In today's WSJ, Daniel Henninger
writes that the oil spill in the Gulf, along with the inability of the federal government to contain it (forget about correcting it), exposes an even deeper well of trouble for Americans than the one now spewing forth (a seeming endless!) amount of crude. That is, we are in the Land of Oz. And like the Oz of Dorothy's dream--with its Emerald City (as much a fraud as was the Wizard) and its Wicked Witch (who turned out really to be a busy-bodied neighbor self-righteously armed with some product of over-regulation on the animal control front)--the Oz of our own creation is a dream world where, we imagine, our mistrust in our fellow "ordinary" man might be supplanted by the hopes we are sure must be manifest "somewhere over the rainbow." The trouble is that in our hapless journey to find them, we've allowed them to become manifest in a great and powerful wizard commanding a bureaucracy of imagined efficiency, perfection, and an incorruptible and boundless compassion.
Because we have determined that imperfection will not do and, because we wisely detect the imperfection of our neighbors, we no longer trust in our ability to govern ourselves or believe that our neighbors have a legitimate claim to self-government either. Won't we botch it? (ed., yes, probably . . . but can we botch it worse than our "betters" have botched it?
) Instead, we have been flattered to be a part of Oz and have trusted that the men in green knew better than we how to find those hopes at the end of our rainbows. So we happily wore the glasses, bowed in awestruck fear before its altars, and condemned as wicked all those who questioned the wisdom or motivation of its dictates.
Now, confronted as we are by this wicked oil slick--one that no hope on any side of any rainbow will contain and one that the best efforts of both private industry and government together may only (and eventually) imperfectly contain--we see that the capacities of the great and powerful Wizard are at best equal to (and probably, even, less impressive than) the limits of private industry. Moreover, we see that the Wizard's limits and corruptibility are on an even plane coming into the job but may be, because of the power we've allowed him, even more to be questioned. That is, he is no better than we but now, because of his power, has the potential to be worse.
Fortunately for Dorothy, when she awoke from her dream, she realized that it was actually a nightmare and she was grateful to be back in Kansas and among her fellow "ordinary" and imperfect men. Imperfect men have the virtue of being able to stand up again after tornadoes (or hurricanes or oil-spills) and restore the farm. They don't need well-meaning hope peddlers to come along selling them the snake oil that there is a land without the unpredictable or imperfect or the nasty or the mean. These frauds are of no help in times of trouble and (usually when it is too late) can only advise us to do what we'd probably have done on our own without any assistance from their mystical wisdom. What free men should do instead, is humbly and freely admit their inability to prevent disaster--whether it stems from an act of God or from a failing in Man. But they can also man-up and set things as close to right as they are ever going to be--without the aid of Wizards or bureaucrats--when disaster comes . . . that is, once Toto has pulled back the curtain and we put down our green glasses.
But, as Henninger seems to know better than anyone--the trouble is not with the man behind the curtain
. The trouble is with the many who should be looking in the mirror