“Do less.” Indeed.
The left love to ridicule its opposition as “paranoid” about government for two reasons. The first is obvious: defining the enemies of big government as “extreme” or “outside the mainstream” is what progressives do. When your ideology elevates superficial class concerns over individual liberty, and does so as a matter of principle, it reveals an utter lack of meaningful principles altogether. Compare the foundational literature of conservative and libertarian dogma with that of progressives and socialists and try not to be dumbfounded by the massive disparity in volume and quality of argument. The tradition that holds individual liberty and free markets as the highest virtues is older, richer, and deeper; with a larger canon of philosophical and moral arguments for a free society than any competing ideology. Collectivism was born in direct response to industrialized capitalism and has been wondering in the wilderness in search of a coherent theory of government ever since.
Which leads us to the second reason for the “paranoid” pejorative they so love to sling: the left doesn’t stand for anything, besides more ________ . It doesn’t matter what we’re talking about, the progressives want more: taxes, redistribution, welfare, subsidies, political correctness, speech codes, censorship, bureaucracy, etc. And, being the party of more, it is natural that they would greet those who shout less! with contempt and derision, and so it goes. Champions of small government must be incredibly paranoid of black helicopters and such because why else would anyone have a problem with our benevolent government providing basic necessities like food stamps to people in need? There is no sentiment more alarming to a progressive than “do less” because any suggestion that government has perhaps done too much implies progressive failure in the past, which is why they are prepared to fight to the death to preserve the New Deal mentality that sustains the welfare state. Ultimately, the left is anti-capitalist, as evidenced by every policy prescription and bit of ignorant economic rhetoric that comes spewing from their midst.
The best the anti-capitalists have come up with so far is probably Rousseau’s “social contract,” which suggests that human nature is chaotic and Hobbesian, thus the corrupting temptations of the individual must be subordinate to the collective good of “society.” It’s the type of theory that sounds good to 8th graders but should have been laughed off the stage for all eternity once Rousseau’s vision culminated with The Terror. Rousseau’s vision of the “common good” being preserved through benign state action would become the galvanizing principle of collectivist movements for the next two and a half centuries, from Marx to Lenin to Mao to Castro to the Greens. Again, this is hardly a principle at all. Saying you’re for the “common good” is meaningless without defining the terms by which goodness is going to be brought about. Saying you’re for the common good while pushing for initiatives that expand government in order to procure all this goodness is just stupid. Human nature will always nurture certain pathologies like our instinct to seek quick and easy solutions to complex problems, a phenomenon that knows no partisan lean. Conservatives who rightfully tout the rule of law as sacrosanct often succumb to this instinct when they treat prisons and drone strikes as quick and easy solutions to crime and terrorism. The fallible human condition allows even principled conservatives who take seriously the threat of excessive state power to place their trust in state and federal authorities to not abuse their power, and they often fail to see the contradiction at work. You can’t be for freedom and limited government and simultaneously support a militarized police campaign against non-violent drug offenders and the war on terror to boot. But no one falls for the promise of the quick and easy fix as often or as passionately as the left. They need to ditch the Rousseau and read some John Locke or Adam Smith.
The idea that utopian society is right around the corner if only we got the right people in charge is the left’s uniform theory of everything. The belief that society can be “administered” to at all is ridiculous, and yet the left still show no signs of inching any closer to understanding this basic fact of life and economics. What the left does understand, though, is comedy’s capacity to be subversive and instructive, in places you least expect it. And it is in that vein that I submit Paul Rudd’s epic surfing advice as a meta narrative on how government should behave.