Today’s ideological impasse is not well understood.
To be a modern “liberal” or “progressive” means generally to favor governmental ways of accomplishing things over private ways, especially over voluntary economic transactions.
Programs such as Arizona’s “Clean Elections” law, discussed yesterday — like similar ideas elsewhere — are designed to make “things better” by preventing certain types of voluntary behavior and distributing taxpayer money (forcefully extracted money, mind you) to people who play by certain established rules.
This seems like “justice” and “fairness” to progressives. It seems more like tyranny and bullying and grand theft to me.
The biggest division — the ideological analog of a continental divide — may be the very picture we have of government. Whatever good intent there is, I see government as Force Institutionalized. So, of course I want it limited, by constitutions and whatnot, its scope reduced so that voluntary (non-governmental) interactions can take center stage in our social life.
I believe that paper constitutions are not enough, though, and that government must be checked by Joe and Jill Citizen, who have to live under it, pay taxes to support it, and in good conscience assent (or at least adapt) to its presence in their lives.
Progressives prefer not to look at the “naked force” aspect of government, and see only what they think it can do “for us.” I worry what it will do “to us.” As Tom Paine once wrote, “It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from his government.”
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.