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A Liberal Judge Lights a Fuse What Liberals Should Have Known

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How's That "Spread the Wealth Doing?"

by Christopher Chantrill
August 20, 2010 at 1:00 pm

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CONSERVATIVES’ favorite moment in the 2008 campaign was the altercation between the Anointed One and Joe the Plumber.

Back then Joe Wurzelbacher was worried that Obama’s plan to raise taxes on the wealthy, those making more than $250,000 per year, would hurt folks like him. Wurzelbacher planned to buy a plumbing business and he was afraid that he’d end up in the $250,000 bracket that Obama wanted to penalize. No, no, Candidate Obama replied, Joe would get all kinds of tax breaks and credits for his business.

It’s not that I want to punish your success... I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.

How’s that “spread the wealth” going, Mr. President, in this summer of recovery? Time for the Fed to print a trillion or two in new money?

Spreading the wealth seems like a good idea, rather like Mom spreading frosting on a cake: tasty and yummy. In reality, of course, governments don’t ever spread the wealth. They take money from some people and give it to others. It’s more like leaf-raking. You rake the leaves together, and then you hand them over to your political pals for disbursement among their supporters. It’s a bit like passing a $26 billion bill to save the jobs of well-paid teachers and state government workers.

The Republican retort to “share the wealth” is “grow the economy.” The trouble with that is that, nine times out of ten, it means easy money, targeted tax cuts, easy money, pet projects like green energy, easy money, and “shovel-ready” projects for politically connected government contractors.

Even the conservative favorite, across-the-board tax-rate cuts, has its problems. The Mellon tax cuts of the 1920s ignited a tremendous boom that ended in the sorrows of the Great Depression. The Kennedy tax cuts of the 1960s ignited a tremendous boom that led to the recessions and inflation of the 1970s. The Gingrich capital gains tax cut of 1997 led to the tech bubble bursting in 2000, and the Bush tax cuts of 2001-03 led to the 2008 banking panic.

The problem with each of these tax cuts is that they were combined with easy money. Only the tax-rate cut of St. Ronald in 1981-3 led to a twenty-year boom. Could that boom have been possible without the hard money of Fed Chairman Paul Volcker to stiffen the Reagan tax cut?

Don’t look for our political leaders and their bribed apologists in the academy to figure that out any time soon.

So my recommendation for economic policy is “do nothing.” You could call it Douglass-onomics, after African American Frederick Douglass and his memorable cry: “Do nothing with us!” The only thing that government has succeeded in doing with just about anything, from the Negro to the economy, is messing things up.

As I work out the argument of my American Manifesto: Life After Liberalism, I find myself comparing the liberal culture of compulsion against the conservative culture of friendship. You know what I am talking about. Liberals give us an America of a million laws, compulsion and mandates, comprehensive and mandatory programs everywhere you turn, with special exemptions only for liberals and their darlings.

Conservatism is different. Against liberal compulsion conservatives offer cooperation. Against liberal suspicion of corporations conservatives offer trust but verify. Instead of liberal rigidity conservatives offer friendly compromise. In place of liberal government programs conservatives offer mutual aid, prudence, and charity.

To build a better America upon a foundation of friendship we must relax the close-coupled economy that drives everything off the government’s central bank debt machine. Years ago, after the Three Mile Island disaster, liberal Charles Perrow in Normal Accidents showed that complex close-coupled systems like nuclear plants were accidents waiting to happen. When something went wrong at Three Mile Island the operators just couldn’t grasp what was going on inside the reactor and its coolant loops. Too many things were happening too fast. Yet liberals are quite happy to run the financial system flat out to service their clients with affordable housing. In the economy, high debt-to-equity ratios are the equivalent of close-coupled control systems in nuclear plants, and liberals swear on their Keynesian operations manuals that nothing can go wrong with borrow and spend.

In the difficult years ahead we conservatives will be called to clean up the mess and the heartbreak that a century of liberalism has created. It will be a daunting challenge, but we can do better than the dead hand of the culture of compulsion and its “spread the wealth” poison. We can replace it with a culture of friendship and a government that serves the people instead of bullying it.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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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.


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


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


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


Liberal Coercion

[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State


Moral Imperatives of Modern Culture

These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self


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


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


Faith and Politics

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


Never Trust Experts

No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.
Lord Salisbury, “Letter to Lord Lytton”


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


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”


presented by Christopher Chantrill

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