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Sunday December 21, 2014 
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The Amazon Public Wish List The Way of Education

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The Road to the Middle Class: A Manifesto

by Christopher Chantrill
January 01, 2005 at 5:30 am

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BACK in the nineteenth century, before we learned to love them, the poor had to struggle their way up from indigence on their own. They built a sturdy road to the middle class with enthusiastic Christianity, a dogged pursuit of education, a web of mutual-aid associations, and a respect for the law.

But the elites of the time were unimpressed, and declared that they could do better.

They called their creation the welfare state.

The welfare state was built for a great and noble purpose: to raise the industrial poor up from misery to a decent standard of living. In this strict material sense, it has been a great success. But it was not achieved without cost. As economist Robert William Fogel has written: “such problems 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.” Theodore Dalrymple has described in Life at the Bottom how this looks to a physician in an inner-city hospital in the British midlands.

The welfare state has certainly rained material benefits upon the poor. But it has robbed them of their birthright, the pride of independence, to be able to echo Corin in the Forest of Arden: “I earn that I eat, get that I wear, owe no man hate, envy no man’s happiness.”

In his The Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism, Fogel warns his fellow liberals that the moral collapse of the poor is going to cost them. Unless they act promptly to correct the “maldistribution of spiritual resources” that afflicts the poor, others will step in and do it their way. Fogel calls for a program to provide the poor in spirit with spiritual values such as a “sense of purpose,” a “sense of benevolence,” a “capacity for self-education,” “a sense of discipline,” and to give egalitarians a future.

Do the poor need “a sense of purpose?” They could go with mega-church preacher Rick Warren’s A Purpose-Driven Life or attend one of the 3,000 Pentecostal churches in New York City ( a new one opens every three weeks). Secular elitists stigmatize enthusiastic Christians as superstitious bigots.

Do the poor need a “capacity for self-education?” They could support the home-school or the school-choice movement. Many of them already do, but elite Democrats are standing in the school-house door defending the status quo.

Do the poor need a “sense of benevolence?” Why, back in the nineteenth century, the poor joined mutual-aid associations—the Oddfellows, the Elks, and the Moose—in their millions. Then the left came along and killed the mutual-aid movement by nationalizing benevolence into the welfare state.

Do the poor need a “sense of discipline?” But the liberal Sixties generation has spent a lifetime marginalizing “discipline” and defining deviancy down. They should be in charge of helping the poor with their discipline problems?

Is the elite perhaps a little overqualified for the job of fighting a war on spiritual inequality? In the nineteenth century the poor built the road to the middle class on their own with faith, mutual aid, education, and by learning to live under law. Their program produced a balanced combination of material progress and spiritual growth, and it still does. Why mess with it?

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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 TAGS


Responsible Self

[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.


Taking Responsibility

[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050


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


What Liberals Think About Conservatives

[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. “Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists,” she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican


Liberal Coercion

[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State


Moral Imperatives of Modern Culture

These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self


US Life in 1842

Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


Society and State

For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008


Faith and Politics

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable... [1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006


Never Trust Experts

No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.
Lord Salisbury, “Letter to Lord Lytton”


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


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”


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