Sunday morning relative nihilism

There are few things in life I detest more than enthusiasm for government. And as my luck would have it, last night I ate dinner surrounded by people who feel exactly the opposite way. Young, enthusiastic, left-wing policy wonks, who are simply drooling over the prospect of implementing government programs. It was a sickening experience, although I kept telling myself that I might learn something by listening. I learned nothing; it only reconfirmed my hatred for all things government -- and my loathing for the mindset that would tell people what to do.

And telling people what to do is what it's all about. These folks see themselves as benevolent dictators, working for the public good. I'd call them "self-appointed" except that they think they've earned it by virtue of their training (graduate degrees in proper subjects), and their enthusiastic attitude is roughly analogous to police academy graduates all set to go out and fight crime in the big bad world.

Depressing? I don't know if that's the right word, because they were like aliens to me. All of them were young enough to be my kids, and the universities are turning them out assembly-line style, and they're ready to go, like fully operational turn-key systems.

It occurred to me that there are probably a few conservatives who also get graduate degrees from the same places, in the same government-related subjects, but that thought did not comfort me in the least. Had I been surrounded by young conservative policy wonks, I'd have had a lot more to agree with, but the problem is that I deeply distrust all government, and anyone who wants to be involved in it is therefore suspect. It's that love of power that I find so disgusting.

Libertarians, of course, believe in the less government the better, and would agree wholeheartedly with Ronald Reagan's stated philosophy that "government is not the solution to the problem; government is the problem."

And good luck filling all the policy wonk spots with people who think like that.

Little wonder the conservative policy wonks invented National Greatness Conservatism.

Libertarians like me who hate government have nothing to offer.

I'd say "literally" -- except I might be accused of advocating nihilism, and we can't have that, can we? Certainly not on a Sunday.

In terms of government, nothingness is relative. If you're a federalist who believes in the 9th and 10th Amendments, to roll back the size and scope of the federal government to constitutional limits would mean completely shutting down virtually every federal department except for State, Defense, Treasury, Attorney General, and maybe Interior (which was added in 1849):

Here's a hypothetical hit list of what I'd slate for utopian annihilation:

  • Agriculture, added in 1889;

  • Commerce and labor (once a single department), added by progressive Theodore Roosevelt in 1903 (and then split into two departments by progressive Woodrow Wilson in 1913).

  • HEW/HHS, added in 1953.

  • The rest have all been added during my lifetime. (HUD and Transportation were added under Johnson, Education and Energy under Carter, Veterans Affairs under Bush I, Homeland Security under Bush II, and under Clinton the EPA became a Cabinet level administration.)
  • Close them all. Including every alphabet soup bureaucracy that's within another department but which exercises power or jurisdiction that isn't specifically empowered by the Constitution.

    Getting rid of all that would be a good start.

    Not total nihilism, just relative.

    posted by Eric on 09.06.09 at 09:12 AM


    I don't think that we have yet reached the state that Europe is in, teaching children in grade school that all things good come from government and all things bad come from private business.

    hugh   ·  September 6, 2009 9:29 AM

    Perhaps not Hugh, but the trends are disquiting. I have a brother and sister-in-law who are pretty liberal, and they seem to be convinced of two things. Those on the left are smarter (and more virtuous) and there are "experts" who work for the government who really do know the solutions to all of our problems.

    Joe Lammers   ·  September 6, 2009 1:45 PM

    TOTBAL people are the problem. Anytime they spot something they don't like, the response is likely "There Ought To Be A Law" against whatever.

    I think TOTBAL against more laws.

    Donna B.   ·  September 6, 2009 2:58 PM

    I'm with you on abolishing most of the federal departments, along with several of individual state departments. But with the belief that local city and county departments would need to adapt to the changes.

    I can tell you I believe that if a health-care bill gets passed, middle America from democrats to those that don't even claim a party will do everything they can to boot out most of Congress and Obama. These millions of voters don't want vague bills that become policy and law passed. Nor do they want to own corporations and bail out business and banks that should have been allowed to go under.

    But the one thing that is not vague is the disrespect and disdain that the members of Congress and the various presidents have shown to the American public over the last seventy or so years.

    It has become apparent that they view themselves as the masters of a people that are stupid and don't know what they want or need. When they should be working to protect and preserve not only our freedoms but to limit government control instead of increasing it.

    And most American's know that they are not stupid peasants who need (or want) a bigger more intrusive government. Except for most of the ones that have been educated in our liberal universities and thus brainwashed.

    I'm afraid that it is congress and the president and his backers are the ones who just don't understand or care.

    Just as our Founders told us could happen.

    Papa Ray
    West Texas

    The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed - where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once.
    2009 Judge Alex Kozinski

    Papa Ray   ·  September 6, 2009 6:25 PM

    Government sprawl is philosophical obesity.

    Brett   ·  September 7, 2009 8:51 AM

    The problem is that being against government poses problems if the goal is to get elected and help run government. Reagan stated that he wanted to abolish the Department of Education, but he ended up increasing its budget:

    He also said he wanted to abolish Commerce and Energy, but that never happened either.

    Because of the nature of the system, Republicans are placed in the position of making things they claim to hate work better.

    Little wonder libertarians don't want to run for office. People who are against government don't want to be in it.

    Eric Scheie   ·  September 7, 2009 11:37 AM

    Your dinner conversation reminds me of the op-eds that appear in our local rag every time there is a vote to add a sales tax to fund some new issue. Typically it's some young person, usually a high school student, espousing the virtues of the "fix" (or least why a fix is required) while also exclaiming the cost is "only a penny." They just don't get it. Some fix is always necessary, but this time the solution is correct, and oh it's "only a penny."

    FMG Garry   ·  September 7, 2009 8:41 PM

    Post a comment

    April 2011
    Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
              1 2
    3 4 5 6 7 8 9
    10 11 12 13 14 15 16
    17 18 19 20 21 22 23
    24 25 26 27 28 29 30


    Search the Site


    Classics To Go

    Classical Values PDA Link


    Recent Entries


    Site Credits