The Consequences of Liberalism
Here we are at the midpoint of the Obama years, assailed on every side by looming consequences of liberal hubris and liberal corruption. But the Obama Scandals don't get me all riled up with partisan outrage. What's the surprise? If liberals in the media, in the academy, and in politics stigmatize conservatives as monsters, racists, sexists, homophobes, why be surprised that little Lois Lerner wants to please her teacher?
Why wouldn't the Democrats want to do immigration reform and never mind the consequences to low-paid Americans? It's heads I win if it passes and Democrats get another 10 million votes or tails you lose if it fails and everyone from President Obama to Chris Matthews gets to blame the anti-Hispanic Republicans for the disaster.
It's misleading to say that the social consequences of the welfare state are "unintended." We know what the liberal welfare state does to people.
I occasionally rile up my liberal friends by noting that a century ago the rich were fat and the poor were thin, but today the rich are thin and the poor are fat. Same with work. Back then the poor worked all the time; today the rich work all the time. Liberals don't like to hear stuff like that.
But look at the Current Population Survey. HINC-05(xls) shows that, of the 29.5 million households in the U.S. with no earners, fully 15 million are in the lowest income quintile. But there are 46 million U.S. households with two earners or more. One million are in the lowest income quintile and 18 million are in the highest income quintile. Imagine that: If you have two or more earners in the family there's a 40 percent chance it will put you into the top 20%.
Let's say it again. In a household where nobody works you have a 50 percent chance of being in the bottom 20%. In a household where two or more people work you have a 40 percent chance of being in the top 20%.
Things are pretty frustrating for conservatives right now. You could get really discouraged. But when the clouds are threatening and the world is dark it is well to remember how battles are won. They are won by the side that gives up last.
That's why Jonah Goldberg's recent column "Freedom: The Unfolding Revolution" is such a ray of sunshine. Liberals think that their government programs are the "wave of the future," writes Jonah, but they are dead wrong. Their politics, whether class politics for the working class or today's identity politics of race and gender, is nothing more than "gussied-up tribalisms, anachronisms made gaudy with the trappings of modernity, like a gibbon in a spacesuit." Adds Jonah:
The only truly new political idea in the last couple thousand years is this libertarian idea, broadly understood. The revolution wrought by John Locke, Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, and the Founding Fathers is the only real revolution going. And it's still unfolding.
How did this libertarian idea get started, two thousand years ago in the Axial Age? It was based on the notion of individualism, the responsible self, people thinking and acting for themselves and forming new associations rather than going along to get along with the tribe.
Why did the West do this first, and not India and China, civilizations far richer and sophisticated than the European? According to Max Weber it was because Western city dwellers broke away from tribalism and, as individuals, formed new kinds of association in the cities while in India and China they did not.
In India the caste system and in China the ancestor cult kept people from trusting each other in the city. They looked to their caste or clan outside the city for identity and protection. They could not bring themselves to burst the bonds of caste and clan to trust their fellow citizens in the city.
It is the responsible individual that created the modern world, and it is liberals, with their politics of identity and victim-hood, that are turning the clock back to a primitive age of tribalism. They are reinventing caste with their rage for credentialism, and reviving clan with their multiculturalism and race-card politics.
It makes complete sense that liberals sneer at the responsible individual, the busy bourgeois, the independent householder, the church member, and harass them. The bourgeois middle class with its businesses, its adaptability, its families, its work and its savings represent the existential threat to liberal power and its curdling tribalism.
Why weren't you harassing those guys, Lois? Because if you could just have saved one life...
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.