In the Liberal-Conservative Debate, Where's the Common Sense?

New York Times 1871 cartoon on corruption. Caption: Who Stole the People's Money? Twas him!

It never ceases to amaze me — especially since I seem to be one of the very few people pointing this out — that both liberals and conservatives in the American debate are missing the most important point, the essential but simple argument that spells the difference between victory and defeat, right and wrong.

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This is what Obama thinks. Wealth is a zero-sum game. Anything America has was stolen from others. Proof? Obama said so himself.

What people on both sides don't understand is that it is the historical situation and not an eternal ideology that makes for the right policy. What was appropriate for a time when the United States didn't have enough regulation and government was too weak is not appropriate for a time when the United States is overregulated, government is too strong, and the country is ridiculously deep in debt.

For example, Theodore Roosevelt was a great president and what he did was right and necessary. But that was a century ago. It is most telling that President Barack Obama, in making a speech for what amounts to statism, tries to pretend he is a man who is dealing with a situation in which the federal and state governments were helpless against massive corporate monopolies and when neither any serious government regulation nor effective trade unions existed!

Greedy capitalists suck the people's blood. Let's get them!

In other words, Obama is running the country and running for office as if it were 1912, not about to be 2012. He is trying to convince people that massive greedy rich corporations that hate big government (like General Electric, General Motors, and all those green job con-men?) control the country. These millionaires wear big top-hats and smoke cigars as in some left-wing cartoon from 1912.

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Harper's cartoon, 1892. Capitalist robber barrons handpick the Democratic presidential nominee.

A lot of conservatives seem to think that to explain where the country is going wrong and fix it they have to prove that Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Roosevelt were completely wrong.

There is such a thing as balance. America’s rapid industrialization after the Civil War put the system out of balance and threatened to wreck the country’s constitutionally-mandated system. Robber barons, monopolies, exploitation of labor,  and the buying and selling of legislatures were all commonplace. Only due to reforms, largely backed by Democratic presidents before most of us were born, was the balance corrected. The modern prosperity and progress of America has been due to a combination of Founding Fathers' constitutionalism, largely free capitalism, and a government able to carry out reasonable levels of regulation.

A proof of that fact is that few conservatives sought to roll back all the pre-1952 innovations. And the same applies to such later initiatives as civil rights along racial and gender lines or the main and much needed environmental legislation following the discovery of just how much America’s water and air had deteriorated.

Yet the governmental machine just kept going beyond the point of reasonable balance. More and more; further and further. The books of regulations grew and grew, strangling the society, trying to perfect ever-smaller faults at an ever-higher price. When was the turning point? The War on Poverty and Great Society of the 1960s? The ascension of Obama in 2009? The precise date isn't so vital. What's important is that things just went too far.