5 September 2011
Heaters are good and air conditioners are bad. If that strikes you as an absurd thing to say, it is because sensible people understand that heaters and air conditioners are neither good nor bad in themselves. It’s all in how you use them. As two diametrically opposed solutions in residential climate control, their respective value is determined by which of two diametrically opposed problems you face in your house – whether it is too hot or too cold. That is why there are very few devoted partisans in the area of climate control. Lovers of heaters don’t want to eradicate air conditioners because they know they’ll be chilling to their A/C’s blessed boreal blast come July. If only political people were so sensible.
The two main strains of political thought go by the names liberalism and conservatism today, though it is more descriptive to call them collectivism and individualism. Liberals stress the virtues of everybody working together toward the collective good of all. Conservatives stress the benefits of people working individually for the good of the one. Most people who pay attention to politics like one approach more than the other, and some wouldn’t mind if the other approach were abolished altogether.
Both of these political approaches work well when they are applied at the right times. If, for example, everyone is doing what he or she wants to do, and big tribal projects like bringing down that huge mammoth or plowing a field of grain are not getting done, then tribe members need to apply some collective liberalism and begin working together. If, on the other hand, tribe members work hard all day every day hunting meat and plowing the fields for the tribe’s collective store, and the people in charge of the collective store accumulate too much control over the tribe, and regular folks in the tribe have neither the time, the power nor the incentive to see to their own wants and needs, then a round of conservative individualism is just the right thing.
Many people felt a chill back in the 1970s – a chill caused by too much liberalism. President Reagan ripped the air conditioner out of the widow and turned on the heater of individualism with tax cuts, spending cuts and deregulation to make things easier on corporations and businesses and to give people an incentive to improve themselves. Twenty years later, as the great things that liberal collectivism had built for us began to crumble from neglect, like our highways, rail systems, power grids, water supplies, public education, assistance to the needy and improvement of the environment, many noticed that Reagan’s heater had been running for too long, and that it was time to start letting things cool off. But the conservatives assured us that if we only turned that heater up a little higher, it wouldn’t be so darn hot in here. Today, three decades after Reagan, we are faced with a heat wave emergency in the form of a terrible recession, and a small, vocal minority of conservatives in control of the House of Representatives want to ban the use of air conditioners under any circumstances. Better to sweat, they say, because everyone knows it gets too cold when you turn on the air conditioner. Besides, they don’t like the air conditioner salesman.
Folks who wear overalls are a ruggedly individualistic lot. But they also know that there is a time to work alone and a time to work together – a time to be conservative and a time to be liberal. Today is the time to work together. Individual businesses and private corporations are not guiding our idle resources to create economic output, they are simply taking profit. Increased government spending will mobilize unemployed labor and capital to produce added goods and services that private interests are unable or unwilling to create . Too many people are out of work and suffering, and too many resources are just sitting there adding nothing to the national prosperity. The time is here to end the longstanding heaters-only appliance partisanship of the GOP. Someone has to step up and get it all moving. The private sector won’t do it, so the public sector must.