A bit off the beaten path for this blog but one worth visiting in light of recent events is Walter Russell Mead’s post on the latest from the culture police. He’s writing about the joint letter from the Department of Justice and Department of Education setting forth new criteria for determining the existence of sexual harassment. The Cliff Notes version of the test – if someone finds a remark offensive it’s harassment. They pair their new criteria with a lowering of the bar for conviction of the crime.
Walter Russell Mead has a very good post on the new policy which you should read in its entirety. For now consider his thoughts on the broader implications.
Sexual harassment is wrong, and anyone who spends time on an American campus knows that the problem of improper and unwanted sexual advances and conduct is both serious and real. But the clumsy efforts of bureaucrats to regulate the romantic lives of millions of teenagers and early twenty-somethings by ill judged official decrees will not help.
The Obama administration seems to be doing its level best to convince the American people that a large and powerful federal government is a threat to liberty. From IRS zealots blatantly using their powers against political enemies to prosecutors overreaching in attacks on journalists to deranged bureaucrats attacking fundamental standards of fairness on campus, the federal government is daily demonstrating the danger of giving it too many missions.
This is not a Tea Party blog and there are no pictures of Ayn Rand in our boardroom. With George Washington and Alexander Hamilton we believe in a federal government that is active and strong enough to secure the general welfare. But the sprawling, overreaching, under-managed, over-priced clumsy behemoth stumbling across the American landscape today is something very different from the government the United States needs.
It’s illogical to think that in the early part of the 21st century we are going to roll back government to something resembling its reach in, say 1920. Too many people want a more expansive government presence, their is demonstrable good which has come from efforts to take the rougher edges off of a free market capitalist society as well as advance social justice and, frankly, much of it is too ingrained in society to rip out. That being said, Mead is absolutely right that what we now have is government which has morphed into something we need to fear. Yes, it has been given too many missions but more to the point a faceless bureaucracy accountable to no one has expanded, interpreted and even created missions never intended according to the whims, biases and goals of its denizens.
Like Mead I am not a Tea Party type, but I am less reluctant than I was last week to label their reservations about government as paranoid reaction.