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The Myth of the Expert Obama and the Upchuck Factor

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Healthcare and the Resourceful Poor

by Christopher Chantrill
August 14, 2009 at 4:32 am

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EVIL POLITICAL wizard Karl Rove seems to be tasting blood. His analyzes the president’s stuff for Obamacare in the Wall Street Journal and concludes that the pitcher is in a jam.

There are no polling data or focus groups on earth that can help Mr. Obama out of this jam. He has set in motion events he appears unable to control and commitments he cannot keep.

It can’t be that bad. With his stratospheric intelligence (especially compared to the notoriously deficient President Bush) the president’s supporters can still be confident that he’ll pull a rabbit out of a hat.

The good thing about the Obama administration is that its intelligent blundering will create a new opportunity for practical conservative reform. And since the essence of liberal politics is patronage—of the kind that advanced people considered corrupt a century ago in the heyday of the urban political machine—the essence of conservative politics must be to discredit the crude vote-buying that characterizes liberal politics and that supports liberal power.

But the minute that you propose to touch a penny of the trillions of our money that liberals spend on their patronage state, the cry from the modern Tapers and Tadpoles goes up: You are balancing the budget on the backs of the poor!

Everyone knows that the poor are helpless, and that without government programs the poor would go to the wall, or worse.

But are they helpless? We have seen James Tooley in The Beautiful Tree describe how the Third World poor pay for the education of their children when the government schools are no good. Then there is Dr. Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh and his Off the Books: The Underground Economy and the Urban Poor. He describes the urban poor African-Americans of Maquis Park on Chicago’s South Side. They appear to be anything but helpless.

Although tinged with the usual liberal asides, the story Venkateah tells is a narrative of resourcefulness. Life is challenging for the Maquis Park folks. They do not get to work in regular jobs with benefits. Instead they earn a living in off-the-books labor and off-the-books buying and selling. Because their activities are semi-legal or illegal they must usually pay someone to look the other way. Here’s how James Arleander, an off-the-books auto mechanic, puts it.

First, you are doing something illegal, which means police must be involved. You have to deal with them, and you can either hide [from them] or pay [them]... And you are probably upsetting people... [so] the entire community is a problem. Again you can hide or pay, and you pay in many kinds of ways.

The big problem of the modern poor is that they can’t afford to go legit. The system is set up to force them outside the law. For the employer, it’s the tax bite that cranks up the costs of labor. For the would-be employee, a legitimate job in the private sector would terminate welfare or disability payments.

The same problem was faced by the school entrepreneurs in James Tooley’s Beautiful Tree. The only way they could keep their schools open was by bribing the city inspectors.

Here’s a concept. The real problem holding back the poor in the world today is not discrimination and racism; it is the tax bite and the regulatory bite and the credentials bite of the liberal welfare/regulatory state. The poor are resourceful and they have the will to make it. But they can’t afford to pay full freight on all the bells and whistles that the modern state hangs onto every product sale and every employee labor hour. When you insist on all that stuff then the poor have to go off the books. Then they become victims of the police, the politicians, and the gangs.

Taxes, regulations, licenses, credentials: these are the building blocks of liberal power. It’s a pity that each block knocks a rung off the ladder of opportunity for the poor.

Yet our liberal friends are even now straining every sinew to increase taxes, regulations so they can give us health care. It’s a pity that the increased bite will make it even more difficult for the poor to go legit.

Here’s a mad conservative vision. Imagine a world in which the poor got a few breaks. Imagine an America where the cost of government was radically smaller, and they didn’t have to go off the books to hide from the liberal tax bite, the liberal regulation bite, and the liberal credentials bite.

Then maybe they could support themselves instead of living as wards of the state on the liberal plantation.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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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


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


Hugo on Genius

“Tear down theory, poetic systems... No more rules, no more models... Genius conjures up rather than learns... ” —Victor Hugo
César Graña, Bohemian versus Bourgeois


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


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


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


Postmodernism

A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ’merely relative’, is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.
Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy


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


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


Religion, Property, and Family

But the only religions that have survived are those which support property and the family. Thus the outlook for communism, which is both anti-property and anti-family, (and also anti-religion), is not promising.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit


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


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


presented by Christopher Chantrill

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