The other day, when reading recent news of the crises in Spain and Greece, I thought to myself, "Austerity is like recommending anorexia to a sick person." The parallel drawn between economic and physical health got me thinking, and I began to realize that the extended metaphor of the body politic can be quite telling.
Think of the different governing philosophies as different views of physical well-being and fitness for the body politic, or Lady Government (if we are to anthropomorphize and gender).
Let me begin this extended metaphor by comparing the idea of a
"tax and spend liberal" to that of someone in fitness training--an
acknowledgement that, to boost health, one must both take in enough (not
too much, but a solid amount) of food and must then exercise to expend
the energy gained.
The problem with Communism, then, becomes the fetishiziation of
government as the uber-muscular figure, which takes in ridiculously
large quantities of food and expends large quantities of energy, but in
doing so, because of the repetition of the process to the extreme, the
body ends up looking malformed if not deformed. And rather
than achieving the dream of the perfectly-functioning body, one is left
with ill health.
The Green would differ from the liberal in attitude to the source of the food being ingested. Although both agree that the Body Politic should ingest and expend, the Green sees the need for an organic, vegan, or local diet for achieving physical well-being. To the Green, the liberal's agreement to consume food produced through oppression or exploitation shows a weakness of principle and a refusal to question the underlying motive and values that dominate attitudes toward health, diet, and the whole working of the system of food production.
Conservatism, on the opposite side of the spectrum,
looks at the government and always sees it as too fat--perhaps even
morbidly obese. "You know, Government, you could afford to lose a few
pounds. Do you really need to take in those extra taxes--you are
looking pretty bloated today?" Then, when Lady Government starts eating
less, the conservative continues the same refrain, for Lady Government
in the eyes of the Republican will always be fat. She can always afford to lose a few pounds--or the equivalent of a
person. The fit or figured shape of the "tax-and-spend liberal" ideal
of Lady Government might have a few extra pounds (because you need some
extra weight when you get sick) but is overall obviously in good health.
However, the Marilyn Monroe (let's say) of the "tax-and-spend liberal"
is always too fat to the conservative.
And even when Lady Government gets
ill--or when the cancer that is inevitable financial crisis goes out of
remission, the solution of the Republican is still to tell Lady
Government to lose weight. The conservative might see Lady Government's newfound difficulty with ingesting and then begin to praise how lovely she now looks, how she has never been better, and that she should start ingesting even less not just involuntarily out of disease. Anorexia is still the solution to the
sick--no matter how illogical that may be and no matter how weak it puts the body to defense against disease. And, now that Lady
Government is sick and cannot ingest as much as she could before, the
Republican begins to praise the reduced consumption and champion that
Lady Government should continue to consume less--not out of ill health
but out of will. The conservative might even succeed in altering the
whole societal ideal of beauty--pushing the gaunt image of Lady
Government that it has championed into the mainstream and forcing
liberals to begin to think that their ideal could really shed a few
pounds, that its curves are misshapen.
However, the conservative ideal
is not just thin--the ideal of the conservative is to get the government
to be so thin, so gaunt, so anorexic that it can no longer function. The body, no more than a mess of bones and organs, becomes no more than a blunt weapon with which to batter down