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Anti-Piketty: It's the Great Subtraction The Flaw in Obama's Phone and Pen Goveranance

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You've Been Living in a VA Dreamworld, Liberals

by Christopher Chantrill
June 03, 2014 at 12:00 am

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IF YOU ARE a conservative you look at the VA scandal and ask, what else is new? A bureaucracy faking waiting lists? Knocking off work at 3:00 pm? Covering up so that the bosses don’t know what is going on? For conservatives that is just the way that any bureaucracy works.

But how do we know that? Because Hayek? Because Mises? Because Buchanan and Tullock? Because James C. Scott? If so, then no wonder that liberals are completely blindsided by the VA health care mess. Their evolved and intelligent college teachers at their selective colleges made sure they never cracked The Constitution of Liberty, Bureaucracy, The Calculus of Consent, or Seeing Like a State.

But there is some common cultural ground with our liberal friends. Charles Dickens. We’ve all read Dickens, I presume. And what do we find in Dickens? Buried in plain sight in the London of Little Dorrit are the Barnacles and the Stiltstockings that work in the government’s Circumlocution Office. Their motto is “How Not to Do It.”

Oh I forgot. Dickens is a patriarchal Dead White Male, so our young liberal friends probably haven’t heard of the Circumlocution Office.

Perhaps, if you are a really advanced liberal, you may have read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter. The whole of the first chapter, before we get down to the cackling Puritan matrons sneering at good liberal Hester Prynne, is about the government lifers lolling around at the custom house in Salem, Massachusetts.

But liberals believe. They believe in the redemptive promise of bureaucratic government programs run by people like them. OK, so what will it take for liberals to change their minds?

If you study the latest in philosophy you know that even lefty German Jürgen Habermas is working to purge himself of the Marx in his mother’s milk and channeling bad-boy American C.S. Pierce. Sure, you go on through life with a blind faith in the lessons your liberal teachers taught you at your selective college. But then there is “reality’s resistance to false interpretations.” You can say, like young Ezra Klein:

If you ordered America’s different health systems worst-functioning to best, it would look like this: individual insurance market, employer-based insurance market, Medicare, Veterans Health Administration.

But when reality hits you upside the head and tells you that your nice little theory about health care is a “false interpretation,” because unionized VA schedulers are blatantly faking wait times, then you’d better pay attention. Because Darwin.

We are witnessing the bankruptcy of the “academic-artistic-and-punditry industrial complex,” according to Noemie Emery:

For almost a hundred years now, the famed academic-artistic-and-punditry industrial complex has dreamed of a government run by their kind of people (i.e., nature’s noblemen), whose intelligence, wit, and refined sensibilities would bring us a heaven on earth. Their keen intellects would cut through the clutter as mere mortals’ couldn’t. They would lift up the wretched, oppressed by cruel forces.

And so on. Only they didn’t. The academic-artistic-and-punditry industrial complex had a dream; the dream has turned into a nightmare, and now it’s time for Les Mis and Fantine.

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving

I feel your pain, Fantine. But here’s a 30-second-briefing for you and your liberal friends.

Bureaucratic government fails every time it’s tried because government cannot compute prices. And 200,000 bureaucrats at the VA cannot outperform 10 million veterans when it comes to searching out and delivering the best health care. And a government program organized by law and regulation cannot anticipate all the situations of real life; so any government official ends up breaking the law or the book of regulation (see Obamacare).

But there’s another issue, something close to liberal hearts. Let’s call it “the issue of privacy.”

Every government system means the end of privacy, whether it’s the IRS, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or Obamacare. The only way that a government can figure out what is going on is by making its people “legible.” It must know everything about them if it is going to manage the economy and education and health care and protect them from the banksters. That’s why 20th century governments collect data on everything. If they don’t they are completely blind and screw up worse than ever.

So there it is. If you believe in government programs you believe in killing veterans. You believe in invasions of privacy. And you believe in force, because government is force.

That’s why conservatives believe in limited government. We want decent health care for our veterans, we want real privacy for Americans. And we want to reduce the scope of government force.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Action

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


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


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


Churches

[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


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


Class War

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”


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


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


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


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


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


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


presented by Christopher Chantrill

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