Running what you hate

Thomas Frank had some nasty things to say about conservatives the other day. Basically, he sees the conservative anti-government philosophy as being responsible for the failure of government:

The government and its bureaucrats are, to the right, ever a malign force -- jealous, power-hungry and greedy. But it's hard to blame someone for failing after you've worked so hard to make them fail.

The world knows about the Republican Party's problems these days -- its purges, denunciations and defections. On the other hand, reconstituting itself as a more uniformly conservative organization might let the GOP free itself from the taint of the Bush years and fight big government in the Reagan manner.

But I doubt it. Even when conservatism is made pure, it won't be able to govern. Its bottomless suspicion toward federal workers is part of the reason.

Well, the nice thing about being a libertarian is that I get to wash my hands of all responsibility. After all, libertarians weren't in charge of the government, so how can libertarianism be blamed? (Convenient excuse, no?)

But if I may say a few words in defense of conservatives here, it would be that the government was never actually being run by conservatives, but by untouchable, unaccountable, and above all unelected bureaucrats. It matters very little who is supposedly in charge of them, as they can't be fired and they often have more power than their purported superiors who have to run for office, and who dare not offend the movers and shakers in the bureaucracy.

Even if through some bizarre miracle there were a libertarian majority in Congress, I doubt they'd be able to do much. Government would still fail to fix problems, and problems that government tries to solve invariably demand more government to fix. It's part of the design.

It is also part of the conservative (and libertarian) design to be anti-government. Being tasked with running what you claim to be against yet cannot do much to change is a perplexing contradiction, and not something I'd wish on anyone.

No wonder they tried to invent Big Government Conservatism, which makes about as much sense as would Big Government Libertarianism.

As I say, it's a lot easier to be a libertarian than a conservative. The only thing libertarians get blamed for is ruining the economy by mismanaging the Fed when they weren't even in charge of it. (And as is pointed out here, not only weren't they in charge, but most libertarians would vote to scrap the Fed.)

Which means that unlike conservatives (who actually run serious campaigns and get elected), libertarians can't be charged with running -- and ruining -- what they hate.

If only someone could put the libertarians in charge of socialism!

They could do a better job of making it not work this time.

UPDATE: Sean Kinsell links this post, and really nails Thomas Frank. Don't miss it.

Sean also has a good question:

I'm getting really sick of hearing about how economic policy governed by unbridled "free-market faith" is the cause of our current problems. What meaningful deregulation of anything has there been in the last decade--especially related to the housing market, where one of the big problems was insulation from feedback?

UPDATE: The Rhetorician sees a similar phenomenon at work in California:

It's easy to vote for fiscal conservatives and low spending, but even when we do that, we always get out-organized and out-voted by California's public employee unions, including the teachers union. They are the ones who run things in Sacramento. The Legislature and the governor largely work for them and their interests.
(Via a link from Glenn Reynolds.)

And of course, the public employee unions, the teachers union, and their media allies will turn right around and blame the fiscal conservatives. For not being able to run what they hate!

posted by Eric on 05.20.09 at 01:48 PM


>which makes about as much sense as would Big Government Libertarianism

Well, there have been anarcho-statists. Anarchist ministers included.

Marzo   ·  May 22, 2009 8:46 AM

(I thought I had put a link in anarcho-statists...)

Marzo   ·  May 22, 2009 9:10 AM

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