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Life in the United Scapegoats of America Civil Society

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A Liberal Whiff of Panic

by Christopher Chantrill
November 05, 2009 at 8:21 pm

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PEGGY NOONAN thinks that the American people are disheartened. Recently she talked to a mid-level man in Big Pharma. In the old days, it seemed, people were confident; they could see a way through the nation’s problems.

Now they don’t. The most sophisticated Americans, experienced in how the country works on the ground, can’t figure a way out... Americans are starting to think the problems we are facing cannot be solved.

It is, I suppose, natural that when an elite is on its way out, it thinks that everyone agrees that “the problems we are facing cannot be solved.” But Noonan is mistaken. We have been here before, and she ought to remember.

In the Carter years, after the second explosion in energy prices, after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, after double digit inflation, after Carter’s “malaise” speech, we had the same liberal funk. It was an era of limits, the liberals told us. Energy was running out; the US was entering a decline; nothing worked any more, nothing could be done.

If I were a liberal, I’d certainly be feeling a bit discouraged right now. After all, how could it be, how could it be, that the nation’s most intelligent and most tolerant people are are facing a hard two-year slog to get the economy back on track?

How could it be that it won’t be possible to throw around a trillion in stimulus for Democratic special interests, a trillion in a complete makeover of the health care system, and a trillion or more on a complete makeover of the energy economy? Oh wait, President Obama has already committed himself, his administration, and the nation’s elite to all these “nice-to-haves.”

Now you understand why all the people that Peggy Noonan knows are in a funk.

But Noonan hasn’t really penetrated to the heart of the problem. It is this. The year, 2009, is the first time in living memory that Democrats have taken over the White House in the nail-biting phase of a recession. They are rookies when it comes to recession fighting.

Bill Clinton in 1993? He ran on “the worst economy in the last 50 years.” But the recession had ended in 1991.

Jimmy Carter in 1977? In the aftermath of Watergate he ran on never lying to the American people. But the recession had ended in 1975.

Jack Kennedy in 1961? He ran on getting the country moving again. But the recession had ended in 1958.

Over the last half century, Democrats have become experts in barracking from the sidelines as Republican presidents struggled through recessions. In 1969 Richard Nixon struggled with inflation and recession. Democrats were busy enacting standby wage and price controls.

In 1981, Ronald Reagan struggled with the Carter mess of 10 percent inflation and 10 percent unemployment. Democrats opposed his agenda of tax cuts and spending cuts as trickle-down “Reaganomics.”

In 1990 George Bush struggled with recession in the wake of the S&L meltdown. Democrats opposed and defeated his plan for capital gains tax cuts.

In 2001 George W. Bush struggled with the high tech recession and the NASDAQ meltdown. It took two years before he could talk a 50-50 Congress and John McCain into supply-side tax cuts. Democrats opposed his policy as tax cuts for the rich.

Well now, finally, it’s the Democrats’ turn to fix the economy.

No wonder they are panicked. They’ve never had to do it before. They’ve never had to slog through a two-year march with nothing but hope and courage to keep their spirits up. They scorn the warrior virtues and their harmless sublimation into the success ethic. So they have never practiced the art of sucking it in and pushing through to victory while everyone sneers at their “stubbornness.”

The only thing that Democrats understand is politics and force. They know how conjure up a helpless victim and and order the American people to cough up money and pay liberals to help the victim. And they know how to bully Americans with the race card.

Here is a paradox. Liberals tell us that in national defense and in policing, force is counterproductive. “Soft power” is best. But apparently force is just dandy when it comes to Social Security, Medicare, public education, and relief of the poor. So we spend $1 trillion a year on government health care, according to usgovernmentspending.com. So Americans need to be bullied to take care of grandma? We spend $905 billion on education. So Americans must be bullied to educate their children? Hello? Whatever happened to “soft power” and moral suasion?

Is there really no way out of the current mess? Of course there is a way. But there’s probably no way for Democrats to dodge a really big one-two combination to the solar plexus.

No wonder Peggy Noonan’s liberal friends are panicking.

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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