Om ansvar, autoritet og staten

Som jeg nævnte forleden, er en af mine absolutte favorit-skribenter den amerikanske kommentator og taleskriver Peggy Noonan.  Hun er vittig, sentimental “på den fede måde” og ganske ideologisk hårdnæset.  Og alle med en interesse for amerikansk politik kan med fornøjelse læse hendes erindringer om at være taleskriver i Reagans administration, What I Saw at the Revolution: A Political Life in the Reagan Era (1990).

Vi har her på stedet tidligere kommenteret spændingerne på den amerikanske højrefløj.  I sin klumme i denne uge i Wall Street Journal er Noonans tema–—i hvert fald underliggende–—den spirende konflikt blandt amerikanske konservative.  Den amerikanske højrefløj har altid bestået af et antal ret indbyrdes forskellige fraktioner, men det er givetvis blevet endnu mere markant de seneste 30 år: moderate “Rockefeller Republikanere”, der nærmest minder om danske konservative (som George H.W. Bush); egentlige libertarianere (som det liberalistiske, Republikanske kongresmedlem Ron “Dr. No” Paul, Republican Liberty Caucus, sympatisører med Libertarian Party og klassisk-liberale udenfor partierne); kristne-religiøst “moral majority” konservative (som TV-prædikanter a la Pat Robertson); neokonservative, der er fokuserede på “national greatness”, forsvar og udenrigspolitik og godt kan lide en stor, men effektiv offentlig sektor (som f.eks. Weekly Standard og kommentatorerne William Kristol og David Brooks); paleokonservative, som taler om “states rights”, religion, yankee-nordstaternes aggression overfor Syden (og som associeres med f.eks. Chronicles Magazine), o.s.v., o.s.v.

For Noonan og nogle få andre er der særligt én konfliktlinie, der er ved at blive meget synlig.  På den ene side de amerikanske konservative, der synes, at autoritet og stærk politisk styring er et godt mål i sig selv (og især når det er de rette, der udøver den: Eller som som et kongresmedlem hånenede karrikerede det i en tale forleden: “Big government is good government if it is our government”). På den anden side de andre, der synes, at dette er selve problemet.  Man kan sige, at Noonan ser konflikten som værende specifikt mellem neokonservative a la Brooks og Kristol/”compassionate conservatives” a la Bush, og hvad man så kunne kalde Reagan/Goldwater konservative.  Her er et uddrag fra Noonans klumme, som meget godt skitserer konflikten, og som samtidigt meget velformuleret og koncist udtrykker “hendes” USA (og nærværende Punditokrats)—og er en god kritik af de politiske overfortolkninger af Katrina-katastrofen:

“David Brooks on “Meet the Press” Sunday said he thought Katrina had given rise to a greater public desire for “authority” and “order.” I found what he was saying typically thoughtful, but I differ with him. …

I don’t think Americans are or have been, by nature, lovers of authority. When we think of the old America we think of house-raisings on the prairie and teeming cities full of immigrants, but a big part of the American nature can also be found in the story of Jeremiah Johnson, the mountain man who just wanted to live off by himself, unbothered and unmolested by people and their churches and clubs and rules. He didn’t like authority. He wanted to be left alone.

We live in the age of emergency, however, and in that age we hunger for someone to take responsibility. Not authority, but a sense of “I’ll lead you out of this.” On 9/11 the firemen took responsibility: I will go into the fire. So did the mayor: This is how we’ll get through, this is how we’ll triumph.

In New Orleans, by contrast, the mayor seemed panicked, the governor seemed medicated, and the airborne wasn’t there until it was there and peace was restored. Until then no one took responsibility. There was a vacuum. But nature abhors a vacuum, so rumors and chaos came in to fill it. Which made things worse.
No one took charge. …

No one took responsibility, but there was plenty of authority. People in authority sent the lost to the Superdome and the Convention Center. People in authority blocked the bridges out of town. People in authority tried to confiscate guns after the looting was over.
And they did things like this: The day before hurricane Rita hit Texas, last Friday, I saw on TV something that disturbed me. It was not the usual scene of crashing waves and hardy reporters being blown sideways by wind gusts. It was a fat Texas guy swimming in the waves off Galveston. He’d apparently decided the high surf was a good thing to jump into, so he went for a prehurricane swim. Two cops saw him, waded into the surf and arrested him. When I saw it the guy was standing there in orange trunks being astonished as the cops put handcuffs on him and hauled him away.

