|Irving Kristol and the Future of Conservatism||How About Those "Chick-Cons?"|
by Christopher Chantrill
September 30, 2009 at 11:31 am
THE LAST three Democratic presidents are similar. They are policy presidents: they all believe in the rational, systemic approach to governance. Thats what David S. Broder, dean of the Washington press corps, has noticed. And he realizes that its a problem.
Of course, liberal Broder did not come up with this on his own. He got it from the inaugural issue of a new conservative magazine, National Affairs, and an article Obama and the Policy Approach written by a conservative thinker, William Schambra, from a conservative think tank, the Hudson Institute.
Schambra sees... that "Obama is emphatically a policy approach president. For him, governing means not just addressing discrete challenges as they arise, but formulating comprehensive policies aimed at giving large social systems and indeed society itself more rational and coherent forms and functions. In this view, the long-term, systemic problems of health care, education, and the environment cannot be solved in small pieces. They must be taken on in whole."
In Schambras view the policy approach goes back to the Progressive movement that, a century ago, tried to tame the tribal conflicts of democratic politics by applying the new wisdom of the social sciences to the art of government, and rising above the narrow and the parochial.
Unfortunately the Progressive approach does not work. Thats what Schambra argues, and what Broder dimly underatands when he writes:
Obama, budget director Peter Orszag and health czar Nancy-Ann DeParle grasp the intricacies of the health-care system as well as any three humans, and they could write a law to make it far more efficient.
But as soon as their rational plan hits the Congress it gets torn apart by special interests and factional rivalries. Reality is not quite as rational as Obama and his czars want to think.
Its good that David Broder has finally come to the party. Conservatives have been trying for at least half a century to teach liberals that the one-size-fits-all model doesnt work. It was 1944 when F.A. Hayek argued this in The Road to Serfdom.
In the dim light of dawn, Broder prudently shelters his readers from the full force of Scharmas argument. Obama is bound to fail, according to Scharma, just like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.
Our constitutional system is constructed on [an] understanding of the limits of reason and of the goals of politics. Every effort to impose the policy approach upon it has so far ended in failure and disappointment, and done much lasting harm.
Let us rehearse the conservative critique of the policy approach to government:
If that is all too complicated, here is the issue between conservatives and liberals in a nutshell.
From Daniel Henninger quoting Victor Fuchs: Every time the state assumes an additional function such as health insurance, child care or benefits for the aged, the need for close family ties becomes weaker. You get charts like this:
The chart shows that Fuchs statement is not strictly true. It needs a qualifier. With each government program the need for close family ties becomes weaker, starting with the poor. The problem with rational, systemic liberal government is that it hurts the poor first and hardest. When 40 percent of children born to high-school dropouts do not live with both parents, there is only one thing to say. This is wrong.
For conservatives, Barack Obamas career in the non-profits, advocacy coalitions, and foundations of Chicago, his faith in policy professionals and social science all symbolize the failed liberal experiments of the last century. To liberals like Cass Sunstein, Obama may be an anti-Bush from whom we will see a rigorously evidence-based government. To conservatives, Obama represents fantasy-based government.
What liberals fail to see is that their cozy world of non-profits, advocacy coalitions, and foundations is utterly self-serving and corrupt. It is a world in which rigorous evidence and big money are passed from insider to insider in a derivatives trading scheme.
Some day, a conservative activist is going to figure out how to explain this to the American people. Maybe his name is Andrew Breitbart, and he already did.
Buy his Road to the Middle Class.
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.
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison
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 Societya complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churchesbuilds, 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
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
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
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
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