Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on Jun 17, 2011 in Politics, Society | 68 comments

Why Conservatives Make Me Crazy

This article will contain no colorized words, letters or pictures as conservatives recognize only black and white. Shades of gray will be assiduously avoided. Any accidental references to nuance are purely for the non-conservative reader. Finally by way of preamble let me say to any conservatives who may read this: yes, I know you’re right about everything and to the extent that I disagree with you about anything I will be wrong as a matter of immutable doctrine.

Let’s begin with some facts. On second thought, that’s probably not a good idea. Conservatives don’t give a rat’s ass what the facts are. No matter how many glaciers melt and no matter how the pace of the melt increases, global climate change is fiction. If we just close our eyes and de-fund all those scientists measuring increased ocean levels, it will all go away. If only we could find our way back to the halcyon days of Calvin Coolidge [or the Articles of Confederation], the problems of the modern world would evaporate…sort of like the glaciers in the fictional book of climate change.

To a conservative a fact is a falsehood that has been repeated often enough (by conservatives) to anoint it as true. Sort of like “Reaganomics works”. Or “the government never does anything right.” Tell that to the National Weather Service or the Centers for Disease Control.

Ok, enough of the needling. Let’s move on to the central premise. The conservative world view is fundamentally unrealistic. For illustrative purposes, consider two main mantras of conservatism, small government and states’ rights. For the non-conservative reader willing to be swayed by reference to reality, those trains have left the station on a one way track out of town. There’s good reason for that too.

We are no longer a nation of small shop keepers and self sustaining agrarian pioneers. “The government that governs least, governs best” is a catchy old saying. But being catchy and old doesn’t make it accurate. Not in today’s world.

A few things happened along the way. First was that bother called the Civil War. In addition to ending slavery, it served as a demarcation point in the battle between federal supremacy, preserving the Union, and the states righters. Robert E. Lee fought for the south because his first loyalty was to Virginia, not the federal government. As between those federal supremacists and the states righters, remember who won.

Along the way we as a people also made some value judgments. With industrialization and continental expansion, America needed transportation and communications systems. With the help of the federal government, we got them. That same need and that same federal involvement exists today though at a more sophisticated level. We noticed that with industrialization and urbanization of the population came intolerable working conditions, monopolistic practices and financing abuses. Because of the interstate nature of commerce brought about by industrialization, transportation and communication, it was left to an increasingly powerful federal government to regulate those abuses and insure the welfare of individual citizens. Teddy Roosevelt and his Progressives were heroes, not villains. And it was the power of federal supremacy that made it possible.

Our insertion into the First World War made us serious players on the world stage. It was the federal government that took us there. Conservatives tried to retrench after that with a series of electoral victories. Their unwillingness to use the powers of government to reign in corporate and financial market abuse resulted in something we now refer to as The Great Depression. Enter another Roosevelt.

Once again that value judgment that the welfare of the people mattered summoned the nation to support federal action. That conservatives still want to fight the New Deal 80 years later is part and parcel of their unrealistic world view. It happened. Deal with it. America made a judgment that people who spend their adult lives working to make their country prosperous should not suffer impoverished indignity in retirement, and that rural electrification and public works infrastructure projects were worth undertaking. And thank goodness we did.

With the end of WWII, we became a military super power. That pesky federal power again. We reclaimed moral credibility with the Civil Rights movement, led by federal action. World economic dominance grew with the helping hand of government policy as we rebuilt Europe and Japan as economic partners and continued our internal infrastructure projects to support economic development with ideas like the interstate highway system.

What we are today, what we have become as a nation is, in no small measure, the direct result of shunting aside states rights for big government. With big government have come problems, but without it we would be a loose collection of states fiddling at the edge of a global economy and the world stage. We compete in a world with other nations, not states and provinces. That requires a national presence.

If you want to argue for a more efficient or more effective national government, fine. But small government and states’ rights? Sorry, the 1780’s were more than two centuries ago. Today’s world is both interstate and international. The value judgments we have made over our history and the economic realities of globalism have brought us to a system of big government and the preeminence of federal supremacy.

As I said in my piece on liberals, there are many other examples that could have been used. Unrealistic views and unhelpful mantras will not move our country forward, be they small government, states rights, illegal immigration, tax policy, subliminal racism or sexism, corporatism or wealth idolatry. Progress does not come from moving backward or denying reality.

[Author’s Note: Like the article about liberals, the snarkier remarks are based on broad caricatures, not particular individuals. In both articles, I have used the other side’s stereotype of the opposition in presenting a point of view to exaggerate the foibles of each.]

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2011 The Moderate Voice

    Two very enjoyable posts.

    The sad part is I am sure there are some readers who will consider this one pure fact and others who will feel the same of your prior post.

  • DLS

    Another excellent description, I must say.

    (I have nothing to fear as a non-liberal because I’m independent and more libertarian than conservative, and unlike my critics arrive at my views of various issues from reasoning and thinking about them.)

    Just a quick note that reforming our government system to go back toward proper federalism is not a back-to-the-1700s quirk. We’ll have a modern welfare state with a federal component to it (I’ve told EJS elsewhere the real legal reasoning to support it, having to do with the relation between the federal government and its citizens — we’ve been federal citizens formally since the Civil War) and there must be a federal presence that’s larger than what anyone conceived as of 1930. But reform is inevitable, if only due to repeated failures (“too big to succeed” — the liberal Ron Beasley understands this as well or better than do I) or because the money has run out. (Note that “devolving” functions to the states doesn’t imply state governments, but the private sector, possibly.)

    Even liberals like wine-sipping, Volvo-driving, NPR-listening, Birkenstock-wearing Washington elitist stereotype Alice Rivlin has noted this as of the late 1980s, as I have offered to show before:


    (And note Rivlin is similar to Ryan in noting the need for serious entitlement reform!)

    The subject remains of interest (as it has been and should be) at classic Northeastern liberal establishmentarian Brookings:

    All the foregoing is contemporary and reasoned, unlike much criticism of it. (Unreasoned and often throwback to 1960s mentality by liberal critics)

    Just a quick note about one item that’s the object of overly wrongful reactions routinely.

