I’ve been having a fascinating exchange about the state of national affairs with a friend, a true hearted right wing Libertarian if ever there was one. He is a very nice guy, warm hearted, generous, and as earnest in his beliefs as is possible to be. He is certain beyond any doubt that hope for the future of the nation lies with his brand of Libertarian policies.
He has no time for climate scientists when it’s as plain as the data NASA publishes for everyone to look at that global warming is nothing, and whatever there is, humans have had almost no impact on it. The national debt limit should be set and never breached. The Constitution should require a balanced budget. The federal government should limit itself to defense, building and maintaining the national transportation infrastructure, regulating only those things that are clearly and obviously intrastate, and staying out of all things having to do with education, health, local environmental issues, and anything related to civil rights not clearly enumerated in the Constitution. Military intervention overseas is the right way to assure that terrorists stay there and don’t come here. Everyone should pay their fair share of taxes, and that includes the rich who so easily avoid them. Raising taxes hurts the economy. Lowering them helps it. There are too many regulations. People should be allowed to do what they want to do, the best way they know how to do it, without being regulated on everything.
He’s willing to negotiate, but negotiation means discussion about how best to implement this agenda, not discussion about some other agenda. Do these things, says he, and the nation would prosper. Would it? No. Of course not. It would be plunged, almost overnight, into economic chaos with levels of unemployment not seen since the Great Depression. U.S. bonds and notes would become nearly worthless. Capital that could flee would flee. While some would cheer the return of “states rights”, others would quickly discover the loss of hard earned civil and human rights. My friend cannot and will not believe that such a disaster could be true. What he wants is a healthy America where happy people live in prosperity and without fear. So do we all.
What if we look at it from another perspective? In our conversations he’s made clear what he values for the nation: quality education for all, but not standardized education that works for some and not for many; health care that is affordable and permits the maximum amount of freedom to choose treatment and providers; a national transportation infrastructure that meets today’s needs, anticipates tomorrow’s, and is well maintained; reliable power supplies at the lowest possible cost; greater respect for the ability of locals to be responsible stewards of the lands and waters where they live; government agencies that treat people as valued customers, not suspects; taxes adequate to pay for all of this and that are fairly apportioned so that everyone pays their fair share; transparency and simplicity in government such that ordinary people can understand what’s going on; security from the violent chaos that seems to be rampant in the elsewhere in the world. They are worthy goals and reasonable expectations. Progressives, moderates, and traditional conservatives (if there are any) have almost identical goals and expectations. At least we can share that.
He also has some legitimate fears. The current national debt is not out of control, but it is on the edge of what is reasonable and sustainable. Policies that would encourage economic growth combined with adequate and fair taxation would go far to reduce the operating deficit and lower the debt as a percentage of GDP. Spending is not out of control, but certain elements of national spending are beyond wasteful, and most of that is in defense and homeland security. Some federal agencies, epitomized by the VA, are so corrupted by decades old cultures of inertia and disregard for clients that they are an embarrassment to us all. Congress keeps meddling in management minutiae by inserting regulatory requirements into legislation that benefit no one but a few “special interests.” Big money can too often buy what it wants from Governments at all levels. Good grief, no wonder he is suspicious.
In our many conversations, I have found no point of entry where he might consider a change of mind, so I’m hopeful that there are not many of him, not enough vote in a majority, and not enough to continue the idiocy of the Freedom Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives. But I believe that his goals and expectations for the nation, apart from his agenda, should be honored and celebrated.
We progressives and moderates (and any old time conservatives that still live) must find ways to make them more visible as elements of our own agendas. And, we must be disciplined pragmatists firmly grounded in evidence based proposals. None of this ‘throw some money at a problem and see if it goes away’ stuff. No more incomprehensible reorganization of departments into even more incomprehensible bureaucracies and calling it progress. And we must contain the power of “big money” to buy whatever it wants.