How my continuing engagement with Scripture changed my views on public policy

In the 2000 presidential election, I voted in my first presidential election, and as a newly minted member of the U.S. Air Force, was very happy to see President Bush elected.  And in the time before facebook and blogs, I e-mailed news articles to friends, often with my commentary, almost always with a conservative slant.  So when I say that I have shifted to the left, that should be considered relative.  I am pro-life and believe in smaller, smarter government, but after that, I tend to favor if not progressive policies, certainly a lot of progressive values that I see reflected in scripture.

So how did I get here?

How One Reads the Bible
I think one of the fundamental shifts was from digging into the specific verses found in the Bible and instead
taking a step back and looking at the overall themes.  Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that interpreting specific verses is not important, in fact I’ll be offering up some of my own favorite passages shortly, but never had I read a book of the Bible cover to cover and asked, what was the message of this person to this audience.  Instead I would ask, what does this verse or that say, and then line them up against others, with no appreciation for the context and scope of history.  We sometimes forget that the Bible was first and foremost written for its original audience.  In some ways I think the whole, “love letter from God”, or “manual for living” thing is overplayed, to some degree.

The Ethics of Jesus
This goes hand-in-hand with how one reads the Bible.  The Bible says a lot of crazy things.  How are we to make sense of what we apply and what we don’t?  Hebrews 1:3 says that Jesus is the exact representation of God’s being.  So for instance when the Bible says that any number of things should be punished by death and then Jesus says no, do not condemn the women caught in adultery to death, that has implications.  At the very least, we must treat criminals and victims fairly and justly, while at the same time extending a great deal of grace to both.  These principles apply not just to individuals, but to people in power in their administration of justice.

Beyond that example, the Sermon on the Mount, starting in Matthew chapter 5, lists a whole set of values and new ways of looking at the world, all of which I think apply to public policy in the 21st century.  No, not always literally, (though sometimes that too) but at the very least as a way of stating principles that should be carefully and wisely applied to our contemporary situation.

Reactions to Conservative and Progressive Culture
To some extent my shift is reactionary.  I’m willing to own that.  If I had grown up in an uber-liberal home and church, I would probably have reacted to that as well.  I think any given sub-culture has its issues and areas where it can improve.

Let me say this as well.  The actual people I grew up with, particularly my pastors and close friends, they are some of the best, most Godly people I know.  I think they combine their conservative values and allegiance to Christ very well. I have not been burned by an abusive church or something similar as some of my friends have.  Instead, I have great memories of my formative years, years which frankly continue.

So the bottom line is that yes I have shifted, there are some foundational values or assumptions made by conservatives that I question, but no, I don’t think conservatives are inherently evil.  I do not buy into a pure liberal narrative about the evils of corporations, the rich and powerful.  I may sometimes sound like I agree with that narrative, because I think there is some percentage of truth to it, but I do not wholly agree.

Additionally my shift can be attributed to getting to know some of those evil liberals, and finding out there is no such thing.  When you live in a town like Pasadena California, a largely conservative town by California standards, full of very rich people and very poor ones, it has an effect on you.  When you see the effects of red-lining, illegally separating blacks and whites through how homes are sold, effects that continue to this day.  When you befriend the poor and needy and then they literally die due to a lack of health care, when you sit with a little old black lady and here her stories… it changes you.  Frankly, you don’t see excess and poverty in the Midwest like you see in California.  I’m sure the cities of the Midwest are different, but it is just a whole different game out there compared to your average size towns in the Midwest.

Holistic Values
So what are some of those values I picked up on as I read and re-read the scriptures?

Life – Holistically Defined

Justice – Broadly Defined

Mercy – Liberally Dispensed

Community – Locally and Globally

Sustainability – Broadly Applied

Now, I can imagine how some of these would be critiqued, “that is naive” or “you are cherry picking what the Bible says.”  Say what you will, this is where I am.  This is going to be way too long, so I’m going to try and avoid writing a thesis on each of these, but following I have provided some passages and some of my own thoughts on each.

