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Can Liberals Handle Adversity? Mr. President: It's All of The Above

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Helping Women Get What They Want

by Christopher Chantrill
April 11, 2012 at 12:00 am


AS THE REPUBLICAN nomination contest slogs through a messy endgame President Obama’s reelect numbers are soaring, especially among women. So what is the Republican problem with women and what do women want? NRO asked this question and discovered that women want to be secure and protected; liberal Joan Walsh discovered that women want liberal programs--to be safe and secure.

Conservative women, presumably, get to feel safe and secure if the government protects marriage, families, neighborhoods, and nation. Liberal women, we assume, get to feel secure if they have government-mandated health care and the ability to fight back against sexists. What is going on here?

Women may all want safety and protection, and men may all want freedom from tyranny, but we disagree about how to get there, about the social norms needed to create the just and protective society.

There are two ways to get humans, the social animals, to conform to social norms. You can use social control, the influence of public opinion, exploiting the human need to be well thought of by other humans. Or you can use police control, the apparatus of police and government, and use force to get people to fall into line. Conservatives and liberals prefer different combinations of social control and police control.

In the economic sector conservatives practice the faith of the Invisible Hand. Conservatives believe that most people are motivated to do the right thing in business because they can best serve their own interest by serving others with good products and services. Liberals practice the faith of the clunking fist. They know that businessmen are just waiting for a chance to go rogue unless restrained by comprehensive and mandatory economic regulation.

Conservatives believe that lower-class young men are virtual outlaws and need to be suppressed by an active police presence. Liberals believe that crime is a consequence of poverty and that police power will solve nothing.

Conservatives believe in freedom, but also believe that community standards should limit pornography and obscenity. Liberals believe in free speech but believe that “hate speech” should be criminalized. Last week liberals complained about the racism in an article by conservative John Derbyshire and got him fired; last week conservatives complained about NBC’s invidious editing of a 911 tape and got an NBC producer fired. The result? Liberals can still enforce what you are not allowed to say about race, but did get a little egg on their faces for betraying their advertised commitment to objective journalism.

You can see what is going on. Despite the fact that politics is a rehearsal for government force, politicians often fight their battles out on the social control front. In many ways, it is better political strategy to control the culture and the political conversation by naming and shaming rather than by the brute force of nightsticks and police power. Thus political generals flexibly switch between between the power of shame and the power of the state. One power is the naming of good and evil, the other is the power of might is right.

Politicians know that if you dominate the culture you can control what is allowed to be thought and said. If you control what is thought and said, you control what is done and not done. Without social control you must revert to police control--a very blunt instrument. This has been played out rather clearly in the sexual revolution.

The sexual revolution was supposed to end the social control of sexuality and the stigmatization of sexual freedom. So why has it been necessary in the last half century to enact a forest of laws to criminalize sexual harassment and violence against women? Is it really progress to regress to police control of sexual relations rather than social control?

Here we are, going into the presidential race with each side using social control techniques to the best of their ability so that they can control the political conversation over the summer. Can President Obama slam the Supreme Court, or will Americans recoil in moral horror? Can Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) dare to reform Medicare, or is he a social Darwinist tipping grannie over a cliff?

President Obama and his lieutenants obviously think that their cultural power enables them to name and shame the opposition, on sex, on race, on entitlements. But then you remember what Rush Limbaugh has said for years about liberals calling plays out of a 30-year-old playbook, and you wonder: how smart are those guys, really?

Through it all you never forget that it all ends up with what independent women voters want on Election Day. If conservatives can’t persuade them that it is better be protected by the social control of church and family and reputation over the police control of government programs and bureaucrats then we need to go back to political boot camp.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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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

Racial Discrimination

[T]he way “to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis,” Brown II, 349 U. S., at 300–301, is to stop assigning students on a racial basis. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.
Roberts, C.J., Parents Involved in Community Schools vs. Seattle School District

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

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

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.


[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm


[Every] sacrifice is an act of impurity that pays for a prior act of greater impurity... without its participants having to suffer the full consequences incurred by its predecessor. The punishment is commuted in a process that strangely combines and finesses the deep contradiction between justice and mercy.
Frederick Turner, Beauty: The Value of Values


Within Pentecostalism the injurious hierarchies of the wider world are abrogated and replaced by a single hierarchy of faith, grace, and the empowerments of the spirit... where groups gather on rafts to take them through the turbulence of the great journey from extensive rural networks to the mega-city and the nuclear family...
David Martin, On Secularization

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

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

Drang nach Osten

There was nothing new about the Frankish drive to the east... [let] us recall that the continuance of their rule depended upon regular, successful, predatory warfare.
Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion

Government Expenditure

The Union publishes an exact return of the amount of its taxes; I can get copies of the budgets of the four and twenty component states; but who can tell me what the citizens spend in the administration of county and township?
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

presented by Christopher Chantrill

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