  • DLS

    EJS — the “destruction of distance” with modern transportation and communications (the conservatives you describe would insist on use of only the second word, as the old meaning includes both kinds of movement) and the development of life centered mainly in metro areas really mean the idea of states, or provinces(!), or jurisdictional and administrative districts still remains (and in most people’s minds is even more hierarchical than is the actual case with our form of government — i.e., most people think there’s even more presumed federal supremacy than there truly is or should be) should simply be revised.

    Certainly with tough economic times there’s a lot of joining that is in order even if more rational revision (centering larger geographic areas around major metro areas — and possibly unifying government within these metro areas, too, a goal of many lefties for years) weren’t attempted (and I doubt it will be).

    Combine the Dakotas, the Carolinas, maybe; combine Mississippi and Alabama, Arizona and New Mexico, Oregon and Washington, maybe; New Hampshire and Vermont, maybe… at least think of that.

    And of course divide New Jersey among Pennsylvania and New York. (allusions to Hitler-Stalin pact and carving E. Europe, ha)

    (Mammoth states? Combine Ohio and Pennsylvania [the biggie], Michigan and Ohio or Indiana, etc.) Virginia and West Virginia?

    All this when California is overdue for partition, not junction with other states or parts of states, Texas and Florida, probably, too.

  • DLS

    EJS, regarding conservatives,

    I’ll refer you to the following book. Consider that some might really want to return us to the golden 1950s…(and that there is some possible resentment at being “defeated” in the 1960s)

    It’s caricatured, somewhat, but you’ll recognize conservatives, easily:

  • The problems with both concepts:
    1. Power corrupts.
    2. People adapt to their environment.

    Both groups drive me crazy by trusting their leaders, thinking that a single vote every 2 to 4 years controls that leader, and by constantly being shocked when a program exceeds its estimates. Our current situation isn’t new — it’s ugly end is predictable.

    “Who watches the watchers?” is still a valid problem.

  • adelinesdad

    You make some good points, but for some reason I found this post slightly less enjoyable than the first.;)

    With regards to climate change (yes, unlike many readers of your first post, I realize that wasn’t really your point), I absolutely agree. Conservatives do drive me crazy for too often accepting self-serving sound-bites as facts. If I hear one more person cheekily asking “what happened to that global warming?” on a cold winter day I’m going to poke my eye out with the plastic fork I’m eating my lunch with.

    But on to the more substantive matter of states rights: I agree that our world is different now and so we should expect the role of the federal government to evolve and expand, to some extent. However, my objection, speaking just for my moderately conservative self, is that this should be done according to the process established by the constitution: through amendment. If respecting states’ rights would be as harmful as you suggest, then surely it ought to be easy enough to pass a constitutional amendment to grant the necessary power to the federal government. It seems to me that the courts have taken on the role of re-interpreting the constitution to fit the times, but that role belongs with the legislature and the people through the amendment process.

    This is important not because I worship the Founding Fathers as all-knowing beings, as it seems some conservatives do. But rather because it serves as a check against the ambition of the federal government. It is the reins of caution on the horse of progress, if you will.

  • Indefatigably

    One can agree the world has changed, and government must adapt, while still holding to an ideal of keeping government as small as possible, and reserving to the States those powers the Constitution did not award to the Federal Government.

    I also agree that change should come from the proscribed Constitutional methods.

    Finally, is there anyone, other than those of Kathy’s political world-view, that think that the current US Federal government is still too small and lacks enough power and authority over its citizens, the States, and commerce in general?

  • “…for some reason I found this post slightly less enjoyable than the first.” – adelinesdad

    You are obviously a product of media indoctrination. You know: the sequel is never as good as the original. 🙂

    As for arguments to do things by constitutional amendment, I’ll risk repeating myself. That has become a virtual impossibility in our hopelessly divided nation and given the ideological chasms that I described here and in the liberals article.

    My view. If we wait for the Constitution to be amended to progress to the future, we will end up a third world country. As one who writes a good deal about constitutional issues, I appreciate the perspective, but view it as an unrealistic approach at this point in our national journey.

  • JSpencer

    What Patrick said. Needless to say, I’m biased… maybe that’s why I enjoyed this one more. 😉

  • rudi

    As for arguments to do things by constitutional amendment, I’ll risk repeating myself. That has become a virtual impossibility in our hopelessly divided nation and given the ideological chasms that I described here and in the liberals article.

    We also don’t want the Reagan or Brown California citizen initiative model either…

  • JSpencer

    Any vaguely functional government would do.

  • dduck

    I liked this one better than the first, especially the pre-history beginning paragraphs.
    But I’m afraid that “thinking”, meaning non-lemming type Dems and Reps, are becoming the minority, and your stereotypes the majority.

  • casualobserver


    “My view. If we wait for the Constitution to be amended to progress to the future, we will end up a third world country.”
    Are you operating out of rant mode here or truly trying to convince?
    I hope the former, because I take you to be much more pragmatic than to believe this  sentence  wins hearts and minds of conservatives. 
    I’m trying to tie this sentence into your OP, so it must have something to do with the globalizing economy?
    If so, a more globalized economy is only a threat to those that feel unable to compete on a global playing field.
    To the extent China practices trade protectionism at a national level, then yes, I agree, we effect retaliation at the Federal, not state level.
    However, if you have something in mind where a US laborer is individually afforded some compensating measure, then I’ll readily agree to live in the third world

  • Zzzzz

    You should try living in the third world, casual. You would find it enlightening. I am not being snarky.

    The world really has changed from the world our founding fathers envisioned. For example, I can’t say I know anyone who really thinks of his or herself as a citizen of their state. People move all over the country for opportunities. Ties to a community going back generations are rarer and rarer.

    Further, the big and fundamental political differences are no longer between the states. They are between rural and urban. People living in L.A. are going to have a lot more in common with folks in Chicago or Atlanta than they do with people living in Bakersfield. Federalism would be great, if it actually worked as originally intended. If, for example, the folks in southern Illinois weren’t living with tax rates and laws passed by the majority of Illinois (a.k.a. the mass of people in the Chicago area) or if the people of Austin and Houston weren’t stuck living under the thumb of the rest of the state.

  • CO,

    The devolution to third world status may have been hyperbole, but we are losing ground globally, and not just to China. If we require constitutional amendments to keep pace, we’re screwed…in deep doodoo…whatever phrase you like.

