If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.
Monday 20 August 2012
Read gnomica 1-100 here!
“World War II was the last government program that really worked.”
George Will (4 May 1941 – )
This conservative columnist makes an arresting point. It is certainly beyond question that WW II ‘worked’ for the American government, and its aftermath initiated a long period of pretty upbeat times for the nation.
Could one reasonably say that today, deep in the most divisively vitriolic presidential campaign of my lifetime, we are a confident, forward-looking people? I think not.
From my personal perspective, it started to turn in the course of the wretched (but do note the long overdue civil rights movement!) sixties, ushered in by the kind of horrendous political assassination one used to associate with some Central and South American dictatorships. And this was the unhappy decade when Kennedy cranked up Viet Nam and Johnson continued it and created the ‘Great Society’ – guns and butter, remember? History is long, and the time since the sixties has been short, but I don’t think anybody could seriously claim that America’s Southeast Asia adventure was a “government program that really worked.” As for the Great Society, no question that race relations are, if not perfect (but better than in, say, Mali or the Congo!), certainly much more equitable as a result, but on the ‘reduction of poverty’ front, I have my suspicions. In spite of good things this domestic initiative accomplished, I am of the belief that one could not (as Clinton apparently did not) in fairness claim that it was a “government program that really worked.” Really worked, that is!
During the seventies everything the government programs were meant to achieve somehow ended up going south, and bad as things were under Nixon, Carter’s catastrophic bungling in Iran seems in retrospect a fittingly emblematic coda to a feckless administration utterly out of its depth. During the next decade things started out pretty upbeat, but at the end of the Reagan (and Bush I) administration there was certainly a sense that, yes, the lights were on in the White House but nobody was home. The Clinton years were great for the stock market but, again, in retrospect, it would appear that it also helped to lay the foundation for much of the financial chaos that was to rock the nation and the world in the new century – a chaos that government programs, mushrooming in both number and individual extent, and the multifarious acolytes servicing them seemed incapable of dealing with. Nor, surely, could anyone reasonably aver that six-gun George’s spectacularly ill-advised follow-up in the Middle East on the old man’s early nineties involvement there has turned into anything remotely akin to a “government program that really worked.” Obama, it is true, did, as he said he would, (kind of) get us out of Iraq … and then immediately turned around and (as he had never to my recollection said he would) plunged us into that bottomless pit of corruption known as Afghanistan where even Alexander the Great in 329 BCE hit the brick wall around the Hindu Kush as it were – and Obama ain’t the warrior Alex was!
Well, admittedly these observations are somewhat selective … but — bottom line – Will’s thinking about “the last government program that really worked” is pretty much spot on.
And now, not even heaven knows what’s in store for us, regardless of who loses in November! I mean, do you think the country is in better shape today than it was four years ago?