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Chapter 14:
The Problem of Power

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There are manifold relations of power that permeate, characterize and constitute the social body, and these relations of power cannot themselves be established, consolidated nor implimented without... a discourse. —Michel Foucault

THE PROJECT OF RESTORING the road to the middle class is not just a question of ideas, but of assembling and using political power to implement ideas.  The goals of this project are substantial.  We want to smash the war on religion.  We want to break the back of the welfare state monopolies in family-substitution and in education.  And we want to curb the imperial judiciary’s war on middle-class culture and mores.  That is what we need in order to clear the road to the middle class of all the barriers and blockages that have piled up over the twentieth century.   But we also want to recognize the needs of the non-middle class: the creatives and the communitarians who want to transcend the simple rules and purpose of the road to the middle class.  We want them to get what they want.  We just draw the line at replacing the road to the middle class with the mass- transit system of the welfare state that demotes ordinary people from the role of driver into passive passenger.

The war on religion, the creaking monopolies of the welfare state, and the war on conventional middle-class morality did not just happen.   We were, as Eeyore complained to Winnie-the-Pooh, Pushed.   The war on religion comes from a world-view that sees organized religion as a superstition wedded to the past.  The welfare state monopolies are the consequence of elite belief that the root cause of poverty is a lack of material resources needed for a decent life.  The attack on conventional morality comes from those who believe that people should create their own authentic life- style rather than blindly follow someone else’s rules. 

This war on the middle class is all part of a grand, if often inchoate, vision.  Necessarily, this grand vision has a program of education to guide people into its ways, and for those that are not amenable to sweet reason there are the instruments of shame and the sinews of power.  Those that do not conform to its policy on race are shamed as racists, those that do not support its program of gender equality are shamed as sexists, those that do not support its class war are shamed as classists, and those that do not support its attack on marriage are shamed as homophobes.  In addition, of course, the vast monopolies of the welfare state in education, in health care, and in superannuation all support the program with the blunt encouragement of taxation and political power.

The great obstacle to removing the obstructions from the road to the middle class is the narcissism and pride of the world’s creative classes.  They experience their culture of creativity and universal compassion as a new world vision that must inevitably replace the primitive regime of power and corruption that has obtained up to now.  But the All Quadrant/All Level matrix shows this world-view to be defective.  It shows that though the creative classes have developed important ideas and visions of the future they have also built a culture of narcissistic self-congratulation, a Whig history that experiences themselves as the culmination of history.  Their worldview rests upon the assertion that the blue purposive consciousness of the bourgeoisie is illegitimate and inauthentic, and a threat to the development of a new culture based on soulfulness and creativity.  To say that this attitude is widespread among the creative classes is almost to miss the point.  It goes beyond attitude to the level of reality, an unconscious reality that is accepted without question or the need for justification.  It is natural for such a believer, even a moral duty, to work to marginalize the middle-class culture of purpose and respectability in the building of the new era of creativity and universal community. 

But the AQAL matrix challenges this whole worldview.  Against the bigoted marginalization of middle class culture, it naturally calls for a culture of tolerance in the enlightened and the highly evolved, a culture that can respect and tolerate the struggles of those who have not yet reached the high estate of full enlightenment.  It specifically warns the creative classes of their error.  They must stop persecuting the middle class with their attack on its religion and its respect for the rules.  The AQAL matrix demands their tolerance and forbearance, and it is the destiny of the conservative movement to teach our creative elites about tolerance for the ordinary middle class.  The conservative destiny is not, perhaps, as grand as the destiny of the liberal elite that, in the middle of the twentieth century, taught white Americans to curb their discrimination against the American Negro.   But it is an honorable and worthy task that needs to be done.

But can a strategy of recommending tolerance succeed?  Probably not.  That is why it is necessary to augment the high road of education with a low road of shame, appealing not just to the better angels of the enlightened, but shaming them into understanding the monstrous acts of exploitation and repression they have committed in the name of compassion and diversity.