    We couldn’t pass a constitutional amendment to declare apple pie the American dessert in today’s political environment. I’ll hold my fire on why apple pie wouldn’t pass. The point is that constitutional amendments are unrealistic for the forseeable future.

  • DLS

    All of us who have insisted on viewing federalism intelligently (which the Left despises) have been right (i.e., correct, and the unintended pun is relished — though so normally and often the two are, in the real world, synonymous — also relished).

    As to the concern that having to wait to make something legally (and otherwise) legitimate before realizing what someone (on the Left, 99.999999999999999%) wants, is, of course, trying (and failing) to rationalize that the means justify any and all ends (typical on the Left) because the ends are desirable (to them, at least, which to them settles the matter).

  • Indefatigably

    I will ask my question again in defense of Conservatism and supporting a reduction in the role of the Federal government –

    Who here thinks the U.S. government currently is too small and lacks enough power and authority over its citizens, the States, and commerce in general?

    That is, in the end, the primary difference in the two political philosophies.

  • DLS

    As to the extension of federalism’s locality* orientation rather than with minimalism, well, “local option” gives San Franciscans and the like to be as stupid and crazy as they wish (so long as they don’t violate state and federal citizens’ rights or other legal protections). It covers a lot which the feds should never be involved with (including personal issues such as diet or abortion).

    Zzzzz: This nation and the world has greatly changed from what was so in the 1960s. It’s ridiculous to act as if it’s still that time, which is the big problem, not the bogus “powdered whig 1789” charge the Left wrongly pegs the Right with. Amendmen

    That there are problems with conservatives, no doubt; as I had linked to again on this thread, center-right populism includes that conservative streak that wants to go back to an older, “better” (they believe) time. (Just as lefties insanely think about the 1960s, a far worse problem we have here and now!) I’d be more concerned about “exploiting the system” and how some conservatives (and Republicans) might engage in “corporate whoring” for wealthy special interests. Even that falls short of what any liberal honestly may desire, because so much of the modern corruption or similar (lobbyist and special interest) problems we have are effects, not causes — they are the results of an oversized, overreaching, too-powerful-and-influential federal government. (And liberals want it to be bigger and stronger! Aieeee)

    * “Peripheral” is OK but flawed, and “downward” is grossly flawed.

  • DLS

    Why does the Left disparage or despise amending the Constitution to make what the Left wants legitimate for the federal government?

    “Not fast enough” is no satisfactory answer. (Nor is “we have to bypass the legislature because we can’t win elections so as to get legislators who represent our extremist interests.”)

  • Indefatigably


    I just wanted to say that this comment thread IMO demonstrates the intellectual strength and personal insight of TMV’s commenters.

    Thanks to everyone who has participated or will participate going forward.


    That was from your ‘Why Liberals Drive me Crazy’ post.

    I would like to add that we get much better discussions when even potentially contentious issues are positioned evenhandedly by the OP, rather than with guaranteed flame-war rhetoric.

    Thank you very much for that, and the same evenhanded approach in your counter-post earlier.

  • Indefatigably,

    Your question misses the point. The thesis of my article was not that the federal government should have more power. The thesis was that it is unrealistic on the part of conservatives to believe that small government can come back.

    A progressive argument might well be not that the government needs more power, but rather that the power of the federal government should be directed in different, more productive, ways.

    Edit Added: Thank you for the kind comment above which I saw only after posting this.

  • Indefatigably

    ES – if you can find that theoretical progressive that thinks government growth is not needed, the current size is fine but it just needs to be redirected, point them out to me.

    I think we might make history! 😉

  • Indefatigably,

    I stand before you. 🙂

    But do understand that for me “progressive” does not mean liberal…see my piece on why liberals drive me crazy (because they are reactionary, not progressive).

    True progressivism, dedicated to moving the country forward in the best interests of the people, is neither liberal nor conservative. It is sometimes one, sometimes the other, sometimes neither. At least from my perspective.

  • ShannonLeee

    Another great one!

  • Left me as cold as the prior one.

    Yes, you mention the inability of conservatives to recognize a fact when it punches them in the face, but you spend far too much time on “state’s rights” which is only the mantra of some on the right and is, by itself, not a “conservative” thing but more of a libertarian thing.

    Here’s what frustrates me about conservatives: their style of debate (conservatives have definite debating tactics that are incredibly frustrating, effectively precluding any sane discourse), the way they latch onto age-old (and decidedly unproven) mantras such as trickle-down, and their penchant for putting the culture wars ahead of serious concerns like economic malaise.

  • owengray

    Ellijah’s two posts are excellent. His basic thesis — that modern conservatives are not true conservatives and that modern liberals are not true liberals is spot on.

    The conclusion to his fist post bears repeating:

    When a society has only two major forces, both of which are dominated by reactionary elements, there is no push to the push-pull of progress. We now face the extraordinary dynamic of one major force pulling us back and to the right and the other major force pulling us back and to the left. There is no progressive force pressing us forward.

    Perhaps it’s time to re-read Edmund Burke and John Stuart Mill.

  • “Any vaguely functional government would do.”

    People have to rethink their priorities on occasion, and corporations often sell even profitable divisions, because they distract from their ability to concentrate on their core business.

    It’s not so much that the government is too big, or too small, but that it’s doing too much to keep track of. There is no “core business” if it’s supposed to fix all problems at once.

  • Dr. J

    Like AD, I enjoyed the first post a bit more. I think the charge of being unrealistic is a fair one, though conservatives are not the sole culprits.

    Global warming is a good example of the unrealism. The debates that keep happening on these pages seem both hopelessly technical and fundamentally useless. Whether the planet is warming and who is responsible are less relevant questions than what we’re going to do about it. And it’s here that the left becomes unrealistic.

    The small government and states rights examples are not as good. Obviously whether small government is realistic hinges entirely on your definition of “small,” and no one means 1790s-small. Well, no one but liberals trying to score points. I think “small government” is better understood as a guiding principle than a specific percentage-of-GDP target.

    Similarly, people defending states’ rights today aren’t calling for a return to the Articles of Confederation, where states were the sovereign powers and the federal government closer to the UN. In some cases they’re defending keeping the constitution in sync with how we run the country, for the same reasons that one might keep a to-do list or a calendar up-to-date. They see value in having a written constitution and don’t want the document to lapse further into irrelevance.