Life – Holistically Defined
“I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” – Deuteronomy 30:19

“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. – Matthew 26:52

Pretty strait forward here.  Any public policy that leads to people suffering and dying needlessly, or in a way that can be avoided, should be apposed.

We should not abort children, especially if they are to suffer. (Don’t read too much into that.) And if we are really pro-life, we should advocate for public policies that actually assist mothers, particularly those that are most likely to feel like they have no options in the face of a crises pregnancy.

We should not rush into war un-necessarily.  Something more likely to happen, the larger and more able one is to carry off such an adventure.

One way or another, everyone should have access to healthcare, particularly when we know that not doing so leads to death.

Environmental policy, at times that too is a life issue.  When a town near a factory has significantly higher cancer rates due to whatever is being belched into the air or the water, that is a pro-life issue.

Justice – Broadly Defined
“Sow for yourself justice, reap for yourself the fruit of steadfast love” Hosea 12:12

“It is the Lord who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing.” – Deut. 10:18

 5Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7

14What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? – James 2:5-7, 14-16

Pay them their wages each day before sunset, because they are poor and are counting on it. Otherwise they may cry to the LORD against you, and you will be guilty of sin. – Deut. 24:15 (apply the principle, not literally, pay weekly instead of monthly for instance)

“So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty. – Malachi 3:5 (why does each party only trumpet part of this list?)

Not going to delve deep here, but there are systemic issues in our society that have to be addressed.  The incarceration rate of black men, and other minorities.  Income distribution - one need not be a radical liberal to see that the status-quo is unjust.  Access to basic services.  There are fundamental inequalities that have to be addressed.  Are many of these due to issues around personal responsibility? YES!  And they are ALSO due to systemic issues.

Mercy – Liberally Dispensed
“He has shown you O man what is good, and what does the Lord require? To act justly and love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God.” – Micah 6:8

Frankly, this is my trump card.  One might argue that sometimes a generous disposition toward the poor is possibly in itself un-just.  “They did not earn it” one might say.  And there is some truth to that.  Say the drunk on the corner. People working for what they earn gives life, more so than a free hand out.  But there has to be a balance.  The apostle Paul begins nearly all of his epistles with the phrase “Grace and peace to you…”  Indeed.  Christ’s command to forgive as the Lord forgave us has not only personal ramifications, but implications for public policy.  Together we should choose to be generous, choose to mercy.  After all, “he who lends to the poor, lends to God.”  Giving health care to a total bum, that is about mercy.  As is providing health care for the immigrant or the rural poor in their trailer park, working for minimum wage, enabling others to get wealthy.

Community – Locally and Globally
We hurt ourselves when we practice a politics of division, something I have been guilty of at times.  Even beyond politics, we have to shift from “me” to “we”.  Our culture is fundamentally too individualistic.  Over and over again, the Bible addresses whole people groups.  When the community goes astray, the whole community lives with the effect, and when it follows God’s principles, everyone prospers.  (Example: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, that latter of whom were thrown into a fiery furnace, were all carried off to Babylon, in-spite of their personal piety.)

I fundamentally believe that we can do more together than we can apart, and that there is much to do.  Some of the things done in the name of personal freedom… they give me pause.  Whether it is the freedom engage in personal habits that directly hurt others, or the advancement of an every-man-for-himself, buyer-beware philosophy of business, freedom is not always a good thing.

Though on balance, I don’t think having my health care controlled by corporate for-profit bureaucrats, leaving me no choice but whatever my employer thinks is best for me, if I am lucky enough to have employer provided health care is a good thing either.  So yes to freedom, but we already agree there has to be limits: shouting fire in a crowded theater, obvious crimes, and over-the-top abuse of the environment, dumping chemicals and that kind of thing, clearly there are limits to our freedom.

I’m not going to say more, but valuing “community” impacts how we treat our fellow world citizens as well, whether they be trading partners, the two-thirds world, or suspected terrorists who may very well not be guilty of anything.

