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Trillions and Trillions The Liberal Culture of Compulsion

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Radical Suits and Their Suckers

by Christopher Chantrill
February 24, 2011 at 6:30 pm

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BACK IN the 1970s my daughters used to say: “Let’s play princesses!” and a grand old time they had. I imagine that in progressive families, the cry was different. “Let’s play community organizers!” No doubt a grand old time was had by the baby radicals too.

The trouble is that some people don’t grow up. It’s one thing to play community organizers in the back yard when you are a kid. It’s another thing when real lives are at stake, as in Wisconsin.

A better name for “community organizer” is “radical suit,” because community organizers are really the lefty version of the corporate suits that fly in to the plant in their executive jets, issue just enough ridiculous orders to prove that they haven’t a clue, and then head back to the FBO and the next gig.

The definitive word on radical suits came out in 1885 in Zola’s Germinal. It tells the story of the radical suit Etienne Lantier, who hikes into town to organize the coal miners of northern France in their strike against the mine owners over wage cuts. By the time Etienne’s done helping, he’s provoked the miners into violence and death, and their wages get cut anyway. At the end of the novel, Etienne heads back to Paris for his next gig after watching the miners return, defeated, back to work. It’s a beautiful spring day, and he is dreaming revolutionary dreams, of “men springing up, a black avenging host... [that] would crack the earth asunder.” If you want to read the official history of the radical suits then Howard Zinn’s hagiography, A People’s History of the United States is the book for you.

For the best part of two centuries the radical suits have been playing the workers for suckers and it’s about time they got called on it. Let us look at three ways in which the radical suits lead their followers on a road to nowhere.

First of all, it’s almost always better for the workers if they don’t strike. Strikes are good for the union bosses, of course. That is what Sarah Palin was telling her “union brothers and sisters” in Wisconsin this weekend. Strikes are bad for the workers because they usually never make up the wages lost. And, of course, the strike damages the workers’ employer. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that where public education is concerned.)

Second, the radical suits are confirming the workers in their agricultural-age peasant culture that experiences the world as a fixed pie where you have to fight for your share or get it from a powerful patron. That’s just not how the world works any more; in today’s world you get ahead on your skills and your willingness to serve.

Third, the radical suits are tempting people with the siren song of political power. Give us just a little more political power, they sing, and we will make your life better. Tell that to the grass growing up in the streets of Detroit, to the millions that lost their homes in the housing bust. Political power turned to economic uses almost always ends up as a poisoned chalice, a destructive drug that turns peaceful cooperation into the morning-after squabbles of the zero-sum game.

Now we have the radical suits joyously flying to Wisconsin to lead public sector workers on a journey to nowhere, as Walter Russell Mead laments. The government workers in the streets of Madison, Wisconsin, he writes, are “regular Americans playing by the rules as they found them.” Unfortunately for them, the rules of the Big Unit social model are on the way out. The well-paid teachers of Wisconsin are stuck in a time warp.

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit likes to tease us daily with talk about the higher education bubble. But think about the changes that K-12 education is facing. I recently talked to a high-school senior complaining about a lousy calculus teacher at his fancy-pants high school for the arts. No problem, of course, because this student was able to figure things out by watching the calculus YouTube videos from Kahn Academy. And he can take a ton of courses on-line.

Not to get too Marxist about this, but we are talking about the inevitability of a law of history. The productive forces are changing, and the social superstructure is going to have to change too. The liberal and the radical suits can help their Big Unit followers through the change or they can drive them into the ditch. It’s their choice.

Thus far, it seems like we are all condemned to watching endless reruns of W.C. Fields and Never Give a Sucker an Even Break.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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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


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


Hugo on Genius

“Tear down theory, poetic systems... No more rules, no more models... Genius conjures up rather than learns... ” —Victor Hugo
César Graña, Bohemian versus Bourgeois


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


Faith & Purpose

“When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they 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


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


Postmodernism

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


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


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


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


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


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


presented by Christopher Chantrill

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