Friday, September 23, 2005

Almost as soon as New Orleans was destroyed, conservatives began putting forth ideas about how to rebuild it. The city, which was and remains in no position to fight back, was to becomes a laboratory for all those conservative ideas floating around on how to alleviate poverty. What Americans were seeing on TV, the thinking went, was the result of decades of misguided liberal social welfare policies. Now, conservatives could make a free start. Goodbye welfare dependency, hello self-responsibility and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.

It's like we can't even remember events that took place four months ago. Iraq too was going to be a laboratory for conservative ideas. Paul Bremer believed in imposing a free market economy over there almost as zealously as he did a democratic state, and by many accounts, he was actually more successful in the former than the latter. Yet this experiment has been a disaster. But we should let the Bush administration try again in New Orleans?

The truth about this crop of conservatives is that they are leftists merely posing as conservatives. They believe, as did the far left, that societies can be completely remade, that history is irrelevant, and that human nature is altogether malleable. This was the same vision, quite tragically, that gave rise to Marxism, African nationalism, and the many other forms of radical societal restructuring that conservatives supposedly despise. Yet this ahistorical, rebuild regardless of the past approach is precisely what the Bush administration adopted in Iraq -- who cares that they've never had democracy before? -- and now in New Orleans -- to hell with the city's political tradition and its history, we can do better. What somebody needs to do is make a little Edmund Burke required reading in the halls of the West Wing. It's time to recall what real conservative thinking is about.

The results of the Republican onslaught in New Orleans will be as disastrous as in Iraq, but not because the ideas are bankrupt. The ideas are bankrupt -- it's just that there never even going to get a chance to be implemented. Instead, the tens of billions of dollars being pumped into the city will be handed out to the politically connected and squandered. The ideological trappings of the Bush administration are a charade meant to mask their venality, corruptness, and moral bankruptcy. For them, it's all about rewarding friends in high places.


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