Sunday, January 8, 2012

True believers ascendant

By Bill Kraus

I have a lot of trouble with true believers...I have always had a lot of trouble with true believers. The main reason is that they think they can simplify the truly complicated and contentious into a slogan.

This tendency would be correctable if they listened, but they don’t.

The true believers on the right are fundamentally anarchists who think the market and its free enterprise operatives have the solution to all things large and small. Those on the left believe the public sector in general the government in particular is father-knows-best and can solve all things large and small.

Both are wrong.

The recently marginalized occupants of what we call “the middle” are less sure of anything than the true believers are of everything, which may or may not be a virtue, and know that there are no simple solutions to most of the things that confront us as individuals and collectively.

The anarchists pause when it is pointed out that half of most cities’ budgets go for fire and police protection. A full laundry list of vital public functions might weaken their commitment to “the marketplace.” The “we know what’s best for you” socially sensitives twitch when confronted with the long series of failed wars on poverty and other flights of fancy in search of easy solutions to intractable problems.

It seems to me that the free market has to be restrained. It will always go too far.

The guilt-ridden socially conscious will sacrifice initiative and creativity, even personal liberties to create their edenic version of what life on this planet could be if all were indeed created equal.

The maligned moderates in the middle want the benefits offered by a free society. They also realize the less able and less fortunate will always be with us and cannot simply be thrown off the bus.

My kind of Republicans think that the public sector has a legitimate role to play in society but it should not be the lead role. My kind of Democrats know that the government is good at welfare, infrastructure and public education, but will flounder in the high risk, high failure rate markets where society does its business.

They will probably never come fully to terms about what is the best way or even that there is a best way.

There are differences between them that moderates of both persuasions understand are probably irreconcilable. The Republicans I respect are confounded by people who pass up opportunities and unsympathetic to those whose lives are unfulfilled because they did pass them up. The Democrats I respect think it’s their fault that people pass up opportunities, that some people need more help, easier routes to a good--okay, acceptable--life.

A longtime friend of mine who served honorably in the highest reaches of our federal government gave a graduation speech years ago where he did not offer solutions to the problems in the world they were entering. Instead he told his audience that life is coping and groping. He was right. He still is right.

It is unlikely that any true believer on the right or the left agrees.

Follow Bill Kraus on:
twitter / wmkraus

Bill Kraus is the Co-Chair of Common Cause in Wisconsin's State Governing Board

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