“Sometimes the light’s all shining on me…..” Part 3
June 12, 2014
The debate that should take place between “administration” and “community” rarely takes place and largely because these choices are blurred, even blurred by those who sense that the argument for “administration” is wanting. Example: Benjamin Ginsberg, in his book, The American Lie: Government by the People and Other Political Fables, when he is discussing those times when “the instrumental character of political issues include some of the great principles debated during the course of American political history” describes the debate during the New Deal era as a “debate over government power versus individualism….” [p. 21]
Now, it would make a difference, and not a small difference, if that debate in the 1930s was characterized and conducted as one between “government power” and “community.” Rarely does “government power” subordinate itself to “individualism,” nor does it seem that it should given that “government power” claims to be exercised for the sake of society, whereas “individualism” serves the individual. To favor “individualism” over “government power” would be to favor the part over the whole, a difficult argument to make, to say the least. Which should prevail, the government representing society or the individual representing herself? Not much of a contest, not much of a debate.
But if the contest is between “administration” and “community,” the desirable outcome is not so obvious. Who should prevail, those who rule impersonally, detached as it were from those they are ruling, or those who rule by virtue of being identified with and who identify with those they are ruling? Who should prevail, those distinguished from the many [by expertise or some other distinction], or those who are like, have a likeness with the many? Who should prevail, the detached and the distant or the attached and the close ones?
When the debate is posed this way, it isn’t so easy to say who should prevail, is it? One reason for this is that it is not as easy to sacrifice “community” as it is to sacrifice “individualism” for the sake of “government power.” This is not to say that “government power” is useless or even merely a necessary evil. But it is to say that a host of questions arise once it is recognized that “government power” can be detrimental of “community.” It could be said that the mantra, “That that government is best which governs least,” does not quite hit the mark. Rather, it should be said “That that government is best which recognizes and respects community.”