I thought: Oh no, this is isn’t good. This is authority, not responsibility.

You’d have to be crazy, in my judgment, to decide you were going to go swim in the ocean as a hurricane comes. But in the America where I grew up, you were allowed to be crazy. You had the right. Sometimes you were crazy and survived whatever you did. Sometimes you didn’t, and afterwards everyone said, “He was crazy.”

Last week I quoted Gerald Ford: “The government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.” I was talking about money. But it applies also to personal freedom, to the rights of the individual, including his right to do something stupid as long as it’s legal, like swimming.

Government has real duties in disaster. Maintaining the peace is a primary one. But if we demand that our government protect us from all the weather all the time, if we demand that it protect us from rain and hail, if we make government and politicians pay a terrible price for not getting us out of every flood zone and rescuing us from every wave, we’re going to lose a lot more than we gain. If we give government all authority then we are giving them all power.

And we will not only lose the right to be crazy, we’ll lose the right to be sane. A few weeks ago when, for a few days, some level of government, it isn’t completely clear, decided no one should be allowed to live in New Orleans after the flood, law-enforcement officers went to the home of a man who had a dry
house, a month’s supp
ly of food and water, and a gun to protect himself. The police demanded that he leave. Why? He was fine. He had everything he needed. The man was enraged: It was his decision, he said, and he was staying.

It is the government’s job to warn and inform. That’s what we have the National Weather Service for. It is not government’s job to command and control and make microdecisions about the lives of people who want to do it their own way.

Governments always start out saying they’re going to help, and always wind up pushing you around. They cannot help it. They say they want to help us live healthily and they mean it, but it ends with a guy in Queens getting arrested for trying to have a Marlboro Light with his Bud at the neighborhood bar. We’re hauling the parents of obese children into court. The government has increasing authority over our health, and these children are not healthy. Smokers, the fat, drinkers of more than two drinks per night, insane swimmers in high seas …

We are losing the balance between the rights of the individual and the needs and demands of the state. Again, this is not new. It’s a long slide that’s been going on for a long time. But Katrina and Rita seemed to make the slide deeper.

It is hard for governments to be responsible, and take responsibility. It takes real talent, and guts. But authority? That’s easier. Pass the law and get the cuffs.”

You go girl! Hvorfor har vi ikke den slags kommentatorer i Danmark?

PS. I øvrigt er førnævnte kongresmedlem Mike Pences tale, citeret ovenfor, værd at læse i sin helhed.

2 thoughts on “Om ansvar, autoritet og staten

  1. Flemming K

    Som altid en fornøjelse at læse dine posts – men det sidste link, til Mike Pences tale, det er jeg knap så begejstret for.Godt nok virker han ikke videre begejstret for Big government – til gengæld mener han at konservative bør arbejde for at: “- Pass additional legislative limitations on abortion” – det er godt nok konservativt, men vel næppe på den gode måde? MP mener også der skal arbejdes for: “- Pass the Federal Marriage Amendment by a growing majority” (Nu er jeg ikke helt sikker, men tager jeg helt fejl hvis jeg gætter på at det er dette Amendment der skal sikre at homoseksuelle ikke kan blive viet?).Derudover er MP også MEGET religiøs, så det næsten kommer til at lyde en smule fanatisk til sidst i talen.Konklusion: Dele af talen virker skam meget tilforladelig, meeeeen, på mig virker han absolut ikke som en man bør være for begejstret for.

    Svar
  2. Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard

    Tak. Jeg har ikke _per se_ et problem med, at han er religiøs–kun når mennesker bruger religiøse argumenter til at retfærdiggøre politiske synspunkter. Og du har her nok ganske ret i de punkter–ihvertfald i.f.t., hvad der også er mit eget udgangspunkt. Jeg lod mig måske lidt for hurtigt begejstre ved primært at se på hans øvrige kritik af GOP. Nå, det er sagt, så er det formodentligt svært at finde et kongresmedlem, der mener det ene og ikke det andet.

    Svar

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