Friday, October 08, 2004

Debating with one’s Shadow
Tibor R. Machan
A shadow is different from you, don’t get me wrong, but there is a strong resemblance in essentials. In the case of George Bush versus John Kerry the two men pretty much believe the same thing about the most important thing, namely about the role of government—it’s only a matter of more rather than a bit less (and even then the difference is more a matter of words than actual or likely policies).
Take the Iraqi war. Kerry helped authorized the action and said Hussein ought to go and even voted to fund it all. Now he says he would have done it differently—mainly by getting Germany and France and some other skeptics to go along—but such a counterfactual is tough to judge. What if France and Germany would have stuck to their guns as they say they will even if Kerry becomes US president? It is not mentioned in these debates that Germany and France had very strong economic ties to Iraq, so why would they take part in an action that severs those ties? Terrorists from that region of the world didn’t bother them a bit, so what reason would they have to join the US, especially if they didn’t even think Hussein deserved UN actions against him?
No, in actual fact, Kerry would have done exactly as Bush did or at least done something close. No big difference there.
How about government involvement in health care? Bush says there’s a huge difference between his and Kerry’s stance, yet Kerry wants a kind of government managed medical service for all except those who don’t mind paying for it twice—with their taxes, first, and then to a private doctor again—while Bush wants simply a slower advance toward socialized medicine, starting with his prescription drugs for all aged folks, never even mind whether for rich or poor. That, too, is being paid out of taxes and enlarges government involvement in American medicine.
So, once again, while details may differ, on the essentials the two aren’t far apart.
OK, Bush is something of a supply-sider when it comes to tax policy, believing with economists like Arthur Laffer that cutting taxes will more likely keep the economy robust while still generating huge amounts from the anticipated wider boom. Kerry thinks, along with his team of economists, like Princeton’s Paul Kruger, that this is nonsense and that cutting taxes is tantamount to reducing the "revenues" of the government.
This, too, is mere dickering in my book. Both of them are still thoroughly convinced of the full authority of government to extort money from us, they just differ on the precise method by which to do it so as to provoke the least protest from us while garnering huge sums to do with as they happen to please. Not a big difference, I say.
OK, Bush wanted to do away with partial birth abortions, Kerry didn’t want the ban. I’ll give you this but do not think it makes much of a difference. Here Congress rules, and the courts, and they have spoken. Neither Bush nor Kerry will be very influential, although I admit the court nominations will probably have a significant impact as far as conservative versus liberal causes are concerned, though they will probably even out as far as libertarian hopes go.
Both, of course, like the Patriot Act, with Kerry claiming to wish to alter a few things, which could just be campaign hokum, nothing more. (Indeed, a lot of what both of these blokes are saying can be dismissed as merely trying to get votes and forecasting no dependable policy direction.)
For my money, I will stay out of this and make my point that way. I am hoping enough folks will go elsewhere—to Nader or, more preferably, to Bandarik—to send a strong message of how these two men simply aren’t articulating a sound, rational vision for the American political order. For they certainly aren’t, not if your standards have anything to do with what this country is supposed to have been established for, namely, to uphold principles of individual rights—unalienable ones, at that.
Indeed, these candidates are like rival candidates for the massive corporate state America has become, arguing about which of them is likely to be a better hands on CEO. I am waiting for the candidate who wants to be a referee, an umpire, only willing to rush into action when our basic rights are being threatened.
I think I may have to wait quite some time!

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