|A Conservative Narrative||The Experts Agree on Healthcare|
by Christopher Chantrill
January 08, 2009 at 1:08 am
IN HER BEST-SELLING book The Shock Doctrine, lefty Naomi Klein complains that eevil conservatives have figured out how to trick people all over the world into accepting conservative economic policy.
All the recent outrages weve seen: outsourcing the war on terror to Halliburton, auctioning off sandy beaches to ritzy resorts after a tsunami, separating the residents of New Orleans from their beloved public housing, hospitals and schools after Hurricane Katrina,
These events are examples of the shock doctrine: using the publics disorientation following massive collective shocks wars, terrorist attacks, or natural disasters to achieve control by imposing economic shock therapy...
The Shock Doctrine vividly shows how disaster capitalism the rapid-fire corporate reengineering of societies still reeling from shock did not begin with September 11, 2001. The book traces its origins back fifty years, to the University of Chicago under Milton Friedman, which produced many of the leading neo-conservative and neo-liberal thinkers whose influence is still profound in Washington today.
There is less here than meets the eye. Everyone understands that the only time you can get anything done in politics is during a crisis. H.L. Mencken said much the same thing half a century ago.
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
Kleins problem is that the crisis managers in the world today arent nice compassionate lefties like her who will move heaven and earth to return the displaced underclass of New Orleans back to their lousy public housing, their lousy public schools, and their overcrowded public hospitals and free clinics. But it doesnt change the fact that even lefties cant get anything done in politics until there is a crisis.
But is there a better way? Could we reform our democracy so that it responded before the development of a full-blown crisis?
No we couldnt. Thats the short answer from Joseph Schumpeter in his great Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. In the classical formulation, he agreed, democracy means the people rule. Unfortunately that is impossible. People dont get to rule. Governments rule. And the will of the people, he wrote, is not a genuine but a manufactured will. There are the people, and then there are the leaders.
Democracy means only that the people have the opportunity of accepting or refusing the men who are to rule them...[T]he democratic method is that institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions in which individuals acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the peoples vote.
One such competitive struggle just ended here in the USA. So let us not kid ourselves. Democracy is not the rule of the people, writes Schumpeter, democracy is the rule of the politician. And since politics is the profession, the career of the successful politician,
the democratic method produces legislation and administration as by-products of the struggle for political office.
Not only that, but every government measure must, of necessity, be twisted out of all recognition by the necessities of the ongoing political struggle.
Do you see where we are going with this? If democracy is the rule of the politician, and if politicians are mainly engaged in the day-to-day struggle of political one-upmanship, and if nothing ever gets done until there is a crisis, and if politicians, especially of the neo-liberal and neoconservative kind that Naomi Klein so dislikes, are always plotting some nefarious shock, then surely the way to avoid the shock doctrine of the neo-monsters is to limit the power of governments.
You see, Naomi, there is a social system that responds instantly to a change in the facts on the ground, that daily adjusts itself to minimize the wasteful use of resources, that adjusts instantly to the expressed needs of the people. It doesnt sit around playing politics until theres a real crisis and people are frightened enough to submit to the shock doctrine. It is not called genuine democracy, it is called capitalism.
Why does it work better than political democracy? Lets ask Joseph Schumpeter. Although the game of winning elections is similar to the game of winning market share there is a fundamental difference in commercial and political advertising.
The picture of the prettiest girl that ever lived will in the long run prove powerless to maintain the sales of a bad cigarette. This is no equally effective safeguard in the case of political decisions... [For it is] impossible for the public to experiment with them at its leisure and at moderate cost.
You see what he is saying? In capitalism you get real democracy. The people rule the market by their buying decisions. In politics the politicians rule the people. But they only get to do it in a crisis. They rest of the time they sit around playing the politics of personal destruction.
Buy his Road to the Middle Class.
[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.
[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 Societya complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churchesbuilds, 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
[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
[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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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