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America's Real Choice The End of the Twinkies Union Label

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The Age of the Welfare State Smashup

by Christopher Chantrill
November 13, 2012 at 12:00 am


IT TOOK a day after the election for me to realize what had happened. It is simply this: the old order has ended. We have now moved into a new era. Responsible Republican Reform is dead. The new age of the welfare state smashup has begun.

In the old era conservatives offered to the American people a gradualist way of reforming the welfare state away from its administrative absolutism. We now realize that our effort was a failure.

Apart from the obvious reason that the American people were never going to give up their entitlements until the money ran out, there is another reason. Karl Marx taught us why in The German Ideology.

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas: i.e., the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force.

The ruling class can call for an end to racism, and then flog its supporters with racist propaganda; it can call for an end to sexism and then make blatant appeals to a single sex. In can deplore private remarks about the 47 percent, and then make naked appeals to self-interest. It gets to do this until the day comes when the ruling class loses its right to rule, and that day is not yet.

With the reelection of Barack Obama and the confirmation of the mother of all entitlements, Obamacare, the ruling class has welded into place the fourth wall of the administrative state, and we all now live in its iron cage. We are now fully confined and controlled by the four trillion dollar iron fences of government pensions, government healthcare, government education, and government welfare, just as liberals want us to be.

For people in an iron cage, the path of gradual change is closed. It will remain closed until the ruling class runs out of other peoples' money.

Like all ruling classes, liberals have maintained power by offering loot to their supporters. Like most previous ruling classes, they have begun to run out of loot and plunder to distribute among their supporters. Thus Glenn Reynolds:

Sooner or later, you run out of other people’s money. Something that can’t go on forever, won’t. Debt that can’t be repaid, won’t be. Promises that can’t be kept, won’t be.

That is the foundation of our hope. When the ruling class runs out of money it will also run out of the ability to buy the support of the voters and also to set the rules of the debate. But there is another ground for hope.

We quoted Marx above, to cheek our liberal custodians. Let us refer to him again; he was, after all, a revolutionary and we are in a pre-revolutionary situation. In Marxism: Philosophy and Economics, Thomas Sowell reminds us of the essential truth that Marx grasped back in the mid 19th century. When the economy changes, as it did with the textile and then the railroad revolution in the century before Marx flourished, society will inevitably change too, and the old ruling class will find its privileges challenged and its apology for power scorned. In the end the ruling class gives way to the new age.

In our age we see the big corporations of liberal nostalgia, the ones that offered “good jobs at good wages,” going broke. We see big education about to be utterly transformed by the online education revolution and the intransigence of the unions. We see big media under attack on all fronts. We now see new agile companies developing in every niche and cranny of the economy. Here's one example: it's a company that makes specialized cameras for inspecting nuclear reactors. How big a company? Just a man, his wife, and the UPS truck. Everything, from marketing to fabrication, is contracted out.

So really it doesn't matter how well President Obama anathematizes his opponents or how he rearranges the deck-chairs of spending and taxes on the beach under the fiscal cliff. If the “bigs” of the old industrial economy--corporate factories, educational factories, and media factories--are being transformed before our very eyes then it won't be long before the same thing happens to the biggest big of them all, the big government social program factory.

It's not just that the money will run out and the promises won't be kept. The economy is changing, and so will our national politics.

That is why we are looking at the age of the welfare state smashup.

There is a downside, and it is a big one. It might take a while to recover from the smashup, like it did after the Roman Empire ran out of money.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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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

Mutual Aid

In 1911... at least nine million of the 12 million covered by national insurance were already members of voluntary sick pay schemes. A similar proportion were also eligible for medical care.
Green, Reinventing Civil Society


“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

Living Under Law

Law being too tenuous to rely upon in [Ulster and the Scottish borderlands], people developed patterns of settling differences by personal fighting and family feuds.
Thomas Sowell, Conquests and Cultures

German Philosophy

The primary thing to keep in mind about German and Russian thought since 1800 is that it takes for granted that the Cartesian, Lockean or Humean scientific and philosophical conception of man and nature... has been shown by indisputable evidence to be inadequate. 
F.S.C. Northrop, The Meeting of East and West


Inquiry does not start unless there is a problem... It is the problem and its characteristics revealed by analysis which guides one first to the relevant facts and then, once the relevant facts are known, to the relevant hypotheses.
F.S.C. Northrop, The Logic of the Sciences and the Humanities


“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

Democratic Capitalism

I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all. In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness... But to make a man act [he must have] the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action


[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


“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

Living Law

The recognition and integration of extralegal property rights [in the Homestead Act] was a key element in the United States becoming the most important market economy and producer of capital in the world.
Hernando de Soto, The Mystery of Capital

presented by Christopher Chantrill

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