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No Dead Parrots Here Obama's Wasted Year

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The Kennedy Test

by Christopher Chantrill
September 05, 2009 at 1:46 pm


NOW THAT the last Kennedy brother has lost his fight with brain cancer, you can say say this about the Kennedys: they always seemed to know what Democrats wanted.

Elder brother Joe died a hero’s death in World War II, at a time when liberals were all in favor of fighting fascism. Jack Kennedy was a cold warrior, when liberals were temporarily anti-communist. Robert Kennedy was an aide to Senator Joe McCarthy when that was the sweet spot for an ambitious young Democrat, and a fervent liberal in 1967-68 when that was the right place to be.

The late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) was a fervent liberal for 45 years in the US Senate when all liberals wanted their leaders to be fervent in extending the welfare state and ruthless in slashing at Reagan-Bush-Gingrich conservatives who dared to offer other ideas for America.

It came to the point that you could tell if an issue was good for America by performing a simple test. If Ted was for it, you knew that it was good for liberal rent-seekers and bad for everyone else.

Call it the Kennedy Test. Do you want to nail Americans down with 1,000 page bills that nobody has read, or do you want America be a city on a hill, still a beacon, still a magnet for those who must have freedom? If you love freedom the chances are that you don’t like Kennedyism.

George Gilder has written a book about the Kennedy Test. Only he calls it The Israel Test. The test is nothing special. It goes like this:

What is your attitude towards people who excel you in the creation of wealth or in other accomplishment? Do you admire it or do you seethe at it?

Gilder quotes Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post: “Some people admire success; some people envy it. The enviers hate Israel.”

For conservatives, the defining moment of Ted Kennedy’s public life was his campaign against Judge Robert Bork, who was perhaps the most qualified man ever to be nominated to the US Supreme Court. Liberals couldn’t allow a man of his accomplishment on the court. Why, he might change hearts and minds! So Ted Kennedy stood up on the floor of the Senate and seethed at Robert Bork’s accomplishment.

It was on that day, July 1, 1987, that liberalism turned a corner and began to die. That was the day it failed the Kennedy Test. It turned its face away from hope and the future, and hunkered down like a dog in a manger to defend its privileges.

Do you admire success, or do you want to nail it down? Every day we face the challenge. Do we want to be more like the Jews, like Israel, or more like Ted Kennedy and big-government compulsion?

George Gilder reminds us that Israel started out voting with Kennedy. The Zionists that settled in Palestine were ashamed of the Jewish reputation as cunning middle-men. Instead of founding Israel on the strengths of the Jews in business, science and banking, they built kibbutzim “and put intellectuals to work with hoes and shovels.” The new Israeli government owned banks, hundreds of corporations, and most of the land; the result, from 1948 to 1984, was stagnation and inflation. Then in the 1980s, when inflation hit 400 percent, Shamir and Netanyahu began a Reagan revolution and the Israeli economy took wing. Israel began voting for accomplishment and hope. Today Israel is the “Israel Inside”Intel, and leads the world in biotech.

Then there are the Palestinians. The only time that the Palestinians have prospered since 1948 was after 1967 and before the first Intifada in 1987 when they went to work in the Israeli economy. Since 1993 and the Oslo accords they have chosen death and dependency. And dependency is what the Kennedy liberals the world over do in spades. You gotta grievance? You want a handout? Can we help you, says the international liberal elite. And they have wrecked the Palestinian people with their aid just as the liberals have wrecked the proud working class all across the western world with government handouts.

F.A. Hayek knew what to call the liberal way. He called it “The Atavism of Social Justice.” The Ted Kennedys, the Palestinians, the Obamas of this world are trying to return us to the social envy of the food-sharing hunter-gatherer band, he wrote. But the experience of the last two centuries is that every time you force the achievers to share the wealth you get less of it for everyone.

In Liberal Fascism, Jonah Goldberg has written about the kissing-cousin relationship between liberalism and fascism. But in the Afterword to the paperback edition he wishes there was another word for it, for “fascism” has become an empty pejorative liberals use to throw at their adversaries.

Here’s an idea, Jonah. Don’t call it liberal fascism. Let’s just say that anyone who fails the Kennedy Test is a “social atavist.” It’s not even a pejorative. Not yet.

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


“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


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


“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


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


[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


“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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