Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute had made the point that the new culture war is about the size of government and that the battle between free enterprise and big government will shape the future. Peggy Noonan heads towards a similar point in her column today:
If you write a column, you get a lot of email. Sometimes, especially in a political season, it’s possible to discern from it certain emerging themes-the comeback of old convictions, for instance, or the rise of new concerns. Let me tell you something I’m hearing, in different ways and different words. The coming rebellion in the voting booth is not only about the economic impact of spending, debt and deficits on America’s future. It’s also to some degree about the feared impact of all those things on the character of the American people. There is a real fear that government, with all its layers, its growth, its size, its imperviousness, is changing, or has changed, who we are. And that if we lose who we are, as Americans, we lose everything.
Government not only can change the national character, it can bizarrely channel national energy. And this is another theme in my mailbox, the rebellion against what government increasingly forces us to become: a nation of accountants….
The good news, as Peggy notes, is that being a nation of accountants goes against our DNA:
I would argue that Paperwork Nation is utterly at odds with the American character.
Because Americans weren’t born to be accountants. It’s not our DNA! We’re supposed to be building the Empire State Building. We were meant, to be romantic about it, and why not, to be a pioneer people, to push on, invent electricity, shoot the bear, bootleg the beer, write the novel, create, reform and modernize great industries. We weren’t meant to be neat and tidy record keepers. We weren’t meant to wear green eyeshades. We looked better in a coonskin cap!
There is I think a powerful rebellion against all this. It isn’t a new rebellion-it was part of Goldwaterism, and Reaganism-but it’s rising again.
For those who wonder why so many people have come to hate, or let me change it to profoundly dislike, “the elites,” especially the political elite, here is one reason: It is because they have armies of accountants to do this work for them.
This is one of the underlying issues in the coming midterms.