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Not Exactly Piracy and Plunder The Rape of Honor

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Hope and Change in the Real World

by Christopher Chantrill
November 07, 2008 at 9:35 am


BY THE TIME you read this, I’ll have voted for Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) for president. Oh, I know, it’s a meaningless vote. I’m voting in Washington State, where RealClearPolitics.com had Obama up by 13 points over the weekend. Of course, I’ll have voted for Republican Dino Rossi for Governor, and that race was a lot closer with Democrat incumbent Christine Gregoire up by only 2 points in the RCP average.

Conservative that I am, I wanted Sen. Obama to win for the sake of “political hygiene.” Politics in my view is not a rational discussion of the issues or an exciting experience of hope and change but, to paraphrase Clausewitz, civil war by other means. That’s why you need to throw the rascals out and clean house every eight years. It helps avoid conspiracy theories and civil war.

Of course, I’m not expecting Sen. Obama to deliver on hope and change, let alone on “transforming the world.”

You can’t deliver on hope and change when you have a vast government apparatus eating up 35 percent of gross domestic product and your program is to increase it. Here are the projected numbers for fiscal year 2009, according to usgovernmentspending.com.

Pension Industrial Complex: 5.9% GDP
Medical Industrial Complex: 6.4% GDP
Education Industrial Complex: 5.8% GDP
Military Industrial Complex: 5.4% GDP
Welfare Industrial Complex: 3.1% GDP

Yep, that military industrial complex doesn’t look quite as big and frightening today as it did in 1961 when President Eisenhower first mentioned it.

With so much money sloshing around you’d think that there would be plenty in there for change—to look after seniors, to cure the sick, and educate the children. After all, the Pentagon is fighting a couple of foreign wars on its share of the national product. But Sen. Obama doesn’t think so. He’s not proposing to change very much. He is more into increases. He proposes to increase the size of the medical industrial complex to extend health insurance to the 50 million uninsured. He’s proposing to increase the size of the education industrial complex by introducing universal pre-kindergarten to pre-schoolers. And he’s proposing to increase the size of the welfare industrial complex by giving “tax cuts” to people who don’t pay federal income tax.

They say that Sen. Obama has a first-class intellect joined to a first-class temperament. But what do intellect and temperament have to do with another mindless Big Push to increase the size of the welfare state?

Perhaps he can avoid the failures that happened on President Bush’s watch. There was the failure to warn about 9/11, the failed post-war strategy in Iraq, the failed response to Hurricane Katrina, and the present financial crisis brought on by excessive leverage both at investment banks and at Fannie and Freddie. Democrats have done a good job pinning all this on the incompetence of the Bush administration, and the international media have agreed with them. No doubt an Obama administration’s “first-class intellect joined to a first-class temperament” would have avoided these disasters.

Or maybe not. It is hard to imagine the US intelligence establishment performing any differently under a President Gore or that Democrats would have responded differently to Hurricane Katrina, since it was Democrats at the state and local level that contributed to mightily to the sluggishness of government’s response to the disaster. And it is Democrats who stood in the door at Fannie/Freddie year after year opposing reform.

Let’s be honest. Every government program starts in a blaze of hope and change. Then the program starts to run down. Time passes and needs change. The program’s assumptions and administrative policies drift further and further from reality, but the program managers lack the mandate or the will to reform it. Eventually the program runs off the road into the ditch and the disaster attracts, finally, the notice of elected politicians.

Sen. Obama has not campaigned on reforming the mess of government health care; he has campaigned to extend it. Sen. Obama has not campaigned on reform of the education industrial complex; he has campaigned to extend it. Sen. Obama has not campaigned to simplify and rationalize the complicated US federal tax system; he has campaigned to complicate it with new wrinkles and new credits.

This is not a moment of hope and change, or a moment that will transform the world. This is just the prelude to new disasters as more and more government programs unreformed for twenty, fifty, or—in the case of public education—over a hundred years run off the road into the ditch.

Conservatives believe that the failure of government programs is built into their very nature. We believe that the best we can hope for with government is to run a few simple programs very badly.

It’s obvious that Sen. Obama doesn’t agree with conservatives. But we can all hope that he will change. If he doesn’t, we can always replace him with another politician—in the interest of political hygiene.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

US Life in 1842

Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism

Society and State

For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008

Faith and Politics

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable... [1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006

Never Trust Experts

No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.
Lord Salisbury, “Letter to Lord Lytton”

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

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”

presented by Christopher Chantrill

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