Friday, November 10, 2006

Gridlock versus Monolith

by Tibor R. Machan

Being a friend of neither Republicans nor Democrats, this election like most left me pretty nonplussed. Except for one thing. I favor gridlock. The idea is that the more they squabble among themselves in Washington, Sacramento, Tallahassee or other centers of political power, the better chance people around the country have for carrying on with their own lives as they deem proper. That is, after all, the point of life in human communities. To be able to live peacefully on one's own terms and those one can come to with others. The proper role of the lawmakers and law enforcers is to secure that peace, to make sure our individual rights aren't violated. The details may get quite complicated at times, but that's the bottom line.

Given that neither of the major parties has any interest at all in facilitating this limited purpose for us—because they all want to meddle with nearly every part of our lives now, and are often encouraged to do this by the very people whose lives they bother so much (in the hope that perhaps the meddling with favor them as against others)—what is there left to hope for from politics? The gridlock.

When the power-hungry politicians are not quite in cahoots—what they want the power for differs among them significantly enough so they keep haggling about it—they get preoccupied with jockeying for the power they see available to them. If one party is in charge of the whole shebang, well, this haggling is reduced and the likelihood of messing up our lives is greater, what with all of them agreed to do it in roughly the same ways.

As everyone could see over the last term and a half of Republican presidential and Congressional dominance, these folks were just as eager as those they kept calling 'tax and spend liberals' to, well, tax and spend. Sure, some temporary tax relief was evident but with all the spending these hypocritical Republicans supported, sometime in the near future the jig will be up. (It is moreover pretty rotten to go against that somewhat reasonable idea that there ought not to be taxation without representation, which is exactly what funding government by borrowing money really comes to!)

Republicans and Democrats alike are caught in the spiral of public choice theory—they refuse to say no to anything they can do to spend your money and mine, given that we have no systematic block against it in our legal system. (My friend Jack Wheeler says this ought to be the next big item of political debate, the erection of constitutional barriers to confiscatory taxation. Dream on Jack—they all think they can square the circle somehow!)

So the only hope that's reasonable and promising is for the politicians to get completely immersed in infighting. Let the Bush team strive to increase the military budget and Nancy Pelosi & Co. fight him tooth and nail, and let Nancy & Co. try for more money for whatever interest group they want to benefit and get the Republicans up in arms about that. And the same thing on as many fronts as possible—extending government regulations, installing more environmental precautionary measures, promoting religion in public schools, whatever.

Then if we are lucky, we will get some additional scandals from the new team manning the Nanny State, so perhaps that will add some more obstacles to their getting anything done. (They all seem to think that the most important part of their job is to "get something done," whatever that "something" happens to be, even if it means adding a bunch of intrusive laws into our lives.)

No, there is nothing very positive about gridlock except for the chance that it will slow down a bit the runaway train of government intrusion in people's lives. Perhaps that will provide a little chance for people to learn better and better what the American Founders tried to teach them about the proper scope of governmental power. This is that such power is only justified when used defensively, to ward off violations of our basic and derivative rights. The rest is tantamount to nothing less than political malpractice.

No comments: