Monday, October 16, 2006

A Grand Experiment

Gagdad Bob proposes this grand experiment:

At this point, I wish we could have two separate countries, Red America and Blue America. Then, once and for all, we could have a true test of which ideas are the more functional and create more economic prosperity and moral goodness. In Blue America they would have high taxes, a huge, intrusive federal government, marriage for any two or more people who wished to do so, socialized medicine, economically crippling Kyoto-style restrictions, government enforced racial discrimination, open borders (except into our country--to preserve the integrity of the experiment we’d have to have a big fence to keep them from escaping into our beautiful Red America), a permanent ban on vouchers to ensure the stranglehold the Teachers Union has on education, a religious test to keep people of faith out of public life, no guns, no smoking, lots of abortions, even more special rights and protections for criminals and terrorists, a ban on evil places like Walmart which provide vital goods to people of modest means at rock bottom prices, free college for everyone no matter how stupid, and a high minimum wage to suppress employment, spur inflation, and keep tax revenues down.

Bob's provocative proposal gives me pause. For I have to admit that even though I've traditionally supported many of Bob's "Blue" American policies--especially socialized medicine--piecemeal, I can well imagine that if they were all implemented together, they would produce anything but the earthly paradise I desire.

However, I have to wonder how much happier I'd be in Bob's "Red" America. Not that Bob describes the social and ecocomic polices of his ideal Red country, but I'd surmise that they would need to be polar opposites of his "Blue" American policies and would include such things as only enough taxation to support our military's policing of the world; marriage restricted only to fertile heterosexual couples bound by a religious and legal oath to "be fruitful and multiply;" medical care only for men, women, and children who could pay for it out of their own pockets or were lucky enough to recieve the private, charitable contributions of those who could; no public schooling; no government restrictions on toxic emissions or resource depletions; no government "intrusion" into racial segregation and the majority supppression of ethnic, racial, or religious minorities; a "religious test" to allow only people of Judeo-Christian faith into "public life;" no government restrictions on the private ownership of whatever weapons one can afford to purchase and deploy; no government bans of smoking in any workplace or public venue; no abortions for any woman for any reason; no "rights and protections" for anyone merely suspected of criminal conduct or terrorism; no restrictions whatsoever on megacorporate monopolies of goods and services; and no minimum wage, child labor laws, or other workplace regulations.

I'm not sure I'd find Bob's Red America a whole lot more appealing that his Blue one. Come to think of it, I'm not sure that he would either, despite his superior intelligence and other talents and privileges that give him and his family a leg up on a lot of the rest of us. I'm SURE he wouldn't like it too much if, God forbid, he was suddenly incapacited by his diabetes or some other terrible medical problem or by a crippling accident and he quickly exhausted his savings to where he could no longer afford to feed, clothe, and house himself much less his precious young son. Nor do I know how much he'd enjoy not having the paved roads to drive on and police, firefighting, and countless other public amenities and services he enjoys now that are financed by tax money.

To Bob's credit, he concedes that he's not a complete "libertarian." For even though he "frankly" admits that he wouldn't care what horrible things happened to other people if they didn't also harm him and his family, he believes that the "force of [death instinct] envy is so strong in human beings, that the culture absolutely must have some means to channel it in an officially sanctioned way, or the society will explode from within." Thus, we must "appease" envy to some extent, not because we should give a damn about others per se, but because we need to protect our own asses.

Well, I happen to believe that there are other reasons for taxation and government regulations and programs than that, but the point that needs to be made here is that even Gagdad Bob realizes that we need some kind of balance of "liberal" and "conservative" policies if we are to flourish as a society. While I agree with him that we don't want to reach a "tipping point" of socialistic or communistic excess that causes a society to "spiritually rot from within," we must bear in mind that the point can also tip the other way into a social and spiritual rot accompanied by terrible suffering that stems from libertarian excess.

As I become more mindful of the potential perils of "liberal" ideology, I should hope that people like Robert Godwin would become more cognizant of the potential perils of the "conservative" ideology they trumpet, and that they join with me and others who are looking to integrate both perspectives in a manner that optimally nurtures human happiness and minimizes human suffering.

(Cross-posted to Thoughts Chase Thoughts)

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