Musings on the need for government and our complicity in its failure
Richard W. Crockett
The Wall Street Journal's Washington editor Gerald Seib noted last week. "A political system that expects failure doesn't try very hard to produce anything else," and I would add that a political party with a doctrine that holds that “government is the problem,” has trouble producing anything but failure when it holds power. This happens when a political party serves only the interests of large private capital or privilege.
Private capitalism, which we may think of as the super rich and the super corporation on the march, is often resentful of effective government and prefers “efficient” government (except when it needs a bailout) because effective government inevitably limits the scope of private power. Private capitalism has historically been anti-government. This was especially so with respect to Communist regimes, in particular, and it is understandable, because communism was a doctrine that directly targeted and would abolish not only capital’s sphere of influence within the state, but would abolish private capital itself. But private capitalism looks upon even benign forms of government with suspicion and alarm because government may assess a duty on it for the service of establishing the rules of play. In this view government in any form threatens to extract money from private capital and therefore is often labeled with being confiscatory when it collects taxes, although large private enterprise has been relieved of much of this burden under the present American regime under the scam of “supply side” or “trickle down” economics. Accordingly, partisan attacks upon government and support for the view favoring tax breaks for the privileged and for abdication of governmental responsibility are examples of the influence of private capital over sympathetic listeners. Someone quipped last week that GOP no longer stands for “Grand Old Party,” but now stands for “Gas and Oil Party.”
The anti government view also runs part and parcel with the principal of reducing government, even to the level of incompetence, by undercutting its financial base as well as its psychological outlook. In its perceived self-interest private capital pushes a low tax-low service ideology for governmental policy. The low tax part of the ideology helps private capitalism and the low service part of the ideology hurts ordinary people. For ordinary people, the low tax-low service ideology appeals to our individualism and our stinginess, our avarice or greed. In societies governed by the rule of law government makes rules, but whether in robbing a bank or in running one, avarice and greed are inherently hostile to following rules. In the case of robbing a bank the robber sees to it that the rules are ignored. In the case of running a bank the bankers through their elected officials may see to it that the rules are never enacted.
When rules are enacted the large economic interests have come to be in charge of their enactment through the control of governmental institutions because we don’t vote and we have been suckered into their silly and self-serving theories of governance. The enacted rules nearly always have come to serve the interests of the few rather than the many. Remember the conventional wisdom that the Golden Rule is, “them who has the gold gets to make the rules.” We see this with the various attempts at bailing out the banking system in the present mortgage crisis. Attention is given only reluctantly to homeowners struggling to pay, with all kinds of conditions and limitations on any assistance that they may receive, but great attention and assistance is given to large mortgage houses pilfering the governmental till. This can happen because little people have been taught and convinced that government is incompetent and bad, that their vote doesn’t count, that if you vote it only encourages ‘em, and that they are all crooks. So, we don’t vote. If we do vote, we cast a vote “against the government,” for that is where our anger is directed. But remember this. I submit that it is our own fault. Because politics is a team sport, and you and I are on that team, and it is played best when each citizen pulls his political weight. Citizens who are brainwashed into the view that government cannot succeed are talking about themselves because they are themselves supposed to be the government and they have not been prepared to be very good citizens. Such teaching is like a football coach exhorting to his players on the futility of playing the game. Do think that would help them win? Or do you think that they would lose?