Wednesday, September 07, 2005

"Natural limits to what government can do..."

The above was what I took away from one of my commenters; the question I thought of was, just what are those "natural limits?"

Also, in my response to Greensmile I noted:

The thing that will bring down the United States if these people are not turned out of office is their complete contempt for the very notion of a social contract, that some notion of a society, that needs stability, must be encouraged, and cannot be "privatized."

In America, the rich and powerful have stability; the higher up on the food chain you are, the better you are able to insulate yourself against calamity. But the idea that government should at least try to avert calamity is alien to these people, and it is alien to them on ideological grounds, the same grounds that Stalinists used to justify their absurd economic system.

Now this isn't some newfangled idea - the idea of a social contract, that government can do things to avert at least some calamities and promote tranquility even for the most dispossesed, and for visitors to a country. It's thousands of years old...

As an opinion piece in the usually abysmal Washington Post put it:

The story begins in the usual manner, with the king asking his faithful minister, Gun, to save the country from rising waters. Unfortunately, Gun is an arrogant guy and thinks he can control nature. For nine years he labors, building dam after dam to stem the raging tide. As each dam falls apart, the waters rage ever stronger. Eventually, the king wises up, banishes Gun, and orders Gun's son, Yu, to have a go. A humble man, Yu quietly studies the problem and concludes that attempting to constrain nature is futile. Rather than build dams, he gently channels the flood waters into an irrigation system. The crops bloom, the waters recede, the people are saved and Yu is anointed king.

Americans seem not to know Yu's story, for we insist on defying nature. We blithely set sail on churning seas and fly into stormy skies. We build homes on unstable hillsides, and communities in woodlands ripe for fire.

Then they go on to say, "We rely on technology and the government's largess to protect us from our missteps, and usually, that is enough..." which is the whole problem: the people in charge don't think there should be "government largesse," nor should there be a promotion of harmony in society.

This story is not simply about floods - as is the New Orleans story itself, but it is about how it came to be, and who is responsible.

New Orleans sits at the base of the river in the US, where a great deal of traffic goes, even today, and near areas where oil is drilled and refined. It is, in fact, an epicenter of interstate commerce. Yet conservative ideologues who find any use of the interstate commerce clause repugnant, did nothing. And I'm not talking just Republicans here- the Democrats, too, have shifted so far to the right that the very idea of creating an infrastructure to work with nature - and to promote domestic tranquility and the commonwealth is "socialism" while the "American way" is a society where calamities on the scale Triangle Shirtwaist fires are the norm, about which "we just can't do anything."

We know other societies do some things better than ours; it's simply idiotic not to adopt those items from other societies that work.

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