Magazine article The American Conservative

The Politics of Same

Magazine article The American Conservative

The Politics of Same

Article excerpt

It seems to me that America's difficulty in facing the country's problems is not that we have the problems, but that we can't face them or won't--that the machinery of government and means of political change have frozen, congealed, clotted. Solutions are often possible, but movement toward them isn't. The optimistic might see this as a challenge, others as rigor mortis.

Consider immigration. Depending on one's politics, various solutions are possible: accept the immigrants and try to assimilate them, stop immigration and send the illegals back, or somewhere between. We do none of these things. There is no policy. Apparently we can't have a policy. We just suck our thumbs and wait to see what will happen.

Education. The schools are terrible, we all know it and have known it for decades, but we can't do anything about it. This isn't a case of not knowing what to do--there is nothing mysterious about teaching children to read--but of being unable to do anything at all. A hardened glue of teachers' unions, political correctness, and racial politics makes change impossible. What we have is not policy but resignation. There is a lot of that going around.

The Armed Forces. We have a huge, backbreaking military unsuited to the wars we fight and with no plausible enemy of the kind it is designed to fight. Yet we can neither shrink it nor change its nature. Too many interests are involved, too many big-ticket contracts, and too many towns dependent on bases. If the oceans dried up tomorrow, we would continue building submarines, perhaps pouring water over them with buckets, because building submarines is what we do. This isn't policy. It is lack of policy.

Taxation. The current system is unreasonable--unwieldy, burdensome, extravagantly complex, cluttered with tailored loopholes. You can barely pay your taxes without a computer, yet the IRS is 20 years behind the real world technologically, and the necessary accountancy is atrocious. Everyone knows this. Yet we cannot do anything about it.

Government in general. Washington consists of agencies accreted over generations, largely unexamined, existing because they have existed and unchangeable because they are too boring to think about. Does anyone know what HUD does? Who the secretary is? Whatever it does, it will continue to do, forever, because that is what it does.

Race. The continued existence of much of the black population in urban slums is the worst domestic problem we have: bad for blacks, for whites, for the economy, for the country. …

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