Sustainability – Broadly Applied
The Bible has a lot to say about wisdom and money, borrowing in particular.  Running a perpetual deficit is not sustainable or wise.

And of course there is the green angle.  Here too I am a cautious progressive.  I definitely disagree with any world view that places the needs of plants and animals over humans.  Rather, taking care of plants and animals serves us, gives us a better world to live in, and conforms to Gods first command, to look after the earth.  Destroying the only planet we know how to inhabit… not wise or sustainable.

So I value sustainability: fiscally, in personal habits, and the environment, and apply that value to public policy.

The Role of Government
This may be where some of us have the biggest disagreement.  And it is the area I am least likely to try and play some kind of a Bible trump card.  Some will say: “I  don’t substantially disagree with your values David, but that is not the role of government?”  Let me ask you, why do you believe that?  This is one of those presuppositions that I never questioned growing up, and then I took a step back and asked, why?

Why can’t we agree to work together, to throw in our lot together and say: “We as a people are going to…  go to the moon, choose negotiation over war, choose war over standing on the side lines while people die in a horribly unjust genocide, reform welfare, cut taxes or raise them” or whatever?

In a lot of ways, the issue goes back to our founding as a break-away nation.  We have a long and odd history of loving our country and hating our government.  (Except when we win the election.) From what I have read, this is a uniquely American tradition.

I believe that how we view government requires a fundamental paradigm shift.  We are the government. “We the people, of the united States…” We elect our government, and we were born into a compact by which we agree to abide by each others choices.  At the end of the day, politicians don’t ram anything down anyone’s throat.  They do what a majority of us asked them to do, use their own judgment (or the judgment of the corporate/union interests, left or right, that have paid them off) to do what they think is best for ALL of us, not one segment or another.

On the other hand:  There are issues in government efficiency, fraud waste and abuse that truly give me pause. I actually don’t think the government does things very well, but I do think it should regulate and promote the Biblical values I described above.

I think when business and enterprise takes a broad based values approach to business, that is often more effective than government.  But so often it drops the ball.  It seems government and business are both run by people, and people tend to be self-interested, myself included all too often.

For me it goes back to that old phrase, “trust but verify”.  Our founding fathers wisely set up checks and balances, a principle that I believe applies to government AND business.  So in the end, I tend to value business and particularly entrepreneurs, but want to check potential abuses with some (though certainly not all) progressive policies.

In Conclusion
In conclusion, taking a step back and looking at the themes of Scripture through the eyes of Jesus has caused me to values things I did not previously value.  Many conservatives value the same things, but their view of government is different than mine.  After a while, I realized that in spite of good intentions, many of these things can not be changed accept through government.  Only the government is in a position to regulate what should and should not be done.  When laws are broken, we call the police… the government, and we depend on that government to execute justice in the aftermath of injustice, sentencing white collar and blue collar criminals alike, enforcing regulations that we have all agreed to, and punishing those that break them.

In our country we get to vote.  We all take our values into the voting booth, flaming conservatives and Bible thumping liberals alike.  That is all that I advocate for.

Finally, I recognize that this is not going to convince anyone who has their mind made up.  I have made a lot of off the cuff comments which can easily be critiqued.  This is not a polished work, just a blog post that is way too long and probably read by virtually no one.  But I know from experience that being forced to write down your thoughts sharpens them.  So I thought I would give this ago.

Additionally I purposely waited till after the election to post this, I thought about it both ways, but I don’t want this to be persevered as simply liberal propaganda…  though of course it is.


Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your comments. As to

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your comments. As to conservative or liberal, if I had not been prejudiced by your prefatory disclaimer, I would have simply regarded your thoughts as "biblical."

I think you should run for political office. I think a lot of Americans would endorse your platform :)


Wikkid Person said...

See, I DO think, given what Jesus said, that I should view the rich (and their corporations) with a great deal of suspicion and mistrust.

David Baxley said...

