|Return to Self-Government||Government and Failure|
by Christopher Chantrill
September 18, 2004 at 8:00 pm
IS THIS it? Are we right now in the middle of the great realignment election, the generational political earthquake of which weve heard tell? Its too soon to know, of course, but to put things in 1940 terms: if I were the French candidate I would be concerned about reports of suspiciously intense firefights at the Meuse river crossings. What if they turned into something big?
All year, the Democratic guns have been firing away at the Bushies. And boy, did they have artillery. There were the regular heavy howitzers from the DNC; there was Colonel Soross 527th Artillery Regiment. There was the Big Bertha from the 9/11 Michael Moore Battalion, and General Rather with three big army corps from the Mainstream Media Army.
But after the smoke cleared and Candidate John Kerry reported for duty back in July, it became clear that the furious bombardment of the Bush positions achieved very little. Then the Republican counterattack began.
First off, a diversionary action by a Swift Boat Vet infiltration squad wrong-footed the French headquarters, and then the Republican convention attack achieved remarkable success, with Rudy Giulani invoking the spirit of 9/11; John McCain reminding us all that the War on Terror is serious business; Arnold Schwarzenegger telling Americas immigrants not to be scared, but they could be crypto-Republicans; Laura Bush reminded Americas women that Republicans are thinking about the thousand-and-one dilemmas that they are pondering. Then came the surprise attack right up the gut from ex-Marine Zell Miller that rocked Democrats back on their heels: Democrats in general, he said, and John Kerry in particular were wrong on defense. Then came an understated demonstration of adult competence from Dick Cheney and a tableau featuring President Bush, a steady but human leader, framed in the middle of a sea of adoring delegates. After it was over, the president was up ten points in the polls. Something had changed, something big.
Its about time. Weve been playing Democratic one-size-fits-all politics for the last 70 years, enacting comprehensive and mandatory national programs for everything imaginable. But for the past generation Democrats have been promising comprehensive universal national health insurance, and they just havent been getting traction. Maybe it is because Americans already have health care. (Yes, senator, you are right. Not every American has health insurance but then insurance doesnt make sense unless you have assets to protect, does it?)
Suppose what Americans want is a government that is there when they need it, a government that sets down clearly marked life highways, and then gets out of the way to let them get on with it? Thats the bet that Bush and Co. are making. They know that they have to take a risk if they want to change the rules of American politics. So they are proposing an ownership society in which people will get to own their lives instead of have them dependent on the government, its experts, its activists, and its politicians.
Is that what the American people really want? Correction. Is that what a majority of the voters in Election 2004 want? Nobody knows. Thats why we have elections. Each party throws up its vision of the future, its hopes and its fears, and the American people get to choose.
But the Democrats have a problem. They are on defense. Its the result of holding the reins of power for all those years. After legislating so many programs to reward its supporters over so many years, they are finding that any change, any alteration in government policy is likely to hurt their loyal supporters. You have to feel sorry for the Democrats. Sooner or later, Social Security and Medicare are going to smash up in red ruin. Nobody knows how it will happen. Maybe the young generation will refuse to pay up. Maybe the immigrants brought in to do the work once performed by retired baby-boomers will rise up and overthrow the government. Maybe the government will dissolve in a great inflation. Until then, the Democrats will defend their programs to the last taxpayer.
But Bush and Co. have taken a bold decision. They have decided to stop worrying about how to pay for the welfare state. The welfare state is the Democrats baby. They made it; let them look after it.
For the rest of us, they offer a life of adventure. At home, they offer the adventure of starting a business, making a family, making decisions and seeing them through. In the world, they champion the world-historical middle class against its current enemies: the radical Islamist reactionaries that want to return to a caliphate in which everything is inside the House of Islam, nothing is outside the House of Islam, and nothing is against the House of Islam, and the radical progressives who want everything in the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state, just like Mussolini always said.
Buy his Road to the Middle Class.
[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.
[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 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
[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
[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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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