Editor’s note: The McPherson Sentinel is proud to introduce its newest local columnist, Daniel Schwindt of McPherson. Schwindt’s column, “The Pursuit of Sanity” will run weekly on Thursdays.
Gigantism is a condition characterized by excessive growth. In the human body, it is caused by a pituitary gland that doesn’t understand the concept of moderation. In a human society, it is caused by a social philosophy that suffers from the same conceptual ignorance. We’ve got it, and we’ve got it bad.
For evidence, we need look no further than the political rhetoric, from either team, which revolves almost entirely around the necessity of growth. Growth (more production and consumption) is the highest good; stagnation is the greatest sin. I will point out in passing that an economy that requires maximized consumption also excludes the possibility of what religious people call “material contentment,” both in theory and in practice. But that is a digression.
Both parties, on this point of necessary economic growth, agree. It never seems to occur to them, as it would occur to the man with the over-active pituitary gland, that there might be such a thing as “bad growth”; that it is possible for the body to grow quantitatively while the life decays qualitatively.
As mentioned, both political parties agree that this indiscriminate growth is unconditionally the key to our success. Why, then, is one party appalled at the “expansive” ideology of the other? They are both wringing every last bit of growth hormone out of the metaphorical gland, yet the left arm complains when the right arm (business) becomes gigantic; and likewise, the right arm is terrified when the left appendage (government) shows the same inordinate increase.
They grow and grow, the left seeking to offset that greedy immoderation of the right-wing corporations; the right seeking to free the market from the left’s government encroachments. They are both enamored of enlargement, they simply differ on which social appendage should receive the bulk: big government, or big business.
At this point, I am not going to suggest that either of these ideas is more correct than the other, mainly because it is my opinion that they are both absurd. Right now, however, there is a more interesting point to be made. Both parties actually foster both excesses. They cause what they hate in the group they oppose. The tendencies they loathe in the other party are actually present in their own basic premises, but they refuse to see them there, and so they lash out in a curious fit of projected self-hate.
They suffer from a vision of complementary half-truths, in which they hate the half that they don’t see.
The left has understood excessive concentrations of wealth will destroy democracy, because political power concentrates with economic power. If it requires $1 million to get on the ballot, the man who has $1 million will decide who gets on the ballot; and if he gets to decide what the choices are, it is a mere flattering formality when the poor man goes to vote on which one. This is practical plutocracy.
Page 2 of 2 - The right has understood the exact same truth in its complementary manifestation: concentrating political power into the hands of the government will bring economic concentration right along with it. Through taxation and government programs, big government destroys democracy and freedom just as effectively as big business, and fosters a servile dependence.
The idea that liberal policy will leave us with a massive government, dealing “handouts” to those who haven’t earned them, is generally accepted, because it is true, and so I will leave that alone.
What is less accepted, but equally true, is the fact conservative policy has and will result in the exact same thing. The difference being that the undeserved handouts will not go from the wealthy to the poor, but from the poor to the wealthy. In essence, the handouts will be much, much larger.
As evidence I simply offer the following testimony from former secretary of the Treasury, William Simon:
“I watched with incredulity as businessmen ran to the government in every crisis, whining for handouts or protection from the very competition that has made this system productive.” He saw “giant milk cooperatives lobbying for higher price supports; major airlines fighting deregulation to preserve their monopoly status; giant companies like Lockheed seeking federal assistance to rescue them from sheer inefficiency; bankers, like David Rockefeller, demanding government bailouts to protect them from their ill-conceived investments.”
He finally observes that “such gentlemen proclaimed their devotion to free enterprise and their opposition to the arbitrary intervention into our economic life by the state. Except, of course, for their own case, which was always unique and which was justified by their immense concern for the public interest.”
As we have seen during our recent financial troubles, things have not changed much, and massive financial institutions are just as ready to accept government handouts as “those lazy good-for-nothing welfare recipients.”
Right now the United States, as a political animal, must be a curious vision to behold: a noble and unique creature, for it will always be “America the Beautiful”; but it is stumbling. It is stumbling under the weight of its two colossal arms—left and right—flailing about at war against each other. It will be the body—the common man—that gives the most blood in this battle of absurdity; whether it is by a wealth-transfusion from the working classes into the corporate bloodstream via bailout and legislative bias, or into the government bloodstream via taxation and dependence.
The body of our nation is not doomed, but it will become ever more clumsy and inept until it adopts a more reasonable ideology—an ideology that arranges itself less around material growth and more around man, for “Man is small, and, therefore, small is beautiful.”
Daniel Schwindt is a resident of McPherson.