Saturday, February 12, 2011

Left-field Conservatism

"Would you consider opting out of the whole system under one condition?" asked Ron Paul at CPAC yesterday. "You pay 10% of your income, but you take care of yourself. Don't ask the government for anything." It reminded me a little of Norman Mailer and Jimmy Breslin's 1969 New York mayoralty campaign. Here's what their campaign manager, Joe Flaherty, wrote back then in the Village Voice:

But the thing that intrigued me about Mailer was that he carried the idea of community control to its smallest unit -- man itself. When someone suggested the idea of replacing the water in toilets with chemicals to remove the waste, Mailer refused, noting that man is losing contact with himself and "should be able to smell his own shit." Programs for the poor were repugnant to him because they place man in slots negating his chance: "to forge the destiny of his soul." In short, he is still naive enough to think our soul possesses the grace to manage our own lives.

I think Paul is running in the same spirit (sadly, an essentially unelectable one, I guess). It is important to emphasize the role of the community here, which, when you scratch him, Paul also gets around to. Health care isn't a problem if it is a community matter. It's done more cheaply, with more focus on prevention and hygiene, less focus on drugs and surgery. The local doctor is respected in the community but not absurdly enriched by it. The doctor's job is to keep the basic productive capacity of the community functioning, to keep the human body healthy.

"Power to the neighborhoods," said Mailer and Breslin. Mailer was looking for "a hip coalition of left and right." I think Paul's message could be improved subtly as follows: "Pay 10% of your income and take care of each other. Don't ask the government to solve your neighbor's problems." I know, I know. This idea is totally "out there". Let's see what happens when then youth revolts this time around.

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