Monday, December 13, 2010
Articles about two completely different subjects demonstrate the urgent need for cultural change in America. A common thread the two share is something like this: "What should we do differently, in the political sense, than we did before?" Unfortunately, the answer in each case is, "Have the government run things more efficiently," rather than, "Start getting the government's nose out of our daily affairs."
Our first example comes from City Journal, where Nicole Gelinas takes a look at the political climate in New Orleans five years after Katrina.
It turns out that instead of looking for a heroic potentate to work miracles from on high, New Orleanians were making smaller-scale, bottom-up changes that would truly help their city. Beginning in the same election [that saw Ray Nagin reelected], voters reshaped the city council: today, only one of the seven council members is a pre-Katrina holdover. More important is that the members' résumés are subtly different from those of the old days. Fewer have community-organizing or social-services backgrounds; more have had careers in law, real estate, and management. These new members are likelier to view government as a provider of efficient public services than to consider it a weapon for social justice or a dispenser of jobs. They know, too, that city voters are paying attention in a way that they never have before. As new councilwoman Susan Guidry puts it, the biggest change in the electorate is "the level of citizen involvement" in day-to-day issues. [bold added]This is a concrete improvement over what had been in place, but not the fundamental change that New Orleans would need for substantial or lasting improvement.
This problem is hardly isolated. Here's an elaboration on what some conservatives mean by, "repeal and replace."
End Medicaid's open-ended entitlement and start treating beneficiaries like American citizens rather than wards of the state. Make the competitive advantage of private insurance available to them through vouchers, and leave the open-ended entitlement for disabled individuals and those with serious chronic illnesses. [minor format edits]In each case, we are seeing people respond to the obvious harm that "big government" causes by "reforming" it or reigning in its "excesses" -- as if it is possible to fix the inherently broken welfare state.
It is as if someone whose circles included lots of murderous acquaintances came to the realization that this wasn't good for him -- and chose to start hanging around with thieves instead. It may be an improvement in terms of buying time, but the nature of the problem -- that all criminal behavior comes from the same basic cause -- means that such a "solution" is far from enough.
The problem isn't big government, but government functioning outside its proper scope. Until more Americans begin to see this, we will see only half-measures as reforms -- half-measures that, at best, would look like the first steps towards proper government we really need. Does anyone remember school vouchers?