Saturday, May 16, 2009

Conservatives and Corruption

Here's a letter to George Will I've drafted in response to a recent op-ed piece he published in the Washington Post. I haven't decided whether or not to send it to him.

Dear Mr Will,

You recent op-ed piece, “Tincture of Lawlessness,” published in the Washington Post, shows exactly why conservatism is an outdated, even corrupt ideology.

First, like many conservatives, you confuse rhetoric with argument. I find this in the unreasonable use of hyperbole involved in claiming that President Obama is acting unlawfully. You bring no evidence to bear on this point other than a brief quote from the Economist, whose author appears to share you ideological perspective. Your claim that the central goal of his presidency is simultaneously “maximizing the number of people and institutions dependent on the federal government” is similarly hyperbolic, highly inflammatory, and without any basis in fact.

I could similarly criticize the irresponsible rhetoric of your claim that “markets” succeed when “when freedom allows merit to manifest itself, and incompetence to fail,” because the personification of these ideas masques the very real agency of the people who wrought the current economic crisis. But I’d rather point out that like most conservative pundits these days you are simply ignoring the facts: the economic disaster that has befallen our nation, indeed our global community, is due largely to the unrestrained “freedom” (license is more like it) that allowed greedy and incompetent cohorts of well-placed individuals to help themselves to untold wealth. It seems to me to be highly unlikely that President Obama’s pursuit of “economic planning” and “social justice” could possibly wreak more havoc.

Unless of course—and this brings me to my third and final point—the primary purpose of your attack is to rally support for and ensure the survival of one of the most cherished tenets of conservatives everywhere: the idea that corporations and the small but disproportionately wealthy and influential class of people who own them are super-individuals with more rights and privilege than anyone else. What else could be behind the bleating complaint that Obama wants to give Chrysler’s workers more than the banks or the investors “whose contracts supposedly guaranteed them better standing than the union.” From my point of view it is only fair that the investor class accept a larger loss than the working class because investors have far more resources than the workers. But that’s exactly what you can’t stomach and that’s why conservatism is at best an unsustainable ideology: because it elevates the wealthy to positions beyond reproach, indeed, beyond the law, while devaluing and demeaning anyone who works for a wage.

President Obama is not corrupt, as you recklessly claim. He is trying to redress the multiple corruptions of an economic system that chiefly benefits the wealthy. The reforms he proposes are modest and way overdue.

I don’t expect that he or you adopt the socialist point-of-view that I myself have arrived at. But I do wish you’d get off your ideological hobby horse and accept two propositions: a) that the acquisition of wealth untempered by any internal or external force has corrupted our economic system and b) that it is in everyone’s best interest for our nation to find a way to a more equitable distribution of resources. And if that’s asking too much, how about sticking with the facts?


Christina Hauck

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