In a time when the Bush administration has such a tight hold on language that liberal has become a naughty word, I’ll experiment to see how well the right can take its own medicine. President Bush has been the most liberal president in terms of spending government funds in recent memory, and he has demonstrated no ability to conserve our resources and has been completely fiscally irresponsible.
His request for nearly $90 billion while wanting to decrease the federal government’s income by billions more by cutting taxes is nothing less than fuzzy math, a blunder of arithmetic to be burdened on the working and middle classes. His lack of thrift when it comes to feeding the military and making contracts with his friends in the oil industry is, indeed, liberal in the worst sense of the word. His entire presidency has been devoid of any notion of frugality.
But somehow it all doesn’t make sense ideologically. While Bush has fought tooth and nail to fully privatize everything from education to health care, insisting that the market brings the product to its full potential, he has treated the military like a socialist institution paid for by you and me.
According to the rules of American conservatism, shouldn’t the military, like all other ventures in the public sphere, be made better by placing it in the competitive market?
Ruben Duran, editor in chief of the Michigan Review, the free voice of the campus right brigade, argues against a private military saying, “the idea of having a privatized fighting force … I would imagine, is an issue of security.” In addition to having reservations about a military “that exists outside of direct government control,” Duran added, “… in general, the idea of hiring a rent-a-grunt to defend American interests irks many.”
I should say the idea certainly irks me. Could you imagine it – a military acting only in the interests of profit, forfeiting our security from external threats so that some CEO in a WMD-proof bunker could make a few bucks?
So even Duran, a stalwart defender of the virtues of a free market, recognizes not only the flaws of capitalism but how they can compromise our security, well-being and way of life.
So why is the military an exception? While defense from external threats is something we cannot compromise, it is by no means the only thing. Thomas Jefferson taught us, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” Why risk the quality of education to fall if the market is imperfect if an intelligent society creates a freer society? Why not ensure that intelligent society by making education a public fiscal interest?
And any student of medical history will tell you that viral epidemics can be just as catastrophic as organized terrorism or invading foreign armies. Privatizing health care and giving pharmaceutical free reign in the market is letting up our defenses against an equally dangerous external threat.
A libertarian will argue that people like Jefferson wanted government to have no role in public life other than protecting the country from foreign invaders. In an aesthetic sense this notion may reverberate the wishes of our aristocratic founding fathers, but from a utilitarian and pragmatic standpoint, barring the public from determining its destiny in these arenas weakens the fibers that make a society safe and strong.
There is a better way. Firstly, we need a president that knows that spending frivolously while shortening income leads to debt and ruin. Then we need to invest our resources wisely as well as cautiously.
Imagine that. The public would be banded together to ensure security and a high quality of life for the United States with some extra cash to spare. It’ll be beautiful.
Paul can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.