In his convention speech, when George Bush said “liberty is transformative” he was proclaiming his coming victory.
For the last two generations the political spheres in America have been in the process of making their distinctions by contrast with each other. In one sphere, the good of the group is paramount. In the other sphere, the group is background and the individual moves to the foreground. The tension between them is the difference in world views: one of scarcity and entitlement and one of plenitude and responsibility.
Some have called this the war between the Gramscians and Tocquevillians: between the Marxist left and classical liberalism. However, if economic motives underlie decisions, then the split is between the now-discredited Keynesian view of large government and progressive taxation for the commonweal, and the view of Nobel Prize winners Mundell and Prescott, who posit the necessity for lowered taxes as the driving force behind prosperity and productivity. In their more conservative view, individual liberty is based on an essential trust in the nature of man, despite his inherent flaws and limitations. It is a view of society which sees its potential secured in the freedom of each to make individual decisions, the sum of which add up to the wisdom of the community.
The Keynesian view is more paternal. The children — the electorate — are not to be trusted with so much responsibility. Instead, they make a Faustian bargain with a central government, trusting the solutions of large bureaucracies to provide better outcomes than can be achieved by aggregate decisions of the community. This is not a view of man as redeemed but rather man as eternally fallen. In trade for peacefully surrendering large amounts of individual wealth which the government will re-distribute for the greater good of all, the people are kept safe. In this world view Government Knows Best.
However, if Frederic Bastiat is right then America is beginning to grasp the old-but-ever-new idea that liberty is a gift bestowed by God on each individual; it is each person’s birth right. Through this authentic freedom lies the only path toward transformative change, a true metanoia.
And if, as his opponents have said, George Bush is simplistic, naïve and dim, then perhaps the idea that “a child shall lead them” has come to pass.
Finally, if, as The Wisdom of Crowds proposes, the group makes wiser, more truly intelligent decisions than do the “experts,” then the re-election of George Bush is good, is a good.