Liberals are at it again. They are worrying that the U.S. is "ungovernable." Political scientist Jay Cost
has the details:
Ezra Klein argued
that it was time to reform the filibuster because the government cannot function with it intact anymore. Tom Friedman suggested
that America's "political instability" was making people abroad nervous. And Michael Cohen of Newsweek blamed
"obstructionist Republicans," "spineless Democrats," and an "incoherent public" for the problem.
Liberals were saying exactly the same thing in 1980, thirty years ago, in the darkest days of the Carter administration. The mess of inflation, recession, Iran hostages, and gas lines, they decided, was not a direct result of stupid Carter administration policy. It was a sign that America's best days were behind us, and that there was nothing to do but decline gracefully.
You'll remember that U.S. voters in the fall of 1980 had a different idea. They decided to elect a B-movie actor to the presidency. Yes, that's what liberals called Ronald Reagan back then. Clark Clifford, the "wise man of Washington," hadn't even thought of calling him an "amiable dunce." Not yet.
The Amiable Dunce proceeded to cut tax rates. He strengthened the dollar and cut government spending. It wasn't so much governing as getting government out of the way. The result was a twenty-year boom. And now here we are back where we started, with a nasty economy, a soft dollar, a failed presidency, and another generation of liberals complaining that the U.S. is ungovernable.
To call a nation ungovernable is as ignorant as calling an airplane in which you are the pilot "unflyable." When Tex Johnston made the first flight in the eight-engine YB-52 bomber in April 1952, he found on climb-out that the control force needed to apply bank with the ailerons made it impossible to turn the airplane. Did he give up and bail out of this unflyable airplane? Not according to the story he tells in Jet-Age Test Pilot. He tried the rudder pedals and found that he could yaw the airplane -- and the secondary effect of yaw, as every pilot knows, is bank. So Tex brought the prototype YB-52 in to land using the rudder pedals, directed the engineers to make some adjustments, and the rest is history.
Tex's problem with the B-52 ailerons is the same as the liberal problem with the filibuster. Liberals are finding the Senate's controls too heavy. It's almost impossible, they complain, to get the Senate to turn on command. So they want to change the rules to make it easier for them to do a cram-down on partisan legislation.
Don't they realize that the founding fathers wrote the U.S. Constitution precisely to make it hard to control the Senate? The founders wanted to restrain momentary Pelosian majorities in the House of Representatives with regional power in the upper house. They set the controls to make the U.S. almost ungovernable -- by design.
Our liberal friends have helped in one area. Their postmodern professors have taught us that history is nothing more than a self-serving narrative dictated by the powerful. Radical historians like the recently departed Howard Zinn in A People's History of the United States have made fortunes out of exploding the notion of European civilization by recounting the nasty things white European males have done to "the people" all over the world. Noam Chomsky has made himself a rich man penning screeds about American imperialism.
Our left-wing friends never seem to have thought that their narrative of injustice, which exposed the hypocrisies of the world bourgeoisie and global corporations, applies exactly to them and their progressive project.
When you look at the great government programs, you can believe the liberal narrative about helping people, or you can believe the liberal postmodernists and assume that it's all about power. Every regulation is a bid for power; every dollar of spending is a payoff to supporters. You can make a case that the Obama administration's program of stimuli, bailouts, tax "agnosticism," and crony capitalism is all about hope and change for the people. But in the modern age, stripped of superstition and Platonic "likely stories," we believe in the simple, elegant explanation. Nah, it's all about power.
Stripped of its narrative myth, every government is an armed minority occupying territory and subjugating its population. That's why the Audi Green Police commercial is so mordantly funny. In the United States in 2010, the police power can fine you for not separating your garbage correctly. But an armed minority does not just sic the police on its middle-class citizens. It must reward its supporters. That's why government spending has gone from 7 percent of GDP to 45 percent in a century. That's why government workers earn more than private-sector workers.
So when liberal wring their hands because the U.S. seems to be ungovernable, we conservatives chuckle. That's not a bug, liberals; that's a feature.