19 Dec 2006

The State Cannot Love You

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In Newsweek, Michael Gerson argues that the GOP needs to turn in the direction of statist paternalism.

My low point with the Republican Party came in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina…

Campaigning on the size of government in 2008, while opponents talk about health care, education and poverty, will seem, and be, procedural, small-minded, cold and uninspired. The moral stakes are even higher. What does antigovernment conservatism offer to inner-city neighborhoods where violence is common and families are rare? Nothing. What achievement would it contribute to racial healing and the unity of our country? No achievement at all. Anti-government conservatism turns out to be a strange kind of idealism—an idealism that strangles mercy.

But Jonah Goldberg retorts with perfect accuracy:

the social gospel and the state cannot be married because the government cannot love you. This is not a metaphysical point but a practical one. States cannot love individuals in much the same way deck furniture cannot write poetry: it is not in their nature. It cannot be done. And when people attempt otherwise, horrible folly ensues. Gerson thinks the victims of Katrina got that way because of the indifference of the State. I would argue that a more likely culprit (or at least accomplice) was a State that tried to love them and hurt them in the process.

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