5.0 out of 5 stars You Get the Government You Deserve…., May 28, 2002
This book should be read in conjunction with Greg Palast's The Best Democracy Money Can Buy Vidal's book should be subtitled “you get the government you deserve.”
I cannot think of a book that has depressed me more. There are three underlying issues that make this book vitally important to anyone who cares to claim the title of “citizen:”
1) Citizens need to understand what their government is doing in the name of America, to the rest of the world. “Ignorance is not an excuse.” All of the other books I have reviewed (“see more about me” should really say “see my other reviews”) are designed to help citizens evaluate and then vote wisely in relation to how our elected representatives are handling national security affairs–really, really badly.
2) Citizens need to probe more deeply for how often the federal government (and many state and local governments) abuse their powers. In the absence of citizen engagement at every level on a 24/7 (i.e. some of the people all of the time), the government falls prey to “The Pathology of Power” as Norman Cousins describes it. We get the government we deserve–if we do not care enough to monitor our investments (both taxes and elected representatives) then we allow ourselves to fall prey to a combination of special interests with lots to gain from looting the public treasury by privatizing the commonwealth, and inept bureaucracies that respond to the loudest or most attractive offer. The author recommends, among other things, cancelling tax exemptions for religions that have become fronts for lucrative real-estate holdings, and one surmises that he would favor equitable taxation of corporations as well, rather than leaving the burden on the people.
3)More subtly, the author explores some “information” issues,using the McVeigh case (the Oklohoma bombing) as a case in point. He starkly questions whether the government has honestly and fully investigated the larger group that helped McVeigh, at the same time that he suggests that the government has withheld information from the people in order to give greater credence to the government's proposition that McVeigh was a lone madman rather than a valiant soldier representing a broader group of grass-rooted Americans. I will only comment that in the aftermath of both Oklahoma and 9-11, I have constantly been surprised and made thoughtful by the number of middle-class Americans across America who tell me they do not trust the federal government or its agencies, and would no more think of giving them leads than of harming a loved one.
Vidal is focused on two great evils–the ongoing “police state” and the increased loss of liberties that have been occasioned by 9-11 (I for one strongly oppose the federalization of state & local security–a prescription for internal war); and the increased waste of the taxpayer dollar on a military-industrial system that is looting the commonwealth. Whatever your point of view, his thoughts cannot be ignored for they are elegant and informed.
He ends the book with a letter to the President that strikes me as terribly naive with all that we now know about Florida removing over 50,000 predominantly black and democratic voters from its voter roles (see Greg Palast's book recommended above), and the documented relations between the President's family, the President's closest advisors, and the barons of the economic fiefdoms that Vidal seeks to liberate.
Suffice to say, this book forces one to consider that there may not be a safe zone, and one may be required to take sides on what could become an internal war in America. I am deeply saddened and frightened by this prospect, but my first graduate thesis was on revolution, and I remember the Davies J-Curve very well–the people revolt, not under oppression, but when they have lived well and the barons remove one too many of their benefits.
Among the most important precipitants of revolution (as opposed to preconditions) that my study documented was a proven failure on the part of the state to provide security for the people–if there is another 911, particularly in the aftermath of the blatantly consistent statements to the effect that it is “inevitable,” then I would not be surprised to see an internal rebellion capable of dramatically altering the composition of the federal government. The people are on edge, and Vidal appears to articulate their concerns in a very effective manner.