    In other cases “state’s rights” is really a stand-in for “individual rights,” which conservatives see threatened by an increasingly intrusive federal nanny. Swapping that for 50 state nannies isn’t a dramatic improvement, to be sure. But it does bring the decision-making power a bit closer to individuals and more likely to stay below the radar of the national and global corporations that dominate decisions in Washington.

    There are better examples, IMHO, of conservative unrealism. On immigration, a certain breed of conservative maintains we can round up all the illegal immigrants and send them back to whence they came. On gay rights, we’re asked to believe that if we’re just sternly disapproving enough, gays will quietly go away. On the war on drugs, probably a few conservatives believe we can stem the tide on drugs if we get tough enough on them. But many more believe we already have, that current drug policy is is holding back a much larger flood. Unfortunately many liberals seem to believe that last point too.

  • roro80

    “2011 at 8:31 pm
    ES – if you can find that theoretical progressive that thinks government growth is not needed, the current size is fine but it just needs to be redirected, point them out to me

    Nice to meet you, I’m roro.

    Also, why in the world would you bring up Kathy?

  • roro80

    tidbits, I guess I agree with this one a little more than the other, but your views on what’s wrong with both groups is very different than mine. If I read you correctly, I’m mostly getting that you think liberals are annoying and conservatives are unrealistic. My views are almost the opposite, although “annoying” isn’t exactly right.

    I can’t help but notice how scarce progressive voices are around here these days.

  • Roro,

    Actually, I think my hyperbole got to some people. In each piece, the first three paragraphs were designed to use opposition hyperbole to needle each group.

    As CO pointed out in the other thread, I’m married to a woman who is very liberal. Obviously, I hope, the “annoying” reference was meant with some humor.

    The main thesis, after the snark, was as Owen Gray noted: there are no real progressives in our current two party system. As to liberals, the main point was that they look backward to old solutions in a world that no longer fits those old solutions.

    Good to hear from you on this thread.


  • Jim Satterfield

    My thoughts on the size of government are that it needs to be the size to match the size and complexity of the problems the nation needs to address. The private sector is incapable of fixing many problems we face. I hear the modern conservative say in one breath that the only business of a business is profit and in the next say that business can address national issues without recognizing that some things just aren’t going to result in a profit when the cost to the individual or society is kept affordable, as in health care. They also never seem willing to admit that business does not address the problem of externalities very well. So you then have claims that health care must be left to the private sector and that the EPA should be gutted, if not outright eliminated. Neither of these are based in fact, but in blind faith in the “free market” and hatred of government.

  • Hemmann


    Thanks for the flip-side article. It’s pretty clear that the usual liberal/conservative foibles are well represented by those who call themselves by these labels. Since first day at TMV, I’ve tried to make it clear I didn’t fit into either camp, and subsequent “knockdown / drag outs” with both sides have certainly proved my contention.

    I am prone to call myself a moral pragmatist. A pragmatist because I see the problems in government, society, personal responsibility, and I look for solutions regardless of where they first came from. The moral part of my political self-definition does not come from a particular religion, particular ethical philosophy, or as to this subject, no particular set of political tenets held up as ” the one and only way” to analyze reality. And both sides have to admit, liberals have their PC – (an ever more pervasive and emotional response be it using the correct ethnic term or gender specific term. yes roro, we still need talk.) Conservatives have the “Shining City on the Hill” that has morphed from a quasi religious allusion into some kind of divine right to the truth that those that don’t believe are just too dumb to get. Yes, DLS, I’m talking bout you.

    The biggest problem with both sides is the convenient assumptions both these groups hold toward the other. These assumptions are based on sound-bytes, over-simplification, and outright malice. Pick just about any thread here and count how many comments are made before someone blames the other side as if that will somehow fix the problem. Will at least one person from both sides please acknowledge this absurdity?


    So you’ve castigated both sides for their problems as I have in my small way. So what’s next?
    Pointing out the rot in the vines does restore the vineyard to healthy growth. Where do you suggest we start? I’ve given a couple “root cause” reasons for our current debacle in the liberal post, but I’m asking you outright. What’s your step one in digging out? New definitions?

    Why not start with a discussion about how the corporate oligarchy spawned in WWII that Eisenhower warned against has bloated across most every economic, tax, and financial decision made in Washington? “We, the people” has been replace with “we with the money.” Perhaps the truth needs to be pointed out. At the writing of our declaration of Independence, 500 men controlled 90% of the nation’s wealth. Citation if needed. Maybe that’s the sordid truth no one wants to face, elitism is the factual American way of life never taught to us peons. This would be the “realistic” conservative perspective paraphrased so many times on this blog.

    But then I see those Bill of Rights demands. These weren’t written for elites, these were written for the masses. Clearly, these opposing views were there from the beginning, but now both the L/C choirs sing from the same song when it suits them to prove their side is right.

    I’m looking for solutions to disparity. Any body?

  • Jim,

    Excellent points. The illusion of privatization of governmental function is valid and is another pervasive unreality of the right.

    Conservatives also have their valid points. If a conservative wants to step up, I’ll acknowledge those as well.


  • Hemm,

    I really appreciate the call for ideas beyond criticism. It’s not easy at this point when folks are so busy destroying each other for political gain. If I read you correctly, I agree that my “pox on both houses” contains some truth, but does not take the next step in providing concrete alternatives.

    That’s a discussion for another time, and one I’m willing to have. But, perhaps the first step is to recognize the flawed approach of both forces currently dominating the discussion.


  • SteveinCH


    Thanks for two good and thoughtful discussions. Can I ask you four questions for my own clarification?

    Starting from today,

    1. Can progress happen without the government doing anything?

    2. Can progress happen without the Federal government doing anything?

    3. How should we assess whether a particular proposed government action represents progress or not, knowing that we live in an extremely complex system?

    4. Would your answer to 3 be different if you believed that government actions were easily stopped?

  • SteveinCH


    Would you have made the same answer to whether government needs to grow in say 2001?

  • Hemmann

    Dr J
    “Whether the planet is warming and who is responsible are less relevant questions than what we’re going to do about it. And it’s here that the left becomes unrealistic.”

