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Filling the Education Vacuum Disaster: When You Want Solutions

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The Lesson of New Orleans

by Christopher Chantrill
September 04, 2005 at 6:13 am


NOW WE KNOW. Your average American inner city is about one day away from anarchy. This is a remarkable achievement, when you think of it. It takes careful work to fray the social bonds so thoroughly that they can be snapped on the instant after the removal of the guardians. After all, societies down the ages have put a lot of work into the socialization of young men, by sending them off to war, by working them in their father’s fields, or by apprenticing them to a master until the volatile spirits had been sweated out of them. To undo all that takes talent.

So why, as Mark Steyn observes, were we privileged last week to attend the debut of “re-primitivized man” in New Orleans?

If Karl Marx is right that the history of the last millennium can be understood as a progression from feudalism to capitalism to socialism, then we can best understand each era through the class interests of its powerful elite: the princes of the land in the feudal era, the captains of industry in the capitalist era, and the New Class of “bureaucrats, scientists, technicians, trade-union organizers, publicity experts, sociologists, teachers, journalists, and professional politicians” in the socialist era. The quote is from George Orwell’s 1984.

The feudal barons liked a certain competence in their peasants, enough at least to gather in a good harvest, and the industrial robber barons liked their workers to develop the skills and responsibilities that could help maximize profits. But the modern elite of bureaucrats and professional politicians likes to keep the people helpless and dependent. Their power and their amour de soi—what we now call positive self-esteem—issues from the continued helplessness and dependency of the lower orders.

So it is not surprising that the liberal economist Robert William Fogel in The Fourth Great Awakening admits that

Such problems [in cities] as drug addiction, alcoholism, births to unmarried teenage girls, rape, the battery of women and children, broken families, violent teenage death, and crime are generally more severe today than they were a century ago.

Of course problems are “more severe.” All those social pathologies create jobs for experts.

For the past 50 years American conservatives have felt rather cranky about all this. Like President Bush they suffer from the disorder of mental rigidity, believing against all the evidence in an utopian ideal of self-government—even for the poor.

Conservatives believe, for a start, in the self-governing benefit of faith. Faith is what brought African-American Jesse Peterson From Rage to Responsibility. As a young man he had found that “$300 a month, plus rent money, food stamps, and vocational training” from the government was enough to fuel ten years of partying, drugs, sex, and rage. One day he learned from a minister “about human hatred and the destructiveness it brings to peoples’ lives.” He started praying and pulled his life together.

Conservatives believe in education. Back in the 1830s, Americans were about 90 percent literate, and they mostly educated their children at fee-paying schools. Then along came education expert Horace Mann with the promise to “Let the Common School be expanded to its capabilities... and nine tenths of the crimes in the penal code would become obsolete.” Today universal, compulsory, “free” government education delivers something like 20 percent of adults as functionally illiterate. Crime and the penal code are flourishing.

Conservatives believe in the little platoons. A century ago most Americans of modest means belonged to (and helped run) a neighborhood fraternal lodge that provided death benefits, insurance, widows’ assistance, and sick pay. In Britain about 75 percent of the working class belonged to a “friendly society.” Then the experts took over and turned mutual aid into government-run social services and ordinary people into recipients.

Conservatives believe in the rule of law. That is, they believe that the people should not need the protection of a powerful patron but should be able to trust the law enforcement authorities to keep the peace and keep predators at bay, living under a law that is stable and predictable.

Imagine a New Orleans where nearly all the poor belonged to the local church, or volunteered at a little school down the street, or belonged to the local fraternal lodge, or volunteered at the local fire station. When the going got tough and the salaried, tenured, pensioned government functionaries turned in their badges (wait for the movie “You Can Keep Your Stinking Badges”) they would have had a local infrastructure of little platoons to take up the slack.

But they didn’t. And that was by design. Because our modern New Class functionaries like the people re-primitivized and incapable of self-government, to remain what the American philosopher Lee Harris calls “children of nature.”

When the people are incapable, the New Class has jobs.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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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

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

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

Society and State

For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008

Socialism equals Animism

Imagining that all order is the result of design, socialists conclude that order must be improvable by better design of some superior mind.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit


[Every] sacrifice is an act of impurity that pays for a prior act of greater impurity... without its participants having to suffer the full consequences incurred by its predecessor. The punishment is commuted in a process that strangely combines and finesses the deep contradiction between justice and mercy.
Frederick Turner, Beauty: The Value of Values

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.

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

Racial Discrimination

[T]he way “to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis,” Brown II, 349 U. S., at 300–301, is to stop assigning students on a racial basis. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.
Roberts, C.J., Parents Involved in Community Schools vs. Seattle School District


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

Physics, Religion, and Psychology

Paul Dirac: “When I was talking with Lemaître about [the expanding universe] and feeling stimulated by the grandeur of the picture that he has given us, I told him that I thought cosmology was the branch of science that lies closest to religion. However [Georges] Lemaître [Catholic priest, physicist, and inventor of the Big Bang Theory] did not agree with me. After thinking it over he suggested psychology as lying closest to religion.”
John Farrell, “The Creation Myth”


Within Pentecostalism the injurious hierarchies of the wider world are abrogated and replaced by a single hierarchy of faith, grace, and the empowerments of the spirit... where groups gather on rafts to take them through the turbulence of the great journey from extensive rural networks to the mega-city and the nuclear family...
David Martin, On Secularization

presented by Christopher Chantrill

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