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It is not "Good Government" Reforms that Wrecked the System

NO, Megan McArdle, it is not "good government" reforms that have wrecked the political parties and made them dysfunctional. It is the nature of government itself. McArdle writes, bemoaning the way that the Democrats foisted Clinton upon us:

How can we explain this? For one thing, I think Clinton’s candidacy -- like Trump’s candidacy, in its own, very different way -- points to the fatal weakness of the political parties. Decades of “good government” reforms have systematically stripped the power that parties once had: to control money, to control committee assignments, to control how much pork politicians get to brag about to the voters back home. What’s left is a hollow shell that cannot effectively respond to either grassroots insurgencies or to outsize figures who effectively turn the party apparatus to their own ends. If you think, as I do, that parties play a vital role in organizing political action toward coherent goals and long-term accountability, that’s something that should worry you.
Sorry, but I don't think that political parties, strong or weak, are much good at "organizing political action toward coherent goals and long-term accountability." See I don't think that "political action" is much good at anything except fighting enemies in the here and now. And when they do have coherent goals they have no clue about the damage their goals might cause. I don't think that political actors think much beyond fighting the next election and rewarding their supporters.

Correction. I do think that the Democrats have thought about the long-term advantage of immigration in creating new Democrats. It has worked pretty well for them up to now, but I think that in the near future it is going to blow up in their faces over the Muslim Question.

But, seriously, Megan. The big question is what politics is good for, anyway, beyond protecting us from enemies foreign and domestic. And really it doesn´t do that good a job of protection anyway. We get existential perils like fascism and communism rising up and our leaders usually fail to act before we get dumped into bloody big world war. And we get full-scale crime waves before our leaders settle on anything approaching coherent goals for dealing with them.

We are in a mess today not from the wrong type of politics but from politics in general. We are reaching the limit of the progressive politics advocated by the Progressives of a century ago, where rational experts would administer the society based on the best ideas of social science. The product of this elite movement is today's gigantic government that cannot act to fix anything. That's because once government sets a program in motion it cannot effectively reform it because the people benefiting from the program will organize to prevent any change that reduces their checks.

If you look at the world and its affairs it is pretty obvious that the important work of the world is to fix problems and clean up after them. What happens when a corporation starts to lose money because its products aren't selling too well in the market? It makes hard choices, probably laying off employees and redirecting resources to get the company profitable again. (Here we are using profit in the sense of using resources, human and natural, wisely).

But when does a government ever do that? Typically whenever a government faces making spending cuts it advertises its program as a balance between spending cuts and tax increases, to "share the burden." In other words the people facing a cut in their free stuff have to be rewarded by seeing other people suffer with an increased tax burden.

And the point is that the key is not whether or not to start some wonderful new program. The key is what do you do when things go wrong. The problem is that the answer is usually: Nothing. The Greeks did nothing until the nasty Germans forced them to enact spending cuts. The Argentines did nothing in 2002 until they devalued and replaced dollar accounts with peso accounts, wiping out middle-class savings. The Venezuelans are letting the whole economy go down the toilet rather than cut back on spending programs for its supporters when the oil price crash unbalanced the government's budget.

What are our political parties doing to deal with the fact that entitlements like Social Security and Medicare are going to eat the federal budget? What are they doing to fix the lousy education that kids get in the inner city? Democrats want to increase Social Security payments and reduce the disciplining of minority students in schools. So their solution is to make the problem worse. And Republicans aren't much better.

The fact is that the "coherent goals and long-term accountability" of the Progressives a century ago is what has brought us the election of 2016 in which the electorate is in a foul mood because it knows that something in rotten in the state of Denmark.

The problem is that nobody dare even think about what should be done. That's because we the American people will string up on a lamppost anyone that suggests that we start to dismantle the entitlement state and the free stuff that we were promised.

perm | comment | Follow chrischantrill on Twitter | 07/26/16 5:51 pm ET

Let's Get a Few Things Straight About "Free Trade"

EVERYONE seems to be ganging up on "free trade" right now, from Donald Trump to alt-right chappies like Vox Day. They are arguing that the market is soulless, and doesn't care a whit if communities are hollowed out when the market moves on or when cheap products produced by low-wage Chinese take American jobs. Here is Day quoting SF old master Jerry Pournelle: But do understand, what is ...

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perm | comment | Follow chrischantrill on Twitter | 07/25/16 6:52 pm ET

Trump Night: What You Are Not Allowed to Say

DESPITE my disinterest in the Republican National Convention I did get to hear most of the speeches of Peter Thiel, Ivanka Trump, and Donald Trump in Cleveland on July 21, 2016. I listened through my particular virtual noise canceling device, which says that, once government has got past protecting us from enemies foreign and domestic, it is tempting us with things we shouldn't have. So most of...