Yes we (the church) should all pitch together to accomplish the teachings of Jesus, however the government is NOT the church nor is made up of individuals that really value the teachings of Jesus (I don’t care what side of politics they are - very few really do). Knowing this, why would I want to give them my money and resources to try to be the church? If the argument is that the church has failed... well hello have you seen the government. And if both have failed I think we should put our time and resources into building or healing the institution Jesus created to represent Him, the church. Let’s learn how to heal, fix and then empower her to be all the values of Jesus. Not the government, that follows the whims of its people; a people that generally do not want to be followers of Christ. The government won’t lead anyone to Christ and wont disciple people to the values of Jesus. They may do somethings that reflect the values of Jesus, which is great. But their role is NOT to be the church. The church should be the church. That is where I will put my time, hope and trust into building up, not tearing down or replacing with Government.

David Best said...

Well not to be overly harsh, but I'm disappointed David. It seems you have not heard my argument. I say this not because you disagree with me, but because you are arguing against a position I have never taken, that the government somehow replaces the church.

My position is that all Christians should advocate for Christian values in whatever sphere of influence they find themselves, including politics. Do you disagree? I'm fairly sure you don't. The Christian business women, blue collar worker, attorney or yes, politician should do their best to reflect Christ not just in their interpersonal dealings, but in the values they support and express. With this I believe you agree.

No, where we disagree is in the role of government. So my question for you is, why do you believe in a conservative role for government? What deep beliefs and/or experiences have you had the point you in this direction, and how do you square those beliefs with the scriptures? I'm not suggesting they can not be. Rather I'm making a positive assumption that they can be and I'm looking for you to spell that out. : )

David Baxley said...

Actually I would disagree with what you said. When worked at Olive Garden I did not want it to house the poor. It would have failed miserably at it and the company would have gone under and it's main purpose would have been lost. the government has roles. I don't beleive warfare is one. The courts, the military, ptortectioin, defense etc. Thats it's roles and I would advocate for those to be carried out with the values of Jesus but not to take on roles (just because they are biblical) it should not have. As leaders we tell the same the to individuals. They can not be every ministry. They should be the thing or few things they where created to be. When they try to be what they where not intended to be they usually fail and are miserable in the end.

The government has it's purpose and the church has it's. When you want the government to do what the chit hussy posed to do you. ( by default) take away from the church and that is partially why the church is battling to be what it was created to be.

David Baxley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Baxley said...

Ok I could not proof that last paragraph...it should read

The government has it's purpose and the church has it's purpose. When you want the government to do what the church is supposed to do you (by natural selection or cause and effect) take away from the church and that is partially why the church is battling to be what it was created to be.

It's not just about what you directly say or advocate. It is about the consequences of your positions or what you advocate.

David Baxley said...

I heard this report today from a liberal (not conservative radio host) he was siting a recent study on children under poverty lines.

Denver has one of the least finacnced governernment social programs organized by a major city 24% child poverty but is is going down. Milwaukee has one of the best government social welfare programs in the country and has 34% child poverty and it is rising.

The author said. Whatever the government does seems to either not help or make worse citing they can't help people get out.

Even though this author wants to reform the government welfare progrmams and I say limit them and give the money to indecent non profits religious groups to do it. We both see the same outcome right now. Government, so far can't do it and repeatly fails at each of it's attempts over the decades.

My Christ like values tell me I should help. So I should bot invest in what is failing but instead seek to work through who Christ has to put to be that outreach to the poor, the church, not the institution but the people and what they are doing. And they do better without the government running it.

David Baxley said...

For examplle: If I was a politician I would advocate Christs values by asking the government to lower taxes to Provide more tax breaks for those that give to non profits. Provide better breaks for charities that help people over the environment or animals.
Limit big government to help get rid of corruption and wasteful spending. Move funds from government hands to non profits that have tracks records of doing wha the government fails at. If all that occurred I might actually then advocate a healthcare support financed by the government but that spends its money in the private market. Like Wisconins does.

I would also fight against the death penalty for prisoners and unborn babies.

