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Public Education and The Liberal Way of Conflict Manufacturing Failure

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Renewing the Conservative Narrative

by Christopher Chantrill
February 04, 2007 at 12:08 pm

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WHAT A DIFFERENCE there is between a Republican defeat and a Democratic defeat. After 1994 and 2000 and 2004 the Democrats were apoplectic. They’re coming for the children, they roared after 1994. We wus robbed, they spat after 2000. The voting machines did it, they squirmed after 2004.

But like the sensible middle-class folks we are, we Republicans have gone home after November 2006 to do some thinking. Some have complained about the congressional Republicans. But they are politicians; they must deal in the art of the possible—this week! It is our job, especially at a title like The American Thinker, is to do the thinking, and then show the American people how to make, in the words of F.A. Hayek, “the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage.” It was the great achievement of Ronald Reagan to do exactly that, and perhaps the greatest failing of President Bush to characterize the war on terror as a grim duty rather than as a mighty calling.

What we must do is build a new narrative. Our postmodernist friends have poured scorn on the idea of narrative. The great western Judeo-Christian story is a conspiracy to justify eurocentric phallocentric oppression, they write. And they have a point.

But without a narrative to make sense of our origin and our noble destiny where would we be? We would be just like secular, childless Europe—or even secular, childless blue-state America.

Remember the great narrative the Democrats had in their glory years? You know how it goes.

Back in the 1920s working people suffered under the corruption of Warren Harding and the Ohio gang, Calvin Coolidge—a man “weaned on a pickle,” and Herbert Hoover, who sat around and did nothing while the nation plunged into the abyss. Then came a man of action, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who deployed the federal government in a program of bold, persistent experimentation, declared that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself,” and made Americans believe in themselves again with the NRA, workers’ rights, and Social Security. Then came the Age of Civil Rights! And then came the great society, medicare, women’s liberation, choice, gay rights, diversity, hate speech, driving while black, and mumble mumble, oh yes, the Bridge to the Twenty-first Century!

Something seems to have gone wrong with the Democratic narrative in recent years. It’s hard to represent creaking old bureaucratic government programs as ever young and overflowing with hope.

But our new conservative narrative cannot just be a Hayekian call to adventure. Adventure is a guy thing. Our political narrative must also celebrate safety, caring, listening, and conversation—girl things. (Why do you think Hillary Clinton’s first Senate campaign had a “listening tour” and her campaign for president is a “conversation?”)

“America has always been a can-do nation that cared. When there’s a tidal wave in Indonesia, it is the US Navy that appears on the scene first with potable water. When there’s an earthquake in Iran, Americans are there first to help people dig out.

“So when Horace Mann told us that a nation of 90 percent literacy wasn’t good enough, we set up a government education system to make it better.

“When Franklin Delano Roosevelt demanded a system to bring a bare minimum of dignity to people in old age, we gave him Social Security.

“When activist Michael Harrington reminded us of The Other America that FDR had described as “ill-fed, ill-clad, ill-housed,” we agreed to fund a war on poverty to fix it.

“Of course we did. America is a generous nation, and the American people are a generous people.

“But when after a century of government education this nation is still only 90 percent literate, it is time for reform. When the pension system to assist our senior citizens is going to eat the federal budget, it is time for reform. When a war on poverty creates a underclass of broken families and drugs and violence, it is time for reform.

“But there is a problem.

“In America there is a political party that won’t listen. It blocks reform of education, year after year.

“In America there is a political party that won’t read the audit reports. It blocks the reform of Social Security, year after year.

“In America there is a political party that doesn’t want to see the devastation of marginalized families. It blocks further reform of welfare, year after year, even after the stunning success of the 1996 welfare reform.

“A party that won’t reform education doesn’t care about kids.

“A party that won’t reform Social Security doesn’t care about seniors.

“A party that won’t extend the successful reform of welfare doesn’t care about poor people.

“America doesn’t deserve this, because America has done better. It can do better. It will do better.

“So there comes a time when we must demand, like Lee Iacocca: Lead, follow, or get out of the way.

“That time is now.

“And that is why we call all Americans to join us in our great program of reform, to break the ice jam in our frozen river of government, and make it once again as warm, as generous, and as sensible as the American people.

“Nobody said it better than Ronald Reagan in 1992: ‘America’s best days are yet to come.’

“Join us in our conversation. With your help we will make President Reagan’s vision a reality.”

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Action

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


Chappies

“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


Churches

[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

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


Conversion

“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


Education

“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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