We must make it shameful to marginalize religion.  Right now, any writer for The New York Times feels free to load up the old coon gun left behind by the Southern racists and fire off both barrels at any traditional religious target her coon dog has treed (except a Moslem).  And her shameful feature floats up through the layers of 43rd Street editing to eventual publication without a discouraging word from the famously tolerant cultural elite.  We want bigots like her cowering in the same hole as the redneck racists. 

We must make it shameful to marginalize people who go to work, follow the rules, pay their taxes and obey the law.

The question is: how?  How do we end this monstrous bigotry?  The answer is: one bigot at a time.  In the 1980s and 1990s the left managed to mount a successful campaign of political correctness that effectively banned, particularly in the university, the expression of opinion with which they disagreed.  They made it shameful to express opinions about race, class, gender, and homosexuality with which they disagreed.  Their campaign came out of nowhere, rose to power, and now seems to be fading away as conservatives have begun to fight back.  We wish to do the same, only we have a very limited agenda and our cause is just.  We only wish to make it shameful to marginalize religion.  And we already have the means to achieve it.  Our conservative blogosphere is already spoiling the acoustics in the liberal echo chamber.  

The campaign of shame against the anti-religious bigots will have the three components articulated in this book.  Each of the themes is a plea for tolerance.  First of all there is the practical advice of Plato, advising his enlightened one to go easy on the prisoners when he returns to the cave.  All the talk of walls and fires and sunlight mean nothing to a man chained to the ground, and whose entire reality amounts to the dancing shadows on a wall.  If you disturb him too much, he will kill you.  This is the argument of prudence.  Go easy on the man who doesn’t understand your brilliant evolution into enlightenment.  If he can’t understand your brilliant aper├žus he will think you mad.  Perhaps he will kill you.  Then there is the argument from history.  When the bourgeoisie burst onto the world stage in full glory in the nineteenth century, the progressives demanded that the bourgeoisie treat the struggling working class with compassion and understanding.  They demanded that the bourgeoisie restrain its power over the working class and tax itself to help them, in education and in social insurance.  Whether from a practical instinct for self-preservation or from actual compassion, the bourgeoisie did so.  It made allowances for the struggling working class.  Today, we make the same demand, only we make the demand of the creative class that they tolerate and subsidize the lower-middle class that is struggling to make it into the middle class.  Then there is the argument of Eric Voegelin.  He demolishes the traditional opposition of “my truth” versus “your superstition” by constructing a worldview that represents old ways as compact knowledge and belief and that understands new ways as differentiated knowledge and belief.  Tolerance of other peoples’ ideas becomes, in Voegelin’s world, not just patronizing indulgence, but practical common sense.  It helps, no doubt, to be a Kantian, and to accept that the world is experienced as appearance only, and that “things-in-themselves” can never be experienced directly.  Finally, there is the argument developed by Clare Graves and his adepts Don Beck and Ken Wilber.  They experience human consciousness is a layered or spiral entity.  When you develop a “higher” level of consciousness, you do not replace the “lower” level; you merely develop the ability to repress the lower level in certain circumstances.  They amplify the warning of Freud.  If you try to crush out a lower level, they warn, you will not merely suffer from Freudian neurosis; you will regress to the level immediately below the level you have repressed.

The campaign of shame against the anti- religious bigots will have a political component, because the Democratic Party is the party of secularism and religious bigotry, and the Republican Party is the party of religious acceptance and tolerance.  A study published in by Bolce and De Maio in The Public Interest demonstrated that Democrats in the late twentieth century had developed an intense and visceral hatred of religious people.  At the 1992 national convention over half the delegates, asked to rate Christian fundamentalists on a “feeling thermometer” graduated from a cold 0 to a neutral 50 to a warm 100, gave them a rating at an ice cold zero.  They couldn’t imagine anything more horrible.  To convert these bigots from their extremism will take more than sweet reason.  It will take the hot blush of shame and the cruel twist of political power.