David Best said...

So how did you come to these conclusions? Bible passages, observations, philosophy?

Here are a few Bible passages that have shifted me toward seeing a role for government in helping people.(Not the final absolute role and certainly a role which can be improved as it not doubt falls short)

1. The law of Moses's concern for social as well as spiritual issues. It's coercive (in the best sense of the word) use of laws and obligations to provide for people in need.

2. The overwhelming number of passages in the Bible that implore people groups to collectively pursue justice, clearly a responsibility for government in our contemporary setting. Not that we can't be just with one another without the government.

3. The Biblical value for community. The fact that we ARE our brothers keeper. That combined with the fact that the Jews were implored to seek the good of the city in which they were exiled.

I am called to look out for my neighbor whether they follow Christ or not. (obviously) A person may have any number of good reasons to believe that abortion or slashing access to medical care is a moral and just position. But I in good conscience can't stand by and let them do that, (in as much as it depends on me, which it often does not) I can't do that for the good of the city, the community, the nation in which I am exiled until Christ's return.

This argument that the government usurps the role of the church is frankly absurd, especially today when the church is irrelevant and at the margins of society. (Sociologically speaking. That's not what I believe.)

The overwhelming needs in this world are not being met as it is. Furthermore there is plenty of room for entrepreneurial competition among any number of practical and philosophical approaches to making the world a better place.

I'm not pro-liberal. I don't believe the Government is THE solution. In many cases I think the government should make grants, and/or payment to the people that are doing the best work on the ground to solve problems, (often the church). I think this fosters the best in competition, entrepreneurship and accountability. And if and when a local organization falters, or someone simply finds a better way, it can more easily be replaced.

In order to do this in a sustainable way, like Regan and H.W. Bush, I think it should raise taxes to bring its expenditures into line with it's income. Not drastically or radically, but slightly.

On the other hand. Some things do work best under a socialistic approach. The military for instance. The security of a retirement income not tied to the sometimes corrupted "markets". Which is not to say this is or should be most people's only retirement income. It is a good thing that we have markets and many people are invested in them for their retirement. Both/and.

No I'm not pro-liberal, I'm anti-conservative fundamentalism. There is an intellectually astute conservatism that I respect. There is a compassionate conservatism that I respect. G.W. Bush's platform of 2000 was a good one from a socially responsible conservative perspective.

But the recent history of the conservative movement... that I find highly problematic.

David Best said...

I like your last two posts.

But when it comes to "wastefulness" from God's perspective, there is at least as much of it on Wall Street as in Washington.

As for your example of Olive Garden. Take a look at this story about Danone Yougert. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grameen_Danone

It is the responsibility of the pastor to proclaim the truth of Christ and his values. It is the responsibility of the manager/ceo to incorporate those values thoughtfully and sustainably into their business, and on their own terms. The pastor is often not in a good position to speak into the details. The Olive Garden is not a "soup kitchen" But any number of things could be done to leverage it's expertise to build a better world and reflect the values of Christ. Wells Fargo does a lot with general financial education for a variety of audiences. Fro example, I got to give a presentation to immigrants via some translators my last week on the job.

The point is, and this is what I have been saying, we all need to take our values into the public sphere.

David Baxley said...


Values found in the old testament are that, in my opinion, values not a example that says the government should be doing it.

Where it breaks is not values but what will work. You contradict yourself. You say the church is ineffective yet say the government should give money to organzatns that are effective then you say the church.

I don't think walstreet or the government should be doing welfare so I don't get the comparison. This is not about conservative or liberal politics for me. It's about who I believe will long term help change society and the world. If you look at where poverty is changing in the world governments are not involved. That, to me says it all.

To compare the law of Moses, a government run by God followers using laws directly handed down by God to any government of today is very disillusioned. They are nothing of the same, they function nothing in the same and they are driven by nothing in the same of values or leadership or morals.

David Baxley said...

Honestly there are so many things I think you say that are contradictioins and wrong that it is hard to break them peice by piece.

