Thursday, October 07, 2010

Government Party at the Ramparts

those. . . who believed that government could solve intransigent problems, are not only disappointed but dispirited. Obama's faithful never believed in the dynamism of the private sector, only in its corruption. They never trusted Bush except to do favors for Halliburton. . . Now even that audience is waking up to . . . a world where government cannot create wealth, but only consume it.

--Hugh Hewitt, Washington Examiner, 9.26.10

Politics is who gets what, when, and how.

--Harold Lasswell (1935)

What Jared Diamond bluntly calls a “kleptocracy,” government gets in the way of people going about their business, best understood as a farm family raising the crops that will feed, house, and clothe its members. Government, performing no farm work of its own, steals from farmers to pay for its existence.

Lasswell’s classic definition of politics needs another look. Are we happy to have “politics” (government) in the picture? Do we want someone else telling us “who gets what, when, and how”? No, especially when it comes to decisions best made by a free market. We need a working free market to create and keep jobs, and nothing’s more important to the future of American families than jobs.

Get politics out of the way! Let free markets work!

Of course, government should, as the Preamble to our constitution says, “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty.” It has a big role in providing the infrastructure—physical and social, including education—needed for growth and prosperity.

But the principal lesson of the 20th Century is that when it comes to running the economy, hand the ball to the private sector, not to government. Government screws it up, every time.

Given what happened in the former Soviet Union, in Maoist China, in Eastern Europe, in Vietnam before 1987, in Cuba, in the U.K. before Thatcher and Blair, and in many other social-democratic countries including Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, Brazil, and India, as well as in the U.S. under Jimmy Carter, why is the U.S. once again reaching for Big Government? Don’t we ever learn?

“We” might. “They” don’t, or at least “they” don’t give up. “They” are the people who benefit from a large and growing government, even if its growth comes at the expense of prosperity for all of us, including their children. And let there be no confusion on this point: “They” is the Democratic Party. Democrats and Big Government are by now almost a complete identity. If you like government, you are a Democrat. If not, no.

Here are the folks who identify with the Democratic/Government party, and why:

The Ruling Class: It used to be Republican, rich, land-based, the American aristocracy. Being “Republican” was a way to identify with those who had the wealth and the (derivative) power. But what Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. called “the Old Order“ failed us in the Great Depression. That failure led to the New Deal-Fair Deal-New Frontier-Great Society era (1933-68), what Walter Russell Mead calls “the Blue Model”--big government, big business, and big labor working together under Democratic leadership, with government in charge; big business and Republicans following as junior partners. Vietnam blew up “the Blue Model,” creating enough anarchy and chaos to have us looking to Uncle Walter Cronkite and the national media for guidance. Media power helped encourage the high-SAT score, liberal elite take-over of our country under a reformed Democratic Party, the champion of women, minorities, and others who benefit from government power. When the “Old Order” lost its 1960s battle to place unqualified alumni children into Harvard, Princeton, and Berkeley, it foreshadowed the ruling class transition from money to credentials. Intellectual take-over of the rest of America’s elite institutions—the media, government, non-profits, arts and entertainment, finance, and big business (but not the military or small business)—then followed. As with all ruling classes everywhere, the American liberal elite is obsessed with protecting its existing power.

Government Workers: Government unions are such a large share of the Democratic Party it’s impossible to separate them. And Democrats have gone so far toward rewarding government workers at the expense of the rest of us that state and local government workers earn 44% more than do private-sector workers, and federal government employee compensation more than doubles that of private-sector workers. In many states including California, pension rewards for government work are so high they threaten to bankrupt the rest of government.

Transfer Payment Beneficiaries: Besides those working for the government, additional millions benefit from government transfer payments. By now (the share grows annually), 18% of personal income comes from government benefits, 10% from government wages, and only 42% from private sector wages.

Blacks, Other Minorities, Unmarried Women
: These are the Democratic Party’s core constituencies. Republicans pursued a “Southern Strategy” that won them the White House for all but four years between 1968 and 1992. Whites unhappy with civil rights or affirmative action knew which party listened to their concerns—Republicans—and a white majority voted accordingly. The strategy has cost Republicans; they have trouble reaching the moderate to conservative minority voters alienated by ethnicity from Republicans. Unmarried women, who likewise welcomed government protection against the male-dominated “Old Order” that prevailed under Republicans, themselves vote heavily Democratic. Unmarried women not only value the government programs Democrats have enacted on their behalf, they also appreciate that Democrats defend a woman’s right to choose.

The Media: Why are the media so favorable to government-based, as opposed to private sector-based solutions, even when the issue is job creation? First, government is the vehicle through which any media outlet works. The media see themselves as the people's voice, and government as the people’s servant. The media therefore have no problem with government regulating, taxing, and controlling business on behalf of the people. Second, since they ended the Vietnam War and overthrew two presidents (Johnson because of Vietnam, Nixon through Watergate) in 1968-74, the media have dictated the national agenda, as executed by Democrats through government. Democrats appreciate all the media have done for the party; both sides work well together.

Academia: Like the media, academia wants to do good for the people, and that logically involves influencing government to enact new programs that help people. Academics believe in social justice, with government the instrument for achieving justice. The enemy would be private sector businesses pursuing profit at the people’s expense. So academics work for Democrats and against Republicans for a better society. Also, Democrats are more inclined to fund academic research, and to raise taxes to do so.

Non-profits: The profile of a non-profit worker looks much like that of an academic: successful in school, seeking influence through words and data, seeing government as the ultimate target, with the objective of launching or expanding a government program that will benefit the public. Democrats, the party of government, understand all this, and Republicans tend not to. Also, government funds much of non-profit work.

Arts and Entertainment: Though part of the private sector, artists and entertainers generally feel alienated from the world of business and profits. They want to do good on behalf of the people. As with the media, artists and entertainers believe working with Democrats in government is the best way to help people. Artists and entertainers aren’t necessarily graduates of top universities or sometimes any university, although high-tech arts and entertainment is brain work. Entertainers more classically rise to the top through raw talent, measured by wealth. Nice then that when they arrive, they find an elite sharing their pro-government Democratic ideology. (Starving artists naturally have even less problem identifying with government, whose programs aid the temporarily unemployed.)

Trial Lawyers: The constitution guarantees persons a fair trial with an adequate defense, and the “plaintiffs bar,” working through the large share of elected officials who are lawyers and through a Democratic Party heavily funded by trial lawyers, has written a sea of laws favorable to large settlements that make lawyers rich at the expense of legitimate business and most of the law-abiding public, who pay higher insurance rates and prices as a result. Trial lawyers sometimes work with the media, arts and entertainment, and government to take down our worst corporations.

These millions make up the Government Party. When it comes time to downsize government, the government party armies will be expected to fight back hard, very hard.

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