Cultural Revolutions

Changing Attitudes

Big government—is it back?  Well, I wouldn’t put it quite that way.  But September 11 has demonstrably changed, and may continue to change, some attitudes regarding the exercise of government power.  Bombing the hell out of Afghanistan may be one of those enterprises for which Americans value the services of the national government.  (There may be others; I just can’t think of any right now.)

Well, certainly, we couldn’t have turned the bombing over to the Heritage Foundation or the Fashion Institute of America—assuming they have interest in such an activity.  The war-making power vests not only legitimately but logically in government.  Who else manufactures B52 bombers and aircraft carriers?

The riposte could be: Fair enough, but legitimacy attaches to the defense of American soil as opposed to the aerial harrowing of somebody else’s.

That’s not an argument many Americans are prepared to latch onto right now.  The rejoinder to the riposte is: We were attacked.  And because we were attacked, our government has to do something about it.  We can do nothing about it without sending in the bombers.  (If alternatives exist, what are they?  I’m listening . . . )

Anti-big-government Americans find themselves occupying familiar terrain—somewhere between a widely celebrated rock and...

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