Wednesday, February 24, 2010
With his up-to-the-second published polls, Scott Rasmussen has revolutionized the way politics is practiced in America. Now, in his new book, In Search of Self-Governance , he bids us all remember that the real political debate is not left vs. right, but rather between being governed by a bureaucracy and self-governance.
He begins his short, easily readable book by debunking the myth that big business wants a free market without government regulation. Instead, he points out, they want to use government intervention - through regulations and the tax code - to assure their continued bigness and dominance. When Philip Morris -- or Altria in its new incarnation, supported FDA regulation of tobacco in order to guarantee its current market domination, we all saw an illustration of how right Rasmussen is.
But the new dimension of Scott's book is that he discusses how thoroughly Americans do, in fact, govern themselves. Faced with the possible collapse of the Social Security system under the weight of retiring baby boomers, they plan to fund their own retirements. Facing technological changes and global competition, they go back to school and upgrade their skills. They do not see the public sector as the place to get relief. They prefer to work it out on their own.
Rasmussen's treatise raises the question of whether self-reliance is indeed universal. Are we not becoming more like an Eastern European country where those who are employed by the private sector vote for free markets while a coalition of the unemployed, the retired, students, and government workers sustain liberals in power? Are we not divided increasingly along the fault lines of tax-payers vs. tax-eaters? Doesn't Obama's class warfare tax policy simply accentuate that trend?
Rasmussen's book would be worth reading if only for the quote it contains from Democratic stalwart, former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. "Never pass major legislation," he said, "that affects most Americans without real bi-partisan support. It opens the door to all kinds of political trouble." Indeed. Would that Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack Obama felt the same way?
But Rasmussen goes off the track a bit when he belittles the stakes in the current partisan confrontation. He is certainly correct in recognizing the flaws of both parties and their lack of anything approaching purity or virtue, but when he says "many political activists get so caught up in the competition that they act as if the fate of the world hinges on the results of the next election."
As it happens, in 2010 it does!
Yet Rasmussen's book is useful and important in that it casts a light on what is happening in the private side of the public sphere where, outside of politics, real and usually constructive change is taking place. He broadens our perspective and reminds us that most of the great good in this world was not achieved on the floor of Congress, but in the hearts, minds, and actions of the individuals who make up America.
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