That’s the question Matt Bai asks in yesterday’s NYT (“After Tuscon, Is the Anger Gone?”). His answer, if there is one in his assumption- and error-laden piece, is irrelevant. Bai’s article deserves a good “fisking,” which I may yet deliver. For now, I will content myself with the following observations.
“After Tuscon…” offers a strong (if unwitting) argument for reducing the footprint of the central government, which is a leading source of the division and anger evoked by the tragedy in Tuscon. Of course, those who favor a strong central government would then be angrier than they already are — and they are angry, as evidenced by the rhetoric of Krugman, Olbermann, and their ilk.
True federalism — where the central government has a hands-off policy on economic and social matters (but not civil rights) — would allow those who favor heavy-handed government to live in States that offer such government. The problem is that the people who would be (and are) attracted to such States aren’t content to endure heavy-handed government by themselves; they wish to bestow its “blessings” with everyone else. And they have succeeded in very great measure.
Most commentators, it seems to me, proceed from the assumption that those who oppose heavy-handed government have no rational basis for their “anger.” They do, but those who are wedded to heavy-handed government — most politicians and pundits, and the sheep-like majority of Americans — cannot see it. And, being unable to see it, they view anti-government rhetoric as a manifestation of psychological disturbance, when it should be viewed as a manifestation of righteous resentment at being over-taxed and over-regulated.
No amount of “dialogue” or “shared experience” can bridge the gap between statists and anti-statists. Thomas Sowell explains this well in A Conflict of Visions — a sometimes maddeningly balanced analysis of the contrasting world views that shape the divide between statists and anti-statists.
Libertarian-Conservatives Are from the Earth, Liberals Are from the Moon
A Dissonant Vision
Freedom of Will and Political Action
Intellectuals and Society: A Review
(Jared) Lee Harvey Loughner?