Sunday, April 01, 2012

The spectacle of the absurd

Obama's signature healthcare law is in the news again, this time because the Supreme Court is trying to decide if certain aspects of are constitutional. Reflexively, I'd like the court to strike it down, partly because I suspect that the law is a bad one, but also because it would be hilarious. The left would become incensed at the conservative court thwarting the will of the people, while the right, suddenly triumphant, would soon realize that they no longer have much to campaign against.

But I want to look at Obamacare for another reason. An informed citizen of a republic, such as ours, ought to have opinions about the goings-on of his government. Since this is the signature piece of Obama's administration, I ought to know what I think of the bill. But I can't really know what to think of the bill because it's so preposterously long. If I had to choose a side, naturally, I'm against it, but this has more to do with base impulses--opposition to anything which increases the power of the state, assurance that such a bureaucrat's wet dream as the bill appears to be can only make things worse--than with any understanding of the law as such.

The bill in question is long--2400 pages long--and it is complicated, unnecessarily so. I am unaware of any other comparable bill of such gigantic proportions--not that I searched with any degree of thoroughness--but other bills meet the standard of needing the TL;DR tag that kids like to use. The USA Patriot Act, for instance, is comprised of 342 pages. Couldn't they have just written: All your liberties are belong to us?

I bring this up, not to mock the government through utilization of Internet memes, but because it's apparent to me that an American citizen cannot be informed of what his government is doing. To stick with our example, Obamacare may be a very good thing, and it might be a very bad thing, but I can't see how a citizen could be expected to find out. There is an argument to be made that our representatives shouldn't be in the habit of signing into laws which they have not read, but this bespeaks a naivete about the way our laws are written. No one reads these bills, unless we count the little one page protests that are never passed. Passing incomprehensible bills is how things get done: it's the American way.

It is safe to conclude that democracy, of the informed sort, is fundamentally absurd when no one knows what the State is doing, or what it is proposing to be given the power to do. The spectacle in Washington is like something out of Kafka, where Samsa wakes to find himself a Congressman. He votes like a good party man, only to find that in so doing he has imprisoned his family. Look, I'm not Kafka, but you get the point.

The second thing to realize is that since American politics have ventured so far into the realm of absurdity, one should try to minimize the effort one puts into trying to influence it. I heartily recommend that one study it, as spectacle, but to participate is a bridge too far. What on earth could be the point?

Sometime in June, the seven black robed ones will tell us whether a bill they haven't read meets the standard set by our Constitution. The rabble will be roused, channelling their energy into two men who profess different views over that same bill, neither of whom has read more than mere selections from it. One can only imagine what other curious adventures await us on the other side.

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