Monday, July 19, 2004

The Lesser of Two Evils?

Today's Republican Party (it's not my father's Republican Party) is in thrall to a lot of people I wouldn't want to have a beer with, even if they drank beer. Democrats, many of whom I enjoy having a beer with, fear what they see as a Republican plot to install a theocratic state.

Most Democrats (and not a few Republicans) seem willing enough to regulate every facet of the economy and promote dependency on the welfare state through income redistribution -- all of which really tends to make most people worse off, even the relatively poor among us. (The law of unintended consequences and all that.) Not only that, but I'm willing to bet that most allies of affirmative action (which isn't equal protection of the law) and campus speech codes are Democrats.

So Democrats practice a truncated version of libertarianism, and Republicans are becoming me-too Democrats with a somewhat different social agenda. Today's version of the Libertarian Party is a lost cause, having retreated into ostrich-like isolationism. (Even Kerry is better on defense than your average card-carrying Libertarian.)

What we're left with is a choice between the lesser of two evils: Republican or Democrat, the lady or the tiger? Which of the evils we choose depends on which one we fear the least. As for me, I really don't fear the rise of a theocratic state, regardless of what some Republicans might like to do about things like prayer in public schools. In fact, we used to live in a quasi-theocratic state, which is gone for good. (Remember when we said The Lord's Prayer in public school? Remember when we couldn't buy a mixed drink in Virginia or buy alcohol on a Sunday?) The regulatory-welfare state, on the other hand, has been with us for decades and only occasionally stops growing.

No one is forcing us to pray or go to church, but "they" (that includes Republicans) are making most of us worse off through regulation (that includes censorship by the FCC), welfare (that includes corporate welfare), and pork-barrel spending (Democrats have no monopoly on that). And, of course, there's quite a political base for regulation, welfare, and pork, because their costs are subtle and well concealed from most people. The myth of the "free lunch" lives on.

Is there a "lesser evil" left to choose? I'm beginning to think not.

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