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Commentary

Where Have All the Liberals Gone


     
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There are two conservatives for every liberal in America. That’s the message of a recent David Brooks column as well as a Gallup survey. I think the imbalance is much starker. I would guess there are four conservatives for every liberal. Maybe even more.

Here’s a test I invite you to take. Watch C-Span’s morning call-in show and listen to what people who phone in on the “Democrat” or “liberal” line have to say. When is the last time you heard a caller say, “We should all pay higher taxes so that the government can provide us with universal day care”? Or how about, “We should all pay higher taxes so the government can provide us with universal long term care”? I bet you can’t remember ever hearing that.

Here is what I suspect you will hear: Teachers complaining that teachers aren’t paid enough. Union members complaining about competition from workers overseas. Senior citizens whining about the meagerness of Social Security or Medicare benefits. Minority callers advocating more affirmative action. And what is the common denominator of these comments? Self-interest.

Yes, I know. Special interests are in both parties. Why wouldn’t they be? Yet as I wrote in my analysis of “progressivism,” the left in America has elevated special interest privilege to an art form.

Here’s the point: people wanting more, more, more are nothing more than people pursuing their own self interest in politics. They are not in principle different from any other special interest group. Importantly, they have nothing in common with what we normally have in mind by the term “liberalism.”

There is a reason for that. There are very few people around who want to give government more power over their money, their property or their lives. And Brooks is probably right about the reason why: Most people don’t trust government. In fact, only 10 percent trust the government to do the right thing most of the time, according to opinion polls.

Here is a second test. Keep watching C-Span. After the outside callers are gone, most days you get to watch Congress in action. Have you ever watched a series of speeches on the House floor? Have you ever watched a real Congressional debate? Try it some time. Then ask yourself this question: Do you trust the people you are watching on TV to manage your retirement pension? Or do you have more confidence in your employer or Fidelity or even Merrill Lynch? Do you trust the people on the House floor to manage your health care? Or do you have more confidence in your employer or even UnitedHealthcare or Aetna?

Congress in action most days reminds us of school children insulting and taunting each other. It’s like a group of adolescents desperately in need of adult supervision. It’s the opposite of the civil, rational deliberation that the Founding Fathers must have hoped for.

It takes a very special kind of person to watch lunacy in action and then decide to give the lunatics more control over your life. There are such special people, of course. They are disproportionately congregated in Hollywood, on the campuses of the nation’s colleges and universities and in the elite news media. What are the common characteristics all too many of them share? Arrested development (they never bothered to grow up), aversion to the rest of humanity (they really are elitists), a lack of common sense (they’ve never really managed anything) and a failure to master the syllogism (they approach the world emotionally, not logically).

Here is something you need to understand: liberalism is not an ideology. It’s a sociology. It’s not a way of thinking. It’s a way of responding to the world emotionally.

What was the core issue during the dispute over the constitutionality of ObamaCare’s requirement that everyone buy health insurance? It was whether there are any limits to government power. If the government can force you to buy health insurance, can it also require you to eat broccoli every day, one federal judge asked. Surprisingly, liberals in general refused to draw a line on the hypothetical broccoli mandate. They were unwilling to say that it’s unconstitutional for the government to tell you what you must eat for lunch.

Then George Stephanopoulos during the Republican presidential debate the other night surprised Governor Romney with a truly off-the-wall question: Do you think state governments should be able to outlaw contraceptives? Romney was nonplused, as were the other candidates. They can be forgiven for not knowing that all true liberals believe that it is unconstitutional for government to tell you what contraceptives you can and can’t use.

Think about that. It’s permissible for government to tell you that you must eat broccoli, but impermissible for government to tell you that you can’t have a contraceptive. Anyone who thinks this way isn’t thinking at all. He’s emoting.

That’s why you don’t find very many real liberals in places like Dallas, Cincinnati or Indianapolis. But you do find a lot of people in those cities who are self-interested. If liberals get votes in cities like these, it is only because they are appealing to self-interest.


John C. Goodman is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute and author of the award-winning and widely acclaimed Institute book, Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis. The Wall Street Journal and the National Journal, among other media, have called him the “Father of Health Savings Accounts.”


  New from John C. Goodman!
PRICELESS: Curing the Healthcare Crisis
To cure the ailments of American healthcare we must get rid of the perverse incentives that raise costs, reduce quality, and make care hard to access. We must allow a free-market price system to emerge, so that the laws of supply and demand will work to the benefit of patients and providers alike.






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