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Liberals, You're Doing Too Much!

by Christopher Chantrill
January 02, 2005 at 11:03 am


AFTER spending Christmas Day in a liberal home I can report that this was not a Happy Holiday for liberals.  There was at least one thing to celebrate though: the courage of San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom in standing up to the bigots and allowing people to do what comes naturally: fall in love and get married.

Otherwise things did not look too good to my liberal neighbors.  They saw hate everywhere they turned; one woman admitted to waking up most days and wanting to cry.  How could Americans elect a president like George W. Bush?  It just didn’t make sense.  After all liberals had done for America, from common schools to labor laws to health care to civil rights, how could they?

Exactly.  I couldn’t have said it better myself.  Liberals have “done” a lot for America, there’s no doubt of that.  Maybe, here and there, they’ve even done a bit too much for the nation.  Let’s take education, for starters.

Back in the 1830s, the United States had a rather ramshackle system of education: urban academies, “old field” rural schools, public schools, and charity schools.  But 90 percent of Americans were literate, so something was getting done.  Then along came enlightened Horace Mann with a plan to centralize and rationalize education using state funding and state superintendents.  He took a trip to Prussia to inspect its uniform compulsory government school system and saw that it was good.  A century and a half later studies show that 20 to 30 percent of American adults cannot read a bus schedule or fill in an employment application.  Yet for at least a century liberal government experts have had complete control of the nation’s education.  Just what exactly have liberals “done” for education?

A century ago both the United States and Britain had a vibrant social safety net funded and run by ordinary people.  The Manchester Union of Oddfellows, the Elks, the Moose, the Sons of Italy, and many more provided sick pay, death benefits, pre-paid health insurance, job referrals, and even orphanages and old-age homes to their members.  Then in Britain along came Lloyd George and marginalized the friendly societies with National Insurance; in the United States along came the New Deal and replaced neighborly mutual-aid with the rule of the experts.  Instead of ordinary people helping their neighbors, liberals substituted expert credentialed social workers and government programs.  Today, as economist Robert William Fogel has admitted in The Fourth Great Awakening, many social problems such as “drug addiction, alcoholism, births to unmarried teenage girls, rape, the battery of women and children, broken families, violent teenage death, and crime are generally more severe today than they were a century ago.”  What have all those programs and expert social workers “done” for America?

In the nineteenth century, ordinary Americans got to make the law themselves.  That’s what Peruvian Hernando De Soto found out researching his Mystery of Capital.  The landmark Homestead Act of 1862 was a codification of the living law that had been developed over decades by ordinary American farmers in defiance of the great and the good.  When the Forty-Niners arrived in California in the gold rush they found that the United States did not have any mining laws.  So they formed their own mineral districts, electing their own officers, and developed their own rules about mineral rights.  Twenty years later Congress finally got around to writing a federal mining law and codified, in large measure, the law developed by the rough hewn miners of 1849.  Today liberals don’t want ordinary Americans anywhere close to the law.

Curiously, there is one area of national life where liberals have not done too much: religion.  In the early nineteenth century, ordinary Americans built the Methodist Church; later on ordinary Americans built the Catholic Church.  In the twentieth century Americans built the Church of Latter Day Saints and thousands of Pentecostal and “fundamentalist” churches, and they still get to worship at churches that they build and govern themselves.  Needless to say, America’s churches are the wonder of the world, breathtaking in their diversity and vigor.

Of course, you will say, the United States has a vigorous education system, though woefully underfunded, a compassionate safety net despite the best efforts of Republicans, and a system of laws that has done wonders in eliminating age-old oppression and victimization.  I agree.  Nobody doubts that liberals have done many good things for America. 

But Americans wonder: At what cost?

Maybe that’s why the American people decided they wanted Republicans to run the federal government for the next few years.  They wanted liberals to do less for them.  You see, the United States was founded on the idea of self-government.  But when liberals insist on running everything with their liberal experts, that isn’t self-government; it’s something else.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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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


“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


[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 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


“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


“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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