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A Very American Hero Fathers Keep Society Safe

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Euro-Paradise Lost

by Christopher Chantrill
June 06, 2005 at 3:21 pm

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IN THE WAKE of the French “Non!” and Dutch “Nee!” to the EU constitution, every scribbler is beside himself. It’s the end of the European project, the end of the Euro, and the end of the “social model.” It’s the end of Europe itself!

It is certainly the end of something. Let us call it the End of the Garden of Social Eden.

It all started a century or more ago when the members of the European educated elite took a look at the emerging global economy, and they were shocked. Everywhere they looked they saw chaos, overcrowding, greed, and want. Something had to be done, wrote Britain’s Fabians. Instead of the wasteful competition of the global capitalist economy, we needed rational planning, worked out by “rational factual socialist argument.” Or failing that, offered the Germans, French, and Russians, who lacked the refinements of Anglo-Saxon self-government, Revolution! Everyone agreed we needed to empower disinterested experts to run the world.

To save the world the educated class would need political power—not for the sake of power, you understand, for these were disinterested experts—but for the altruistic purpose of ending the scandal of want in the midst of wealth. The new class would provide education, social insurance, and pensions out of the ill-gotten wealth of capitalist exploiters. They would protect the people from the law of the economic jungle.

Now, a century later, the Europeans are awash in expert-led social benefits and the French are voting down the EU constitution because they are afraid—of globalization! They suspect that their educated elite is about to toss them into the jungle of capitalisme sauvage and terminate the comforts of the European “social model.” What went wrong?

Who would know better than the postmodernists? It is all about power, they tell us. The “narrative” of every governing class is all about justifying its power. Deconstruct the “narrative” of the educated class of its disinterested altruism, of the social model, of helping people, or of rational factual socialist argument and what you will have left is power.

Let us try another narrative.

And Satan took the educated class up unto an exceeding high mountain and showed it all the nations of the earth in an instant. “You could be reformers,” he said, “better than all the crude businessmen and crooked politicians of the world. You could clean up this mess. You could do good.”

It was the temptation of the educated class.

The educated class came down from the mountain, and the first thing it saw was the working class, then just getting the vote. “Tell you what, lads,” said the educated class confidentially over beer and sandwiches, “if you vote for us we could give you better wages, shorter hours, better working conditions, pensions, health care, and free education for your children—and no globalization. Just sign here.”

It was a tempting offer, although not quite what the working class had in mind. They already had their own labor unions to protect against exploiting employers, and they were really proud of the friendly societies and fraternal organizations in which, without the assistance of experts, they had built a social safety net with benefits that ranged from life insurance to sick pay and pre-paid health plans. They were already literate and sent their children to school, even most of the poor. But hey, who could argue with free?

But there was a catch. There always is. The working class would not get to run the bright new institutions built for their benefit. Better let me drive, said the educated class, elbowing the workers out of the way.

Now, finally, the grandchildren of the old European working class have tired of the experts: the bossiness, the patronizing, the corruption and self-dealing that is epitomized by the unelected, unresponsive, unaccountable European Union and its centralizing bureaucracies.

But the Europeans have only themselves to blame. The sturdy working class of a thousand leftist hagiographies could have refused the offer of tax-paid help and kindly educated experts. They could have said, no thanks, we’ll keep our friendly societies and our labor unions, thank you very much, and we’ll run them ourselves without government money and without meddling middle-class activists. But they didn’t.

Pretty soon the Europeans are going to be pitched out of the social model’s Garden of Eden into the cold cruel world after all, forced to compete head-to-head with billions of energetic Eastern Europeans, South Asians, and Chinese. But cheer up Euro-Adam-and-Eve:

Some natural tears they dropt, but wiped them soon;
The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:
They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.

How satisfying can life be in the permanent adolescence of Euro-Eden? Get out and live a little!

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Chappies

“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison


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


Hugo on Genius

“Tear down theory, poetic systems... No more rules, no more models... Genius conjures up rather than learns... ” —Victor Hugo
César Graña, Bohemian versus Bourgeois


Education

“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State


Faith & Purpose

“When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.”
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990


Conversion

“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh


Postmodernism

A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ’merely relative’, is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.
Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy


Faith and Politics

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable... [1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006


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.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing


Religion, Property, and Family

But the only religions that have survived are those which support property and the family. Thus the outlook for communism, which is both anti-property and anti-family, (and also anti-religion), is not promising.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit


Conservatism

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


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


presented by Christopher Chantrill

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