03 January 2010

On Being Grown Up

Once again that thoughtful fellow David Brooks has grabbed my thoughts and turned them into something worth sharing. He calls himself a conservative, but I suspect he is conservative in the small 'c' sense more than the large 'C' variety that is an ideology. That's a whole other post, and probably a sermon as well, though.

It seems what he is asking is whether we can be a nation of grown ups, people with the experience and wisdom to realize that no government is perfect but also that no government at all is stupid. Given recent history, or should I say 'hystery' implying the hysterical quality of public discourse. Maybe that should be dis'coarse,' come to think of it.

I do have a suggestion, though, that will never fly but it makes so much sense. Since our national leaders have lost so much trust from the American public, and much of that comes from the sense that they are out for themselves more than the people - be it influence, money or power - one way to be more grown up is to come clean.

Publish all Congressional Tax returns. The President releases his every year, and the Vice President, if memory serves. Why not Congress? We always hear rumors of the influence of lobbyists. Many members are wealthy now, far more as a proportion than the general public. As they hold a large public trust that makes it possible to line their pockets, should they not have to come clean and prove they have not?

I know, they will simply hide it all the more. Maybe. But this is a no cost action that over time could reduce the climate the suspicion and contempt that has crept upon the halls of power.

I think the same should be true at the state level. In my simple little mind, 'great power brings great responsibility' as a comic book once said. Those serving the public trust have forgotten that. Revealing their own stake in the legislative process would go a long way I think. What do you think?


Bill Baar said...

Conservatives defers to history and tradition. That's anti ideological.

A Liberal looks for absolute principles. That's ideological.

Re: Tax Returns. It takes more than exposure. We know Charlie Rangal's shenanigans and he's escaped censure. Principles and their applications change... some cheating warrants censure and sometimes not.

Enduring tradition of honor and integrity gone in this Congress regardless of light shown on its members greed. They're bold scoundrals.

WFW said...


For a conservative you're being a bit ideological, it seems to me. ;-)

Sure there are ideological conservatives, self professed in fact. The whole so-called neo-conservative movement is ideological. That may not make them conservatives, in the lower case, temperamental sense at all. Perhaps because Podhoretz was once a liberal explains it. Exchanging one ideoloogy for another.

And what should we make of all those old Bolsheviks pining for the Stalin era? Are they not deferring to history and tradition? My own opinion is that Soviet Russia was never a liberal place. But that's a whole other conversation.

I agree with Bierce's distinction between liberal and conservative, to wit - a conservative is someone 'who is enamored of existing evils; as distinguished from a liberal who wishes to replace them with others.'

In re: Tex returns. Like Chicken Soup it couldn't hurt. But I disagree with your cynicism, knowing history enough to recall that the only time Congress has been in lower repute was the late 19th century, which brought forthe the Progressive Movement (in both parties!) that worked hard to bring some disinfecting sunlight to the mushroom caves of government back then. I think my idea is very much in line with that sort of thinking, and if not a panacea is at least a small part of chastening 'the never ending audacity of elected persons,' as Whitman put it.

Bill Baar said...

I think Disraeli had a better (and less cynical) take on the differences between Liberal and Conservative,

In a progressive country change is constant; and the great question is not whether you should resist change which is inevitable, but whether that change should be carried out in deference to the manners, the customs, the laws and the traditions of a people, or whether it should be carried out in deference to abstract principles, and arbitrary and general doctrines.

I don't consider myself much a conservative. Call me a Trotsky-Con if you need labels.

Know though Liberalism as we know it, and Liberal Religion as we practice it in UU Churches, is heading for a great shake up.

That's one consequence of Obama's confrontation with reality. Liberalism's principles and doctrines are pretty worn these days.

It won't be pretty.

Bill Baar said...

Footnote: Re: My own opinion is that Soviet Russia was never a liberal place.

Indeed, I knew many a Communist and I never heard one describe The Worker's State as a liberal place.