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Conservative Off-site: Mission Statement

by Christopher Chantrill
December 17, 2008 at 6:14 pm

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OUR LIBERAL friends are all agog at President-elect Obama’s proposal for an infrastructure program to provide economic stimulus. These are the same liberals that have been opposing infrastructure spending for 30 years because it might harm the environment.

We could respond to liberal proposals with knee-jerk opposition. But conservatives should not get sidetracked like that. This is the time that tries men’s souls, indeed. But that means that it is the time to do some serious thinking. Last week I got started with that in “A Conservative Off-site: Vision Statement.”

We must get beyond the standard positions of the conservative movement: appoint more Roberts and Alitos to the bench, oppose abortion on demand, support a strong national defense, defend the right to keep and bear arms. We should bind these single issues into a focused mission for the movement. We should go beyond tactics and define a grand strategy.

In preparing the ground for this thinking I addressed recently three deep problems eating away at the heart of our nation. In “The Rape of Honor,” “The Weight of Government.” and “The Sweating of Business” I tried to address one pervasive problem in each of Michael Novak’s three sectors of society: moral/cultural, political, and economic.

To me, these three problems add up to one thing, one festering sore on our body politic. It is the cruelty, the corruption, and the injustice of the welfare state.

It all started innocently enough a century ago when perhaps a third of Americans lived below the poverty line. Given the huge increase in wealth in the latter half of the nineteenth century many people of good will demanded that we use the new wealth to help everyone, right now.

But that was then. Today many people of good will are troubled by what they see after a century of welfare politics. It is easy to see why.

Politics is all about power and conflict. When you place human welfare into the political sector you set up a fight. That is what happened to the education of children, according to Andrew Coulson in Market Education. When the government runs education parents have to fight each other to get what they want for their children.

What do you say about a political system like the welfare state? People are fighting over education, fighting over health care, and fighting over the relief of the poor.

Let us say it out loud. There are three things to say about the welfare state. It is cruel, it is corrupt, and it is unjust. Therefore we can easily write a conservative Mission Statement.

We fight to reform a cruel, corrupt, and unjust welfare state.

What is the point of a conservative movement if it does not fight to reform the cruel, corrupt, and unjust welfare state that liberals every day impose on the American people and every day refuse to reform?

In what way is the welfare state cruel? I addressed that question at the most basic level in “The Rape of Honor.” Honor for men is the reputation for courage, for doing the right thing. Honor for women is a reputation for chastity, which I interpret as a woman’s reputation among her community of women. But our liberal friends teach young men to sneer at courage and teach young women to laugh at chastity. You can laugh at honor if you like; it’s a free country. But it is cruel to teach young people to laugh at honor.

In what way is the welfare state corrupt? I addressed that question in “The Weight of Government,” but in the week of the Blagojevich scandal, who needs to ask? Back in the early twentieth century liberals railed against the the patronage politics of corrupt city political machines. Then, in 1936, Franklin Delano Roosevelt turned the Democratic Party into a national political patronage machine. Now liberals wink at corruption and revel in the power of their patronage machine. Is that the best that America can hope to be?

In what way is the welfare state unjust? I addressed that question in “The Sweating of Business.” Perhaps I should have written instead the Bullying of Business. Liberals use business leaders as convenient punching bags, and business revenue as a kind of beverage dispensing gun that can spew out revenues on demand for politicians to spend. Today over 35 percent of national output is squirted into the political sector, and that is unjust.

President Bush told his cabinet in his first administration that he didn’t want them to play “little ball” but “big ball.” Conservatives should do no less.

“Big ball” doesn’t mean swinging for the fences on every pitch. But it does mean that you are ready with a world-class team and a winning game plan when the odds break in your favor.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Faith & Purpose

“When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.”
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990


Mutual Aid

In 1911... at least nine million of the 12 million covered by national insurance were already members of voluntary sick pay schemes. A similar proportion were also eligible for medical care.
Green, Reinventing Civil Society


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


Living Under Law

Law being too tenuous to rely upon in [Ulster and the Scottish borderlands], people developed patterns of settling differences by personal fighting and family feuds.
Thomas Sowell, Conquests and Cultures


German Philosophy

The primary thing to keep in mind about German and Russian thought since 1800 is that it takes for granted that the Cartesian, Lockean or Humean scientific and philosophical conception of man and nature... has been shown by indisputable evidence to be inadequate. 
F.S.C. Northrop, The Meeting of East and West


Knowledge

Inquiry does not start unless there is a problem... It is the problem and its characteristics revealed by analysis which guides one first to the relevant facts and then, once the relevant facts are known, to the relevant hypotheses.
F.S.C. Northrop, The Logic of the Sciences and the Humanities


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


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


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


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


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


Living Law

The recognition and integration of extralegal property rights [in the Homestead Act] was a key element in the United States becoming the most important market economy and producer of capital in the world.
Hernando de Soto, The Mystery of Capital


presented by Christopher Chantrill

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