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Obama's Togetherness Roberts Hands a Poisoned Chalice to the President

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The Ghosts of Liberal Pieties

by Christopher Chantrill
June 27, 2012 at 12:00 am


THESE LAST few months I’ve been working on the idea that there are two modern world views. There’s the Invisible Hand world view that things will work out because humans are social animals and must be social to achieve their selfish ends.

Then there is the Exploitation world view that says that the only way forward is for idealistic activists to fight for the people’s rights against a world of wealthy corporations and greedy bankers.

Imagine what I learned from the tour guide when I went on a cemetery walking tour recently on Queen Anne hill in liberal Seattle.

Over here is the grave of Carlos Bulosan, the Filipino-American writer and activist who penned the “Freedom from Want” essay in the Saturday Evening Post in 1943.

But we are not really free unless we use what we produce. So long as the fruit of our labor is denied us, so long will want manifest itself in a world of slaves.

Get it? It’s the Marxian theory of surplus value. Over here lies an African American woman who organized the first African-American college sorority at Howard University. Over there is a woman who was the first teacher in Seattle (at a private school, unfortunately). In 1848 she attended the Seneca Falls Convention on women’s rights.

Over here are the victims of the 1916 Everett Massacre when IWW supporters took a boat from Seattle to hold a rally in support of striking shingle workers. On landing in Everett they ran into hail of fire from the sheriff and a posse of vigilantes: just because the Wobblies wanted the bosses to share the profits. And here are graves of typographical union workers that died from tuberculosis.

Here’s the grave of Seattle banker Rudolph Ankeny. In 1891 he cut down a huge cedar, used by the local tribes and revered as a “signal tree,” and built a house in its place. Here’s the founder of Hansen Baking Company. He started out as a cleaner in a Seattle bakery, then learned the trade, worked his way up and bought the business. Eventually he sold out to an eastern conglomerate and the business folded.

OK, enough of the liberal history; let’s indulge in a little conservative truth-telling.

In the 1940s, when Bulosan was writing his screed, workers were enjoying the fruits of 100 years of industrialism, rising from incomes of $1-3 per day in 1800 to about $30 per day. What an amazing achievement! The 1848 convention in Seneca Falls, New York, was possible because in 1841 the railroad had reached the city. For the first time in history well-born young women could travel to the Finger Lakes inexpensively in comfort and safety to discuss the need, in the industrial age, to change the traditions of property ownership and inheritance more appropriate for an agricultural age. How great is that? In the lumber town of Everett, Washington, 1916 was a year of serious depression: not too much in the way of corporate profits to share with the Wobblies.

Let’s finish with Rudolph Ankeny, the tree-cutting banker. He came to Seattle in 1888 to work as a bookkeeper at Puget Sound National Bank, was promoted to teller in 1890 and assistant cashier a year later when he built his house. Not exactly the CEO of Goldman Sachs.

One of the problems of living in a closed community and holding regular religious services to celebrate the saints and martyrs in local cemeteries is that you blind yourself to glaring injustices staring you right in the face. So the Pew Research Center’s Trends in American Values 1987-2012 is full of responses to questions about the social safety net and the environment. But none of those liberals thinks to ask a question on generational injustice.

Now, if I were a visitor from Mars, the first thing I would notice is that our society spends trillions of dollars on seniors like me while fobbing off young people with a lousy education that confines them in government child custodial facilities for two decades, saddles them with gigantic debt that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, and then tosses them out into a job market with no jobs. If I were a young person today I’d be crying out to the reverberate hills for justice.

On the Invisible Hand world view there is certainly recognition that the industrial economy can and does cause suffering and exploitation. But it takes the Exploitation world view to gin up genuine injustice, Fidel. Typically the ruling class has no idea what is wrong. It is too busy congratulating itself for its heroic fight against injustice a century ago.

That is not to say our liberal friends are evil people. It’s just that when they fill up their minds with heartwarming tales from the modern Foxe’s Book of Liberal Martyrs, they might be missing something.

They might be missing the determination of this “Empowered Man” answering the prayers of President James Madison by bravely holding up the US Constitution and speaking truth to power in front of the White House--to the horror of President Obama and the applause of the good guys: Presidents Lincoln, Reagan, Washington and Coolidge.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

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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


“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


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.”  —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


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

Living Law

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

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