December 17, 2005

Republicans Are About Big, Authoritarian Government

CNN.com - Report: Bush eased domestic spy rules after 9/11 - Dec 16, 2005

The Republicans constantly accuse the Democrats of being about big, inefficient government. They point to social welfare programs as the prime example of government waste and argue that the size and role of the federal government should be reduced. Then we learn that Bush approved domestic spying by the government on American citizens with virtually no legal oversight. Doesn't sound like a smaller role for the government, does it?

This apparent inconsistency can be understood as follows: both Democrats and Republicans want "big government," but they want it in very different ways. Both forms of "big government" have pros and cons. Both raise important moral questions.

For Democrats, the role of government is to promote civility, help those who are less fortunate, and minimize exploitation by corporate America. Can this be wasteful? You bet. Can this raise interesting moral issues about society's obligation to help those who may attempt to cheat the system? Certainly. Can this interfere with the free market? Absolutely.

For Republicans, the role of government is primarily about imperialism in the guise of "national defense" and social control. Without a strong federal government, Iraq doesn't happen. Without a strong government, spying on American citizens wouldn't be possible. Republicans depend on military might to provide American businesses with an unfair advantage abroad and to maintain control of the masses at home.

If one had to pick one of these positions and argue that it represented a moral choice, I believe that the decision would be fairly obvious. Of course, this would be an artificial choice, neglecting possibilities between these two polarities.

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