Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Self-Hating State

John Feffer of the International Relations Center published this piece today on the Foreign Policy Magazine blog. His first three paragraphs sum up his point:

The state, according to classical liberals, is a problem. It meddles in the economy. It over-regulates. Through the tax system, it robs Peter to pay Paul. If only the state would get out of the way, these purists argue, then the invisible hand of the market would magically set things right. Equilibrium would reign, and the gross national happiness of the country would rise like the temperature on a warm, summer day.

The Bush administration presides over a state. It negotiates with other states on an hourly basis. But the current administration harbors a deep streak of perversity: it is a self-hating state.

The Bush crowd has spent the last six years undermining virtually all state functions with the possible exception of government surveillance and, of course, the Pentagon budget. It has weakened regulatory agencies, cut back social programs, slashed taxes for the wealthy, blurred the division between church and state, and opened up natural preserves to corporate exploitation. This campaign has been nothing less than an attempt to unravel the Great Society programs of the 1960s, rewind the New Deal legislation of the 1940s, and "roll back the 20th century," as William Greider wrote in a powerful piece in The Nation in 2003.

I've spoken over the last couple years with a number of fellow centrists. Many of us voted for Bush. The common theme for those of us who did is that we simply couldn't believe that a president could actually be this bad. It didn't make sense in our conception of the type of person who can get to be president. But while I may disagree with those who contend that Bush is evil, or may quibble with finer points of the vast array of arguments against his policies, it still amazes me to realize just how awful he has been.

I'm still struggling to understand the nuance of the administration's philosophy (if in fact there is a coherent one), but I can't say Feffer is necessarily wrong. It's an interesting definition in any event.

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