A column about history, culture, policy, and things in between.
What history knows as the Abolitionist Movement began with the life of a courageous 18th Century Parliamentarian named William Wilberforce, who dedicated his life and health to abolishing England's traffic in the slave trade. In the 1850's a group of Americans continued his work and were known as the Abolitionists.
Abolitionists still exist in America today. They reside in Washington DC and are found in both political parties. Today of course their enemy is not slavery. Instead the Beltway leadership is dedicated to the abolition of a new enemy.
The great enemy that today's abolitionists look to eliminate is CONSEQUENCE.
This can be seen in domestic legislative efforts too numerous to recount. The most recent example is the Bush Administration's attempt to eliminate consequence in the wake of the great sub-prime mortgage debacle. As usual, such legislation is full of good intentions. But its long term ramifications will be more than just inneffective; they will be damaging. Perhaps in a later column I will address the great credit meltdown. But for now I want to look at the larger and more qualitative question of "can we reasonably expect to live without consequence"?
We have all tasted from the cup of consequence, some more cruelly than others. But today we see that our national political class believes that consequence is an antiquated notion, and that we have a RIGHT to live without it. This belief is the foundation for a host of bad policy. Here are but a few examples:
>If I build my house in the Low Country of the Carolinas and the Atlantic Ocean washes it away, then the Federal Government must rebuild it in the exact same place, and for as many times as it happens. The solution is not to build there at all, but the removal of consequence continues the bad choices.
>General Motors is experiencing the consequence of a forty-year long denial of economic reality in the form of a protracted bankruptcy. Already some Beltway Benefactors are calling for the elimination of that consequence via a Federal bailout. Get ready for that one, along with Ford and a few major airlines.
>Katrina strikes, and instead of channeling our country's resources to provide help to those who needed it most, we instead looked for someone to remove the painful images on our nightly news. The physicians of the Beltway, standing poised and ready with their great National Needle of Morphine, were ready to oblige. They unleashed a second flood - a tsunami of Federal dollars sent to all the wrong places and put into the wrong hands. And after the injection of over thirty billion dollars into the veins of the Gulf Coast, we now see a wave of scandal and corruption that was predictable, and that even when measured by the odious standard of Louisiana politics, is staggering.
If we use public policy and public treasure to remove the calculation of "consequence" from our fiscal equations, we ensure a continuation of the same decisions that caused such problems in the first place. We choose in the field of policy what Napoleon refused in the field of battle - the reinforcement of failure.
I do not believe this is a question of Democrat or Republican. The mighty lines which once divided the two parties on questions of domestic policy have morphed and blurred to the point where Democrats and Republicans now stand aside each other all but indistinguishable. Instead of the legitimate tension of real debate, we are instead left with an amorphous political homogeneity, the purpose of which is to perpetuate its place and its hold on power.
But that too is the subject of another column.