Government and the Right Way of Life

Ask a progressive whether government by, for, and of the people ought to allow them to implement local policies reflecting a conservative understanding of a well-lived life and be sure to duck from the impact of the glare that you’ll receive.  Change the impetus from religious faith and the long-standing traditions on which our civilization was built, however, and they’ll be much more amenable to the notion that government should set policies in order to tell people how to live.

Two items down from a note about the lack of diversity among the race scolds at the Providence Journal and the Boston Globe, Ian Donnis’s Friday column includes this:

ProJo op-ed columnist Steven Frias recently outlined the deficits that chronically plague RIPTA. Yet mass transit advocates point to far more extravagant public subsidies for cars and the highways upon which they travel, resulting in runaway development, environmental degradation, and other adverse effects. “We know that every year we ‘invest’ $25 billion of federal taxes in auto-dominated transportation,” the late Jane Holtz Kay wrote in her 1997 book, Asphalt Nation. “Add to this the amount from state and local agencies. We have seen the direct costs and indirect ones, the incalculable sums spent in the wrong way, in the wrong place, for the wrong way of life. It is time to price them correctly — to right the imbalance toward sustainable transportation.”

We can have a conversation about what government ought to fund, but note how casually Kay passes judgment on “the wrong way of life.”  It’s not just a “less fulfilling way of life,” or “a way of life that people would eschew if they were well informed,” it’s “the wrong way of life.”  And government, Kay seems to be saying, should push people toward the right way of life, even if they don’t want it.

As for the subsidies, a recent post from Ed Driscoll comes to mind, in which he recalls a 2009 anecdote from the early years of Obama’s spending orgy:

“He came in to do his talk and opened his talk with, ‘I’m Matt Rogers I am the Special Assistant to the Secretary of Energy and I have $134 billion that I have to disperse between now and the end of December,’” Holland told the audience. “So upon hearing that I sent an email to my partners that said Matt Rogers is about to get treated like a hooker dropped into a prison exercise yard.”

One suspects that, at the end of the day, the germane consideration isn’t whether government spending supports the right or wrong way of life, but whether it benefits progressive politicians, groups, and supporters and pushes the population into a box that helps progressives maintain their power.

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