The power of no
There are many reasons why it is foolish to lambaste the Republican Party as the “Party of No,” but one reason must be emphasized above all else: The foolishness of judging an effective government based on the quantity of legislation it passes. Efficient government is not a wholesale transfer of power to unelected technocrats in bureaucracies that end up taking a life of their own, but rather it is in the proper execution of duties that the government has been charged with. While politicians may proclaim themselves to be the primary engines of progress in society, it must be remembered that it is really the insight of those individuals who are personally engaging a social problem.
Despite the fact that politicians always proclaim the dignity of the American common person, and that whenever elections come around they do their best to be seen with groceries in their arms, sleeves rolled up with a baseball cap on, they consistently fail to understand why the wisdom of common people must be respected. No, it is not because they are “down-to-earth” and ready to comprise; rather, it is because each individual knows what they do best and have gathered a wealth of knowledge from their daily experiences. Of course, knowledge must not be understood as merely being the sum of all scientific knowledge, for it also comes in the form of the understanding of circumstances in a particular time and space.
One of the failings of centralized bureaucracies is that they cannot have intimate knowledge of the second species, not only because of the fact that such information cannot be consumed through the memoranda and reports (having to be learned through experience), but also because they change along with the conditions that they react to. Of course, it is often that specific knowledge that must be used in solving the problems that affect society.
As a result, the proper sphere of government is in guiding the actions of free individuals in society, giving them an institutional framework in which they know the laws and are properly protected, not in directly providing solutions. Enter the current debates where many commentators have derided the Republican Party for being the “Party of No,” and have condemned them for merely continuing the status-quo. Many in the media have criticized the party for not using their influence “constructively,” yet this is simply not a sound criticism because proactive government programs simply do not solve the problems they are created to solve.
I could go on theoretically on this point, but it should be self-evident enough after failures in the “War on Poverty,” the “War on Drugs,” the “War on Terror,” government attempts to make education better, government attempts to lower American dependence on foreign oil, et cetera. To make the situation even worse, government bureaucracies, even when they are utter failures, cannot be done away with, and the resources are given to other individuals willing to try alternate solutions. When power is accumulated by government, individuals can no longer use their insights in order to solve problems through their own efforts. The entire mindset against the “Party of No” is a rush towards even more government programs in hopes that they will be capable of delivering society from evil.
Government must be bridled if it is to be of benefit to all in society. There is nothing more dangerous against maintaining that control than the perception of government as a social problem-solver. There is nothing objectionable to deadlock in government, provided that the deadlock prevents the passing of legislation that will have detrimental effects upon society. At the very worst, deadlock merely prevents a rash decision that cannot be undone for; as the aphorism goes, there is nothing as permanent as a temporary government measure.
Harrison Searles is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.