Worshippers of government power have their winner in George W. Bush. The Bush prescription of more government spending and interference in order to make you safer and freer was identical to the Kerry prescription of more government spending and interference to make you freer and safer. Both advocated more war, more empire, and more spending. Logically, most voters, regardless of how their favorite Bonesman fared, got their wish in 2004.
We will soon discover the meaning of the old warning "Be careful what you wish for…."
Some have angst over whether Bush has a mandate. If you voted for either of the big state parties, your permission was granted.
Of course, in mandate mongering we don’t count the silent majority. Even in this great year of voter turnout, 40% — including all the third party loyalists who stood to be counted — chose neither statist candidate. If we counted these factions, we might find value in dividing the pro-state vote. We could allocate 30% to Bush-statists, 30% to Kerry-statists, and 40% — the clear plurality — to those people who fantastically and beautifully cling to the idea the Washington is irrelevant to their daily lives.
It only takes 40% to elect a President. Perhaps, the real mandate is ours.
It is interesting to contemplate the next four Bush-years. The Washington Monthly published a series of essays on what a second Bush term might mean for America and the world. Thanks to Jude Wanniski for reminding us.
I have found, as a fan of Mark Twain, H.L. Mencken, and Will Rogers, that the most wisdom is generally imparted by the irreverent. For example, Paul Begala’s "Vengeance is His" is probably dead on accurate. Kevin Drum’s "The Scandals Finally Break" is deliciously funny and just as valid.
Some of the more serious of articles are in their own way both hilarious and educational. For example, James Kenneth Galbraith complains that the Bush fiscal policies are a retread of those of McKinley, Taft, Harding, Coolidge and Hoover. He says that wrong-headed passive federal policies were corrected by progressive big staters from Teddy Roosevelt, Wilson, FDR, and presumably Nixon, LBJ, and …well, George W. Bush! But Galbraith, of course, sees our own President Bush as somehow reducing government interference and managerial control of the economic sphere. The Bush team, working happily with a voracious and corrupt Congress and a naturally greedy populace, is instead simply looting the country in old and new ways made possible only by the great progressives that Galbraith sees as heroes. Sadly, Galbraith is serious.
As Sebastian Mallaby in his article "The Deficit Conquers All" makes some excellent points, in all seriousness. But his final paragraph is just plain amusing. He writes,
The basic premise of the tax cuts — that the size of government can and should be contained — is ahistorical and wrong. Ahistorical, because government’s share of GDP has in fact grown steadily as societies have grown richer over the past century. Wrong, because government in the age of the baby bust is going inevitably to grow. Bush has failed to understand where history is headed, and history will judge him harshly for it.
If Mr. Mallaby wishes to get really technical about where history is headed, he might have reshaped his article regarding the monstrous deficit and the inscrutable nations and players who are paying our current bills on promises of future returns plus interest. He might have examined what has historically occurred when state excesses and expensive empires interact with a corrupted government-privileged merchant class to bring on disintegration of both the empire and the domestic political system.
Better yet, Mallaby might simply examine other classic pyramid schemes, and how they inevitably conclude.
But we’ll have plenty of time to observe and write about the collapse of pyramid schemes, and empires.
For those who are worried that four more years of Bush are going to be really awful, relax in the knowledge that at least Kerry won’t be blamed for it. For those angry that modern Democratic socialism won’t get a chance to change America’s course, open your eyes and wince. The fluff issues that brought out so many partisan voters on both sides cannot hide the salient conditions of the modern American state. It is a state of increasingly bankrupt socialism, with a blatant us-or-them nationalistic flavor.
Kara Hopkins, editor at the American Conservative, wrote what I thought to be the very best article in that magazine’s Presidential endorsement issue. In "The Right To Remain Silent" she counseled, "By declining to be coerced we may yet salvage a scrap of liberty." Hear, hear.
We need to get to know the 40% who, by not voting or voting their true principles, already recognize that whoever is living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue doesn’t matter. We ought to learn from these millions of Americans, not condemn them or hold them in contempt. They are wise citizens, and many of them may be living in such a way that effectively minimizes the impact of government on their lives and choices. They are not talking about American individualism and exceptionalism or even liberty — instead they are simply and quietly demonstrating it. They have much to teach us.
Karen Kwiatkowski [send her mail] is a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, who spent her final four and a half years in uniform working at the Pentagon. She now lives with her freedom-loving family in the Shenandoah Valley, and writes a bi-weekly column on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for militaryweek.com.