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The March of Educational Folly Milton Friedman, American Hero

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The Illusion of a "Neat-and-Tidy" World

by Christopher Chantrill
November 12, 2006 at 12:00 am


THE PROBLEM with government education, according to James Tooley in Reclaiming Education, is its addiction to “neat-and-tidy” solutions. The government experts and bureaucrats, not to mention the voters, all want things neatly tied down with comprehensive, mandatory national policies and procedures. Only the world doesn’t work that way.

The same goes for the War on Terror, as President Bush and the Republicans now understand. We thought that with a couple of years of effort by the State and Defense Departments we could bring a “neat-and-tidy” democracy to Iraq.

Last week the voters told the Republicans that their “neat-and-tidy” foreign policy wasn’t working. So they sent Republican-in-Name-Only Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island down from the United States Senate and elected a bunch of Democrats who ran as Republicans-In-All-But-Name, folks like Brad Ellsworth who said, according to Terence P. Jeffrey, that he offered voters

A lifetime of Hoosier values, a southwest Indiana native, Brad Ellsworth knows faith and family comes first... Opposes abortion, and supports traditional marriage... a hunter who supports the Second Amendment, who will fight to protect our kids from violence and filth on TV and the Internet.

What a brilliant stroke the Democrats achieved. They have been telling us for a generation that traditional family, religion, and abortion are nothing but bigotry, racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. Now they want in on the family-values action.

Despite the glee of the Kos you can’t help feeling that there is a disconnect here that is going to come back and give someone a nasty shock.

But whatever we do, let’s not blame the voters.

The fact is that after a long night of love with the voters in which Republicans had rescued the US economy, won the Cold War, reversed the crime wave in the cities, cut the welfare rolls in half, stopped a nasty economic meltdown in its tracks, and boldly confronted a new world threat, in the cold light of dawn Republicans can’t get it up any more.

You don’t like the look of that Democrat skulking out in the parking lot? No, but listen to him talk about his Hoosier values.

You say that Republicans still need the time to convert the failed government schools into healthy for-profit education. We still need to convert the slum of government welfare into thriving mutual-aid associations. We need to wind down Social Security and replace it a genuine savings program in which the savings of the elderly create jobs for the young rather than the current system in which the elderly extract pensions by force from the young with their votes. And only Republicans are serious about fighting the War on Terror.

But Republicans are tired, and the voters are restless.

For one thing, as Peggy Noonan writes, it is time for the other guys to have a try.

We are in a 30-year war. It is no good for it to be led by, identified with, one party. It is no good for half the nation to feel estranged from its government’s decisions. It’s no good for us to be broken up more than a nation normally would be.

She’s right. It is no good for the Republicans to try and reform the welfare state with pure political power in the teeth of truculent opposition from the Democrats. Ultimately, we must persuade the Democrats that the old order cannot go on, that the common school model of 1840, the Social Security model of 1935, and the War on Poverty model of 1965 are tearing the social fabric of the nation apart. And we must help them see that it is the very “little people” they claim to represent who are most damaged by the “neat-and-tidy” model favored by the education bureaucrats, the superannuation experts, and the social-services managers.

Oh? You say that Peggy was talking about the War on Terror?

Anyway, the Democrats aren’t ever likely to submit to persuasion from Republicans. They know that they are more educated, more sophisticated than Republicans. They aren’t going to give up on the welfare state until things get a lot worse.

Eventually they will realize that the two 30 year wars, the war on terror and the struggle to reform of the welfare state are not two struggles but one. That’s the meaning of Mark Steyn’s America Alone.

Reform Islam, Steyn advises. To do that we’ll have to heal the welfare state: its rotted families, its moral squalor, and its collapsing demographics.

A good start would be To Empower People, as recommended by Peter L. Berger, Richard John Neuhaus, and Michael Novak. The idea is to encourage ordinary people build their lives around messy “mediating structures” such as family, church, and voluntary associations and make them serve as shelters from the power of the neat-and-tidy “megastructures” of big government and big business.

But no 30 year struggle is going to be “neat and tidy.”

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


“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

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

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


“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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