(In The New York Times, Of All Places, Bill?)
It's sort of hard to believe, but you see it over and over. Today's New York Times has an op-ed column by William Weld, entitled, "Government Made Easy." It's a classic case of someone who has a problem visualizing things except in his or her own terms. Bill Weld takes a complicated trillion-dollar governmental ensemble of millions of human beings, committees, projects, institutions, and organizations and, referring to it as "political pie" attempts to simplistically serve it up to his readers in "four main slices." Here they are:
1. --The Dick Gephardt, unions-all-the-way crowd
2. -- The Bill Clinton-Al Gore-Bob Kerrey-Bill Bradley Democrats
3. -- The George W. Bush-Lamar Alexander-George Pataki Republicans
4. -- Gary Bauer Republicans of the far right
Now, here we are, deep inside the display of Bill Weld's vision. How do you like it? Feel comfortable with all of this simplicity? All of this stereotyping? All of this labeling? Well, he goes on to say that the first and last group, "don't get it." And that the middle two do "get it." The number 2's, however, are wrong-headed on taxes, torts, and schools. The number 3's, however, should "move to the left" on abortion and affirmative action.
Then he presses ahead on a critique of "good" and "bad" government.
GOOD STUFF GOVERNMENT DOES
-- restraining citizens from killing and injury each other
-- safeguarding livelihoods from predatory businesses
-- helping citizens pursue happiness in "God's great green earth"
-- redressing wrongs
-- "appealing to the better angels of our nature"
BAD STUFF GOVERNMENT DOES
-- taking more than 30 percent of taxpayer's income
-- trying to "micro manage" anything
-- trying manage people's sex lives
-- obstructing the free flow of ideas, material goods, services or people
-- telling people "We understand more fully than you what's good for you."
And if you were wondering what Bill Weld means when he says some people "get it" and others don't "get it" (other than the central ingredient of agreement with him), he defines it for us in simple (naturally) terms:
"So, what is 'it'?" 'It' is the recognition that government is good when it does some things and bad when it does other things." - verbatim quote.
It's kind of maddening, really. When you consider the vast array of government services offered by the USA, across 223 years, by millions and millions of people, in every state, town and city, plus in every country of the world; when you consider all of the wars, victories and defeats; when you consider the glorious leaders, many of whom are legends on a worldwide scale; when you consider the global debates; when you consider the monumental achievements in transportation, exploration, education, and freedom; and when you consider where we are today by not listening to simplistic, chauvinistic, stereotyped, and self-serving would-be leaders, whose very careers speak of directionless ambition, it all becomes as clear as a well-known face in the crowd.
Out of context, it's sometimes hard to place someone, but upon reflection and recall, mixed with openness and knowledge, they fall into place so easily that it's almost funny.
"Oh, yes," one says, "now I remember exactly who you are."