Friday, June 10, 2016

Supporting "The Establishment" - Conservative America's Naive Views on Government

For quite a few years now, I've listened to my older, middle-class, suburban, white neighbor rant and rave and rail against "the guv'ment." He seems to believe the United States government is a huge fascist organization out to take everyday citizens' money and freedom ... not to mention guns. We all need to restrict and limit government and scale back all public funding. My response has always been something along the lines of "You want to see what no government infrastructure looks like? Move to Somalia. You'll love it, and you can have all the guns you want. Which is good because you'll actually need them."

That same sentiment is aptlhy articulated in today's USA Today with a succinct piece of commentary from Stanford professor Keith Humphreys who writes, I Like the Establishment, and You Should Too. Humphrey shares my neighborly advice when he reminds comfortable middle class conservative suburban libertarians and Trump supporters: "They should get out more. To Iraq, for example. Or Lybia or Venezuala. Or the Central African Republic. Or indeed any nation that lacks an establishment."

None of this is to say that The Establishment has ever been completely fair-minded or unfailingly open to outsiders. For example, 100 years ago virtually every establishment figure in the USA was a white male Anglo-Saxon Protestant. Yet as with other changes in society, The Establishment has been very good at reforming itself in response to increasing diversity in society and attendant demands for equality, including by absorbing people of diverse religious, racial and ethnic backgrounds. It is after all The Establishment and not any self-styled revolutionary that is offering the country the first woman candidate with a good chance of becoming president. Teenagers being raised by long-married parents often chafe at the rules their elders set, the traditions they keep, the mistakes they make and the conventionality they exude. Yet if those unhappy young people have a friend who is growing up in a home in which multiple divorces have occurred and the faces and rules have changed markedly every few years, they might gain a new appreciation for the stability they have enjoyed. American revolutionaries should likewise look at the world’s unstable nations before raging at their own country’s establishment. We would all miss it terribly if it were gone.

The sad reality is that far too many Americans have little understanding of the stability and safety provided by institutions like "the government." Granted, the American bureacracy has become somewhat of a behemoth in terms of public funding, and there are many common sense ways to streamline federal and state budgets and agencies. The expansive growth of government services and interference in the private sector is certainly a drag at times. But there is much to be said for consistent electricity, sound education system, fair justice system, clean water, and relatively trustworthy roads.

And when middle class suburban Americans buy into some myth that America is failing, I am dismayed by their ignorance.

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