Back at the turn of the century – the 19th century, that is, a movement arose to battle against graft and corruption in government, by supporting candidates of a reform mindset. They were mockingly called goo-goos, short, of course, for “good-government.” The term hasn’t had much play since then, but it seems ripe for resurrection – in derision, of course.

Consider the one-two punch that the idea of “Good-Government” took to the body yesterday.

First, a report that the government has been lying to us for two decades about our military efforts and prospects in Afghanistan. Yes, this is my shocked face. While most of us who’ve been paying attention know that Afghanistan is where “empires go to die,” having overt evidence that the government hasn’t been simply wrong in thinking success can be had there, it’s known things aren’t as painted and lied to us about it is icing on that cake.

Second, the other shoe finally dropped on the whole sordid Trump investigation saga, with the Inspector General’s report finding all sorts of misdeeds and “errors” in the FBI’s investigative efforts, including pretty solid evidence that some of the FISA warrants should never have been issued in the first place. The IG report declared no “proof” of bias (scare quotes mine), a conclusion that raised many eyebrows and drew sharp responses from AG Barr and US Attorney John Durham, but there’s no need to add bias to the lesson offered by the IG report here: that the FBI is just another passel of government types: flawed, self-serving, and not worthy of blind trust.

Government incompetence, irresponsibility, apathy, and outright lack of performance is all around us, every day, and that’s before we get into malfeasance, corruption, pay-to-play, favoritism, graft, and abuse of power. Stuff gets done, sure, but it’s often the wrong stuff, it’s almost inevitably done poorly and expensively, and results almost never match promises. Moreso, it doesn’t matter who’s in charge, or which party has the reins of power, because it’s inevitable. Those we appoint to government are just as human as the rest of us, operate under far less pressure to perform and behave than those of us in the private sector feel, and are far more insulated from consequence than we are.

Despite all this in-your-face evidence of how and why government sucks, we witness today a metastasizing growth of goo-goos, of people who believe we need more government, more power in the hands of politicians and bureaucrats, more spending, more taxation (of other people, always), more intrusion into our (make that others’) lives, and less liberty (for others, of course). Socialism is on the rise in America, and its rise defies logic and sanity.

That’s not to say it’s inexplicable. Far from it. Young people are not fully formed humans. Intellectually, emotionally, and legally. They become fully formed humans with time, experience, and education, and eventually society grant them the privileges of fully formed humanity, privileges (or rights, if you prefer) that include driving, entering into contracts, drinking, smoking, incurring debt, entering into contracts, and voting. Since education is a far more concentrated injection of information into their brains than personal experience is, education overrides experience in the earlier stages of life. And, since experience during one’s youth is tempered and remediated by parents and other authority figures, full consequences from bad decisions are mitigated, and lessons aren’t learned (see: the burned hand teaches best).

So, we suffer a perpetual influx of fresh fools into the populace. Their foolishness is amplified by the monolithic education they receive, education provided by people who are themselves shielded from full consequences of beliefs and decisions by their presence in higher education. This insulation is itself almost certainly the reason that leftism has completely taken over most college campuses. If your ideas don’t work, but you refuse to let go of them, you can hide in academia, theorize to your heart’s content in echo-chamber validation, and never have to face the consequences of those bad ideas, since you’ve never had to put yourself at risk in their implementation. At a university, you can come up with all sorts of plans that never have to face the realities of implementation.

This also holds true, in its own way, for politicians. Big-government politicians have many splendid and glorious plans, and the grander and more complex the plan, the greater impression the politician makes on the fresh fools who haven’t learned better. These plans, we are told, will make things better. That past big plans haven’t done so is never a lesson about the futility of this big-government fantasy. Instead, it’s excused as “failure of implementation,” or “not big enough,” or “the opposition screwed it up.” This the flip side of the attraction to big-and-complex: the attraction to simplistic explanations for why they don’t work.

All of it is born of motivated reasoning: building an argument in support of a predetermined conclusion, and of cognitive dissonance: crafting an escape from having to admit that results don’t support one’s prior beliefs. And, without older and more experienced voices at hand to force eyes to open, it’s very easy for young people to continue down the goo-goo path even with stark evidence to the contrary at hand. While the goo-goos of yore sought to fight corruption, today’s seem indifferent to it, and instead are all about giving more power to the people who’ve proven they can’t be trusted with that which they’ve already got.

Today’s rise in socialism among the young is clearly a resurgence of a goo-goo attitude. That “goo-goo” evokes images of baby food is a useful coincidence.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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