The campaign for tolerance and the campaign of shame represent the deployment of “soft” power.  But we cannot ignore the importance of “hard” power, the deployment of political forces that control and direct the political life of the nation and its government institutions.  Like nature, political power abhors a vacuum, and conservatives must learn to use it or lose it.

The AQAL matrix teaches us that power is always with us.  There will never be a society of gentle green communitarians caring and sharing for all their fellow men, because underneath the surface of every green communitarian is the blue purposive that railed against the Iraq war as “illegal and immoral,” and the red impulsive that rails about discrimination and victimization.  There will always be power because there will always be politics.  And politics is a contest of power, of civil war by other means.

Power is shameful, and long-established powers have liked to veil their power behind an image of ritual and orthodoxy.  Edmund Burke, the scourge of the French Revolution, liked to represent the power plays of the British Glorious Revolution a century before as a modest return to ancient liberties.  The United States likes to hide its unprecedented power beneath the skirts of democracy and the rule of law.  But the revolution of 1688 succeeded because the Whigs in parliament had the power to send James II packing and change the royal succession to the foreign Princess Sophia as the “stock and root of inheritance to our kings.”  The United States rules the world because it has power: “hard” power or “soft” power, it is still backed up by its vast military and economic might.   The movers and shakers of the welfare state are no different.  They like to represent their rule as pure benevolence, and they rehearse its history as a succession of benefits given to the people.  In fact, of course, they rule through power, extracting huge amounts of money from their subjects in taxes, so that they can, with vast generosity, give it back to them.

The welfare state was created by political power.  The budding lower-middle class culture of religion, education, mutual aid, and living under law that grew and flourished in the nineteenth century was defeated by that power.  The mutual- aid culture was beaten by the political power of the insurance companies and the doctors and then replaced by a culture of government employees that have come to call themselves helping professionals.  The private education culture was defeated in the United States by the power of a political coalition: anti-Catholics that wanted to cure Irish and Italian children of their Catholicism, socialists that wanted to cure children of their bourogeoisism, Unitarians that wanted to cure children of their Puritanism, and elite Germanophiles in love with the state-run education system of Prussia.  And the law was perverted by the new class of intellectuals and public thinkers who discovered in the law a source of power to effect social change without the mess of political organization and legislating. 

The little platoons of mutualism and non-government education were dragooned into the feudal host of the welfare state.  Only the culture of enthusiastic religion survived more or less undefeated through the tumult of the twentieth century.   And that was because the best and the brightest were so entranced by their own religion, socialism, that they wanted nothing to do with the old kind.

The welfare state is sustained by power.  It is supported by the votes of those that benefit from it: the single women, the red impulsives, and of course the elites and the government employees that work for it.  Its power issues partly from its power of patronage, its power of shame, and the power of its vision of the good society.

But after a century of dominance, the vast undifferentiated host of the welfare state that marched all over middle class culture has started to break up.  The tractable working-class voter that once delivered up his vote in return for the patronage of the liege lord of the big city machine is less amenable to a patronage system.  Ready for responsibility, many of them have revolted against the social agenda of their patrons.  But what will replace the old system?

The entrenched welfare state will not leave the stage unless it is pushed, so conservatives must develop a strategy to defeat it.  We can see the shape of the strategy emerging in the policies of the Republican administrations of the late twentieth century: the tax rate reductions, the privatizations of state enterprises, and deregulations of state sponsored monopolies.   Now in the early twenty-first century we can see the next step emerging: the conversion of one-size-fits-all government monopolies in pensions, health care, and education into more flexible social institutions in which the government remains a major player, but no longer acts as a feudal lord dispensing benefits to a grateful peasantry.  The effect of these reforms will be to reconfigure the political power relations away from the feudal status model of the welfare state to a contract model, as obtained in the commercial empire of Venice, in which the organized interests—princelings, merchants, artisans, churches, and associations—competed with each other in the dance of power.

