Let’s imagine, if you will, a big knob or dial with a scale from 0 to 11.
This dial measures…
…well, anything, really. For purposes of this article, let’s measure “Liberty” – the prevalence of and respect for the rights to think, speak, act, work and prosper freely.
Let’s say the numbers on the dial mean something like this:
0 – You’re in a North Korean concentration camp.
1 - You are in North Korea, but not in a concentration camp.
2 - You are in Cuba – unfree, and most likely dirt poor. Your only “opportunity” is found in a bottle of some kind. You are fed, more or less, and cared for, sorta. Like a farm animal, really.
3 - You are in Red China – unfree, and a little less likely to be dirt poor. Like an animal on a farm where the back forty is “free range”, if Farmer
Brown Hu lets you live back there.
4 - You are in Greece – Rioting and living on the dole? You’re “Free”. Starting a business or excelling on your merits, absent lots of graft and what the Mexicans call mordida (maybe the Greeks call it “Mordidos?” I dunno), and faced with paying taxes to pay for the problems caused by the earlier excessive taxes? Not so free. You are fed well enough, and cared for (or should be, if the government can figure out how to balance its budget) – like a house pet with a badly-organized owner who’s going to have to file for bankruptcy if he doesn’t square his act away, and who seems unlikely to do anything of the sort after the weekend’s household elections.
5 - You’re in the Netherlands or France. You are “Free” from most wants, and have lots of “Free” time – but taxes and regulations make entrepreneurship exceptionally difficult, although it’s a more orderly form of difficulty than in Greece. Food and care from the government are plentiful (provided that taxes and borrowing are in turn also plentiful, which is a big “provided” these days); you are like a pet in a well-organized and happy home, albeit one that has to keep renegotiating its credit cards.
6 - You are in a highly regulated United States or the UK – think “the worst of the seventies, on turbo”, run amok. Entrepreneurship is marginally more free than in socialist Europe, and the social “safety net” is almost as smothering and the taxes almost as debilitating.
7 - You are in what Newt Gingrich might call Mitt Romney’s America – with lower taxes, but still more regulation that the United Freaking States of America, the land of people who risked all to come to the new world to risk all, could do without, and still too many taxes. A place that is essentially a welfare state with some doors of opportunity left open for the lucky and incredibly motivated (or connected) few.
8 - You are in an America that Ronald Reagan worked toward – where we have the government we actually need, but not too much, and where feeding government comes in second to feeding and educating your family and financing your dream of success – a place where the rising tide lifts all boats, and where we don’t level out the peaks to fill in the valleys, but where we (as Churchill said) spread a net over the abyss.
9 - You’re in the America that Ron Paul’s party line says he works toward; where government is stripped down to the bare minimum, and people have the responsibility – and opportunity – to fend for themselves.
10 - The pure Big-L Libertarian Ideal. Government guards the borders, enforces laws regarding order and property rights, and adjudicates contracts. That’s it. You are free to succeeed or fail precisely according to your merits and work. And if you fail? Social policy, especially the whole “Safety Net” thing, is in the realm of society – the individual and their own organic institutions (the church, Packers Nation, trade unions, the Elks, the NRA, the Oprah Book Club or whatever).
11 - One more than ten.
Where do you want to live?
That’s one way of looking at life, anyway.
I was listening to Jason Lewis the other night – something I don’t get to do nearly enough. And he looks at political life a little differently; “You’re either for freedom, or against it”. Instead of a dial from 0 to 11, you have a light switch, or an LED; it’s on, or it’s off.
How accurate in measuring anything in life is a lightswitch?
Is your marriage either wonderful, fulfilling and perfect or utterly miserable, abusive and dysfunctional?
Is your job either your dream come to fruition or something that makes you want to stick a gun in your mouth every morning?
Are your children either endless joys that make you thankful to wake up every day or little deviants on whom you can’t find enough dimes to drop?
If your marriage, job and kids aren’t perfect, do you instantly file for divorce, quit, and look up a pack of travelling gypsies?
Of course not. So – is all of American political life really a choice between either “North Korean Concentration Camp Inmate” or “One More Than Ten?”
Of course not.
You put up with your spouse’s imperfections and insanities (or, in about half of marriages, you don’t). You tough out a job you may not like until something better comes up (or doesn’t). You try to focus on and bring out the best in your children, and get them to the point where you can say “I did the best I could”, and others answer “We can tell”, and you both keep a straight face.
Everything in life has a “dial” that goes from zero to 11 – your marriage, your job, your kids…
…and political life isn’t any different.
There are two political battles going on today, if you are a conservative and a Republican.
The big one is against Barack Obama. Obama’s America is at or below a “Six” right now, and – measured by executive branch action – heading south. He’s putatively targeting a “five” – but his deficit spending, as any sane conservative knows, pretty much inevitably leads to “four”. Which, then, can just as easily lead to overreaction on the part of government and those who’ve come to depend on it – the Democrat constituency – that leads to points south of four; see “The Weimar Republic”.
So if you’re sitting at a 5.5, and your options are “Five and dropping” or “Seven (at worst) with the potential to move up, if you keep engaged and don’t let up the pressure?”, what would you take?
Which leads us to the other – and first – battle we face; between those who answer that question “If I can’t get at least a nine, then I don’t care and I’m going to stay home”.
Now, during the caucus and endorsement process, I’m all for accepting no substitutes – for pulling like hell for whomever your ideal candidate is, and eschewing compromise like the plague.
But once the endorsement process is over, there’s another time for choosing. And if you’re a conservative Republican, at any level, your choice is, ineluctibly, this:
You held out for your ideal. Now it’s time to choose; the US is at a 6, maybe a 5.5, today. Another term of Obama and we’ll be a weak 5, maybe headed south. The only realistic choice right now is – at worst – to increment the counter to a 6+. Maybe a 7, maybe shooting for an 8 if we get a good Congress. You will not get your 9 or 10 in this election – and if the needle slips further, and more Americans slide into dependence and choose that comfortable, entitled “Five” on the big dial of political life, it’ll become much, much harder to budge things upward again.
Do you let the dial slide? Or do you push the dial up?
There is no other option.
What do you say?