    Here is a good example of meme over logic. No one except hacks believes the planet has not shown a long term trend toward higher temperatures. The hacks on the Right believe no such warming is scientifically proven while the Left leaning hacks believe all warming is caused by interaction of man-made CO2 contributions that somehow have interacted with other climatic forcings within the system to cause a projected temperature rise beyond the sum of those forcings. This is a problem in basic physics. The historic measured trend per century is a little over a degree and AGW projects up to a 7% rise.

    The reason for the upward trend in temps cannot be “less relevant” and at the same time be actionable. This question is about science, not political opinion based upon unfounded or scientifically disprovable belief. Their is more “heat” generated in the hype from both sides than in the demonstrable science.

    If you wish to discuss improving our environment, energy production, and judicious use of natural resources? I’m right there with you. I just want this discussion in an arena that reflects objective and provable science. Otherwise, is it just another partisan rock fight between two camps of truth believers?

  • SteveInCH, you asked:
    “1. Can progress happen without the government doing anything?

    2. Can progress happen without the Federal government doing anything?

    3. How should we assess whether a particular proposed government action represents progress or not, knowing that we live in an extremely complex system?

    4. Would your answer to 3 be different if you believed that government actions were easily stopped?”

    My answers [opinion]

    1. No. Government involvement is necessary for the U. S. to stay ahead of the curve…to progress. Progress [change if you prefer] will happen, but we won’t lead it w/o gov’t involvement. This is really a business model. The business that doesn’t recognize what’s coming and stay ahead of the curve will fall behind. Everything from companies that insisted on continuing to make horse drawn carriages to the computer revolution. The same is true for gov’t and societies.

    2. Government action needs to be federal as well as state and local. See the main article.

    3. How to assess. First recognize the reality, extrapolate to the future and act in a manner that will have a positive outcome in that future. Example: you’re proposal to peg both taxes and expenditures at 21% of GDP. That’s actually a progressive proposal to deal with maintaining economic viability while assuring necessary public services. It’s a positive solution for a foreseeable future reality.

    4. One of the problems with government action is that things that don’t work are not easily discontinued. Perhaps one progressive idea would be to get serious about assessment of the effectiveness of action and the willingness to discontinue those things that don’t work. To maintain old systems that don’t work or are no longer relevant, often because your “side” thought of them, is reactionary, not progressive.

  • SteveinCH

    Thanks ES.

    Your answers help clarify the fundamental nature of our disagreement. I don’t think government action is necessary for progress…some forms of progress but not all.

    I think your answer to point 3 is idealistic rather than realistic since there are many future possibilities against which to assess an action rather than one. Most proposals of any stripe are designed to deal with some element of a future systemic problem. The question is always what impact they have on other elements, including unintended ones.

    And on 4, I simply don’t see that happening. It never has and therefore any system of action that relies on it happening in the future is likely to be a bad solution.

    But thanks very much for addressing. I do appreciate your point of view even as I disagree with it.

    Happy Fathers Day

  • SteveinCH


    I’m sorry but it’s not just a scientific fight, it’s an economic and political fight as well. While science can help us determine (within ranges) likely causes and impacts of action, finance and economics is what allows us to compare different courses of action.

  • Hemmann


    If climate change is naturally occurring with minimal input via man’s CO2 contribution, what exactly would you like to politically do about it? This is exactly the point. You cannot legislate what hasn’t been proved scientifically.

    I’m glad you wrote me as I was about to post to you and tidbits about what I see as a problem with your questions about progress inside and out of government.

    I’m not trying to nit-pick, but are you two sure you mean the same thing when you use the word “progress?” The un-stated meaning of progress very well be different for both of you.

    Consider a classic left side ideal of progress. the voter’s right act and discrimination. was that progress for everybody? ask southern society what cost that progress cost them.

    conversely, deregulation or lack of regs is touted as progress on the supply side economics crowd. credit default swaps given paid for first class ratings kind of flies in the face of that progress, doesn’t it?

    If a way is to exist that gets us out of the current state of animosity and confusion between the two views of government, would you not agree we will need to meticulously analyze what we really mean with the words and concepts we use.

    just sayin’ sir, each assumption made is just another stumbling block.

  • SteveK

    Hemmann says: If climate change is naturally occurring with minimal input via man’s CO2 contribution, what exactly would you like to politically do about it? This is exactly the point. You cannot legislate what hasn’t been proved scientifically.

    Hemm + whatever alias you’re using today, You keep throwing out this silly oil industry talking point and when you get called on it you simply disappear from the thread…

    Once again:

    Scientific opinion on climate change

    National and international science academies and scientific societies have assessed the current scientific opinion, in particular on recent global warming. These assessments have largely followed or endorsed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) position of January 2001 which states:

    An increasing body of observations gives a collective picture of a warming world and other changes in the climate system… There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.

    No scientific body of national or international standing has maintained a dissenting opinion; the last was the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, which in 2007 updated its 1999 statement rejecting the likelihood of human influence on recent climate with its current non-committal position. Some other organizations, primarily those focusing on geology, also hold non-committal positions.

    Global warming controversy

    The global warming controversy is a variety of disputes regarding the nature, causes, and consequences of global warming. The disputed issues include the causes of increased global average air temperature, especially since the mid-20th century, whether this warming trend is unprecedented or within normal climatic variations, whether humankind has contributed significantly to it, and whether the increase is wholly or partially an artifact of poor measurements. Additional disputes concern estimates of climate sensitivity, predictions of additional warming, and what the consequences of global warming will be.

    The controversy is significantly more pronounced in the popular media than in the scientific literature, where there is a strong consensus that global surface temperatures have increased in recent decades and that the trend is caused mainly by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases. No scientific body of national or international standing disagrees with this view, though a few organizations hold non-committal positions.

    Note: The links to the above quotes removed because the TMV robot feels a comment with 4 or more links is “too spammie”… too funny. The links exist in the initial reply to Hemms totally disproved talking points.

  • SteveinCH


    We’re making the same point. Progress does not have a constant definition. I agree with your critique although not all of your specific examples.

  • Dr. J

    If climate change is naturally occurring with minimal input via man’s CO2 contribution, what exactly would you like to politically do about it? This is exactly the point. You cannot legislate what hasn’t been proved scientifically.

