I made it out to last night’s debate between Goldy and Grover Norquist at the South Lake Union Outback Steakhouse. The event was videotaped by the Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF) and will be available sometime next week. I was hoping to live-blog as it was happening, but there was no available wi-fi for me to use. So instead I drank some Toohey’s and enjoyed the spectacle.
My take on the debate was that Goldy had an advantage in that he knows Norquist much better than Norquist knows Goldy (and Washington State politics). Goldy used this edge to provide some local examples of why Norquist’s ideas of taxation being antithetical to freedom don’t quite match up with the history of this region, while Norquist could only respond with some lame strawman arguments and occasional outbursts of yelling that gave his appearance an unhinged quality at times.
I imagine the EFF folks who were in attendance saw things differently, but Norquist looked bored and annoyed while Goldy generally made his points and easily responded to the wild accusations from Norquist that people on the left are parasites.
Probably the most striking point that Goldy made was pointing out that Norquist’s support for having government provide money to families to use towards school choice seemed to fly in the face of his overall opposition of wealth re-distribution. Even following the debate, a group of EFF members continued to argue this point, totally unable to grasp it. One man in his twenties finally tried to make the point that educating kids could conceivably be a matter of national security. Thankfully, none of the EFF people stuck around long enough to ride that train of thought to its logical conclusion and watch their entire ideology unravel in front of them.
Norquist was also there to plug his new book “Leave Us Alone.” The title of his book certainly sounds like a political sentiment I can go along with. I strongly feel that government at all levels in this country has gotten too big and has accrued far too much power for its own good. I worry that we don’t exercise enough oversight over how government spends our money and that we’re starting to believe in false choices between security and freedom that will end up with us having neither. But Norquist sees both demons and virtue where none of either exist. It’s hard to take seriously a man who helped elevate the current Bush Administration into power but is still convinced that the threat of big government is unique to the political left.
Even during the debate, there were a number of issues that Norquist brought up that I agreed with (and even Goldy made it clear that he agrees with Norquist on our sugar policy), but by seeing those on the left as “parasites,” he remains lost in a world that exists only in his own mind. Yes, there are unions backed by the left that don’t act in the best interest of the greater public and screw taxpayers. But there are corporations backed by the right who do it as well. And in recent years, corporations that have acted irresponsibly have screwed taxpayers out of far greater sums of money that every single welfare recipient in the country combined.
Both sides of the political divide in this country are driven by interests that – when left unchecked – can end up with attempts to curtail our freedom or to divert taxpayer money towards foolish or dangerous things. Believing that a desire to use taxpayer money in the first place is inherently foolish is the false notion that leads Norquist (and not to mention Jonah Goldberg in his recent laughable book) to conclusions that fall far outside the realm of common sense. Norquist wants to equate the desire for 51% of the population to enact a levy to the desire for 51% of the population to strip individuals of a particular moral choice or to subjugate a subset of the population. When it comes to regulating an economic system that everyone must share, the system’s rules must be determined by the aggregate of the population’s moral outlook, whether that means more government involvement or less. However, when it comes to individual liberty, that should never be subject to a “tyranny of the majority.”
This distinction is crucial for understanding why those, like Norquist, who view taxation as being akin to prison, seem unconcerned and oblivious to the fact that the people who’ve been promising lower taxes for years have now built up the largest prison system in the world. I’m sure he’s convinced himself that the people being locked up are just parasites and need to be taken out of society. When one believes that only the other side is a threat to our freedom, it just makes it easier for his side to become the greater threat to our freedom. This is Norquist’s legacy, and it’s why he’s gone from being a key political player in this country to getting slapped around by a local blogger in a small room at the Outback Steakhouse.