Thursday, October 7, 2010

Restoring Political Balance

As another election approaches, an urgent plea is once again flooding our mailboxes, our phones, and our neighborhoods: Support my candidates or the world as you know it will end! The Right fears that our (Left-controlled) government has too much power, spends too much of our hard-earned money on things and people we don't care about, and has a lust to take over the economy. The Left warns of decay into a third world hell precipitated by the sabotage of democracy by greedy (Right-leaning) corporations and their crackpot cronies. Who should we choose?

Here's my take on what I believe to be the underlying issue. The Right and the Left have a basic disagreement about whether everyone has equal value, and whether each of us has a responsibility to help others meet their basic needs. People on the Right would generally say “no” to at least one of these propositions, and people on the Left would generally say “yes” to both.

The “too much power” question is a red herring, on both the Right and the Left (by “power” I mean “influence to get what you want”). They just have different opinions about who should have it, and what it should be used for; see the “underlying issue” above. The Right judges people's value by how much power they have, so in their view we should all be able to compete to get as much as possible, and then have no restrictions on how we can use it (and if you can't compete, even to survive, no one should have to share with you). The Left would rather have everyone be guaranteed enough power to take care of themselves (through the agency of the government which, at least theoretically, represents everyone), with whatever is left available for individual gain and subject to restrictions on harming people and the rest of the planet which we all depend on for survival.

Like it or not, there is a roughly equal constituency for both points of view, and our government functions as intended when both sides are equally represented in its control. Arguably since the Reagan years, control of the government has trended more toward the Right than the Left. It is a symptom of just how far to the Right we've gone that a moderate like Barack Obama can be seriously accused of being a socialist (I was on the Right most of that time, and Obama is more like Reagan than any of the current crop would like to admit). We're now paying the price for that imbalance, effectively replaying the history of the lead-up to the Great Depression of the last century, but without the resources to grow out of it. The Right is justifiably concerned that the pendulum is poised to swing in the Left's direction, as the damage caused by their systematic sabotage of government's controls over private concentration of power becomes obvious, along with their complicity in it. They share blame with moderates who claimed to be on the Left, and now find their jobs threatened because they didn't perform the vital balancing function that the name implied they would.

When everyone's to blame, who can you vote for but the outsiders? But what if the “outsiders” are just more moderates, or even more radically to the Right than those currently in office? Theoretically, if every politician were a moderate we would have a balanced government, but there are still enough partisans on the Right that the balance may not shift enough without more partisans on the Left to offset them. Unfortunately, we have the choices we have. One thing's for sure, though: tipping the balance even more (or a lot) to the Right is definitely the wrong thing to do.  


Anonymous said...

Obama a "moderate"? Are you kidding me???

Bradley Jarvis said...

I'm not kidding.

The Right has moved so far to the extreme in the last 30 years, that Reagan would be considered "liberal" if he were running today. I know, because I was a Republican during all but the last decade, and I don't even recognize the party as the same one I knew then (which is one of the reasons I left it).