    Of course you can. Otherwise marijuana would be legal, and cell phones wouldn’t have warning stickers. Indeed I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most laws are passed without consulting scientists.

    Nor is scientific consensus enough to dictate legislation. We scrapped the superconducting super-collider despite its popularity among scientists.

    Climate change is in that latter category. Scientific agreement about the meteorological problem is useful, but then we need solutions that are scientifically, economically and politically feasible. And that’s where we’ve been coming up short, because as SteveinCH says, the economics and politics are dramatically harder problems to solve.

    Yet I see virtually all the debate on here focusing on the science, not on the economics and politics. That is itself an example of how thorny the political problem is. No wonder we keep blowing past carbon reduction targets.

  • DLS

    Dave H. wrote:

    You cannot legislate what hasn’t been proved scientifically.

    We can leave aside the lack of proof and quantification of predictions, with the associated leftist corruption of science (as with so much else) and the attendant hyperbole and emotive, oft-dishonest-or-misleading, and frequently sensationalist BS.

    We also cannot legislate, or legislate and expect practical sensible results, what is sought (as since the 1960s if not before), which is massive government (usually federal) interventionism in an attempt to re-engineer the economy and society to satisfy the activists — in defiance of cost-benefit analysis, ignorance of any and all incentives arising from such legislation, denial of reality.

    Not that that suppresses the continued calls for this nonsense.

  • DLS

    Steve K.: If the comment robot keeps interfering with the ~4 link limit, and the links really are relevant: In addition to expressing frustration with and contempt for the robot (which I’ve done myself more than once — as long as the robot does it, it deserves such), if those links really matter, then start making multiple postings to make all the links available. It’s actually better than a gimmick I’ve resorted to, posting enough to make a link obvious without its being interpreted as a link.

  • DLS

    EJS — conservatives cannot practically expect a return to pre-1930s federalism (going back to the Constitution and to true constitutional federalism, in spirit as well as in letter and in practice). There is “water under the bridge,” as well as what I’ve described before, that may be in support of liberals’ holy grail, the federal welfare state (and related views, of government as a service agency and surrogate parent and family household, rather than being a government, and in the case of the federal government, subject to constitutional constraints that should be restraint on more “ambitious” activists).

    The more refined view about this is “Go and sin no more,” meaning don’t engage at least in the most ambitious or extreme advocacy (for greater federal interventionism and presence). It doesn’t mean all is forgiven, much less that it’s OK to seek more. Rather, it means much is forgiven, and it is an admonition to cease to seek what is wrong(!).

    In the end, contraction or dimunition of the federal presence in some ways is likely to be forced once the money runs out and times are much tougher in the 2020s (and that federal welfare state that is the idol of liberals still gobbles up so much of the federal budget and forces more oppressive taxes on the non-elderly working and taxpaying population).

  • Hemmann


    These comes from NCDS/NESDIS/NOAA and are not supported by any oil money. You do accept National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data, don’t you?

    How about London’s MET Office

    Both show a 1 degree rise in the past century. ad hominem attacks concerning who pays for studies have become part of the political deflection to verifiable science.

    Have you read any the science or just the Reader’s Digest version of these trends? As to the IPCC, they have included non-reviewed opinions from the Greenpeace as part of their “scientific analysis.” You do know this too? Don’t you?

    Just asking as you seem to demonstrate the usual acceptance of what the political scientists wish you to believe. I’ve got the objective links, you got the objective curiosity?

  • DLS

    E.J.S. wrote:

    1. … Government involvement is necessary for the U. S. to stay ahead of the curve…to progress. Progress [change if you prefer] will happen, but we won’t lead it w/o gov’t involvement. … “business model”

    2. Government action needs to be federal as well as state and local.

    1. Government interventionism isn’t needed intrinsically, or even desireable. This is a throwback not just to the 1960s and 1930s but to the late 1800s, when the “fatal conceit” of planned, directed re-engineering of the economy and society was first broadly expressed. (This is more true than any accusation of “laissez-faire” advocacy being such a late 1800s throwback!)

    Progress is not synonymous with change! As conservatives and the rest of us non-liberals know, change is not the same as and never means or guarantees improvement. (As we see so often)

    “Staying ahead of the curve”: The trend toward greater government interventionism, constituting more and more of the economy? Who wants that? It’s anti-progress by nature and is in defiance of what is going to happen eventually — some things may consume more of the economy (like entitlements for older people), but that will force reductions elsewhere and wiser people among intervention advocates will reconsider their views in the future, and many more simply will have to accept the reverse trend — and that includes in entitlements, not just in the size and scope of government(s) overall. Already, the burden of proof lies upon advocates of interventionism; it’s going to be compounded in the future by the lack of money as well as desire to do everything that activists want, including simply to increase the size and scope of government as a matter of principle(!).

    Bureaucracy isn’t a business model (except for the most big, bloated old firms Sixties liberals still dream of, that have layers and layers and layers of bureaucracy and management, that resembles administration in public school systems and other bureaucracies in government, greater and better-known. The incentives in each are different, as are the nature of each.

    One thing does merit mention there, a correct analogy. Even taking the modern welfare state into consideration, the best and most that can be said on behalf of government (like administration in the schools) has nothing to do with “leadership and guidance” (anathema to learned, principled adults, at least), but rather with the correct business-related view of government. Here is the one thing that is true and needs learning when it comes to viewing government as a business, liberal-style (intervening in every way possible in the lives of employees and stockholders and customers and performing innumerable functions other than producing and earning money other than forcing customers, at least, to pay whatever the business wants):

    Government is overhead.

    The last thing we need is for overhead to become self-serving and parasitic, truly threatening harm short-and-long-term to the “business,” a massively growing parasite consuming and threatening harm to the host.

    2. Why federal rather than state or local? The burden of proof is extra great on those wanting the feds to intervene. Being more convenient doesn’t count. Preventing citizens from “voting with their feet” against excess by state governments by going from bad states to good states (as we’ve seen for decades, a component of post-World-War-II and notably post-1980 migration) by making something federal to end escape is not a legitimate basis, either. What about the constitutional constraints, as well as standard US mores and philosophy that is anti-federal as well as anti-public-in-favor-of-private? The burden of proof is on the fed advocates even more than for government (“publicizing” the private) overall.

