Thursday, July 07, 2011

Democracy and Big Government

Matt Miller of the Washington Post has a column bemoaning the current state of government. He attributed this to the lowering standards of democracy and compares it to a moral erosion:

In 1993, Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote a brilliant essay in the American Scholar in which he argued that America was "defining deviancy down" — that is, lowering standards as to what comprised normal (as opposed to aberrant) behavior in ways that skewed society's proper judgments. His addictive phrase spawned a cottage industry thereafter of things the country has been "defining down." But I'd wager that if Moynihan were here today he'd agree that the way we're defining democracy itself down is among the most depressing collapses we face.
The problem, according to Miller, is that our leaders now congratulate themselves when they avoid catastrophe instead of doing big things.

Once upon a time Americans could come together through government and create universal public education, build interstate highways, bring security to old age through Social Security and Medicare, and nurture the most dynamic economy on Earth.

Do you see the problem here? Miller's goals have nothing to do with democracy. Our interstate highways were inspired by Hitler's. Social Security and Medicare are not products of a democracy. After all, our democracy along for 150 years without Social Security and nearly 190 years without Medicare. These are not products of democracy, they are products of big government. Miller even gives China a passing mention as an example of what we should be doing.

At its heart, Miller's complaint is not about democracy. He is bemoaning the limits of government. This is ironic because the current crisis is caused by our inability to pay for the very programs that inspire Miller. Miller is just a progressive who missed out on the glory days of FDR and LBJ. It's always more fun spending the money than paying the bill but that's no excuse to go shopping again.

No comments: