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US Life in 1842 Not Exactly Piracy and Plunder

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There is Still Hope

by Christopher Chantrill
October 22, 2008 at 9:58 am


IN A WEEK when the Obama campaign started working on the transition and the important work of picking a cabinet, the Wall Street Journal helpfully warned us this week in “A Liberal Supermajority” about the one-two combination of an Obama presidency and a liberal supermajority in Congress. It will mean “card-check” union elections, prescription drug price controls, a “tax-and-regulation scheme in the name of climate change,” and Medicare for all.

If liberals get a majority in Congress like 1933 and 1965 they will likely pass expensive welfare-state legislation that can never be taken away. It will be one more turn of the ratchet, and once again Republican voters will be the ones forced to pay.

During the Bush administration, during the “cold-cock” era, Republicans offered reform after reform, from education to Social Security. Every time Republicans suggested a reform the Democrats cold-cocked it.

In particular Republicans offered again and again to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government sponsored mortgage giants. Again and again, Democrats cold-cocked the Republicans. Richard Baker is the former Republican congressman from Louisiana who “spent nearly a decade crying in the wilderness... er, Congress... that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were ticking time bombs.” Writes William McGurn in The Wall Street Journal:

"Everyone writes as though there were just one hearing or one piece of legislation," says Mr. Baker. "I think I must have had eight bills and maybe 40 hearings going back to 1996.

Came the day that drunken Fannie fell down in the kitchen and broke a hip. It was the same day that Freddie crashed the family car and nearly killed himself driving home drunk from the town tavern. Now that Fannie and Freddie’s medical bills have swept away the global financial system, now Democrats are ready to talk reform.

Of course, they are not ready to accept responsibility. Oh no. Anyway, they are having far too much fun saving the nation’s savings.

In recent days some people have resurrected the H.L. Mencken chestnut from his “In Defense of Women.” “[T]he whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.” But this is to present the degenerate case of politics as the representative case.

Politics is the means of protecting society from enemies foreign and domestic. The job of politicians is to keep us safe. It is a noble calling.

Unfortunately most of the time there is no need to mobilize society against enemies, and during those times there is really nothing for political leaders to do. That is why politicians invent stuff to do and why H.L. Mencken’s quote is so apt. That is also the reason why political philosophers invented the idea of limited government and its separation of powers. They understood the need to stop idle politicians from inventing spurious reasons to lead us to safety.

But if politicians are so anxious to solve crises, how come they didn’t turn the hobgoblin of Fannie-and-Freddie into the moral equivalent of war? It is because there is one thing more important to a politician than fighting enemies and leading the people to safety. It is getting elected. Fannie-and-Freddie is one of the reasons that 90 percent of African Americans vote Democratic. Fannie-and-Freddie is one reason that President Clinton was declared American’s first black president and the reason why Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) was able in a couple of years to become the second ranking recipient of political contributions from Fannie-and-Freddie, right after Senate Banking Committee chairman Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT).

Democrats know that Social Security is headed for trouble and Medicare is headed for worse. They just don’t care, not while those programs are getting them elected. Democrats know that the education system stinks, but they just don’t care, not while government teachers and government professors are voting for them. And they’ll keep cold-cocking reform until they get cold-cocked by the steering wheel on the day their cruel and unjust patronage machine run off the road into the ditch.

On that day the American people will be allowed to listen once again to the idea of limited government embedded in the system of democratic capitalism. Here is Michael Novak explaining it all in The Spirit of 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... [P]olitical democracy is compatible in practice only with a market economy. In turn, both systems nourish and are best nourished by a pluralist liberal culture. It is important to give attention to all three systems.

I call Novak’s idea “The Greater Separation of Powers.” It’s a beautiful idea, a glorious vision of hope. For one day, and that day may be sooner than we think, the American people will ask its leaders to make the ideal of the greater separation of powers into a reality.

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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