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June 09, 2006

DeLay's history lesson

Don Herzog: June 9, 2006

The press is chortling over Tom DeLay's farewell to the House of Representatives.  DeLay congratulated himself for standing up for freedom and dignity; he regretted only not fighting harder.  But what caught my eye was this comment, courtesy of the Congressional Quarterly:

Liberalism, after all, whatever you may think of its merits, is a political philosophy and a proud one with a great tradition in this country, with a voracious appetite for growth.

In any place or any time on any issue, what does liberalism ever seek, Mr. Speaker?  More — more government, more taxation, more control over people's lives and decisions and wallets.

You'd never dream that liberals fought to stop the state from meddling with religion.  You'd never dream that they campaigned against such intrusions as the hearth tax, which required the tax collector to burst into your house to count up the fireplaces.  You'd never dream that liberals championed the right of consenting adults to do what they want in their bedrooms.

DeLay might be in the clutches of a wildly polemical misreading of LBJ's Great Society.  Or he might be throwing a smokescreen over the social agenda of some of today's conservatives, aghast at the thought that the state has nothing to do with religion or consensual sex.  Let's just hope he doesn't decide to teach history or political theory for his next job.


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Posted by: johnt

Don, I know what you mean. Just the other night the tax collector broke down my door to count the fireplaces, I screamed "Elian isn't here" but these were different door breakers. Nonetheless it wasn't too bad, I have only one fireplace and they didn't count the pot bellied stoves or hot water bottles.
I have a little trouble with "meddling in religion" though. Granted there is good meddling and bad meddling
so as the beast "State" still sticks its paw in matters religious, for whatever noble purposes, meddling continues to meddle.
You didn't say anything about Delay's reference to liberals and wallets, an oversight?

Posted by: johnt | Jun 10, 2006 10:58:25 AM

Posted by: Achillea

I hope you counted the guns after they were gone, johnt.

Posted by: Achillea | Jun 12, 2006 2:25:26 PM

Posted by: neal

I think you must be confused with his rhetorical device. I suspect he meant in general liberals are in favor of increasing the power of the state. Seems about right.

Posted by: neal | Jun 16, 2006 7:04:55 PM

Posted by: Daniel Morgan

Irony at its finest. Perhaps DeLay's lack of mental prowess, demonstrated in fine fashion here, also led him to conclude that his dealings with lobbyists was somehow leading to LESS undue influence and control over the American people.

Blind leading the blind, eh?

Posted by: Daniel Morgan | Jun 26, 2006 9:42:41 AM

Posted by: Untenured Former Republican

I'm still trying to figure out which party is in charge of interventionist foreign policy, Keynesian pump-priming, free drugs for the elderly, and judicial activism. While I work on that...

Permission to speak!— The demagogic character and the intention to appeal to the masses is at present common to all political parties: on account of this intention they are all compelled to transform their principles into great al fresco stupidities and thus to paint them on the wall. This is no longer alterable, indeed it would be pointless to raise so much as a finger against it; for in this domain there apply the words of Voltaire: quand la populace se mêle de raisonner, tout est perdu....

But we could save ourselves a trip to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberalism by considering that...

Religion and government.— [A]bsolute tutelary government and the careful preservation of religion necessarily go together. It is to be presumed that ruling persons and classes will be enlightened about the benefit provided them by religion, and thus feel somewhat superior to it, in that they are using it as a tool: and this is the origin of freethinking.— But what if a quite different view of the concept of government, as it is taught in democratic states, begins to prevail? If one sees in government nothing but the instrument of popular will, no Above in contrast to a Below, but solely a function of the single sovereign, the people? Then the government can only take the same position toward religion that the people hold; any spread of enlightenment will have to reverberate right into its representatives; it will not be so easy to use or exploit religious energies and comforts for state purposes (unless powerful party leaders occasionally exert an influence similar to that of enlightened despotism). But if the state may no longer draw any use from religion itself, or if the people think so variously about religious matters that the government cannot take uniform, unified measures regarding religion, then the necessary alternative will appear to be to treat religion as a private matter and consign it to the conscience and habits of each individual. At the very first, the result is that religious feeling appears to be strengthened, to the extent that hidden or repressed stirrings of it, which the state had unwittingly or deliberately stifled, now break out and exceed all limits; later, it turns out that religion is overrun with sects, and that an abundance of dragon's teeth had been sown at the moment when religion was made a private affair. Finally, the sight of the strife, and the hostile exposure of all the weaknesses of religious confessions allow no other alternative but that every superior and more gifted man makes irreligiosity his private concern. Then this attitude also prevails in the minds of those who govern, and gives, almost against their will, an antireligious character to the measures they take. As soon as this happens, the people who are still moved by religion, and who used to adore the state as something half-divine or wholly divine, develop an attitude decidedly hostile to the state; they attack government measures, try to impede, cross, disturb as much as they can, and because their opposition is so heated, they drive the other party, the irreligious one, into an almost fanatical enthusiasm for the state; also contributing secretly to this is the fact that, since they parted from religion, the nonreligious have had a feeling of emptiness and are provisionally trying to create a substitute, a kind of fulfillment, through devotion to the state. --Nietzsche

In the "not a leg to stand on" sweepstakes, I'd call it a draw.

Posted by: Untenured Former Republican | Jul 9, 2006 7:39:41 PM

Posted by: Kevin Carson

The Republicans are the party that *talks* a lot about free markets, and then gives special protections and corporate welfare to their crony capitalist friends. In other words, they're pro-big government *and* they're hypocrites.

Posted by: Kevin Carson | Aug 3, 2006 2:17:36 AM

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