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Liberal Condescension Isn't the Problem The Back-pocket Manifesto

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Liberals Say US Is Ungovernable. Again

by Christopher Chantrill
February 18, 2010 at 9:10 am

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LIBERALS are at it again. They are worrying that the US is “ungovernable.” Political scientist Jay Cost has the details:

Ezra Klein arguedthat it was time to reform the filibuster because the government cannot function with it intact anymore. Tom Friedman suggested that America’s "political instability" was making people abroad nervous. And Michael Cohen of Newsweek blamed "obstructionist Republicans," "spineless Democrats," and an "incoherent public" for the problem.

Liberals were saying exactly the same thing in 1980, thirty years ago, in the darkest days of the Carter administration. The mess of inflation, recession, Iran hostages, and gas-lines, they decided, was not a direct result of stupid Carter administration policy. It was a sign that America’s best days were behind us, and that there was nothing to do but decline gracefully.

You’ll remember that US voters in the fall of 1980 had a different idea. They decided to elect a B-movie actor to the presidency. Yes, that’s what liberals called Ronald Reagan back then. Clark Clifford, the wise man of Washington, hadn’t even thought of calling him an “amiable dunce.” Not yet.

The Amiable Dunce proceeded to cut tax rates. He strengthened the dollar and cut government spending. It wasn’t so much governing as getting government out of the way. The result was a twenty-year boom. And now here we are back where we started, with a nasty economy, a soft dollar, a failed presidency, and another generation of liberals complaining that the US is ungovernable.

To call a nation ungovernable is as ignorant as calling an airplane “unflyable.” When Tex Johnston made the first flight in the eight-engine YB-52 bomber in April 1952 he found on climb-out that the control force needed to apply bank with the ailerons made it impossible to turn the airplane. Did he give up and bale out of this unflyable airplane? Not according to the story he tells in Jet-Age Test Pilot. He tried the rudder pedals, and found that he could yaw the airplane, and the secondary effect of yaw, as every pilot knows, is bank. So Tex brought the prototype YB-52 in to land using the rudder pedals, directed the engineers to make some adjustments, and the rest is history.

Tex’s problem with the B-52 ailerons is the same as the liberal problem with the filibuster. Liberals are finding the Senate’s controls too heavy. It’s almost impossible, they complain, to get the Senate to turn on command. So they want to change the rules to make it easier for them to do a cram-down on partisan legislation.

Don’t they realize that the founding fathers wrote the US Constitution precisely to make it hard to control the Senate? The founders wanted to restrain momentary Pelosian majorities in the House of Representatives with regional power in the upper house. They set the controls to make the US almost ungovernable—by design.

Our liberal friends have helped in one area. Their post-modern professors have taught us that history is nothing more than a self-serving narrative dictated by the powerful. Radical historians like the recently departed Howard Zinn in A Peoples’ History of the United States have made fortunes out of exploding the notion of European civilization by recounting the nasty things white European males have done to “the people” all over the world. Noam Chomsky has made himself a rich man penning screeds about American imperialism.

Our left-wing friends never seem to have thought that their narrative of injustice, which exposed the hypocrisies of the world bourgeoisie and global corporations, applies exactly to them and their progressive project.

When you look at the great government programs, you can believe the liberal narrative about helping people, or you can believe the liberal postmodernists and assume that it’s all about power. Every regulation is a bid for power; every dollar of spending is a payoff to supporters. You can make a case that the Obama administration’s program of stimuli, bailouts, tax “agnosticism” and crony capitalism is all about hope and change for the people. But in the modern age, stripped of superstition and Platonic “likely stories,” we believe in the simple, elegant explanation. Nah, it’s all about power.

Stripped of its narrative myth, every government is an armed minority occupying territory and subjugating its population. That’s why the Audi Green Police commercial is so mordantly funny. In the United States, in 2010, the police power can fine you for not separating your garbage correctly. But an armed minority does not just sicc the police on its middle-class citizens. It must reward its supporters. That’s why government spending has gone from 7 percent of GDP to 45 percent of GDP in a century. That’s why government workers earn more than private sector workers.

So when liberal wring their hands US seems to be ungovernable, we conservatives chuckle. That’s not a bug, liberals, that’s a feature.

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.
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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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