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Is It Bush We Are Testing to Destruction? Speak Progressive, But Win Conservative Reform

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The Democrats' Drive-by Politics for 2006

by Christopher Chantrill
June 18, 2006 at 1:42 pm


WHAT A SURPRISE. The Democrats’ New Direction for America (pdf), their blueprint for capturing control of Congress this Fall turns out not to be the call to arms, the Democratic Contract with America we were promised, but a bland reassurance to their base. It is not a message to the supposed base of Angry Lefties, but the real base of pensioned, protected, tenured, dependent beneficiaries.

We’ll make health care more affordable, Democrats promise, by cracking down on Big Drug. We’ll “crack down on price gouging,” they declare, by cracking down on Big Oil. We’ll Help Working Families, Cut College Costs, and Ensure Dignified Retirement.

This is drive-by politics, spraying the political neighborhood with bullets and hoping that one of them hits home.

But there is nothing in these headline issues about Iraq. There is nothing about immigration. There is nothing about the environment or global warming. There is nothing about social issues. We know why. Democrats are split, or they disagree with most Americans on those issues. So it is better for them to say nothing.

Democrats aren’t going to play big ball this fall after all. They are going to stay with small ball. For some reason that surprises us. But it shouldn’t. Modern Democrats shrink from risk, opting for safety, for they are the party of the great special interests that are afraid of change. But why the drive-by manifesto?

We should never forget that there are three world-historical movements competing against each other in the world today. There is Civilization, the culture of commerce and law in the city begun in Mesopotamia some 5,000 years ago. There is Progressive Puritanism, libertine in sex but rigidly controlling in everything else, a recurring conceit of well-born adolescents. And now there is Muslim Reaction, a movement that needs no introduction. There is also the culture of lefty thug dictators, a sordid sideshow beneath our contempt.

In the culture of Civilization—which means, let us never forget, citification—city, commerce, and law come together like ham and eggs and hash browns. The greatness of the city is founded on a simple fact. It does not grow its own food, so it must trade for it. Thus it must foster commerce, and as soon as commerce emerges there is a need for law, for businessmen need an efficient way of adjudicating their mistakes and their disputes without destroying the bottom line. The aftertaste of this happy meal is prosperity and wealth, every time it is tried.

Progressive Puritanism is a horse of a different color. It emerged just after the beginning of the industrial age. At the moment that the businessmen of the era were succeeding in a risky scheme of transforming the hungry peasants of Europe and the immigrants to North America into productive industrial wage-earners the sons of the middle class decided that the effort had completely failed. How right they were. Look at what happened.

The Steam and Steel era of the nineteenth century merely gave every working man cash wages and food on the table. The Auto and Electric era of the twentieth century merely put a car in every garage and offered suburban comfort to every woman (not to mention safe childbirth). And now the Information era of the twenty-first century merely puts a computer on every desk. With genuine democracy, imagine how much higher we might have soared!

Progressive Puritanism has always been a drive-by politics of well-born adolescents appalled that the world did not measure up to their high ideals.

So it makes complete sense that Democrats would come out with a drive-by manifesto that blames high drug prices for seniors on Big Drug, and not on the bramble of government drug regulation.

It’s obvious that they would blame high gasoline prices on “price gouging” by Big Oil and not on the environmentalists who for thirty years blocked any kind of energy development that did not require enormous subsidy. Any well-born adolescent majoring in environmental science would agree with that.

The chance of Dignified Retirement is mostly at risk from a pay-as-you-go government Ponzi scheme, but Democrats oppose letting Big Finance take over America’s retirement system and setting it to rights.

To Cut College Costs Democrats want to increase subsidies to help parents and students feed the beast rather than attack the monopolistic practices, the tenure, the subsidies, the waste of Big Education.

To Help Working Families, Democrats will crack down on the stingy wages and subsidies of Big Business. Never mind how the web of Big Government regulation attempts to reduce young business saplings into twisted bonsai trees instead of straight, true trees that reach for the sky.

It’s all baloney, but hey, in drive-by politics you never know when one of your wild accusations will hit home with the voters.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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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


“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

China and Christianity

At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing


[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

Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust

Class War

In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status... Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher... The academics lost their power and prestige and... have been gloomy ever since.
Freeman Dyson, “The Scientist as Rebel”


Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority — the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says ‘we should...’.
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity

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


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James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh

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

Drang nach Osten

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Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion


“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

presented by Christopher Chantrill

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