First, as soon as we start ‘balancing’ freedom of individuals with anything else, we’re already coming untethered. The only ‘balance’ there should be is the one the Constitution strikes between the individual and the state – a balance which has inexorably tilted toward the state since the founding, and accelerated with the expansion of the administrate state/bureaucracy. Second, the ‘collective’ has no rights. Rights travel with individuals. Individuals may choose to exercise those rights as part of a group (e.g. free speech by a protest march, owning private property with an investment team) but the rights are tied not to the collective but the individuals thereof (hence why I and many conservatives believe Citizens United was properly decided).
Anyway – I’ve been trying out the following argument on my socialist (truly) uncle to no avail, but let me see if it works on someone I consider much more rational. The reason we argue so divisively over politics, fight tooth and nail for every inch of our ideology, and most often fail to compromise is that the state impacts so much of our day-to-day lives. Government at all levels is so large and so expansive that we have to fight there, for fear of losing any semblance of the individual. For example – I sit on my county’s Board of Adjustment. We literally have ordinances that prescribe the size, number, and spacing of trees/brush/plantings that must encircle each type of commercial building. We spent an hour at our last meeting arguing if the current level of forestation on a piece of private property was sufficient to meet the statute for building a self-storage facility. And this is at the county level – let alone the state or federal level. When government starts to prescribe something as minute as the trees on my property, you’re damn sure I’m going to argue like hell when they try to mandate what gets included in my health insurance plan (something of infinitely greater importance to my overall wellbeing).
And when government gets so big – particularly at the federal level – you know who wins? Other big things – big business, big labor, big lobbying, etc. This to me is the overarching argument for smaller government at all levels. And you know why politicians of both parties don’t want that? As Instapundit blogger Glenn Reynolds is fond of saying – insufficient opportunities for graft. Smaller government – even with a decent safety net – would greatly increase the odds of compromise because no longer would we be talking about things that strike to the very core of our individuality. We’d be back to talking about whether there should be a tariff on Chinese goods, for lack of a better example. If you want politicians to get out of the pockets of ‘big’ things, you need to reshape the incentive structure – and so long as ‘big’ always wins (because they have the time/money/resources to actually figure out how government actually works), there will be no incentive to trim it down. And the thing that is mind-boggling to me about poorer Democrat voters is that they are getting royally f**ked by the upper class of their party who are the very elite who create the system that keeps them poor and dependent. [Yes, that last sentence was a bit of a gratuitous cheap shot, but you get my drift.]
+1 on getting rid of gerrymandering. I’d do away with it in a heartbeat. Draw horizontal and vertical lines across each state. We’d see partisanship go down in a New York minute.
On the inequality bit – I wish Democrats would admit they want equality of outcomes. Don’t be coy about it – out with it. Let’s have an honest debate. I’d love to know what a liberal’s ideal top tax rate is. What percentage of total taxes should the top 1% pay? Top 5%? Top 20%? When will we have enough? Here’s the thing that makes me die inside though – and what tells me that today’s liberals don’t actually care about raising people out of poverty – we know certain behaviors greatly increase the likelihood of being a middle class family and yet liberals outright REFUSE to facilitate policies that would incent those behaviors. Please read Charles Murray’s book Coming Apart – fantastic illustration of this. We KNOW that waiting until you’re married to have kids is a quote-unquote good thing. We KNOW that finishing high school is a similar good thing (but no, it must be in a public school taught by a unionized teacher, wah wah). And yet – nothing.
Lastly (for now) – pulling out random numbers is exactly how you expose the fraud of government spending. No one will fix the abomination that is Medicare fraud until you point out instead of giving quality healthcare to Grandma, government is busy researching whether rhesus monkeys respond to phallic symbols on the second Thursday of the month.
Yours in smaller government and a freer civil society,