Feigned Praise

Living in a democracy constantly reminds one of the views and the tastes of others, or at least it should. Among the many (and no, David, there are not just two) reactions to this sometimes unpleasant fact are the following: (1) search for the source–the motivation, the justification, the history, you name it–of the disagreeable (to you) belief; or (2) don’t search out the source, but rather make up a dumb story. If this were a moral imperative (and considering how often we’ve run into it on this page it might as well be), it would run something like this: act as if the maxim of your opponent’s belief is really stupid. Since your views are opposite their stupid ones, you must therefore be smart.

Worse than acting on this perverted maxim, is using it to praise others. And so, in praise of Mitch Daniels, George Will writes:

>Ending bottled water for employees of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (annual savings, $35,000). Ending notification of drivers that their licenses are expiring; letting them be responsible for noticing (saving $200,000). Buying rather than renting floor mats for BMV offices (saving $267,000 this year). Initiating the sale of 2,096 surplus state vehicles (so far, $1.95 million in revenue from 1,514 sales). Changing the state lottery’s newsletter from semimonthly and in color to a monthly and black-and-white (annual savings, $21,670). And so on, and on, agency by agency.

All of those seem like reasonable budget-cutting measures. But,

>Such matters might be dismissed by liberals who think government spending is an index of government “caring,” and perhaps by a new sect called “national greatness conservatives” who regard Daniels’s kind of parsimony as a small-minded, cheeseparing exercise unworthy of government’s great and stately missions. But it seems to be an Indiana approach.

Who are these liberals? Who are these conservatives? To Will, it doesn’t matter. Sure, you may find one or two liberals (and perhaps the same number of conservatives) who hold these views. Why argue against *them*? Their view is a strawman of itself. Will (and Daniels) perhaps should consider the fiscally responsible type liberal–the ones who didn’t advocate expensive foreign entanglements among other things.

Contrary to Will’s attempted encomium, we can only assume that Mr.Daniels has good reasons for his beliefs.