July 2 Letter

In “How Dysfunction Helps the GOP” (The Tilting Yard, July 1), Thomas Frank notes that the Republican Party is turning into the “Snafu Party” because conservatives’ goal–to keep government small–requires that GOP-driven government intervention necessarily fail.

Indeed, many perverse incentives underlie government programs. But the solution to this problem is not to retreat to partisan sides, but rather to look at the big picture. The most critical incentive in rational politics is to find the way to let the most individuals choose. That requires the smallest possible domestic intervention. Which in turn means maintaining the checks and balances upon which this country was founded: a split government, even when "my guys" are in charge.

Regardless of which party is in control (even the ones who cry for smaller government), when the chips are down and all three branches united under one house, the government expands and inevitably takes away more and more of individuals’ right to choose for themselves.

The government does a lot of things right. But the government wasn’t created to care for me, or for thee. It’s supposed to soothe the rough edges to our system (keeping enemies at bay and promoting the pursuit of happiness) so that we both can make the choices that are most rational to our respective positions. If, in the words of Justice Holmes, your right to swing your arms stops at the tip of my nose, the government creates a deterrent force field that defines where, precisely, the tip of each nose lies.

Unfortunately, when the government acts at large for “the people,” the tips of many noses lie very, very far from the rational positions of individual heads.

Kathryn Ciano

Arlington, VA

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