I'm not completely against raising taxes I'm against what the government does with the money. It's not a conservative position verses a liberal. It's beleif in who can do it so that society is changed.

You think the government is loved any more or less then the church? They fight with each other more then the church and accomplish less (in my opinion)

My honest opinion as someone who hears your heart and words for years. You don't like the church as she exists today. (which in many ways I don't eithe) but I believe she is still Gods first choice so I will work to make her successful more then I will for the government.
I believe in her more the e government. Since all man made things are corrupt or become corrupt and I know only God can fix them, again I will put my hope in the organization God created and the one that looks to God.

David Best said...

Again you misunderstand me, but that is my fault. (It is always the communicators responsibility to communicate, unless someone does not want to hear, or is not willing to work at understanding a complicated subject.) (I am not talking about you.)

This either/or, church/or government, it is not coming from me, and yet that continues to be your mind set. Nowhere in this post do I address what churches should do. (That was addressed in a separate post, and we seemed to largely agree.) What I have consistently said is that whatever sphere of influence you are called to, you are called to reflect Christ like values, or to use theological language, we are called to reflect the Kingdom of God. Unless you think Christians should have nothing to do with a secular government (and I don't think you do.) than this certainly applies to Christians working and volunteering in the sphere of government.

You seem to have a very very black and white mentality. Being able to see and sometimes embrace paradox is a good thing. For example, why do you make these stark contrasts between the role of government, and business, and church? (we could add family and civil society, non-profits and the like.) Sure there are differences, but values transcend boxes and lines. In some cases there are significant differences in the “rules of the road” so to speak, but all are populated by people responsible for their actions before their creator. The nation of Israel was not just judged for its spiritual idolatry, but for how it treated its neighbors as well. No allowance was made because it was "just business".

Do I think government is loved more than the church? Where is that coming from? For the record, no, I don't think it is. In fact, one time when I went to a Democratic county meeting, I witnessed first hand all the liberal crazies going after each other. It was not appetizing. And while I would not mind working vocationally in politics, I don't have much interest in volunteering in that area, except maybe to get experience. No, my love is for the church, my neighbors, and for how we live in community. Part of that "living in community", part of it concerns government. My question for you is why this provincial mindset. “We are the only ones who can do that” seems to be your thinking. And yet as far as I know, the church you are a part of has specifically said that it will not help people outside the church with benevolence funds. I don’t think that is necessarily the wrong decision. I don’t love it, but I recognize that sometimes when the rubber meets the road there are multiple factors that have to be considered. What I’m pointing out here is that if you really think the church can do all that the government is doing, you better get started, because there is a lot to do.

David Best said...

You seem to be hearing me as if through a filter. If I say I am dissatisfied with evangelical culture, and that I have an interest in public policy, that does not mean I think government is THE answer, and that I have abandoned the church. There is a difference between critiquing church culture, and the relationship one has with one's brothers and sisters in Christ in one's local family of believers.

A lot of the issues in church culture that I raise are more about awareness than anything else. I know first hand how hard change is. I know one can't simply do this or that independently. One has to work with others.

Lastly, For me there is a missional angle to all of this. Liberal culture and conservative culture are separate and distinct. (not that everyone is one or the other) If one goes to Africa they start by taking on the superficial aspects of the local culture, the dress and food, etc... But if one stays long enough, they will start to have an African/Christian worldview, instead of say the rural/American/Christian one that they grew up with. Or imagine that one left home as a conservative evangelical missionary to the Palestinians. I wonder how one would view that situation after sharing life in Palestine for a few years. It is no different when one grows to love liberals in this context.

David Baxley said...

If anything I would say to you (or others on the other side) your love for one group blinds you to the bigger picture and long term consequences. You look to see what will give someone what they need right now. Healthcare, food etc. (which is a good desire) but the long term consequences of using the government when the government cant do long term means all these people are worse off in 5-10 years. Then nothing has been accomplished.

Its about what will actually change and empower the same group you want to empower. What will empower the church and even more, what will really affect poverty and make people have a better life and find Christ.

