The Internet is glutted today with posts reacting to the State of the Union address. (And to the underwhelming Apple iPad.)
This is not one of them. Why? Because, sadly, I don’t care. I should care. I should be part of the government of the people, by the people and for the people. I should be asking not what my country can do for me, but what I can do for my country.
Instead, I’m tired of it all. I’m tired of congressional corruption, of votes for sale to the biggest-ticket political action group. I’m tired of pork barrel spending, turning badly needed legislation into a travesty. I’m tired of my hopes and ideals being dashed to bits, while our elected officials lose sight of all meaning and embrace partisan pissing contests.
I have a son who is medically uninsurable on an individual basis. He’s also in an employment category not likely to provide him with corporate-sponsored benefits. Hello, health care crisis.
I have a dear friend whose spouse has been unemployed for a year, although he’s well qualified and searching daily. She’s disabled and they’re trying to raise a daughter. They have no insurance, he has no further unemployment benefits, and disability applications can take two years to process and be approved. How do they live? Hello, economic crisis.
There are millions of stories just like that across America, but rather than focusing on finding solutions, our government flops and flails around like a snagged silver salmon. “That’s socialist.” “That’s an invasion of privacy.” “That’s not fiscally responsible.”
Really? And leaving a large fraction of our population to live on the streets and die of untreated medical conditions is fiscally and morally responsible? My mistake, I thought we were a first world nation.
Actually, politically, I’m a huge fan of Robert Heinlein, the golden age SF author. He postulated a concept called “rational anarchy” in his book The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – one of my favorites.
The novel defines the political philosophy as “a rational anarchist believes that concepts such as ‘state’ and ‘society’ and ‘government’ have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals.”
He continues, “In terms of morals there is no such thing as a ‘state.’ Just men. Individuals. Each responsible for his own acts,” he says. “I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free, because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything that I do.”
This seems to be closely related to libertarianism, where the best government is the least government, at least in theory. As I’ve said before, the libertarian philosophy tends to support strong personal rights to life and liberty, free market capitalism, private property rights, minimal government regulation, minimal taxation, and rejection of the welfare state, all within the context of the rule of law. Bottom line – they’re fiscally conservative but socially liberal.
How do I reconcile my fairly staunchly libertarian beliefs with my sense of disgust with the government’s handling of the multiple crises facing America today?
First, personally, I’m generous. I think a lot of people just naturally are, the golden rule and all. Given a choice to help their neighbor or not help their neighbor, most choose the former.
Second, there’s a difference between welfare and empowerment. Would my son buy medical insurance if it were even possible, and reasonably priced? Of course! Would my friend take any job he could get to provide a roof over his family’s head and medical care for them? In a heartbeat. One of the saddest aspects of this recession is how hard it’s hit the working, educated professional.
I don’t think anyone is advocating the return of a welfare state. Instead, we need to fix the broken system so that those who work hard, who want to make a contribution, have an opportunity to do so.
Maybe I do care after all; I’ve just lost faith. I want our elected officials to remember this is not about partisan politics, not one bit; it’s about real people, like my friend. And my son. And the millions other like them who wake up needing a reason to keep hoping.