  • Hemmann


    Once again, my man you see only the left as the culprit. There’s been an equal right wing oil based line of political BS every bit as bogus. Sorry you’re blind to half the problem. You you wish to examine what we can do, give up your self-serving meme. I promise, it won’t hurt.

  • Hemmann

    Government is overhead.

    If by overhead you mean overhead to over ride chaos, I’m with you. Any other meaning is just buzz word, sound byte BS. Civilization is overhead. Food distribution is overhead. Self defense is overhead. Your opinion is overhead to cogent thought. See how that works?

  • DLS

    Dave Hemm, try ending the blindness (if not other faults, too).

    I resent your bogus charges which are often hypocritical, too.

    It may be too much, but just limiting yourself to this thread, take a look (I cannot confidently say, “again,” for multiple reasons) at the account of US nationalism and nationalists, which in practice is the same as conservatism and conservatives, provided by Anatol Lieven. If you can see and read (and understand), it is a critical account of such things, and it corresponds to some of what EJS was trying to say (returning to an earlier time out of nostalgia and out of hostility to change — which does not constitute progress innately — and to progress, and to a type of “defeat” (to liberals, “foreign elements and ideas,” and so on).

    Then remind yourself that I provided it here and have on other threads to show critique of conservatives and conservatism that I believe is, in a number of ways, accurate as well as good observation. (more, if you can read and understand) It is somewhat hyperbolic and fixates on a fraction of society and makes too much of it (among a number of goofs lefties make — and he even likes to speak of “bourgeoisie” and “proletariat,” so even if you can’t grasp from the context he’s a lefty, well, there are certain words that should be a tip-off), but he does give a good account of the nature of many conservatives, notably the social (and nationalist) and religious conservatives. (also the Cold War mentality)

    Here’s the fucking link again. The chapters you need to review even are linked to separately, under “Contents” (helping again)

    You’re welcome.

    Now if you can, end the blindness (and perhaps worse) on other threads.

    Thanks in advance.

  • DLS

    Dave Hemmann wrote:

    If by overhead you mean overhead to over ride chaos, I’m with you. Any other meaning is just buzz word, sound byte BS.
    Civilization is overhead…

    You don’t understand (particularly when you go on to say “civilization is overhead”: No, taxes don’t buy “civilization”).

    What I wrote was clear as well as correct. If need be, re-read slowly as many times as needed until you understand it (truly).

    Especially if wrongly viewed as a service agency and family substitute rather than (properly) as a government (and redistribution functions involving individuals, cities and counties, and states as well as the federal government count here), it is overhead and it’s too much and too intrusive and ineffective or counter-effective overhead. Why “need” [sic; “want”] more, as some advocates believe is “necessary” [sic]?

  • Hemmann


    Self serving definitions are not a good place to start

    government – the political direction and control exercised over the actions of the members, citizens, or inhabitants of communities, societies, and states; direction of the affairs of a state, community, etc.; political administration: Government is necessary to the existence of civilized society.

    Overhead is your idea, not the universally accepted generic definition of government.

    Castigate and insinuate as you wish, cite my bias if you can. I’ll wait for your to demonstrate the truth of that charge.
    I expect crickets, but I’m open to being proved wrong.

  • DLS

    It’s not a self-serving definition, Dave. Sorry if you can’t (or you can but you insistenly won’t) understand what I have written. I’ll have to leave it at that if you can’t or won’t learn.

  • SteveK

    Hemmann says: These comes from NCDS/NESDIS/NOAA and are not supported by any oil money. You do accept National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data, don’t you?

    Certainly I accept National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data… when taken in context with the background provided by the agencies you quote.

    Why didn’t you provide that information? (a rhetorical question)

    Probably because all those agencies are on-board with all major scientific organizations and they too agree that:

    1. Climate Change both is a major worldwide problem; and,
    2. That most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities


    Here’s what the organizations you linked to actually say about Climate Change:

    NOAA says: Climate changes are underway in the United States and are projected to grow.

    Global temperature has increased over the past 50 years, primarily due to human behaviors that release heat-trapping gases, like carbon dioxide.

    Widespread climate-related impacts are occurring now and are expected to increase.

    Changes are happening in the United States, and elsewhere, but the impacts vary from region to region. These changes are affecting sectors of our society that cross regional boundaries. Already impacted are things that we depend upon; water, energy, transportation, agriculture, ecosystems, and human health.


    Met Office says: Climate Change

    The term ‘climate change’ refers to a change in the average state of our climate and/or the variability of its properties.

    While there are noticeable highs and lows in year to year data, over longer periods of time there is a discernable warming trend across the globe. Natural causes can explain only a small part of this warming. The overwhelming majority of scientists agree that this is due to rising concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere caused by human activities.


    And for extra credit…

    NASA says: Global Climate Change – Evidence: How do we know?

    The Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of human civilization. Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.

    The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years.1

    Earth-orbiting satellites and other technological advances have enabled scientists to see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate on a global scale. Studying these climate data collected over many years reveal the signals of a changing climate.


    Global temperature rise

    All three major global surface temperature reconstructions show that Earth has warmed since 1880. 5 Most of this warming has occurred since the 1970s, with the 20 warmest years having occurred since 1981 and with all 10 of the warmest years occurring in the past 12 years. 6 Even though the 2000s witnessed a solar output decline resulting in an unusually deep solar minimum in 2007-2009, surface temperatures continue to increase.


    The positions I take are as obvious to me as your positions are to you. I’m satisfied that science knows more than either of us and consider trying to argue against you industry based talking points a waste of time. Feel free to show us how ignorant (and political of course) NCDS/NESDIS/NOAA, MET and NASA have suddenly all become as I’m finished thread-jacking tidbits fine post.


    Enjoyed both your pieces, Elijah, and most of the comments. Look forward to the sequel, on whomever else “drives you crazy.” :)–although not too many left.

    Sent with a “centrist” slant from “la mitad del mundo.”

  • DLS

    NASA under James Hansen (whose blatantly political, and blatant, behavior nobody sane would question) was obviously political. The publications such as Nature and Science have been implicated in scandal, as has “scientific academia” with Climategate, not to mention people presuming to be learned, like celebrity leftist Al Gore. I don’t accept ignorance claims, though Hansen does, in “Dreams of My Children,” recall (unwittingly) instance after instance of blatant (and hystericist) political activism, and in this book for those instances, expresses wonder at what the reaction has been all about.

