Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Musings on the Midterms

No doubt virtually all on earth have an opinion regarding the results of the midterm elections here in this remarkable nation.  That is not a good reason for expressing mine, but I will do so nonetheless.

Naturally, the first reaction is one of relief; we will not be bombarded with relentless advertisements for the politicians which are foisted upon us by their investors--for a time, at least.  There will be those who will blame the peculiarly uninteresting and repetitive commercials we've endured this election on the Citizens United decision, but I doubt it made any material difference.  The stupidity of the advertising is more annoying, to me, than their negativity.  After all, the reviling on those seeking office is a part of the American tradition.  In the early years of the Republic, politicians were regularly lambasted and even slandered, in an almost fantastic manner.  This gives the vituperation of those days a kind of charm.  Ridicule can be amusing, especially when it is exaggerated.  What we experience today, though, is a kind of dull, ponderous, heavy, plodding, sanctimonious disapproval, transmitted in a simplistic, almost insulting fashion.

After this relief, what I feel most is curiosity.  I can feel no joy or even satisfaction in the outcome.  I don't think the Democrats have lost in status and power because they are evil, or incompetent (any more than any other politicians are incompetent) or venal (any more than any other politicians are venal).  I don't think the Republicans have gained in status in power because they are good, or competent, or less inclined to grease their palms and those of their buyers.  The results of this election seem to me to be caused by a very real dissatisfaction.

I'm curious whether those who benefited in the election are aware of this, and will act upon it.  The dissatisfaction seems to have its basis in economic fears more than anything else.  For my part, I doubt our economic problems will be resolved unless we make a concerted effort to reduce our debt, and the bulk of our expenditures are military.  Whether those in government are capable of making any significant reduction in expenditures is an interesting question.  A significant reduction must be made, but in order to be made those who govern must give up power, and those without power must accept that it cannot be employed to their relief in all cases, and neither of these possibilities are likely in this demanding age.

After curiosity, I'm ashamed in a way to admit that what I feel is fear.  In this country, conservative  politics is too much associated with social and religious concerns and views which are restrictive.  Those who profess to favor limited government often feel that the power of government should be employed in imposing certain social and religious norms.  This is one of the reasons why I prefer to describe myself (when I want to or must do so, which thankfully isn't often) as a classical liberal or even libertarian rather than a conservative.  One hopes that those newly elected won't concern themselves with things like prayer in schools, or teaching of creationism along with evolution, or that eternal American fixation, sexual conduct, and its implications for marriage and reproduction and other things, rather than focusing on restoring economic prosperity and stability.

The question is, I believe:  Can we achieve a limited government without imposing unreasonable limitations on thought and conduct?

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