Thursday, January 6, 2011

Harry Reid: 'The American people love government.'

I don't know if I'd go as far as Harry Reid does here:

“The American people love government, but they don’t like too much politics in government,” he said.

I don't think the American people "love" government. I think they even like it, in a generalized and monolithic sense. But I think they like having roads to drive on. An Internet to use. Education for their kids. Social Security and Medicare for their parents. I think they like that Hawaii isn't under Japanese control. I think they like having national parks to visit, and local libraries to aid their learning and reading. I think they like these things -- and a lot more services they receive or use all the time -- but don't always contemplate that it's government doing these things. This is why Republicans frequently talk in a general way about cutting government, but even now seem hesitant to name what, precisely, they would cut. (Paul Ryan, perhaps, being a notable exception.)

And I furthermore don't think they always remember that the idea of governance in the United States is that it derives its power from the citizens. It's not this other thing over there: It's us, either through our cheering support or passive assent. Those things government provides? It's because lots and lots of citizens want government to provide them. Lots of other folks don't. And politics is the process of engaging in and trying to resolve those disputes. Get rid of that, and you've gotten rid of self-governance. 

But, no, Americans don't love government. They just like what government does.

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