The Seattle Times op/ed page (of all places) neatly highlights American Liberalism at work, lauding two local government proposals for increased disaster preparedness. [“Levees to lahar, disaster preparation.”]
King County Executive Ron Sims has proposed a new countywide flood-control district that would raise about $335 million ($15 to $30 a year on a $300,000 home) to pay for repairs and extensions to the county’s many levees. Meanwhile, the small town of Orting, which sits on lahar debris in the shadow of Mount Rainier, is proposing a new bridge across the Carbon River at a cost of as much as $12 million, to speed evacuation in the inevitable event of another major mudslide.
As the Times succinctly points out:
We live in a region with the potential of natural disasters that can be exacerbated by inadequate infrastructure. It makes sense to invest in safeguards now instead of paying for widespread destruction later. New Orleans taught us that.
We hear a lot from the right about the sanctity of the free market and the inherent inefficiencies of government, but there are some necessary public investments like education and safety that are simply outside the realm of the free market. No private corporation could make a reasonable return on adequately educating the children of the poor. No financial calculus could justify the private investment of $12 million in saving several hundred school children from a lahar that may be centuries away.
And yet most of us recognize that these are investments that must be made… that spending tax dollars protecting homes and businesses from inevitable floods both saves lives and prevents huge losses to our economy as a whole. Most of us recognize that this is a proper role for government, and thus most of us implicitly accept the basic ideological tenets of modern American Liberalism.
There is certainly a legitimate debate to be had over the proper size and scope of government, but while neo-cons and theo-cons have spent the better part of the past three decades denigrating the word “liberal” and vilifying those who would take its label, all but the most wacked-out, extremist nutjobs (that’s you, Grover Nordquist) accept that government regulation and public investment plays a necessary role in our modern democracy and economy. Indeed, when Alaska Senator Ted Stevens publicly argues the case for his infamous “bridge to nowhere” he appeals to the core principles of Liberalism, however cynically.
Liberalism was our nation’s overwhelmingly dominant political philosophy throughout the period in which America grew into the greatest economic, military and political power in the history of the world. It was Liberalism that guided us out of the Great Depression and through World War II, the Cold War, and the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was Liberalism that desegregated the South, irrigated the desert, and (for better or for worse) built the interstate highway system.
No ideology has all the answers and all can be pushed absurdly to the extreme, so sure, I recognize the need for there to be a balance between our nation’s liberal and conservative impulses. Yet even in the face of a proto-fascist administration that seeks in the name of God and national security to break the shackles of our Constitution by extending its tentacles into every aspect of our private lives, I remain a steadfast believer in the power of an activist, principled government to better the lives of all its citizens.
That is why despite the inherent inadequacy of political labels, I continue to proudly identify myself as a “liberal.”
Just thought you might want to know.