Monday, May 02, 2005

Huzzah for Gridlock!

Suppose you are part of a group of white, land owning, knee breech-wearing, males intent on establishing a new country out of the remains of a former ragtag group of rebellious colonies. You've just pledged your lives, your fortunes, and your sacred honors to assure that the king can't come in and push you around while you're making money. Success in rebellion was yours, strangely enough, and now, despite all odds, it is your task to frame a new government. Your history and education, stemming from Athenian democracy and Roman republicanism, routed through, Hobbes, Locke, and the nascent Scottish Enlightenment, has convinced you of Social Contract theory and representative democracy. Still, there are also concerns about establishing precedent for landowners and suppressing the whims and passions of the unwashed masses.

Your solution: a representative government so filled with checks, balances, and intricate nuances that radical legislation becomes near impossible. Regional radicalism is subsumed by national goals; passions of the lower classes are checked by the patrician guidance of their betters. One branch of government is unable to function without the consent of the other. It's a system that preserves the status quo. It's a system that keeps government tied up in procedure and out of the individual's life. You are one of the men that would have gone out into the street with guns shouting "Be Reasonable!"

That's why an effective government seems so, well, unamerican to me.

I get very nervous when either side (left or right) starts throwing its weight around, pushing programs with reckless abandon and at the expense of the common interest. Passions of the majority are not any more justified than the passions of the minority; passions of the majority merely have the advantage of being held by a majority. An appeal to popularity is a logical fallacy when determining the correctness of a political/governmental decision.

I also get very nervous when there's unanimous agreement amongst the members of government; it always feels that unanimity is not agreement, but groupthink. I appreciate the J.S. Mill/J. Madison formulation that there's an ineffable truth out there, somewhere, and that only through discourse and open discussion can we begin to approach it. The Truth, as they say, is out there.

That's why I love gridlock. I don't want an effective government; an effective government is a dictatorship. Democracy is an ineffective form of control over the citizenry. I like not being controlled like that. I like waking up in the morning and knowing that jackbooted thugs aren't going to force me to read the Ten Commandments in school. I like waking up in the morning and knowing that I can have a cigarette in a bar. Practically speaking, I don't care if the Democrats are blocking 10 judges. I didn't care when the Republicans blocked Clinton's nominees. Every minute that they spend debating debating is another minute that they aren't debating some egregious form of legislation, right or left.

Gridlock is lovely for The Bureaucracy (except during the budget season), because you know where things are going to shake out; you know that the status quo will prevail.

There's a quote attributed to Mark Twain that goes, "No man's life, liberty, or property is safe when the legislature is in session." But I think it's cheezy to end a post with a quote.

I love my gridlock.

1 comment:

CmdrSue said...

Clean Gene McCarthy (not to be confused with Joe) said, "The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is inefficiency. An efficient bureaucracy is the greatest threat to liberty."

He also said cool stuff like, "This is, I say, the time for all good men not to go to the aid of their party, but to come to the aid of their country."