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A Tactical Play on Social Security Back to Business as Usual

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The Supreme Court and Little Lord Fauntleroy

by Christopher Chantrill
July 03, 2005 at 6:03 pm


BACK IN the nineteenth century they used to write books about plucky young American lads—often working to support their widowed mothers—and how they showed up rich kids as liars and lowlifes. In Horatio Alger’s Struggling Upward, young Luke Larkin showed up the banker’s son Randolph Duncan as a cheat and a cad and exposed Randolph’s banker father as an embezzler.

In Little Lord Fauntleroy, Frances Hodgson Burnett abandoned all restraint and in a tale of embarrassing sentimentality set up her plucky American son of a widowed mother to humble not a mere local banker but a corrupt British aristocrat—none other than the wicked Earl of Dorincourt. Living in solitary grandeur in Dorincourt Castle, Lord Dorincourt hated everyone, especially America and Americans, and plucky Cedric Errol, who turned out to be his heir Lord Fauntleroy, had to leave his native New York City and cross the Atlantic Ocean to sort him out.

In our day, of course, the plucky American lad is the embarrassing conservative movement and the corrupt banker/British aristocracy is the educated liberal elite sitting in its tenured bi-coastal castle and looking out with disdain upon ordinary America and ordinary Americans. In the coming fight over the replacement for Sandra Day O’Connor on the United States Supreme Court we shall see what a plucky political movement come to robust manhood can do against a debased and corrupted educated elite. It will be a rattling good yarn.

Little Lord Fauntleroy was a great friend of the corner grocer in his New York neighborhood, a certain Mr. Hobbs, and learned under Mr. Hobbs’s tutelage to be a staunch Republican who celebrated the American Revolution, the Fourth of July, and grand Republican rallies at election time. As simple American patriots the two friends were naturally confused and overawed by the magnificence and sophistication of Dorincourt Castle, just as Republicans today are mystified and overawed by the magnificence and sophistication of the welfare state: the vast universities, the palatial schools, the monster bureaucracies, and the imperatives of free schools, affordable housing, and affordable health care.

Fauntleroy and Mr. Hobbs might have been cured of their awe if they knew what we know, that most of the great houses of England were built in the eighteenth century out of the profits from slave plantations in the West Indies. Modern Republicans understand only too well that the magnificence of the welfare state has also been constructed upon compulsion—from a vast hoard of taxes collected year in year out from hardworking Americans and their families.

The keystone of liberal magnificence is the Supreme Court. Over half a century liberals have enjoyed the fawning deference of a compliant court that built them a jurisprudence inspired by three noble principles: first, that liberals should be free to follow their bliss, to live creative and meaningful lives liberated from suffocating suburban conformity; second, that their liberal clients should be freed from all responsibility and consequence of bad behavior; and thirdly, that every one else—that is to say: Republicans, religious believers, and corporations—should be held to the strictest standards in everything and should pay swingeing damages whenever they failed to deliver a cost-free world to liberals and their clients.

Viewed in the light of these three eternal principles, the last half century of Supreme Court jurisprudence makes complete sense. In the liberal bedroom, in the liberal art studio, and on the streets of the inner city, anything goes. But in the office and the corporate boardroom, strict scrutiny and detailed liberal supervision is the law of the land. And to spare delicate liberal sensibilities the Court has diligently driven religion from the public square.

Old Lord Dorincourt was a rich old man who hated the world and expected the world to hate him back. All he wanted was his privileges and an heir to continue his noble lineage. But he was overmastered by the naiveté and good cheer that little Lord Fauntleroy had learned from the Republican grocer Mr. Hobbs. We cannot expect that our Democratic friends will be so easily persuaded in the fight over the Supreme Court this summer. They will fight hard to retain the privileges that the Supreme Court has awarded them over the last half century. They have a lot to lose.

But conservatives still have an overwhelming advantage that we share with Fauntleroy and Mr. Hobbs: our embarrassing love for America. We “get into teary fits when we talk about how grateful we are to be Americans,” Ben Stein rhapsodizes in the July/August issue of The American Spectator. On the other hand, Ben’s Jewish doctor tells him, “The Democrats just don’t love America. They’ve been captured by the chronic complainers.”

That is why it is time to add a vote to the conservative column at the United States Supreme Court.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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presented by Christopher Chantrill

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