Skip to comments.New House Is Government By Abstraction (Gigantic Barf Alert!!!)
Posted on 01/06/2011 4:54:37 PM PST by Kaslin
Edmund Burke, one of history's greatest conservatives, warned that abstractions are the enemy of responsible government.
"I never govern myself, no rational man ever did govern himself, by abstractions and universals," Burke wrote. "A statesman differs from a professor in a university; the latter has only the general view of society; the former, the statesman, has a number of circumstances to combine with those general ideas."
Alas for all of us and for American conservatism in particular, the new Republican majority that took control of the House on Wednesday is embarked on an experiment in government by abstractions. Many in its ranks pride themselves on being practical business people, but they behave as professors in thrall to a few thrilling ideas.
Their rhetoric is nearly devoid of talk about solving practical problems how to improve our health care, education and transportation systems, or how to create more middle-class jobs.
Instead, we hear about things we can't touch or see or feel, and about highly general principles divorced from their impact on everyday life.
Their passion is not for what government should or shouldn't do but for "smaller government" as a moral imperative. During the campaign, they put out a nice round $100 billion in spending cuts from which they're now backing away. It is far easier to float a big number than to describe reductions for student loans, bridges, national parks or medical research.
Republicans promised they would "repeal and replace" President Obama's health care law but the only thing on the schedule is repeal. They provide no alternative.
(Excerpt) Read more at investors.com ...
Edmund Burke ping. You’re going to have fun with this clymer.
Said with not a hint of irony.
What is the preservation of freedom through the repeal of an instrument of oppression of it - is it not the the combination of a general view of society with a concrete measure required for its preservation? I think Edmund Burke is quoted out of context but even if he is quoted accurately, he would not approve of Obamacare today.
[Edmund Burke, Observations on a Late Publication on the Present State of the Nation, 1769]
Burke WAS quoted out of context. Here is the full passage:
I never govern myself, no rational man ever did govern himself, by abstractions and universals. I do not put abstract ideas wholly out of any question, because I well know that under that name I should dismiss principles; and that without the guide and light of sound well-understood principles, all reasonings in politics, as in everything else, would be only a confused jumble of particular facts and details, without the means of drawing out any sort of theoretical or practical conclusion.
A statesman differs from a professor in a university; the latter has only the general view of society; the former, the statesman, has a number of circumstances to combine with those general ideas, and to take into his consideration. Circumstances are infinite, are infinitely combined; are variable and transient; he, who does not take them into consideration is not erroneous, but stark maddat operam ut cum ratione insaniat [he labors to make his mind mad through his reason]he is metaphysically mad. A statesman, never losing sight of principles, is to be guided by circumstances; and judging contrary to the exigencies of the moment he may ruin his Country for ever.
The abstractions and universals EJ Dionne so airily dismisses with such contempt are called principles. Its impossible to develop a political train of thought without them. The coherence of ideology is what gives political life its light, color and vitality.
Surrounding Obamacare, the debate is really about who we trust: the overbearing hand of government or the sovereign judgment of the free individual. In quoting Burke, Dionne gives no consideration to the philosophies that shape the different views of how health care should be treated. And he who through his reason, refuses to apprehend them, in Burke’s words, indeed labors for the ruin of his country forever.
That is not a fate I wish for America.
In very small words, E.J. - maybe you're even reading this if your minder has approved - in very small words, Burke was a very bright fellow who was a defender of the American revolution in Parliament, not an easy thing, to be sure. He believed deeply in the sort of individual freedom that is a foundational part of the Tea Party movement and, more or less, with the freshman class in the House. He balked at social revolution that ended up cutting people's heads off, E.J. - you know, the kind your side fantasizes about at the coffee houses? He believed in small government whose first priority was individual freedom, E.J., not the power of the collective to dictate that individual's life for him in matters such as taxation or, oh, say, environmentalism. I don't think you could call him Green, Progressive, socialist, or remotely Democrat in the modern sense.
What he did believe was that enough oppression by a ruling class - that'd be you and your buddies, E.J. - could result in a revolution that threw the baby out with the bathwater. And that it should be dealt with gently, as it was in America, or it would be dealt with by horrific violence, as was about to happen in France. And he was right about the violence, E.J. Do you know what a tumbrel is? It's a farmer's cart used for carrying dung. It was also used to carry people just like you to the guillotine when the French had finally had enough. We're getting close, E.J. Don't warn us about practical government after two years of 0bamacare and Pelosi's autocratic preening, you lost that right long ago. Just hope that we listen to Burke, because some of us are thinking Robespierre and Marat are sounding pretty good right at the moment.