by Robert Arvay, Contributing Writer
Years ago I was exchanging messages with a committed liberal on an internet discussion board. We were attempting to bridge a gap which, as it turns out, now seems utterly unbridgeable. I give the other fellow credit for effort, but we both failed.
The eye-opening moment came when the liberal responded to the question, what is your definition of a good government? His response was almost word for word, the definition of a good parent.
It took me some time to digest the full implications of that. As the years have passed, I have come to realize that the worldviews of progressive leftists and conservative libertarians are separated by so vast a chasm that it seems hopeless to ever bridge that gap.
To the liberal, a good government is one which takes care of its people. It provides them with food and clothing, with shelter and health care, and with such abstractions as self-esteem. In return, the government expects a few simple and necessary things from the citizen. It expects obedience. It reserves for itself the right to confiscate wealth, because the government has to get the money it spends from somewhere. Only the government can decide which speech is hurtful, and if it so deems, can ban it; just ask the Washington Redskins.
In short, liberals see the government as a sort of parent, and themselves as dependent children.
Of course, many liberals are outraged when this description is put to words. While they might present some plausible arguments in their behalf, based on this or that detail of a particular issue, they do on the whole support a much larger government than the Tenth Amendment allows. Conservatives support a government so limited and specific in its powers, that the benefit of any doubt reverts to the states and the people.
Conservatives also can be criticized in some regards, for wishing to apply government force to certain social issues; just ask any libertarian.
In another discussion group, one commenter made the statement that the government has certain rights, such as the right to tax.
My response was that the government has no rights whatsoever, but only powers. Furthermore, even these powers are not owned by the government, but by “We the People.” I was accused of anarchy, yet it is clear from the very roots of our republic that we govern ourselves. We are not supposed to be ruled.
I will go so far as to say that when the government fears its citizens, then and only then are the citizens in control. When the citizens are not in control, we have good reason to fear our government.
Recently, I re-introduced these ideas on an internet discussion group, but I am unable to find any liberal as willing to engage in thoughtful debate as those with whom I conversed years ago. Instead, the responses nowadays are obscene rants and insults.
Even on television, where conservatives and liberals must adhere to certain FCC rules regarding vulgarities, the discussions are no longer about ideas, but about gotcha and “one-upmanship.” The rules are to avoid any, absolutely any, recognition of whether the opposing side has made a valid point, and instead to prevaricate, obfuscate, or completely dodge the issue under discussion. They use high sounding words, but the meanings of those words are those of a schoolyard squabble.
There was a time in American history when the worldviews of two opposing factions collided. The result was the Civil War. Despite the name, there was little about it that was civil. Force, violence and brutality settled the matter.
We hope that in the modern era, the ballot box can replace the bullet box. The power to vote is, however, just as dangerous as a bullet, when in the wrong hands. Few American voters seem to have any significant grasp of the issues. One example of this is a voter who told me that the government must support the teacher’s unions, because teachers have a right to teach.
I tried to explain that it is the students who have a right to learn, and the parents who have the right to control their child’s education. I might as well have been speaking Martian…
That’s how wide the gap is.