They were, as usual, insightful.
One noted that Rick Perry doesn't want to go back to the idyllic days of the Eisenhower Administration, but wants to repeal the Twentieth Century.
Not the 21st; he wants to get us back to 1899.
So it was with pleasure that I opened the book I currently read. I pulled it from my bookshelf earlier this week, and began cutting its pages, looking forward to what it would reveal.
Yes -- I lterally was cutting pages. I'm reading Volume I of The American Commonwealth by James Bryce, who long ago wrote The Holy Roman Empire and served as M.P. for Aberdeen. [please note: there's no "Decline" in that title. . .].
The book I'm reading was published in 1889; when reading its list of U.S. Presidents, it conspicuously stops at Benjamin Harrison.
So it's that kind of book,
Anyway, the world it describes is indeed the land, and system, that seems so fondly sought by Perry, Bachmann, and others [except, of course, that displays of religion in the town square are described in the 1889 book as "little seen and little-tolerated"].
I was struck by one phrase, though, that captures something that animates today's conservatives and their view of government. Bryce attempted to describe how difficult it was [in 1889] for Europeans to grasp the American system of federalism, with state and federal governments having great -- and independent -- significance:
* * * Even the traveller who visits America does not realize its importance, because the things that meet his eye are superficially similar all over the continent, and that which Europeans call the machinery of government is in America conspicuous chiefly by its absence. * * *
As an unapologetic skeptic and critic of the government, who views it an a necessary evil, this description resonated with me, as I'm sure it does with Tea Partiers and Perry-istas. I view such a state to be desirable and superior. Even as I view Rick Perry as the most loathsome, dangerous politician I've seen emerge in the last fifty years [David Duke and Dick Cheney rawk compared to Perry, in these eyes].
I'm not, I hope, stupid enough to think that it exists, will exist, or reasonably could exist considering all that's happened in the intervening 122 years. But my friends who reflexively promote the government as it's existed the last seventy years love to think it works, even as they begin to reconsider whether it can function in these times without some tinkering [age 65 retirement?]. So I, too, love to think that the government Bryce saw would also work. While admitting that it can't function in these times without some tinkering.
|from The American Commonwealth, click to enlarge|