempt to bring back the exaltation they felt when celebrating the First Communion, marching in the pivotal first "peaceful protest" of their political lives in the confirmation of their lefty faith.

If Trump can be president, our sacerdotal class realizes, then anybody can be president, and politics is forever stripped of all the transcendental qualities with which that we have adorned it. Politics and “governance” is then just routine rewarding of loyal supporters, routine men with guns pushing other people around, routine tax collectors sticking up the populace with the demand that Uncle Sam and state and local governments get their 33% before anyone gets to go through the drive-thru at McDonald’s to get a well-earned sundae.

And what is governing well to advance the human good reducing to? At the federal level it is pensions and health care for seniors; at the state and local level it is pensions for government workers.

So your pretentious words are rubbish, Peter Wehner! There is no such thing as “governing well.” There is only a brief pause, every now and again, between long years of governing badly. There is no such thing as a government that “can advance human good.” There is only government, that in brief shining moments between centuries of robbery and plunder, does something completely out of the ordinary. almost by accident, like writing the US Constitution, and stops meddling, for one blessed hour, with ordinary people going about their ordinary innocent lives.

And that is enough of an exception to show that the exception proves the rule. I am thinking of my rule, that Government is Force.

You know what ordinary government is like? It is siccing the IRS on the government’s opponents; it is inventing an excuse to use the government's intelligence agencies to spy on the opposition. It is branding the free speech of your opponents as "hate speech." It is excusing the excesses of violent mobs as "mostly peaceful protest." Nobody can say, after an administration that sicced the IRS on his opponents -- and not real mobilized, weaponized opponents but a bunch of naive sincere Tea Party groups that wanted to do politics according to the prescribed rules -- no serious person can talk about the presidency and the “higher purpose of his office, which is grounded in the conviction that governing well can advance human good.”

All we can talk about is that government is force, and the first principle of honesty about politics is to notice that the people attracted to politics, from Remnick to Wehner to Podesta to Rove to Obama to Trump, are people that are interested in power.

As opposed to most people, who are not that interested in power.

Once we recognize the truth about government and politics, that government is force, whether it is forcing people to contribute to other peoples' pensions, other peoples' health care, other peoples' education, and forcing people to relieve the poor, and that politicians are people who are interested in power, then the blather of “higher purpose of his office, which is grounded in the conviction that governing well can advance human good” is revealed as a lame apology for a philosophy of force. Indeed, it is the moment to go straight to Edmund Burke and remember his indictment of that notable attempt to found a Republic of Virtue (read: advancing human good) in the French Revolution.
All the decent drapery of life is to be rudely torn off... [and] at the end of every vista, you see nothing but the gallows.
He is arguing that it is not government power that makes the nation, but everything else. Because the end of state power is nothing but the gallows.

When governmental apologists make the argument that advancing the human good can be achieved by "governing well," they obviously have not read Deirdre McCloskey, who twinkles about "the sweet use of force."

On the contrary, I would say that if you want to truly "advance the human good" then you should be working on ways to improve the human condition, whether it is relieving the poor, helping old people, educating children, recovering drug users, assisting abandoned women, doing everything related to human community beyond the cash nexus, in other words the things we do together, without the use of force.

You might take a look at the 19th century, when ordinary people conjured up a universe of mutual-aid associations, when ordinary people paid for their kids' education, when government had not put a thumb on the scales of employer-employee relations, and when government had not transformed child labor by forcing children to work 5 days per week in government child-custodial facilities without pay.

You see, my Big Idea of "governing well" is that we all put our heads together to discover new ways to live and work together without getting government into the mix. And the first thing we do, aside from the usual thing about the lawyers, is to say that people interested in power need not apply.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks - this was well written. The great challenge is how to transition back to minimalist government in the least disruptive fashion.