I didn’t get to see much of the debates last night. With that said, here’s my take on the debates in general. One of the primary problems I have with presidential debates like the one last night between Bush and Kerry is the underlying assumption that seems to permeate the whole exercise. That presupposition seems to be this: That it is the responsibility of government in general, and the President in particular, to see to it that everything in American society hums along nicely. If job numbers are up or down than it is the President’s doing. If school performance is up or down it is because of the government and the President…. ad nauseum.
Why is this the case? Why are we supposed to assume that the answer to every societal ill is found in the government? In response to nearly every issue raised, the answer from both candidates involved throwing more federal money at a problem, bragging about how much money would go to this program or that entitlement.
Another theme underlying the debates is the myth of progress – the idea that with each passing year society should be moving constantly forward towards some utopian ideal where everything is great, everybody has a job, all the free healthcare they want when they want it, a house and a car and all the education they can stand, perfect security, respect, long life, etc. etc. That’s not the way the world works. The utopian ideal is a myth.
Somehow we all seem to have bought into the idea that government owes us all a perfect life, and that if we have problems it’s because of something the president did or didn’t do. Such a presupposition in a debate tilts the whole enterprise in favor of the candidate and party that really does believe at its very core that these ideas are true, that government is the panacea to all of society’s ills. A candidate that tends to believe in free enterprise, open markets, limited government and the like will necessarily come out short in such a discussion unless he can forcefully articulate a governing philosophy – something unlikely in the soundbite debates we have now.
Government is usually more of a problem than a help when it comes to most of these issues. Our society has just been spoon-fed for too long from the socialist or marxist mentality (yeah you heard me right) that utopia is achieveable and that the government will provide it for you.