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Harry Reid's Lump of Coal Repeal the Health Bill

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Lesson of the Noughties: Government Hasn't a Clue

by Christopher Chantrill
December 30, 2009 at 11:25 am


THOMAS FRANK, the >Wall Street Journal’s tame liberal columnist, experienced the Noughties as a “low, dishonest decade.” It was all corporate scandals, slack regulation, and unnecessary wars.

Allow me, Mr Frank, to propose a narrative a little more expansive, a little less cramped. The Noughties was a decade of Progressive chickens coming home to roost.

Before coming to this obvious judgment, it helps to read a quartet of articles published just before Christmas in National Review about the founding Progressives back in the late 19th century: Richard Ely, John Dewey, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Herbert Croly (Links may still be behind a subscription wall). Most of the ideas about the living constitution and the wise, powerful federal government advised by educated experts, that our liberal friends get with their mother’s milk, came from them.

When we talk about the Democrats poised on the edge of a precipice tis holiday season, we are talking about whether our governing educated liberal elite are going to make the Progressive world view, developed by Ely, Dewey, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Croly, and implemented by FDR, LBJ, and now BHO, into a suicide pact.

This world view was sorely tested all through the last decade and got its comeuppance this last year. Last month we saw the scientific climate experts exposed as conniving manipulators in Climategate. On Christmas Eve, the United States Senate passed a health reform bill with 2,000 pages of undigested expert ideas on gaming the health system with untested administrative rules and commissions. Then on the weekend, in response to its failure to interdict the hot-crotch Detroit bomber, the heaving security apparatus of the United States government triumphantly implemented—new security measures on the innocent traveling public.

These liberals, progressives, or whatever they want to call themselves next, are clueless.

Here’s how the last decade looks to me.

We had the pre 9/11federal government stolidly pirouetting around a wall of separation between intelligence agencies. We had the Federal Reserve Board ponderous snuffing out two investment bubbles and then ponderously printing money to get the economy started again. We’ve had the State Department and the Defense Department, with President Bush in the middle, arguing for a year over how to govern Iraq. We’ve had Congress posturing for years about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and doing nothing but argue about the racism of the agencies’ critics.

Now we have President Obama and the Democratic Congress hosing down the economy with bailouts, deficits, and huge new administrative schemes for health care, energy, autos, finance. Yet we are assured by Peggy Noonan’s unnamed Obama aide source, that the president “just does what he thinks is right. And that consumes a lot of his time. Most of it, in fact.” No kidding.

Over in Britain, my favorite columnist Minnette Marrin is advising the government to “do nothing.” In government, especially, there is “too much that doesn’t matter going on.” No kidding.

For years, the hit on capitalism is that even though it floods the world with prosperity, it must go because it is unjust.

The liberal, progressive conceit was that their recipe of living constitutions and educated expert administration would not only work, but it would be just.

But now we know, after a century of progressive politics and the last decade of bureaucratic bungling that they are wrong. It isn’t just that progressivism doesn’t work. That’s obvious. There’s a bigger problem.

Progressivism is profoundly unjust.

As David Freddoso wrote last week: “Big government is always for sale to the powerful.” When liberals start planning new trillion-dollar programs, all we get is a feeding frenzy.

As Dick Morris and Eileen McGann put it:

We are watching, real time, as moderate Democrats fold for tiny, dirty little payoffs to their states and their egos.

A moderate Democrat is just someone who will demand a higher price for caving into what Reid and Pelosi and Obama want him to do.

Conservatives have an answer to the unjust vote auctions of liberalism. That answer is onservatism, a moderate and just world view balanced between the unjust world of the administrative state and the cramped world of the old traditional society of the aristocracy, the gentry, and the lower orders. That’s what freedom means: Freedom from the government bureaucrat, from the rapacious landowner and the unjust employer, the freedom to get up and move to a new state or a new job.

Conservative philosopher Michael Novak writes in The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism that this freedom should be institutionalized in the Greater Separation of Powers between the political sector, the economic sector, and the moral/cultural sector.

What are we waiting for?

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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What Liberals Think About Conservatives

[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

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

Taking Responsibility

[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

Society and State

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

Socialism equals Animism

Imagining that all order is the result of design, socialists conclude that order must be improvable by better design of some superior mind.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit


[Every] sacrifice is an act of impurity that pays for a prior act of greater impurity... without its participants having to suffer the full consequences incurred by its predecessor. The punishment is commuted in a process that strangely combines and finesses the deep contradiction between justice and mercy.
Frederick Turner, Beauty: The Value of Values

Responsible Self

[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.

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

Racial Discrimination

[T]he way “to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis,” Brown II, 349 U. S., at 300–301, is to stop assigning students on a racial basis. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.
Roberts, C.J., Parents Involved in Community Schools vs. Seattle School District


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

Physics, Religion, and Psychology

Paul Dirac: “When I was talking with Lemaître about [the expanding universe] and feeling stimulated by the grandeur of the picture that he has given us, I told him that I thought cosmology was the branch of science that lies closest to religion. However [Georges] Lemaître [Catholic priest, physicist, and inventor of the Big Bang Theory] did not agree with me. After thinking it over he suggested psychology as lying closest to religion.”
John Farrell, “The Creation Myth”


Within Pentecostalism the injurious hierarchies of the wider world are abrogated and replaced by a single hierarchy of faith, grace, and the empowerments of the spirit... where groups gather on rafts to take them through the turbulence of the great journey from extensive rural networks to the mega-city and the nuclear family...
David Martin, On Secularization

presented by Christopher Chantrill

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