David M. Brown's Blog

February 9, 2010

Whose bipartisanship?

Filed under: Uncategorized — davidmbrowndotcom @ 7:45 pm

What do people who call for "bipartisanship" mean by it? Any of the following?

1) The condition that obtains when members of two political parties characterized by opposing visions of how a society should be governed pretend that they are one political party with one vision of governance.

2) The condition that obtains when the members of one political party fail to surrender fast and hard enough to the demands of the other political party (cf. Obama usage).

3) The condition that obtains when members of two political parties hold opposing views on a question, but agree to "compromise" for the sake of faux amity. For example, let’s say one party wants to destroy what’s left of freedom in the health care industry, while the other party wants to restore freedom in the health care industry or at least not further destroy freedom in the health care industry. "Bipartisan" approach: Only somewhat destroy what’s left of freedom in the health care industry? Destroy it more slowly? Only somewhat liberate the health care industry from market-distorting subsidies and controls? Unshackle some medical workers while imposing new shackles on other medical workers? Leave the status quo intact, for now?

The American Heritage Dictionary defines the adjective "bipartisan" as follows: "Of, consisting of, or supported by members of two parties, especially two major political parties: a bipartisan resolution."

Bipartisanship, like any kind of unity or pretense of unity, can only be justified when the end served by it is justified. Politics is not an end in itself. One must look to whether the proper ends of government are being achieved or undercut by any given bipartisan deed. The requirements of bipartisanship cannot tell us what is politically right or even what is politically possible.

Bipartisan collaboration can be fine and dandy if and when it liberates us from unjust political chains and manacles. But if bipartisanship ushers in further loss of our freedom, thereby violating the proper purpose of government, it is not fine, not dandy…however merrily the members of the two teams may clasp hands as they sell us down the river. Many factors can affect our judgment of whether a legislative action will have a net positive or net negative impact on our freedom. In many cases, of course, the impact is unambiguous. If the effect is to further enslave us, the fact that the chains were forged and tightened in a very bipartisan manner will not make them any lighter to bear.

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