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 that 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. 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. Congress and legislatures may draft what they will, but courts have assumed the power to throw out their product or interpret it as they will.
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 American Methodist Church; later on ordinary Americans built the American 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 under—funded, 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 (mailto://email@example.com) blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com. His Road to the Middle Class is forthcoming.