Oh, post at Katherine Coble’s place, how I love thee! Your beauty is beyond compare; you shine your light on my darkened world. I am compelled, oh, fair post, to bend to one knee and ask you to be mine for the rest of my life.
But I am just a pipe fitter, a lowly common man with dirt under my nails; my abode is dingy and my life rough. You, my fair post, do not deserve me or the life I could give you. I cannot in good conscience, ask you to leave your ivory tower and marry me. You are simply too perfect to sully yourself by putting yourself where I live.
In case you missed it, Kat’s been having a dustup with Ned Williams over some very political statements he made about the Rally For Life. I agree with her totally that Ned’s approach, at the very least, does no good. They volleyed in the comments at both places, then Katherine went in a new direction and posted the object of my affection described above. It is simply the most articulate, compelling case for libertarianism that I have ever read. I’ve literally read it four times. Like a fair maiden, I cannot stop looking at it. It had me at “hello”.
Yet, at the same time, it reminds me why I am not a libertarian. I’m not good enough. This is going to take a minute, so hang with me.
I ruffle a lot of feathers because I believe in American exceptionalism. The USA is simply, in every term measureable, the greatest nation ever on the face of the earth. Yet, we are not great because of our military or nuclear weaponry. We are not great because of our behemoth consumer-oriented economy. And no, Alexis de Tocqueville, America is not great because America is good. Other nations have all of these features, yet they lag far behind.
America is great because Americans are the most vibrant, creative people on the face of the planet. Want a widget built to your exact specifications? By all means, hire a German. Want the widget redesigned within pre-set parameters? You’re better off going with the Japanese. Want someone to think of a new kind of widget never before imagined by mankind, marketed in new, creative ways? Want to find a way to make this fit into that, using only this? You’re going to need an American for that job.
America is great because its people are so vibrant and creative. America’s people are that way because they are the most free the world has ever seen.
This is why I love Kat’s post so much. She gets it!
Yet, as wonderful as it is, I don’t think the underlying idea, in its purest form, can really exist when applied to where people live.
“Europe” – the idea, not the continent, has always been out there since the founding of the USA. There has always been that significant “other”, the counterweight to American independence, they lifestyle of government ordered, sheltered lives. For good or ill, Americans have always measured themselves in contradistinction to Europe. There have always been Americans who envy Europe, who wish to model America on the European model.
Yet, they have always been in the minority. Most Americans have looked at Europeans throughout our history and thought their lives a little TOO ordered, not free enough, grey, drab, boring. Americans have consistenly prefered risk, opportunity, and the freedom to be creative. Whenever cries of “we need government protection!” have arisen, America always had men (I mean mankind, Aunt B) who would stand up and cry Freedom.
This is where Kat and I part ways. I don’t believe they make men like that anymore.
I believe we’ve reached a critical point in our history, where probably half the nation is Europhile. Our side, the side of opportunity and freedom, had its last, shining moment when Ronald Reagan was president. He was the last high-profile politician who could stand in the face of hysterical cries of nanny-staters, ignore them with a cheerful optimism, and steer the country toward more freedom, not less.
But his work was left unfinished, and there was no one to take the reigns when he left. Since then, there is no other way to put it: our side lost. Now, the argument for every single bill run through congress is framed in terms of “protection”. Somehow, every single expansion of government is seen as “saving children’s lives”. Oppose that pre-school initiative? Children will die because of you! Oppose a tax hike? You’re killing the children!
And, since we don’t make Great men anymore who value freedom above reputation, and the men we do have don’t want to be seen as mean child-harmers, the best the Right can do is try to limit the damage.
And if you value freedom, this is where the battle is. The other side has already captured the ground where libertarianism lies. They won that battle. You can rail against it, you can throw precious footsoldiers into enemy territory where they will be slaughtered, or you fight the battle where the front lines are. You fight the cause of freedom where people live.
And right now, people live in Europe-lite. One look at the aftermath of Katrina told us just how far we’ve come. For whatever reason, “government”, for a short time, was unable to be present. And my tears at the time were mostly for my country: to see Americans so helpless that they had no idea what to do without government not only protecting them but telling them what to do and where to go. This is what we’ve come to.
I still believe in the idea of Freedom. But we, the American people, have squandered it. It is no longer ours by birthright. We are going to have to fight to get it back, and the battle lines are much further to the left now. We have to fight there.
This is why I cannot adopt Kat’s post as my political philosophy. It is an ideal, a wonderful ivory tower theory, that would be nice to see come to fruition. Unfortunately, it, right now, is too good to exist where people live.