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President Bush and the Mandate of Heaven

by Christopher Chantrill
October 31, 2005 at 3:28 am


AFTER A week in which the combat deaths in Iraq reached 2,000, the Harriet Miers nomination collapsed, and Vice-President Cheney’s chief of staff was indicted, can anyone doubt that Bush administration has lost the Mandate of Heaven?

Well, it depends whose side you are on.

Back in the good old days when China was ruled by the Son of Heaven the falterings and disasters of an aging dynasty were interpreted by the Chinese to mean that the emperor had lost the Mandate of Heaven.

In modern America our professional journalists have a much better system of divining the Mandate of Heaven. They look at a scientific opinion poll of the president’s popularity and divine from that whether he should now be considered a “lame duck.”

In The Wall Street Journal last Friday, a Rorschach blot graph of the president’s approve/disapprove rating tagged “Reversed Fortune” was prominently displayed in the middle of a front-page article about the administration’s troubles and that “Bush Has Little Margin of Error.”

Probably the biggest problem the Bush administration faces is the weather. It certainly figured in the history of the Chinese. But for the weather Americans would probably be subjects of the global Chinese Empire. Back in 1421: The Year that China Discovered America, according to retired submarine officer Gavin Menzies, the Ming emperor Zhu Di sent out at enormous expense a vast fleet of thousands of ships to explore the world. It was a bold stroke that might have changed the world.

But two months after the fleet set sail lightning struck an imperial palace and started a fire that burned most of the newly-built Forbidden City to the ground. The disaster triggered insubordination in the imperial bureaucracy and rebellions on the frontiers. When the ships straggled back years later after sailing around the world, Emperor Zhu Di was dead. Under his frightened successor China turned inward and rejected the risk of imperialism and adventure.

Just as the emperor Zhu Di seemed helpless to prevent the destruction of the imperial palace, George W. Bush seems unable to prevent the current plague of hurricanes. In the disaster of Hurricane Katrina Democratic politicians were shocked that the federal government hesitated for days before rushing in to save the people of New Orleans from the incompetence of their state and local governments. Abbots of prestigious environmental monasteries recited from their global warming testaments and preached that hurricanes were the wages of sin, the consequence of overconsumption of nonrenewable resources. (However, global experts agree that the notion that the hurricanes were God’s punishment for the moral decline in modern society is extreme right-wing religious bigotry).

President Bush is also in trouble because he has seemed helpless to prevent other, less natural, disasters. He has seemed helpless to prevent gasoline prices from doubling over the past year, never mind that his political opponents work tirelessly to prevent the development of hydrocarbon energy resources and infrastructure. He is also seems helpless to prevent uncontrolled immigration, never mind that his political opponents work tirelessly to prevent enforcement of existing laws to identify and deport illegal immigrants.

These failures would be devastating were it not for the president’s remarkable achievements. In the face of a dangerous collapse in the capital markets he dodged a depression with vigorous tax rate cuts and low interest rates. In the face of a bold attack on the nation’s financial center he launched a military expedition that has freed 50 million people from brutal tyranny. In reckless disregard of global educated opinion he has planted and watered seedlings of consensual politics in a region that knew only the arid desert of political terror.

No empire—or political movement—loses the Mandate of Heaven until its leaders and supporters start to lose faith in their sacred mission. The Democratic Party lost its New Deal mandate in the long decade of the Sixties when it lost interest in containing communism and lost its faith in expert-led social and economic policymaking in the twin debacles of the Great Society and the Carter inflation. The Democratic Party of FDR and “Happy Days are Here Again” would never have surrendered the presidency in 1980 to a Hollywood “B” movie actor.

After a quarter-century of triumphs, from Reagan tax rate cuts to welfare reform to Bush tax rate cuts, from victory in the cold war to freedom for 50 million in the heart of the tyrannical Middle East, President Bush’s supporters feel confirmed in their conservative faith.

Only a partisan Democrat or a willing accomplice in the media could interpret the current crisis to mean that the conservative movement or the Republican Party is close to a crack-up or that President Bush has lost the Mandate of Heaven.

On the contrary, Republicans are spoiling for a fight—for the soul of the Supreme Court.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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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

Mutual Aid

In 1911... at least nine million of the 12 million covered by national insurance were already members of voluntary sick pay schemes. A similar proportion were also eligible for medical care.
Green, Reinventing Civil Society


“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

Living Under Law

Law being too tenuous to rely upon in [Ulster and the Scottish borderlands], people developed patterns of settling differences by personal fighting and family feuds.
Thomas Sowell, Conquests and Cultures

German Philosophy

The primary thing to keep in mind about German and Russian thought since 1800 is that it takes for granted that the Cartesian, Lockean or Humean scientific and philosophical conception of man and nature... has been shown by indisputable evidence to be inadequate. 
F.S.C. Northrop, The Meeting of East and West


Inquiry does not start unless there is a problem... It is the problem and its characteristics revealed by analysis which guides one first to the relevant facts and then, once the relevant facts are known, to the relevant hypotheses.
F.S.C. Northrop, The Logic of the Sciences and the Humanities


“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

Democratic Capitalism

I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all. In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


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


[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm


“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

Living Law

The recognition and integration of extralegal property rights [in the Homestead Act] was a key element in the United States becoming the most important market economy and producer of capital in the world.
Hernando de Soto, The Mystery of Capital

presented by Christopher Chantrill

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