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by Christopher Chantrill
July 01, 2014 at 12:00 am
I HAVE BEEN thinking over the Cantor loss and the Cochran win and the whole question of the Republican Party divided between its Beltway establishment and its Tea Party insurgency.
And last week I read James V. DeLong’s excellent piece about the divide between the wheeling and dealing of the Republican establishment and the “values and concerns” (or V&C) of the ordinary GOP voter. His piece is titled “Why Voters Grew Tired of Cantor” but the URL reads “government-of-the-cronies-by-the-cronies-for-the-cronies.” I vote for the URL.
DeLong’s point is that the V&C of the Democratic voter and the Democratic establishment and the Republican establishment are all birds of a feather. They are all interested in getting stuff from the government, through direct benefits or subsidies or crony deals. The Republican base is odd man out. That’s because, DeLong writes, conservatives’ V&Cs
include dedication to free markets, light regulation, individual autonomy, respect for conscience, refusal to privilege victimhood, and the rule of law. These do not translate well into visible benefits for individuals, firms, or industries, and thus do not keep the vital dollars flowing into the coffers of the party, the independent groups, and the K Street lobbying firms where old donkeys and elephants go to get rich.
The Republican establishment is torn between attending to the values and concerns of its Republican voters and the day-to-day game of thrones in Washington DC that everyone else is playing. And that’s a problem, not just for the GOP bosses but also for their Democratic pals across the partisan divide.
The liberals are right. The GOP establishment is right. We conservatives and tea party activists, we are the problem. We right-wingnut racist-sexist-homophobes want to tear down the whole corrupt edifice of servile benefits and crony ExIm Banks and print-the-government-out-of-a-jam Keynesian economics and the censorship of conservative speech. All the beautiful people are telling us to be sensible, kow-tow to the liberal gods and maybe they would toss out a bit of the loot to us every now and again.
But that’s the point. We aren’t sensible, and we don’t want to be. We have a vision, a faith in a society of responsible individualism, where people rise above the instincts of power politics, of going along to get along, of cadging free stuff in the wake of a powerful patron. We want a society where you don’t have to truckle to a powerful patron. We want a world where ordinary people get ahead on talent and hard work, not by checking boxes on some diversity form. And we believe in a government that is limited in its powers.
We believe, following Matt Ridley, in the idea of collective mind, millions of people individually and responsibly committing acts of production, barter, and exchange without benefit of liberals. We say you can keep your benefits, your subsidies, and your too-big-to-fail crony capitalism.
Of course our liberal friends believe in stuff too. They believe in enlightenment and liberation and emancipation, and the wonders of a top-down administrative state run by the best people, conservatives need not apply. They think that you can get to the Blessed Isles of liberation and emancipation under the tutelage of Big Government, under a president that thinks that the wonders of government reduce to a man with a phone and a pen. Good luck to them on that.
OK, so conservatives and Tea Partiers are “the problem,” but what do we do?
We do nothing. Our situation is the same as the German people two hundred years ago. Chaps like Kant and Herder and Hegel and Engels and Marx were fizzing with ideas and wanting to make things happen. But nothing happened until the kings and prince-bishops and counts and margraves got unbalanced by the French Revolution and then badly knocked about in the Napoleonic Wars and the Industrial Revolution. Only then could a new ruling class, powered by all the ideas of the Kants, the Herders and the Marxes, shoulder aside the old order.
It’s a pity that so many of those ideas sucked.
Our job is to have the best ideas around, keep them fizzing, and make sure that the ideas are pitched to solve the problems of the next ruling class after the end of the late great authoritarian welfare state. Politics is downstream from culture.
Here we are, we awful problematical conservatives, and we are here to stay. It would be all quiet on the western front if it weren’t for us. Ain’t that a shame!
You know something else? We are the people, the troublesome people, that actually live the liberal conceit of speaking truth to power. And unless we keep doing that, nothing will change.
Buy his Road to the Middle Class.
When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of agesthey 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
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
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
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
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.
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison
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
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