“Tucker Carlson Stirs Controversy Yet Again” – this headline could be printed every week and never lack for good material. Tucker generates such a stir for one reason: he’s willing to tell Americans the truth in a system where both arms of the political establishment are designed to sell their own unique set of lies.
One of the lies that the Republicans like to tell their voters is that everything under the sun is dependent on “personal responsibility”. That’s true, to an extent, but where does the buck stop when the state is derelict in its duty to protect its citizens? It’s difficult to find any well-known political theorist who would argue that this isn’t the primary, if not the only duty the state actually has.
Take Ben Shapiro’s argument for example. Shapiro thinks that when people become addicted to drugs or fail to form families, it’s a personal failure, not a matter for government. But this tacky ideological response misses the point. It is a personal failure when people either don’t know enough or are indisciplined enough to fall victim to things they ought to know are harmful – but what is the excuse of people who do know better to sit back and do nothing? That it’s not their job to worry about it? Shapiro’s cop-out is that America guarantees “adventure, not happiness”. That’s right, writing legislation to allow mass marketing of addictive medications, exporting wealth and jobs, and glutting the labor market with millions of illegals by refusing to enforce the laws is all one big opportunity for adventure. Shapiro and his like think you’re wrong to want to stop it.
When Republicans use personal responsibility in this way, it’s designed to tell you a lie. That lie is that you, a citizen of the United States, entitled by this to the basic protection that all governments are responsible for, have no right to complain, to organize, or to demand change when that government is derelict. This is especially true when economic forces are unleashed that throw hundreds of communities off a cliff by eviscerating their traditional and habitual employment. We have a representative government, not an autocracy, supposedly, but who is being represented when this happens?
According to Shapiro, the government is supposed to represent the market, not the people. Caring for the fate of the common man is somehow akin to communism – no wonder the left has successfully characterized Republicans as heartless Scrooges!
The outcry from the stooges at National Review is equally telling.
It’s not the fault of John from Indiana or Jane from upstate New York that our government allowed the Sackler family to market Oxycodone as a consumer drug. When people get a prescription, they may be aware of the potential effects, but most people trust that organizations like the FDA will have at least a desultory interest in ensuring public health, and that their government isn’t giving free rein to legalized drug pushers. It’s not the fault of factory workers in Illinois that mass illegal immigration has crushed their incomes. Nor is it in any way the fault of the new citizens born into this system, having no say in any of this, to pay the price for the profligacy of the previous generation! When families and communities fail, the children raised in them suffer the highest cost.
None of these problems were inevitable, and it’s not wrong to demand that the government fix the mess it created. It can’t be fixed any other way because the problems are created, enabled, and sustained by policy. It’s not enough to pay lip service to “getting the government out”.
Tucker’s strength is his refusal to toe the Reaganite ideological line that leads otherwise intelligent commentators like Shapiro to embrace such absurdities. Instead of flapping his gums about some nebulous “virtue”, Tucker has outlined what a virtuous policy is, and rightly demanded that it include at least some measure of consideration by public representatives for the people they claim to represent.
Libertarians may stick by the old party line – that government can do nothing right – as an excuse for inaction. This is ultimately a self-fulfilling prophecy. When good men with the power to take action do nothing, of course we end up with a state that can do no right. More than ever, we need elected officials to take action, even heavy-handed action, if necessary. Our inability to recognize the significance of China’s rise to power, the demographic crisis engulfing the West, and the depths of the social malaise in America will not end well for us if Conservatives do not embrace a more active role in repairing the damage.