    Even the Union of Concerned Scientists (a far-left activist group), in recalling some “political mistreatment of Hansen” (by evil right wing syndicalists), unwittingly exposed the problem, both in the recollection of statements Hansen made, and NASA’s own stupid former mission statement, which included “to understand and protect our home planet.” (NASA’s mission is research and perhaps expert authority lent for other purposes, such as legislation; it has no legitimate activist role whatsoever. It’s left-activism, of course, which is the rule. Any “shills for industry” right-wing accusations in academia or government or the media are greatly dwarfed and really aren’t any problem.)

  • Thanks, Dorian.

    Happy Father’s Day.

  • SteveK

    Happy Fathers Day Elijah & Dorian.

    Thanks for helping me get my priorities straight.

  • Hemmann

    SteveK says:

    And where does the scientific proof for any of the opinions expressed in your links reside. It’s likely that AGW is the cause is not a scientific opinion, it is a political one. You should know the difference.

    And all quotes above reflect what my original position was. The earth is warming, and has been doing so for 1000s of years.
    CO2 has a physical limit as to the upward forcing of temperature that has and can be measured in laboratory tests. that’s science, and is irrefutable. The assertion of some kind of synergistic “sum greater than it’s parts” theory of run away heating has no experimental evidence to back it up. Show the peer reviewed paper or accept that the current theory you believe is true fails the first test of scientific proof.

    Make all the political arguments, consensus rants, or whatever; science requires proof.

    I stated that the warming trend has been a degree per century for hundreds of years. The graphs come from those who ask you to believe them or your lying eyes. Argue the graph, not the hype.

  • roro80

    “Would you have made the same answer to whether government needs to grow in say 2001?

    Hi Steve — Just saw this. Can you be more specific? Do you mean before the Bush disaster, or before 9/11, or do you just mean a generic decade ago? Also, are you talking about what my opinion was at the time, or what answer I would have given with me being me now?

  • SteveinCH


    Let’s just say the day that Bush took office. The Federal government was about 40 percent smaller than it is today at that point and I don’t recall many people arguing that Clinton needed to dramatically increase the size of government.

    Since then, we’ve had two Presidents who favor massive expansion of government. One favored it in matters security and bedroom related, the other in matters social and regulatory related.

    What I think we are learning is that it is far easier to expand government than constrain it because it appears hard to undo the expansion once it has occurred.

  • SteveK

    Let’s just say the day that Bush took office. The Federal government was about 40 percent smaller than it is today at that point and I don’t recall many people arguing that Clinton needed to dramatically increase the size of government.

    Interesting theory… Unfortunately the facts paint a different picture


    Total Employees: 3,046,873
    Full-Time Employees: 2,736,962
    Total March Payroll: data not available

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


    Total Employees: 2,899,363
    Full-Time Employees: 2,425,898
    Total March Payroll: 11,484,971,535

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    BY FUNCTION: March 2009

    Total Employees: 2,823,777
    Full-Time Employees: 2,527,149
    Total March Payroll: 15,105,511,892

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Saying the same thing over-and-over-and-over doesn’t make it true… It’s got to be true in the first place.

  • SteveK

    I realize that if you’re simply talking about ‘federal spending’ growth has occurred (preemptive attacks on sovereign nations ain’t cheap) but, contrary to the standard ‘rightie’ and Tea Party talking point, the number of federal employees is less now than it was in 1992.

  • SteveinCH

    Actually SteveK, I was referring to government spending as a percentage of GDP, not the workforce. If I were simply going for effect, I could have used Federal government spending in nominal dollars (up over 100 percent for the decade) or the same controlled for inflation (up more than 50 percent for the decade).

    I don’t measure the size of government by the number of employees although I would point out that the Federal payroll is up more than 30 percent using the numbers you cited.

    Finally, to the point about “attacks on sovereign nations”, the increase in the budget from 2000 to 2010 in terms of percent of GDP is around 6 percentage points. Of that, about 1 percentage point is the cost of attacks on sovereign nations (as you put it). Not nothing but hardly the major cause of the 6 point swing.

    Clearly you didn’t read my comment. I recognize the expansion in the scope of government under Bush and the expansion under Obama. I also recognize that much of the expansion under Bush has not been undone by Obama and that much of the expansion under Obama will not be undone by the next President, whoever he or she may be. Which is exactly my point…those on the left claiming that government no longer needs to expand should let us know when they arrived at that point of view. Were it any time prior to 2009, they should be calling for government to contract in addition to reallocate.

  • adelinesdad

    (Sorry I’m late back to the discussion. I was interested in the debate but didn’t have a chance to respond until now.)


    I understand there may be some tea partiers who say the federal government employs too many people, that was not the point SteveinCH was making. Obviously, the federal payroll is a small fraction of the total federal budget and so when we talk about the size of government, we are talking about much more than how many people it employs.


    While in general I agree with you I do have a nit to pick. I went to look up the numbers ( and it seems to me that government spending, as a percentage of GDP, has remained mostly stable except for mandatory entitlement spending, which is mostly the result of external factors not directly related to any specific government action. Other than that, there has been some increase in military spending and some other discretionary spending, but in those areas we are roughly in-line with the historical trend, up until 2009 when the recession hit. You could make the argument that it has remained stable due to conservative pressure to constrain the size of government in opposition to the natural tendency to grow, but it’s difficult to make that argument for the same reason it’s difficult for Obama to argue that he has “saved” jobs.

    So, based on the data I’d make a slight variation to the argument you are making, which is, if I understand correctly, that if you are not actively constraining the size of government then you are, in effect, in favor of increasing the size of government. I’d say this is true mostly with regards to entitlements: if you are not in favor of constraining the growth of entitlement spending, then you are, in effect, in favor of increasing entitlement spending. For example, I don’t think you can be in favor of something like the ACA and then say that you don’t think government needs to grow, because implementing such things almost inevitably results in steadily increasing government spending (and therefore government influence), even if you believe that it is deficit-neutral due to corresponding revenue increases.

Twitter Auto Publish Powered By :