Monday, November 28, 2011

Civil Service Libertarians

James Fuller is bemused:

Apparently federal employees have donated more money to Ron Paul than any other GOP candidate. This leads me to believe that either 1) They don’t realize he wants to fire them or 2) Everyone in government is actually like Ron Swanson.
[Do you feel the need to Google "Ron Swanson"? Go here.] I vote for a modified version of the Ron Swanson gambit, and I also think the donors know perfectly well what Ron Paul wants to do with public jobs; I'll explain in a moment. But before I get to that latter point, let me testify from a long and only moderately corrupt life that civil service employees are, taking pound for pound, among the most conservative people I've met. Recall, our search set includes not just Head Start teachers and legal aid lawyers (although some of them might surprise you); it also includes all those cops and prison guards and soldiers and spooks and security people and--and much more than that, it also includes the nameless, faceless multitudes who have done so much to keep eyeshades and sleeve garterrs and the good people at Steelcase in business. These people love good order and predictability; they're awed by authority and they think the hordes in the street really ought to show 'em some respect.

People keep rolling their eyes at the idea that Michele Bachmann worked as a tax enforcer. Doesn't surprise me. I bet she felt right at home. Wouldn't be surprised if that was where she learned it. My old friend Bob, an ink-stained-wretch variety newspaperman, in loved to tell about the right-of-Ivanhoe state-supported barracudas he used to meet on his home turf in Maryland, just over the border from Satan central. "Has that guy ever met a payroll?" the bureaucrat would snarl, with no visible betrayal of irony (Bob would answer: "have you ever carried a precinct?")

Which brings me back to point one--do they know what Ron Paul intends to do to the civil service. Answer: sure they know. And they're just pretty sure it won't apply to them. They're secure in their own minds that once the cleansing battalion sweeps through the stable, their jobs will be just as indispensable as--probably moreso than-- before.

And you know what? They are probably right. Okay, I grant, almost every libertarian has at least a wisp of principle: Ron Paul does think we could get along with a less bloaated military budget, and the occasional nutcake like Bob Barr can sometimes be discerned saying that individual due-process rights might actually have some content. But for the most part, I think you can guarantee that on the morning after the libertarian revolution, most that repressive or constraining--the most authoritarian parts--will be sittin' on top of the furnace eatin' chocolates.

Which raises my only (mild, tentative) reservation about Ron Swanson. Apparently the writers just couldn't figure out how to stage their character without at least a glimmer of cognitive dissonance. My guess is that in real life, that kind of uncertainty is a lot harder to find.   

1 comment:

Ebenezer Scrooge said...

I grew up on Montgomery County Maryland, the preferred home of the non-uniformed federal civil servant. You have the psychology down perfectly: "These people love good order and predictability; they're awed by authority and they think the hordes in the street really ought to show 'em some respect."

That doesn't make 'em libertarians or Republicans. That makes them Democrats who follow the party line diktat of the NYTimes op-ed page. They used to vote for goo-goo Republicans like Mac Mathias and Gilbert Gude, who also followed the NYT diktat, albeit at slightly lesser funding levels. But these worthies have been replaced by a much sweatier gang, and the citizens of Montgomery County don't like that at all.

(Okay, libertarians aren't particularly sweaty. They are young earnest enthusiasts, or slightly creepy older dudes. It still doesn't sell in Montgomery County.)