|Don't Get Mad, Send Money||Anger and Politics|
by Christopher Chantrill
August 28, 2004 at 8:00 pm
ISNT it convenient that Speaker Hasterts book came out the week before the Republican Convention with a juicy quote about Senator Clinton? She thinks that the federal government spends money more wisely than people spending their own money. Oh really. There are some of us, Senator, who think that the opposite is true.
You could call it the difference between the German model of politics and the All-American model. Over the last two centuries, the Germans have come up with one brilliant idea after another: Kants philosophy, modern psychology, the research university, socialism, relativity, and quantum mechanicseven the modern army. But one thing they really screwed up: Self-government. Again and again they blew it until the worlds foremost experts in self-government thoughtfully conquered them and gave them, finally, the Rechtstaat they had been philosophizing about since the early nineteenth century. You could think of it as a thank-you gift from Uncle Sam for the brain drain of brilliant Germans sent to the United States in the 1930s.
Self-government has always been the great American achievement. We all know this, of course, but we dont really know it. Peruvian economist Hernando De Soto didnt really know it either. Then he tried to find out why the United States has a functioning property system and Peru had a profound disconnect between the formal government sector and the informal, extralegal sector. He found, in The Mystery of Capital, that back in the nineteenth century the U.S had the same kind of property mess that Peru had in the mid twentieth century.
Starting from the early years of European settlement in North America there had been a conflict between the formal law of property that generally benefited the landed elite and the informal rules, the living law, developed by migrants and squatters. By the 1820s, legal experts were close to despair. It seemed impossible to reconcile the warring interests. To the Peruvian de Soto, this sounded familiar. It was just like Peru where the informal living property law in the villages was at war with the written law of the land. How then had the United States solved its land tenure problems? The answer was that the suits had capitulated to the squatters. The landmark Homestead Act of 1862, he realized, essentially encoded the living law of the squatters. If you worked the land, the law now said, you got to own it.
Then there were the miners. In 1848 gold was discovered in the state of California, the spoils of the Mexican-American War of 1848. The 49ers discovered when they got to the goldfields that the suits back in Washington DC had omitted to provide the United States with a comprehensive and mandatory National Mineral Rights Act. Rather than throw their hands up in disgust, they set to work forming mineral districts and developing a living law of mineral rights as they went along. In 1866 and 1872 when the suits finally got around to drafting a national mineral law, Congress essentially encoded the living law that the miners had put together in their individual mining districts in the high Sierras in the intervening years.
When there is a disconnect between the living law of the people and the formal law of the suits, de Soto realized, the fault usually lies with the suits. At the very least, the suits should think long and hard before imposing their lofty ideas upon the common people.
But Senator Clinton doesnt care. Back in June she told a meeting of rich Democrats: were probably going to cut that [tax cut] short and not give it to you. Were going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good. Or the First Lady Clinton who told Denny Hastert ten years ago that, in Hasterts words: she felt if money goes to individuals and they have control over it, then that is money that the government doesnt have. People wouldnt spend their money as wisely as the federal government would.
The Clinton Way is the German way, the vanguard elitism of Karl Marx, the paternalistic social insurance of Bismarck, the one-size-fits-all way of Prussian state schools, the cradle-to-grave mothering of the social market. It is based on the German cult of genius in the elite and the presumption of helplessness in everyone else.
But theres another way. Its called the American Way, and it works. Its based on an assumption of competence, that ordinary people can govern themselveswithout the constant interference of self-nominated geniuses. Again and again, Americans have demonstrated their competence at self-government, but some people just dont get it. This Fall, lets all send a message to our overweening elites. We believe in the American Way, not the German way.
Buy his Road to the Middle Class.
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.
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison
Civil Societya complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churchesbuilds, 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
Tear down theory, poetic systems... No more rules, no more models... Genius conjures up
rather than learns... Victor Hugo
César Graña, Bohemian versus Bourgeois
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
When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of agesthey 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
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
A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is merely relative, is asking you not to believe him. So dont.
Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy
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
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
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 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
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