Conservative power in the post-welfare state will have two goals, to harass and dissipate powers that arise to rebuild the road to serfdom, and to build new centers of political power that will advance the cause of limited government and personal responsibility.  But it must achieve this within a vision that recognizes the diverse needs of people at different stages in the AQAL matrix.  There will remain red impulsive Americans who will need a continuation or replacement for the comforting tribal institutions of the welfare state that condoned their red complaint of “what’s in it for me” while providing them also the security of a life with minimal personal responsibility.  There will remain orange creatives, still anxious to differentiate themselves from straight America and to demonstrate to the world their heroic refusal to conform to the norm of stolid bourgeoisism.  Finally, there will remain the green communitarians who want to differentiate themselves from the stolid middle class by their universalism, by their advanced rejection of the cycle of violence and their desire to “move on” to a higher plane of social relations.  The challenge is to create a matrix of power that will preserve conservative goals while allowing the other groups their legitimate and most passionately felt needs.

In the short run, of course, liberals will do our work for us.  As the Republicans consolidate power, The New York Times readers will find themselves on the outside looking in and will radically change their ideas about political power and limited government.  We saw Democratic enthusiasm for independent counsels suddenly evaporate when the independent counsel law written in the Watergate era to claw at Republican presidents was used to harass Bill Clinton, a Democrat.  We saw the expressions of outrage in 2003 when Republicans in Colorado and Texas rammed through legislative redistricting to replace egregious Democratic gerrymanders with equally egregious Republican gerrymanders.   In the years to come we can expect the editorial pages of The New York Times to discover the eternal virtues of non-partisan redistricting, especially if the political outlook offers the prospect of Tom DeLays for the foreseeable future. 

In the political public square we can expect that Democratic policy analysts will write very different books when they come to fear that the old order of high-minded liberalism is in process of being replaced by a conservative insurgency of former pest exterminators.  They will sing a different tune when they realize that they must live in America under a pharaoh that knew not FDR.  If the United States Senate could defeat filibusters on conservative appeals court judges, if the House of Representatives started churning out a major entitlement reform every session, if the Supreme Court’s reliable liberals were reduced from four to three and the court handed down a couple of landmark pro- conservative decisions we could expect the liberal elites to discover the virtues of limited government in the legislatures and strict constructionism in the courts.  And that is all we want of them.

The new fear of government will help us in our goal to reduce the monopoly power of the welfare state.  The beneficiaries of every government program are organized into “iron triangles” of beneficiaries, advocates, and politicians that support each other in promoting their special interest against the general interest.  They advance their agenda in campaigns that blend emotional appeals to the public with financial support to the politicians that vote appropriations for the clients and salaries and pensions for the bureaucrats.  The recipients of government spending, the clients and the providers, organize to elect and direct politicians to support their agendas.   In military terms, what these special interest groups do is build and occupy fortified political space.  Only a determined attacker can expect to dislodge them.

In this case, two strategies immediately suggest themselves.  In many cases, it may suffice to frighten the defenders into capitulation.  Ronald Reagan, exploiting his reputation as a mad bomber, used shows of force at least three times to frighten his adversaries.  He used it in the air-traffic controllers’ strike of 2001.  By firing a few strikers, he frightened millions into respectful obedience.  His Grenada invasion and his Strategic Defense Initiative were two brilliant feints that cost almost nothing, but persuaded the Soviets that it was useless to resist U.S. power.  A careful riffing of a few programs, or firings of imprudent government strikers might do wonders to keep the smoldering rage of the welfare state partisans from bursting into flame.

In the campaign against the education monopoly, the slow advance of education choice can be sped along with an occasional turning movement.  It is likely that the National Education Association can be caught in occasional illegality and its supporters demoralized by legal action.  In Washington State, the Evergreen Freedom Foundation keeps a constant fusillade of small-arms fire upon the Washington Education Association, suing it for using members’ contributions for illegal political activity.  At some high point in the school-choice battle, it wouldn’t hurt to have the top officers of the National Education Association doing a perp walk.  

