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I Just Can't Take the Liberal Melodramas Any More What Price Limited Government?

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The Difference Between Them and Us

by Christopher Chantrill
April 26, 2009 at 3:19 pm

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AS I WALKED through the tea party-goers in Seattle’s Westlake Park last on Wednesday, April 15, I couldn’t help noticing the difference between the people there assembled and the people you see on TV.

We are talking about the kind of people you see on the news, on the prime-time shows, and in commercials.

The people who had peaceably assembled to discuss a petition of the government for a redress of grievances were ordinary citizens, living their lives as mothers and fathers in families and businesses and churches. People like us want limited government and we want liberty because we want to live our lives independent of the government and its force.

But the people you see on TV are different. They live, as Charles Taylor would say in his Secular Age, in the Age of Authenticity. They are “expressive individualists.” Here is what he means.

I mean the understanding of life which emerges with the Romantic expressivism of the late-eighteenth century, that each one of us has his/her own way of realizing our humanity, and that it is important to find and live out one’s own, as opposed to surrendering to conformity with a model imposed on us from outside, by society, or the previous generation, or religious or political authority.

In more sophisticated terms, Taylor echoes the injunction of Joseph Campbell to “follow your bliss “ or, more crudely, “do your own thing.”

Everyone on TV is living in the Age of Authenticity. They are all acting the part of the Romantic expressivist, going their own way, way above the pedestrian conformist.

Romantic expressivism is great fun in its way. Lord Byron was “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” Walter Pater burned with “a hard, gem-like flame.” The Bloomsbury set in Britain, scions of the haute bourgeoisie, felt it a duty to resist bourgeois codes and standards and come out as homosexuals. Sartre and Beauvoir made the expressivist ethos into a French orthodoxy, Existentialism.

But when the Sixties came along and the newly educated baby boomers turned authenticity into a mass phenomenon, we turned a corner. Authentic individualism is one thing when it’s practiced by a rich elite. Who cares if a bunch of rich kids burn up their lives on the off-chance that they could be the next Warhol or Scorcese? But when millions of people do it, then we have a problem.

We have a problem because 97.2 percent of artists (or thereabouts) don’t make money at it. That’s not surprising. When you follow your bliss, the chances are that you won’t be adding to anyone else’s bliss any time soon, and that means it’s not likely that anyone will want to pay you. Perhaps your mother will be willing to provide what Stanley and Danko in The Millionaire Next Door call “economic outpatient care.” But maybe she won’t.

People have a canny way of figuring out how to make ends meet. The authentic expressivists are no different. If people won’t pony up the money to support their creative projects voluntarily, then the only sensible thing thing to do is to force them. Government should provide grants and funding to creative people: it’s only simple justice.

All sorts of things about our age start to make sense when you get inside the head of the authentic expressivist. Abortion, for example. You really can’t allow an unexpected pregnancy to divert you from your own way. You can’t expect someone to soldier on in an uninspiring marriage when they could be following their bliss with someone more compatible. You can’t really expect someone to pay for their kid’s health care when they could get S-CHIP and spend the savings on their creative development.

Do you see now why liberals hate conservatives with such a passion? See why liberals scorn the warrior ethic, the faithful spouse ethic, the volunteer ethic, the pro-life ethic, the natalist ethic? Conservatives think that, while the creative life is a wonderful thing, it ought to be kept in perspective. Children come first. Entree comes before dessert. Do the right thing, not the easy thing. To the authentic expressivist, that is intolerable.

Now you understand why the Democrats and their bribed apologists in the MSM were so quick to sneer at the Tea Party-ers. Limited government, lower taxes, reduced spending and all that are like a stake through the heart of the Age of Authenticity.

The authentic people on TV are the commercial for the authentic life. But in the small print, it says that someone has to pay for all that authenticity, and that someone is you.

That’s why people are gathering together in Tea Parties all over the nation. They look at the commercial and the fine print and say: this doesn’t add up.

Like I said. Liberals and the folks they present on TV are different from you and me. They don’t want to surrender to “a model imposed on [them] from outside, by society, or the previous generation, or religious or political authority.” They just want to impose their model on everyone else.

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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