Its not the love of a conservative or a liberal. I don't even know what that even means in this discussion. So you have heard some good stories. So have I. But putting a band aid on them to help them stop crying now means they bleed out later.

Government is not a long term solution and welfare is not either. Job creation, education, no debt. Those will set people free. Giving them checks will not.

David Baxley said...

Just so you know I do think many conservatives do the same thing. Find the group of people they feel bad for or think are hurting and advocate band aid solutions. I don't think this is just a democrat or republican problem.

David Baxley said...

:0 Love ya!

David Best said...

The last bit about people groups is just an aside. In that area, what I am not saying is that I'm reaching people the best because I'm a true believer. This part was just an observation of myself, and gives context to our discussion

You make fair points about bandaids. I often don't agree with you on the particulars, what is and is not a "bandaid". But I do agree that one would not want to advocate a political position just to win friends and influence people, especially if it is a bad position.

Does that make sense?

David Baxley said...

Yeah makes Sense, it is was I think is a bandaid and what others don't is at the heart. I just think the government is trying to do to much. So it fails on most ends because it is stretched to thin. And military, roads, police fire...those should be there focus. First then states focus on their people. Like wisconsin has done well

David Best said...

So now that the ranting is done, here are a couple technical points that have moved me. When it comes to federalism, the position you are largely advocating, I used to be a bigger fan of that, and still am to some degree, but I think a shrinking world has shifted the center of gravity in this area.

I have often thought to myself, when liberals decry the end of some big government program to help the poor or middle class, “well then replace that program at the state or local level, and at least you will still be doing what you want to do, and you can pay for it with your own taxes.” Now the truth is that is fairly unrealistic, because the federal budget and state and local budgets are just too dissimilar. But I appreciate the sentiment.

100 years ago, even 50 years ago, international commerce was “out there”. The big stage was national, and in that context the federalist said “that is not the federal government’s responsibility, it is the state’s responsibility.” If I agree in principle, but factor in a shrinking world, then the Nation State, replaces the Province/State on the global stage. Minimum wages, working standards, where and how health care is provided, just thinking about these things economically, the world is growing flatter. There is a limit on what auto workers can demand in terms of wages, and it has little to do with their political clout on capital hill. It has a lot more to do with international demand for semi-skilled labor, and the quality of the product produced. Same thing with health care. American companies carry the burden of health care, but not most of their international counterparts. (Here I am simply making a case for a shrinking world.)

Consider the small start-up operating on the international stage. That did not happen 50 years ago (for the most part.) Or consider interstate travel. There used to be a great deal of pride in one’s home state. (Still is, but not like their used to be.) I could expect to make a home some place, contribute to the common good there (as I define it) and center a lot of that at the state government level. But now, people move about so frequently that the need for both international and a national set of norms becomes more important. Imagine working hard on a public policy that is important to you at a personal level. You want to create a policy that will benefit not only you but your children, but where are your children going to live? Where are YOU going to live in 5 years. In many respects, getting things done at the national level just makes more practical sense.

I think it is possible to maintain a Federalist mindset but evolve it to the 21st century, being distrustful of international rules and expectations (even while recognizing a place for some) in the same way that past generations have been distrustful of the federal government.

David Baxley said...

You make connections on how the world has changed but I don't see the arguments relating to what is happening and what I advocate. I have heard others make similar arguments but I just don't agree because as much discussion and intellectual thinking goes int this and many arguments like it ...the numbers don't work in real life and have yet to be successful.

That what this argument must come down to. What will actually work. What we are trying now is not working. I heard President Obama say today (although it might have been a recording from earlier this week) he has tried everything he knows he can do to fix the economy. But what he has done has tried everything he can from a liberal politics perspective. I say they will never work and that is why they have failed. They are all good in theory and Carter and Obama where really the only two bigger liberal Dems that have had a chance to implement their policies with little resistant. We all know how good Carter did and Obama is coming up right behind him.