A similar strategy is likely to work on the government programs for child protection.  In recent years, there have been a number of scandals: the mess of the child welfare system in New Jersey, the day-care center witch trials.  One fine day, ambitious young lawyers may figure out that they way to run for District Attorney is by digging up horror stories in the government’s child welfare system and calling for root-and-branch reform.

To reduce the support for the tribal welfare state it is essential to privatize as many monopoly service providers as possible.  We want Americans to experience agricultural rent-seekers as evil agribusinesses instead of family farmers, educational rent-seekers as evil Big Education instead of “our” teachers, energy rent-seekers as evil power companies instead of “our” City Light, and fire-protection rent-seekers as evil fire companies instead of “our” firefighters, just as they happily rail today at Big Oil, Big Drug, and Big Tobacco with the enthusiastic encouragement of Democratic politicians and activists.

The dynamic of political power makes it very difficult to sustain a philosophy of government limited both in resources and in power.  The challenge for conservatives and all believers in limited government is how to play the game of political power when you do not have a regiment recruited from your iron triangle to garrison your city on a hill.  We do not want the matrix of society to be driven by the dynamic of detect a problem, frame an indictment, legislate a government program, and suck for evermore on the government teat.  We do not want to set up the incestuous relationship of special interest activists, pensioned bureaucrats, and dependent clients that are so addicted to their tax-financed benefits that they lose all shame in defense of their golden hoard.  Therefore we must invent another political dynamic, which enables us to occupy political space without creating a self-perpetuating special interest monopoly.  How could this be done?  What models are available in the world to guide us in the development of a sustainable political model that defends the rule of law, that extends the reach of personal responsibility, that resumes the movement from status to contract, and that includes the gentle rain of compassion to soften the sharp edges of responsibility and contract.  Chances are there are models out there, staring at us in the face, ready to be taken up and adapted for use in national politics.  We want strategies that frighten rent-seekers into reducing their demands for rent; we do not want the shirts off their backs.

The conservative movement has always been a simple thing at heart.  It seeks to restore the dignity of lower-middle-class respectability to modern society.  This stolid middle-class culture was marginalized by the left-wing elites when they constructed the welfare state.  With their visionary plans for the elevation of the working class from penury to decency, they knew there would be no need for the cramped respectability of the skilled working class and their dogged Methodism.  The working class would soon surpass all that and join their benefactors, the intellectual elite, in a more educated and, of course, secular culture.  There was a flaw in this plan, a flaw that conservatives never quite managed to articulate, but which is brightly illuminated in the AQAL matrix.  The red impulsive proletariat cannot jump straight into a universal society of green compassion dreamed of by the socialists.  They must toil through the blue purposive consciousness and orange creativity before they can lose their creative ego in contemplation and sainthood.  This is the truth that Robert William Fogel recognizes in The Fourth Great Awakening.  The poor need not just the material improvement that the enlightened elite so proudly poured on them.  They need to acquire a “sense of purpose,” a “sense of the mainstream of work and life,” a “strong family ethic,” and all the other values of purposive blue consciousness.

Fogel understands that the poor need to be allowed to get on with it, take control of their lives from the nanny state and build the competence and character that will equip them for success in the city.  But he cannot quite bring himself to let go of the reins of power.  Its temptations are too great.  The poor will find purpose and a strong family ethic, he writes, but we liberals are still going to be needed to help them and instruct them.

It is the world-historical role of the conservative movement to help liberals take the step they cannot quite bear to make, to take the first step away from the intoxicating seat of power and let people live their own lives and learn their own lessons.  Our destiny is to take the liberal ring of power back to the mountain and toss it back into the primeval flood of molten lava.

And after the conservative movement has smashed anti-religious bigotry, moved the working class from infantile dependency of the government monopoly welfare state to proud competence, and curbed the radical social agenda of the imperial judiciary, and become master of all it surveys, it will also be corrupted by the temptations of power, wander into decadence, and eventually decline and fall.


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 TAGS


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


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


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


Knowledge

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


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


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


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


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


 

©2007 Christopher Chantrill