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Eco-Sacrifice is Closer Than You Think In Old Europe The Real Problem is Fear

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$10,000 Checks Won't End the Plague of Truculence

by Christopher Chantrill
April 10, 2006 at 12:17 am


HOW ABOUT THIS British family from hell? Their 14 year old daughter Leighanne recently got arrested for drinking and driving--and it was her second offense. How did the precocious Leighanne respond to her sentencing, as reported by the Daily Mail on April 1, 2006? She threw a water carafe at the magistrate and pushed her learned counsel. Outside the courtroom the truculent youngster threw eggs at reporters.

In the Spectator the following week we learned additional details. Her parents, Nora and Maurice, were both drawing disability pensions. “Nora and Maurice are on benefits on account of his cancer and angina and her lung trouble and high blood pressure.”

In Britain, according to James Bartholomew in The Welfare State We’re In, there are about 2.7 million people on “invalidity” benefit. That is three times the number of unemployed, about nine percent of the workforce. There is a pretty obvious reason why there should be so many people disabled. It’s the money. The weekly benefit for invalidity can be about $315. With both the Blacks incapacitated, that could amount to $2,650 per month. Given that in Britain health care is “on the NHS” you can see why the Blacks might choose money-for-nothing rather than the indignity of work.

It’s a pity that such a delicious story was ginned up by the British as an April Fool.

We should only wish that Charles Murray’s latest idea was as harmless. He proposes in his new book In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State to give $10,000 per year to everyone in America over 21, provided that we each use a part of it to secure health insurance. This money-for-nothing would replace all present government pension programs, from Social Security to Medicare to Welfare to Disability Insurance.

Murray seems to think that his money-for-nothing would revive social spirit and neighborliness in the American people. More likely it would encourage truculent families from hell imagined with such verisimilitude by the British April Foolers, for Murray’s plan would do nothing to restore the social ties that the welfare state has sundered. It is merely a mechanical shifting of resources. It does nothing to encourage the little platoons.

“To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society,” Burke famously asserted at the end of the eighteenth century, is “the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections.” The ordinary people of Britain and the United States took him at his word, and by the end of the nineteenth century had built an astonishing army of little platoons despite, or perhaps because of, the vast transformation of the industrial revolution. They inaugurated new religious sects and built churches, they built a vast network of fraternal and mutual-aid associations, and out on the frontier of America they wrote their own laws, eventually engrossed into the United States Code in the Homestead Act of 1862 and federal mining law. They even achieved 90 percent literacy before compulsory government education.

But then the Progressives and Fabians came along and transformed the political culture of the Anglosphere. They promoted vast schemes of government regulation and social benefits to correct the poverty and want they saw around them. What ordinary people had provided for in their little platoons could now be obtained as money-for-nothing from government programs.

The result has been the family from hell and the plague of truculence, the epidemic of people freed from the culture of obligation in the little platoon. The truculent are everywhere: rioting French students, unionized government teachers, angry left netroots, and tenured Harvard professors. They are all convinced of their entitlement.

How does Murray’s plan change that? His plan still offers money-for-nothing, if mercifully freed from the dead hand of liberal government bureaucracy.

The plague of truculence and families from hell will not be ended by a magic $10,000 vaccine. It will be reversed by reviving the little platoons that bind people to each other in face-to-face obligation.

We should pay attention to the example of the Progressives. They were middle-class people born to a competence, their lives freed from the spur of necessity. They found that they needed something more than mere material abundance to bring meaning to their lives. They found it in work, working for a movement to transform America.

If you want your life to matter then you must matter to other lives. You will find that you matter when you enlist in a little platoon and enter the web of mutual obligation, of giving and receiving. You will not find it with money-for-nothing.

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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