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Why Should Freud Matter? Hollywood Doesn't Get It

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"You Must Suggest an Alternative"

by Christopher Chantrill
May 14, 2006 at 10:40 am


IT’S ALL very well to complain about the problems of the welfare state. But what are you going to do about it? That is what author and journalist James Bartholomew confronted on May 10 when he presented a copy of his book The Welfare State We’re In to Baroness Thatcher. Writes Bartholomew:

I told her that the book argues that we would be better off if the previous welfare systems had been allowed to develop instead of being replaced by the welfare state.

She announced, “You must suggest an alternative. If you say the welfare state is no good, you must suggest an alternative.”

Er, yes, thought Bartholomew, but suggesting an alternative would be a lot of work, and then who would want to read his “particular blueprint?” “You must,” retorted the 80-year-old Thatcher.

She’s right, of course. It’s the job of thinkers and scribblers to present ideas to the world. It’s the job of politicians to steal the best ideas and change the world. It was Prime Minister Thatcher who is said to have thumped a copy of F.A. Hayek’s Constitution of Liberty on the Cabinet table in Whitehall and announced: “This is our bible.”

It is easy to blame President Bush for failing to push our conservative agenda enough. But that’s not his job. His job is to defend the nation. Our job is to manure the ground and bring up a bumper crop of prize-winning conservative ideas, year after year, for conservative politicians to feast upon.

Here’s how you do political change, according to Eric Hoffer in The True Believer. First you convince everyone that the present is intolerable, unjust, and not to be endured; you make the established powers ashamed. Then you offer a compelling vision of the future. Then politicians get elected to implement the glorious vision.

But there’s a problem. Despite the outrage of schools that don’t teach, emergency management agencies that don’t manage, government intelligence agencies that don’t collect the dots and don’t connect the dots they’ve collected, things really aren’t that bad in America. At least, not for the middle class.

There is one thing that’s at the stage of intolerable, unjust, and not to be endured. And that is $3.00 gasoline. Here we have a situation set up by thirty years of not drilling for oil in the arctic, not drilling for oil on the continental shelf, not building safe nuclear power plants just like the French: all not done on the insistence of liberals. What do the American people think? They think that oil company price gouging is not be endured.

There are tons of conservative books about energy and the environment. But somehow they have failed to take. Somehow no conservative has written a book to make liberals ashamed of their energy ideas. Why is that?

There are also libraries of books that expose the meanness of the welfare state. Margaret Thatcher had F.A. Hayek to tell her that brilliant government experts couldn’t outperform millions of consumers in the marketplace. Since then we’ve had Charles Murray’s Losing Ground double-teamed with George Gilder’s Wealth and Poverty demolishing the ideas of the War on Poverty. We’ve had conservative success on “broken window” policing, stunning conservative success on welfare reform, slow conservative success in school choice, common-sense reforms fought every step of the way by liberals. We’ve had a revival of interest in civil society, from libertarian David Beito’s inspiring history of fraternal associations in From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State to liberal Theda Skocpol’s grudging admission in Diminished Democracy that something was lost when national membership associations were replaced by member-free activist groups.

But what we have not done is make liberals ashamed.

Why not? Liberals have a lot to be ashamed of. In the 1960s liberals demolished the working class when they broke the bright line between the deserving and undeserving poor and they are not ashamed. Liberals betrayed the civil rights revolution by condoning a culture of black racism in African Americans and they are not ashamed. Throughout the last generation liberals have stood in the schoolhouse door opposing reform as big city school systems cratered and they are not ashamed. In 1981 liberals opposed the economic reforms that yielded a twenty year boom and they are not ashamed. Liberals complain of a government that cannot “connect the dots” on terrorism one day and complain of government programs to “collect the dots” the next, yet they are not ashamed.

Someone must write the book: Liberals, You Should Be Ashamed: How Liberals Got Everything Wrong for Thirty Years and Yet They Still Have Jobs. Then we’ll need someone to write: You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet: How Conservative Ideas Will Bring New Hope to an America That Wants to be Great Again.

But first we had better get gas prices down and declare victory in Iraq.

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

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

Liberal Coercion

[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State

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

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.


[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


[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


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

Conservatism's Holy Grail

What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph

Moral Imperatives of Modern Culture

These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self

Drang nach Osten

There was nothing new about the Frankish drive to the east... [let] us recall that the continuance of their rule depended upon regular, successful, predatory warfare.
Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion

Government Expenditure

The Union publishes an exact return of the amount of its taxes; I can get copies of the budgets of the four and twenty component states; but who can tell me what the citizens spend in the administration of county and township?
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

presented by Christopher Chantrill

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