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perm | comment | Follow chrischantrill on Twitter | 07/22/16 6:01 pm ET

Cop Killers Target White Working Class

I just had another epiphany. The first one this year was to realize that the liberal turn in the 1960s to race and gender politics had an unanticipated consequence. After the turn the white working class would be the poster boys for white racism. That's what Archie Bunker was all about in All in the Family. This nobody living in a small home in Queens became the poster boy for racism, sexism, ...

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perm | comment | Follow chrischantrill on Twitter | 07/21/16 6:05 pm ET

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“I Want a President”

Georg Simmel’s Sociology

Charles Murray’s By The People

Thomas Piketty’s Capital

The Spirit Level

McCloskey’s “Bourgeois Era”

Karl Polanyi’s Great Transformation

A Look at the Left: “Contra-deBoer”


House Sit-in: Dems Jump the Shark

IN A WAY, I feel sorry for our Democratic friends. As Rush Limbaugh has been saying for 20 years, they are playing out of a 30-year-old playbook, just running the same old plays because that’s what Ted Kennedy did.

But conducting a sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives on gun control while protected by the guns of the Capitol Hill police goes beyond doing one more for the Gipper. It shows that the modern Democratic Party and its liberal ...

more | 06/28/16

Cut the Cringe: Because It’s Appeasement All the Way Down

You all know what I mean by The Cringe. ...

more | 06/21/16

Orlando: You Know It Means War

Attention Deirdre McCloskey: Here’s the Big Thing about the Bourgeoisie

Mark Zuckerberg: Let Us Talk about Liberal Crimes Against Humanity



RMC Contents
Chapter 1: After the Welfare State
Chapter 2: Down in South Carolina and Out in Brooklyn

THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM among western cultural elites is that God is dead and we are well rid of him.... more

Chapter 3: Awakenings of Monotheism
Chapter 4: The Nineteenth Century From the Top Down
Chapter 5: The Nineteenth Century From the Bottom Up
Chapter 6: Popular Religion in the Nineteenth Century


RMC Book of the Day

Fletcher, Richard, The Barbarian Conversion: From Paganism to Christianity

RMC Books on Education

Andrew Coulson, Market Education
How universal literacy was achieved before government education

Carl Kaestle, Pillars of the Republic
How we got our education system

James Tooley, Reclaiming Education
How only a market in education will provide opportunity for the poor

James Tooley, The Miseducation of Women
How the feminists wrecked education for boys and for girls

E.G. West, Education and the State
How education was doing fine before the government muscled in

RMC Books on Law

Hernando De Soto, The Mystery of Capital
How ordinary people in the United States wrote the law during the 19th century

F. A. Hayek, Law Legislation and Liberty, Vol 1
How to build a society based upon law

Henry Maine, Ancient Law
How the movement of progressive peoples is from status to contract

John Zane, The Story of Law
How law developed from early times down to the present

RMC Books on Mutual Aid

James Bartholomew, The Welfare State We're In
How the welfare state makes crime, education, families, and health care worse.

David Beito, From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State
How ordinary people built a sturdy social safety net in the 19th century

David Green, Before Beveridge: Welfare Before the Welfare State
How ordinary people built themselves a sturdy safety net before the welfare state

Theda Skocpol, Diminished Democracy
How the US used to thrive under membership associations and could do again

David Stevenson, The Origins of Freemasonry
How modern freemasonry got started in Scotland

RMC Books on Religion

David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing
How Christianity is booming in China

Finke & Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990
How the United States grew into a religious nation

Robert William Fogel, The Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism
How progressives must act fast if they want to save the welfare state

David Martin, Pentecostalism: The World Their Parish
How Pentecostalism is spreading across the world


Sponsored: 64% off Code Black Drone with HD Camera
Our #1 Best-Selling Drone--Meet the Dark Night of the Sky!

The Great Arab Implosion and Its Consequences
A strategic review of the collapse of the Sunni Middle East.

Lose the Story, Lose the Culture
Michael Novak reminds how American culture is threatened by the left's Cult of Secularism

Paul Ryan's Agenda
Paul Ryan & Republicans’ “A Better Way” Reform Agenda Is Conservatives’ Path Forward.

I’m voting for Donald Trump...
so I went to see him speak. Protesters broke my nose. - The Washington Pos

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Take the Test!


Work to restore the Road to the Middle Class. Here’s how. Ground it in faith. Grade it with education. Protect it with mutual aid. Defend it with the law. more>>


The Road to the Middle Class is a journey from a world of power to a world of trust and love. In religion, it is a journey from power gods that respond to sacrifice and augury to the God who makes a covenant with mankind. In education, it is a journey from the world of the spoken word to the world of the written word. In community, it is the journey from dependence on blood kin and upon clientage under a great lord to the mutual aid and the rules of the self-governing fraternal association. In law it is the journey from the violence of force and feud to the kingŽs peace, the law of contract, and private property.


Responsible Self

[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.

Taking Responsibility

[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050

Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust

What Liberals Think About Conservatives

[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. “Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists,” she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican

Liberal Coercion

[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State

Moral Imperatives of Modern Culture

These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self

US Life in 1842

Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


©2014 Christopher Chantrill

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