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Palin and the White Working Class Baby Economics

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The Twilight of the Educated Gods

by Christopher Chantrill
June 11, 2011 at 11:14 am


IT SEEMS only yesterday that we saw our liberal masters, the educated gods, crossing their rainbow bridge into liberal Valhalla in part one of The Ring of the Obamalung. And very stirring it was. It’s a little shocking to wake up now and realize that we’ve run lickety split right through Die Wälkure and Siegried, with all the fun of incest, girls on horses, and dragon-slayers. Here we are already with the Three Norns on stage prophesying the end of the gods. To think that 20 hours of Wagner opera could go by so fast!

Look out, wails First Norn Paul Krugman, looking in horror at the thread of Fate. We are in danger of repeating the mistake of 1937, when the Fed put on the brakes and pitched us into the recession-within-a-depression of 1937-38. Don’t slow the printing press: not yet!

What the singing prophetess cannot bear to admit is that in 2011, just like in 1937, we are seeing the bankruptcy of Keynesian economics and inflationism. In 1933 to 1936 the New Dealers cartelized business, devalued the dollar, bailed out banks and homeowners, passed the Wagner Act that caused union wages to skyrocket, passed Social Security with its payroll tax, increased federal spending from $4.27 in 1932 to $9.17 billion in 1936. Golly, fellahs. If all that stuff won’t fix a Depression, I wonder what will?

And even if we knew, how could we get liberals to listen?

That’s why I believe that conservatives must master the liberal canon. We must argue against liberals using their own thinkers. The fatal flaw in the New Deal, ending in the misery of 1937-38, was the same as the Obamanomics of 2009-11. It is the idea that you can plan the future with a rational plan, treating people like mechanical wind-up dolls. And liberals were arguing against that in the 1940s.

I am talking about lefties Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno in their 1944 book The Dialectics of Enlightenment. All rational bourgeois business ends up as bourgeois domination, and this is already encoded in the very idea of Enlightenment, they wrote. “Enlightenment behaves toward things as dictators toward men.” The Enlightenment was a celebration of “instrumental reason,” using science and reason to do things in the world. That means treating everything as an instrument, a means to an end. When you get to using humans purely as a means you start moving down the road to slavery, for a slave is a person that has a status merely of a factor of production in, say, the business of producing cotton.

Horkheimer and Adorno are right about capitalism and domination. It was entrepreneurs from the Serene Republic of Venice that started up the first sugar plantations on Cyprus in the 13th century using serfs and Muslim slaves, according to Robert William Fogel in Without Consent or Contract. By the end of the 18th century the slave plantation had moved across the Atlantic and slave-produced goods constituted 30 percent of world trade. That’s what happens when businessmen get the power to treat “other” people purely as a means to an end with no checks and balances.

The slave planters ran into the anti-slavery movement and the factors owners into the Communist Manifesto. There were plenty of people who understood the danger of unchecked capitalist power. Immediately remedies were applied and capitalist domination was brought to heel.

But what about protection from governmental domination? Horkheimer and Adorno argued that the domination of fascism was a logical consequence of their beloved Enlightenment and its instrumental reason. But it is pretty obvious that their analysis applies in spades to post World War II communism and socialism—and even social democracy. Social democrats experience their programs as practical applications of settled social science—instrumental reason—so their government programs are just as problematical and just as likely to lead to domination as the notorious factories of the early industrial revolution and the infernal speed-up of Taylorism. That includes the power politics of Obamism and the 2,000 page bills of the center-left policy analysts. It does no good for liberals to insist that they are different because they are evolved and educated and they care. Domination is domination.

We have had legislation to curb the power of instrumental reason in business for over a century. How long must we wait to curb the power of instrumental reason in government?

But let’s get back to Obamadämmerung. After all the grand plans and heroics, the tricks and betrayals, and endless TelePrompTing, all the educated gods are swallowed up in the collapse of their citadel, Valhalla, and the Eternal Female, Brünnhilde, the proverbial Fat Lady, is left alone with her love and her grief.

Like they say. It ain’t over till the Fat Lady sings. But I wonder who will get to play the Fat Lady when the liberal Valhalla collapses on the heads of the educated gods.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

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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

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Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self

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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

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Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006

Never Trust Experts

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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

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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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