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The End of Conservatism as We've Known It

I'M lunching with a liberal friend today, and I'm thinking about what I'm going to say about Trump. What is there to say?

I think the first thing is that Donald Trump has broken the Republican Party that we have had since the end of the Reagan administration. Initially, the party was inclined to concede a few things to the Democrats -- a little tax increase here, a No Child Left Behind there -- but as time went on the party found itself doing a slow retreat, with nothing to show for its good will, before the culture war of political correctness that has done an astonishing job of marginalizing the Anglo-Saxon culture that underpinned the Bourgeois ethos and makes capitalism possible.

Now all that is gone, washed out with the tide. The good old libertarian conservatism that I have professed most of my adult life is broken. That's what the long withdrawing roar of the #NeverTrump folks is all about.

It is all broken because the chief political victim of the last 50 years, the white working class, has suddenly found a voice in Donald Trump. As is usual with politics the Trump promise to Make America Great Again (in the way that benefited the white working class from 1945 to 1973) is empty. We cannot "make it like it was." The world of the future will not be a world of good jobs at good wages with pensions and lifetime tenure. It just won't.

But the world being promised by the Democrats, of benefits and privileges to the favored victims, won't be the world of the future either. I'd say that the benefit state has gone about as far as it can go -- 35 percent of GDP decided by political power -- and any attempts to boost it with new privileges and entitlements and subsidies are likely to break it.

There's a cry in the land right now to end free trade. I don't know quite what people mean by that, but the simple fact is that free trade is just a fancy name for market prices, letting the decisions of consumers rule the economy rather than the political decisions of special interests. We could say that we want to increase good jobs at good wages, but we can't do it by legislating higher wages or forcing manufacturing onshore. Oh sure, we can muck around at the margins and give out a subsidy here and a tariff there. We can ease the pain of the buggy-whip makers. But the basic proposition of global capitalism, innovation and "trade tested betterment" and the sweeping away of the old methods that use more energy and labor, is irreversible.

It is shocking to a guy like me to see Donald Trump promising to renegotiate NAFTA and teach China a lesson. In my experience Republicans just don't do that. But the truth is that politicians tell voters what they want to hear and then go off and do what they need to do, and call it what they want. What will Donald Trump do if he is elected president? We don't know. What will Hillary Clinton do? We don't know.

What we do know is that governments are armed minorities occupying territory that tax the inhabitants thereof to reward their supporters. Republicans haven't done much rewarding of their supporters recently and their supporters are mad. But then Democrats have promised a ton of Hope and Change to their supporters and they haven't delivered much on that either.

There's a lefty piece out by Harold Meyerson today remarking on the hollowing out of the middle class and the prospects for the Democrats to do something about it while the Republicans become white nationalists. The only problem is that, when the progressives started, a century ago, the US governments at all levels were spending about 7 percent of GDP. Now they are spending about 35 percent of GDP. I'd say that the progressive opportunity to reward their supporters tends to tap out at 35 to 40 percent of GDP. So there is not much more redistribution that progressives can do to attract and reward supporters.

The problem for all governments, and progressives in particular, is that supporters insist on being rewarded. That is bad enough. But they get really mad if you ever take stuff away from them. That's how you go Greece or Argentina or Venezuela. It's easy for a government to give the voters money. It is near impossible to take it back when you have ruined the economy with your handouts.

Yet the art and practice of politics is to promise people things that they shouldn't be asking for and shouldn't be getting.

The Trump phenomenon means the end of conservatism as we know it. And probably the end of a lot of other things too that we don't yet know about.

perm | comment | Follow chrischantrill on Twitter | 06/29/16 5:30 pm ET

Progressives vs. Conservatives on Power

I'VE been having an email exchange with Craig Greenman, who I emailed on a whim after reading a comment of his on NRO. Our exchange is labeled "Definition of a Conservative." His latest email puts up his definition of what progressives want to do against my definition of conservatives as not that interested in power. In Craig's formulation "both progressives and conservatives want to empower ...

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perm | comment | Follow chrischantrill on Twitter | 06/28/16 7:42 pm ET

George Soros: I Wonder What He Meant by That?

I confess that George Soros is to me an enigma. On the one hand he sponsors the Open Society Foundations. On the other he funds the Democratic Party and divisive leftist groups like Black Lives Matter. On the one hand he is a speculator and an investor. On the other hand he seems to be a supporter of the bureaucratic and centralist European Union. What does George Soros want? On Friday he was ...

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perm | comment | Follow chrischantrill on Twitter | 06/27/16 7:12 pm ET

Post Brexit: The Eternal Contradictions of Politics

YESTERDAY, June 24, 2016, the voters in Britain elected to leave the European Union. I think it is time to recall Enoch Powell, of the "Rivers of Blood" speech, who said that the European Union could never work because there is no European demos. He meant that a pan-European state required, to succeed, a pan-European people. However, the Brexit election showed that there isn't a British people...

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perm | comment | Follow chrischantrill on Twitter | 06/24/16 6:25 pm ET

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Charles Murray’s By The People

Thomas Piketty’s Capital

The Spirit Level

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Karl Polanyi’s Great Transformation

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David Green, Before Beveridge: Welfare Before the Welfare State
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cruel . corrupt . wasteful
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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.



The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness... But to make a man act [he must have] the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action


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China and Christianity

At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
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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.
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Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority — the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says ‘we should...’.
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity


©2014 Christopher Chantrill

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