Class Warfare Blog

March 23, 2013

Kindergarten Rhetoric

Our current politics is embarrassingly infantile. Republicans are painted as being in favor of: lower taxes, less regulation, smaller government, more war, and more free enterprise. Democrats are painted as being in favor of higher taxes, more regulation, larger government, less war, and less free enterprise.

How did we get to this black and white view of reality? I might blame it on my upbringing watching cowboy movies on black and white televisions (the heroes wore white hats and the villains wore black hats, otherwise they were a bunch of guys on horseback shooting pistols) but many of you weren’t alive in the “black and white TV era.” I think it must be the political parties trying to paint everything as being “good” or “bad.” “We are in favor of freedom! They want to take your freedoms away.”

Argh! This is at least one step away from some kind of useful debate. Compare this dichotomy: more regulation is bad, less regulation is good vs. less regulation is bad, more regulation is good. How can this be debated? The answer is it can’t and maybe that is the purpose. Compare that with something a little closer to reality:

more good regulation is good, more bad regulation is bad
less good regulation is bad, less bad regulation is good.

This is incontestable. And it gets closer to the heart of things: what makes regulations good or bad. But if the debate were to go there, folks would suffer, folks whose financial interests the regulations or lack of regulations serve. Clearly we would need to define the public’s interests and how the regulations would or would not serve them. For example, I don’t think anyone is “for” mindless red tape. So, we could put that on the list of the public’s interests (Public Interest #1 Red tape needs to be minimized in the interest of having efficient government.) and we could get away from that phrase “red tape” being used to paint something as being “black” and get onto the discussion of whether or not a given regulation serves actual public interests and whether it involves too much bureaucratic paperwork (some will always be required).

Those who use this infantile rhetoric are trying to keep the discussion simple, too simple, in order to force you to make choices emotionally rather than rationally (psst, big government is bad, really bad, pass the word). It is unfortunate that asking illuminating questions, questions that get past the simplistic rhetoric offered by politicians, was one of the roles played by our press, now too crippled to do that task. So, it is up to us. Step up to the mike, ladies and gentlemen, and ask for specifics. If you do not want to be treated like a child, behave like an adult. The focus needs to be less on “what” and more on “how.” If a politician says “this bill will save Medicare” we need to ask “how?” If we do not, we will end up throwing out child labor laws as being bureaucratic red tape, which they are. What they also are are necessary limitations on corporate use of children in the workforce. We know this because those regulation were instituted to stop the practices they prevent. Red tape? Yes. Necessary red tape? Yes. End of discussion except regarding ways in which the red tape could be lessened without reducing the effectiveness of those regulations.

Maybe we need a nonpartisan arm of the government whose job it is to refine government regulation to eliminate red tape, fraud, and abuse. But that could only come out of an adult conversation and that is clearly not wanted right now.



  1. I’m seeing there’s some blowback going on in Australia over the Liberal parties newly-found insistence to play the Republican game of “The World Is Ending!!!!” politics. Tony Abbot (leader of the opposition) is actually being called on to resign over the bullshit he’s spewing. Seems there’s still some reasonable people out there…


    Comment by john zande — March 23, 2013 @ 9:27 am | Reply

    • In general, you Aussies (Oy, oy, oy!) and Canadians are far more reasonable than most Americans. If we have to evacuate, those two countries are at the top of our list.

      I don’t quite understand the faux crisis game and so attribute it to “people who want to get their own way and aren’t very bright.” (Damn, in English, the parentesis goes inside the period or “full stop” but in American it goes outside. I try not to offend by using proper punctutation for my audience but everso often I mess up. Oh, well. . . .) So, I hope your pols get their comeupance without losing their ‘eads, as it were.


      Comment by stephenpruis — March 23, 2013 @ 9:37 am | Reply

      • Oh, Australia is not perfect, far from it, but there’s a foot thankfully still in the reasonableness pool. This is how some commentator in Oz labelled Abbotts behaviour: “Abbotts actions are irresponsible. Worse, they’re turning us into a country of pathetic whinge bags.”


        Comment by john zande — March 23, 2013 @ 9:53 am | Reply

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