Tuesday, September 02, 2008

"The people who came here sort of lucked into a situation of cowboy socialism"

Wherein some people maybe shouldn't get too carried away with the "western conservatism" equals libertarianism

Another quote from the most excellent political satire/thriller/conspiracy novel, Interface (Neal Stephenson and J. Frederick George).

Other Interface mentions:

"What is terrible is to live in a time when saying things is considered to be worse than doing them," Eleanor said.

"You seem to be forgetting here that people in this state, and in this country are damn tured of these unemployed welfare mother illegal aliens coming into this country and stirring things up!"

"Why don't you call them spics and wetbacks, the way you do when you're speaking on the telephone to Sam Wyatt?"

"That is a totally unprovable allegation!" Shad yelped. He looked shocked, horrified, to hear these words spoken in public, as if he and Sam Wyatt had invented the words for their personal use. "Listen. I am not a person with any kind of ethnic bias or bigotry. I limit my concern to those people, of whatever ethnic group, who take advantage of the system. Who are like parasites on the prosperous economic system that has built up over the years by the hard work of productive citizens the likes of Sam Wyatt."

"Sam Wyatt," Eleanor said. "Sam Wyatt, who grazes his cattle on government-owned land. Land that was occupied by Native Americans until the government paid soldiers to come out here and kill them. Sam Wyatt, who irrigates his ranch with water from a government-built dam. And you think that Anna Ramirez is a welfare queen? I;ve got news for you, cowboy. Everyone in the state of Colorado is a welfare queen. We all live and feed off the largesse of taxpayers in other parts of the country. It's just that some of us, like Sam Wyatt, have been here longer than others, and have had time to pile up more government welfare checks in their bank accounts and funnel more of that money back into big campaign contributions. So don't stand here in Denver, a metropolis built on a creek, the capital of Colorado, a state that would dry up and turn back into a prairie without the continuing help of the government, and bray about the bad moral qualities of welfare queens."

A couple pages later:
"It ain't just Colorado. YOu're the most hated woman in the West," Senator Marshall said. "A lightning rod."

"I know it."

"People wouldn't be so vehement unless your words were largely true," Senator Marshall said.

She gave him a searching look. "What's your opinion?"

The Senator winced, as if he wished she hadn't asked this question. He looked out the window for a while, appalled.

"Well, of course, you're right," he finally said. "The economy of this whole region is built on subsidies and federal programs. But people refuse to admit that because they want to believe in the cowboy myth. That their ancestors came out and made the desert bloom solely through their own hard work and pluck.

"Now, they were plucky, and they did work hard. But there are a lot of plucky, hardworking people in other places who have gone down the toilet anyway just because they were pursuing a fool's errand, economically speaking. The people who came here sort of lucked into a situation of cowboy socialism. Without federal programs they'd go broke -- no matter how hard they worked."

"Federal programs that are kept alive by senators."

"Yeah. Colorado's a small state population-wise. Our delegation in the House can't do diddly. But in the Senate, every state is equal. When one senator, like me, gets some seniority, works his way up into a few key committee chairmanships, then some states are more equal than others. My job -- my raison d'etre -- is to keep certain federal programs alive that prevent this region from turning back into the buffalo farm God intended it to be.

"It's a feedback loop. This is high-tech lingo that I picke up in the sixties when some goddamn ecologist was raving to me. I keep the programs alive. The economy thrives. People move to Colorado and vote for me. The cycle begins again.

"As long as those programs continue to exist, no one notices. They are part of the landscape. They are forces of nature, like the wind and the rain. The people who live off them, people like Sam Wyatt, have come to think of them as natural and divinely ordained. To them, living off of federal largesse is no different in principle than, say, fishing salmon from the Gulf of Alaska or tapping maple syrup from trees in Maine. So, when someone like you steps in front of the TV cameras and points out the obvious -- that these people are no different in principle from people who live off of welfare checks -- it just drive them crazy. It strikes at the heart of who they are."


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