Liberals! You Are to Blame!
I've been reading a history of the British Glorious Revolution for the last month, and one thing comes through pretty clearly. There weren't any liberals around back then. They hadn't been invented.
So the argument in the “political nation” in 1688 centered around two options for Britain. It could follow the Dutch model and create a trading, manufacturing nation at war with France. Or it could follow the French model and create a centralized megastate at war with the Dutch.
The Brits chose what Disraeli later called Dutch finance and French wars and lived happily ever after -- at least until Shaw published Fabian Essays in Socialism in the 1880s. That's my reading of Steve Pincus in 1688: The First Modern Revolution.
But what should we do? As President Obama bombs everywhere from Peoria to Petersburg, the anxious pundits are in a tizzy. Robert Kaplan worries about “The Lure of Nationalism,” and the London Economist tries to figure out “What's Gone Wrong with Democracy?” What are our options?
In the elite view the problem is the people. We should dissolve the people and elect another.
Of course. Liberals believe that the only way for their kind -- the creative, educated, evolved kind -- to make the world a better place is for the middle class to be defeated. That's certainly what the liberals in Fred Siegel's Revolt Against the Masses all seem to think.
But suppose the opposite is true, that the problem is not the people but the political elite?
Never mind, say the liberals. We, the creative class, the compassionate class, are needed to come like gods among men to protect the traditionally marginalized from the rape of corporate greed.
But when things go wrong these creative intellectuals, these gods among men, are nowhere to be found.
Oh no, they cry. The backward people are getting lured into nationalism. Oh no! Look at the “growing size of the state” and debt-fueled entitlements! What's wrong with democracy?
Earth to liberals: you are the problem. It was you guys that decided after World War II that the people couldn't be trusted. So you created the EU and a bunch of supra-national elite-run institutions to cut out nationalism. Now it's all blowing up. Because “no European demos.”
It was you guys that invented the entitlements and government-run welfare state, because only you were the kind of educated and large-minded people that could be trusted to build and maintain a national social safety net. Only you screwed up your one-size-fits-all fantasy, because Hayek.
Here's the answer to all your problems, liberals. Give it up. Stop your war on the middle class. Stop your conceit that you are the tribunes of the poor oppressed masses. Stop even the conceit of the classic movie Metropolis that the creative artist is the “heart” that mediates between the bourgeois “head” and the worker's “hand.”
Here is what liberals can do. You can relax your death grip on the controls of political power, and turn the machinery of government over to the middle class. The middle class may be narrow-minded and backward, but it is responsible and trustworthy, as in “people of the responsible self.”
Your great role, liberals, is to whisper in the ears of the middle class with your brilliant ideas. Usually, the middle class will respond to your ideas with grumbling and complaining, but over years of whispering it will probably go along with the good ideas, and probably filter out the bad ones. Remember, politics is downstream from culture.
What you must not do, liberals, is continue to appeal over the heads of the middle class to the people of the collective self, the people that haven't yet learned the trick of life and work in the city. Someday your grandchildren, if you have any, will admit that every direct appeal of the creative class to the lower orders has ended up a disaster, from special privileges for labor unions to government education to business regulation to entitlements to socialism. Why? Because all these ideas are pre-modern, pre-individualist, and negate the idea of personal responsibility.
You see, liberals, a world without personal responsibility is not a Kumbaya world of fuzzy collective consensus. It is a world wrenched back in time to the rule of the patriarch or its modern derivative, the charismatic lightbringer. In the age of cities, science, markets, commerce, it fails every time it's been tried.
But you liberals are educated. You already knew that.
Christopher Chantrill (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org) is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. See his usgovernmentspending.com and also usgovernmentdebt.us. At americanmanifesto.org he is blogging and writing An American Manifesto: Life After Liberalism. Get his Road to the Middle Class.