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'Big Government Liberals' at Work

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The big government liberalism that Republicans denounce and Democrats, in election years especially, portray as deep compassion, is again on national display, looking fossilized.

Big government liberalism tsks-tsks at any social/cultural/economic problem it sees as curable through government regulation, and, where regulation exists already, more of it, as much as the old wagon will hold.

Big government liberalism, from its Olympian perches in the media and the academy, can't envision a set of perplexities irremediable by law, regulation or court order.

Observe how well it works out.

The U. S. Supreme Court faces sharply competing claims as concerning the manipulation of freshman acceptance policies whose effect is to increase minority enrollment by decreasing white enrollment. Meanwhile, in a complementary case, Boston's nearly 40-year-old policy of busing students here, there and yon in the interest of "racial balance" has many in the community agitating to call the whole thing off.

The common denominator of the two sets of circumstances is, of course, the praiseworthy desire to upgrade educational outcomes for minorities. At the price of unfairness and resentment, without substantive accompanying benefits? The price in question is one that big government liberalism has always been glad enough to pay for the psychic satisfaction that comes with sticking a finger in the eye of Racism (long a target of big government liberalism). The regnant assumption among -- let's just call them BGLs -- has been that if unenlightened whites don't like something, the something they don't like must be pretty fine.

At the University of Texas Austin branch (full disclosure: my alma mater) the rigging of admission policies to trim white enrollment has become a matter of dispute. UT is enormous, but so is the state. Not everyone who wants to get into UT Law School gets in. UT decided it could serve the cause of big government liberalism through use of what the Obama administration, in a supporting brief, calls "holistic analysis of individual applicants" -- an academic variation of the old thumb-on-the-scales routine. The purpose: trimming white enrollment, beefing up minority enrollment.

A policy corollary to UT's is Boston's court-ordered busing policy, intended to improve K-8th grade education by improving racial ratios in the classroom. Busing, Boston-style, seems to have run out of gas. The adage that whereas you may lead a horse to water, you can't make him drink, explains in large part the disappearance of whites from Boston schools. "Now there are no whites," a local leader told The New York Times. (Actually, whites remain 13 percent of the total.) "Everyone is being randomly bused. It doesn't make sense." Which is why Boston's mayor, a BGL most of the time, has called for "a radically different [attendance] plan." In one area right now, 1,912 students attend 102 different schools. Transportation amounts to nearly 10 percent of school district operation costs.

The need to improve "educational outcomes," as they are known, for whites, blacks, browns, everybody else, is plain as the robe on a federal judge's back? Who could object, the caricature Confederate on the cigarette lighter case -- "Forget, Hell?!" The problem isn't opposition to the project at hand. The immediate problem is big government liberalism, which rarely admits a mistake or miscalculation committed out of overwhelming compassion.

BGLs get defensive when challenges to their omniscience rise from the ranks of the conservative hoi polloi. Why, what do you mean, "we failed"? Failed to what? Love enough? Plan enough? Tax the taxpayers enough? That ordinary folk might have opinions counter their own, and might want to implement those views, is a prospect alien to the BGL mind.

Matters like these hardly lend themselves to sound-bite explanation in presidential debates, but they lie at the heart of our politics, and of our political perplexities. Two mindsets contend in our politics. Do we want the Olympians telling us what we think and what to do about it? Perhaps we ourselves have something to say about the larger matters of national and personal existence.

We 'll soon get some evidence as to which it may be.

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