Monday, April 19, 2010

Management by Crisis redux

By Donald Sensing

I am just now getting around to reading Jonah Goldbergs's Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. I am reading the Kindle version on my iPod Touch. I was struck by Goldberg's quotation of "former New Republic journalist T.J. Flynn." The New Republic was then, as now, left of center. But then, so was Roosevelt. Even so, Flynn opposed FDR's New Deal. Goldberg quotes one of his criticism's of the New Deal:

It is born in crisis, lives on crises, and cannot survive the era of crisis. By the very law of its nature it must create for itself, if it is to survive, fresh crises from year to year. Mussolini came to power in the postwar crisis and became himself a crisis in Italain life. ... And our future is charted out upon the same turbulent road of permanent crisis.
This appears at index location 2900-25. In March of last year I wrote that, "Crisis is the Health of the State, especially of the US government since 2001, and most intensively since January 20 of this year. ... We are now living in a permanent state of emergency, according to our Washington overlords."

I followed that up a couple of weeks later by observing that, "Washington does not do crisis management. It does management by crisis."

Then In July I expanded Nick Gillespie's and Matt Welch's admonition that,
bama has mistaken his personal popularity for a national predilection toward emergency-driven central planning. He doesn't get that Americans prefer the slower process of building political consensus based on reality, and at least a semblance of rational deliberation rather than one sky-is-falling legislative session after another.
I have never excluded the Bush administration from this same criticism. As Welch and Gillespie go on to say,
Bush learned the hard way that running government as a perpetual crisis machine leads to bad policy and public fatigue. Obama's insistence on taking advantage of a crisis to push through every item on the progressive checklist right now is threatening to complete that cycle within his first year.
We've been had for so long by so many that we have come to think it is the norm. Whether we will - or can - wake up in time to save what's left of the American ideal is still an open question.

Maybe I should run for president on the same platform as Warren Harding: "Return to Normalcy." Of course, things didn't turn out well for Harding - his cabinet was full of crooks. But his domestic agenda was good for the country, mainly because he set about dismantling the repressive organs of the Wilson administration. (Goldberg makes a compelling case that Woodrow Wilson, whom Benito Mussolini openly admired, was the world's first fascist national leader. The claim is of course somewhat controversial.)

But one thing that recurs over and over when leaders, of whatever stripe, try to expand the power of government over individuals is the theme of looming catastrophe that must be by immediate action. War provides such opportunities in surplus, and even Abraham Lincoln suppressed individual liberties to accomplish his aims.

And if a crisis does not present itself, then one must be created. George Will writing about the Democrats' push for a European-style Value Added Tax (my italics):
A VAT will be rationalized as necessary to restore fiscal equilibrium. But without ending the income tax, a VAT would be just a gargantuan instrument for further subjugating Americans to government.

Believing that a crisis is a useful thing to create, the Obama administration -- which understands that, for liberalism, worse is better -- has deliberately aggravated the fiscal shambles that the Great Recession accelerated.
First the administration dug the hole and now they insist that ever more dirt must be exacted from us to fill it back in. It's a crisis! Will continues:
In the context of this concatenation of troubles, the administration's highest priority was to put an enormous new health care entitlement on the welfare state's rickety scaffolding. Why? Because the liberals' lunge to maximize government's growth depends on quickly creating a crisis that can be called a threat to the entitlement menu, and to the currency as a store of value. Then the public can be panicked into accepting the addition of a VAT to the existing menu of taxes.
The creation of crises is the natural, wholly predictable result of governing from a "fierce urgency of now" mentality. And we have not seen the last of it.

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