Towards A Good Samaritan World

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


I wrote this after the elections in 2002:

The Republicans won, not on performance, but because they stand for what has become the American political philosophy.

That political philosophy is summer up in the classic phrase the land of opportunity. Americans are proud that the fortunate few rise higher here than anywhere in the world. Voting for Bush is a bit like buying a lottery ticket. You’re voting for a society where you might lose, but you may also win big. Just as people lay down their dollars at 7-11 for the dream of being a millionaire, working Americans vote for upper-class tax cuts to keep that American dream sparkling.

But there’s a difference: where a lottery skims a bit off the top, free-enterprise capitalism accelerates wealth-creation. America not only has more millionaires, but generates more jobs and higher salaries than Europe or Japan. It’s not about class, because America is a classless society at heart. Americans want to make this country suitable for the talented, the ambitious, and the hard-working, because they consider themselves talented, ambitious and hard-working.

That same optimism once led Americans to try to end poverty and build the “Great Society.” Slowdown, stagflation and the rise of dependency culture then taught us a long, painful lesson on scarcity, which plays into Republicans’ hands to this day. Democratic policies, in an age of run-away tax cuts, are if anything more scarcity-conscious than Republican ones. But their rhetoric isn’t. Listen to Democrats on C-SPAN for a while, and you’ll catch that fatal whiff of sob stories, of the old liberal instinct that if you have a problem, whine to the government.

If this seems like a lot to read from one election, well, it’s not just one election talking.

Thesis vindicated once more. (Though this time performance maybe did have something to do with it.)


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