Our political conundrum: Two questions that answer each other
Published 1:31 pm Friday, January 12, 2024
BY THOMAS KNAPP
It’s customary for op-ed columns to hang themselves on “news hooks” – the things you’re already reading about that just happened, are happening, or may be about to happen. The closest thing to a “news hook” I could come up with for this piece is that my friend Lloyd Sloan supports the presidential candidacy of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. So now, if you cared, you know.
You’ve probably heard of RFK Jr. You may not have heard of Lloyd Sloan, who calls himself an “Upper-Left Whig,” and who I call an eccentric libertarian (but I repeat myself), but I really think you SHOULD hear about – and think hard about – his two-question political quiz.
Question #1: Is government too big?
Question #2: Is wealth too unequal?
There are four possible combinations of answers to the two questions, which can be plotted on an up-down, left-right grid, and the positions of the two major parties cover three of the four.
Republicans tend to think government is too big but wealth isn’t too unequal (that’s the “upper right” position).
Democrats tend to think wealth is too unequal but government isn’t too big (the “lower left” position).
But some of each “major party” persuasion answer no to both questions (the “lower right”) position.
Most “third” parties likewise fall into one of those three quadrants.
The “upper left” position – which Sloan dubs the “whig” position – is that yes, government is too big, and yes, wealth is too unequal.
I happen to agree. Whether RFK Jr. agrees is an interesting question, as is what to do about it, but in this column I’d like to propose that the questions answer each other, and that the affirmative answers to both questions explain the big problem in American politics.
Why is government too big? Because wealth is too unequal. Wealth is power, and the powerful get the government they want at the expense of the rest of us.
Why is wealth too unequal? Because government is too big. It wields sufficient power to redistribute wealth and, contrary to what you may have been led to believe, it generally does so in an upward rather than downward direction.
While Marxists are wrong about many things, one of their old saws cuts right to the heart of the matter: The state is the executive committee of the ruling class.
That ruling class is defined by its wealth, and the whole point of its rule is to preserve and increase that wealth both through, and as, political power.
What can we do about that, short of abandoning political government altogether (my preferred solution)? I don’t know.
Sloan proposes three starting policy initiatives: Taxing only the rich, freezing government spending, and leaving NATO.
While I’m opposed to taxation, government spending, and foreign military adventurism on principle, I have to admit that any or all of those proposals would be a start.
We won’t get any of those three from Donald Trump or Joe Biden. So if you envision positive change through voting, consider looking elsewhere.
(Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism. He lives and works in north central Florida.)