Thursday, January 20, 2011

Incivility and the Blue Model Breakdown

That ruling-class organ, the London Economist, reliably worries that the heightened political rhetoric "makes it harder for America's two political parties to co-operate in tackling urgent questions such as their nation's gargantuan debt, or its slide in the world education rankings."

What rubbish, as the Brits say. The problem, as Walter Russell Mead wrote a year ago, is that the "blue social model" is breaking down. He means the assumed post-New Deal political and social culture in which

a professional career civil service administers a growing state, with living standards for all social classes steadily rising while the gaps between the classes remain fairly stable, and with an increasing ‘social dividend’ being paid out in various forms: longer vacations, more and cheaper state-supported education, earlier retirement, shorter work weeks and so on.

Or, as Kevin Williamson writes, that everyone lives their lives according to "The Plan" of the socialist central planners. Says Mead:

Call this the blue model, and the chief division in American politics today is between those who think the blue model is the only possible or at least the best feasible way to organize a modern society and want to shore it up and defend it, and those who think the blue model, whatever benefits it had in the past, is no longer sustainable.

That division is going to begin to erode in the next few years because the blue model is breaking down so fast and so far that not even its supporters can ignore the disintegration and disaster that it entails.

The reason that the blue social model is breaking down is because it has run out of other peoples' money.

The reason that things are so uncivil right now is that our liberal friends do not believe, cannot believe, that their whole world view, the blue social model, in which liberals benevolently presided over America with avuncular concern for the "little people," is over: crashed, refuted, bankrupt. That is why they are so angry. That is why they are so angry that other people are angry.

Of course, for conservatives, the blue social model has never worked. It seemed to work because it frankly and ruthlessly taxed and regulated the economy and the wealth creators and gave the money away to liberals and their clients. Liberals argued, beginning with John Kenneth Galbraith, that the Big Units of business, unions, and governments would even things out through "countervailing power." There was no reason to believe, he wrote, that they would conspire in a powerful cabal, to grab all the gold for themselves.

But in fact, the Big Units did conspire. They set up a nice little conspiracy and they looted America; that's how they kept the peace between them. Now we have to pay for their corruption, and we ain't happy about it. And then the Democrats allowed public employee unions to bargain collectively with the government. That was another betrayal as unions bargained for high wages, high benefits, and very little in the way of public services.

Now it's all coming to an end and the liberals and their clients are mad.

There was another time in America when you couldn't discuss the important issues of the day, when heightened rhetoric made "it harder for America's two political parties to co-operate in tackling urgent questions." That was in the pre-Civil War era, when the South absolutely refused to discuss the question of slavery. As a matter of fact, the South absolutely refused to discuss the question of slavery for about 80 years, from the Constitutional convention of 1787 to the actual freeing of the slaves in the 1860s.

In my view there are two options for the angry liberals, deeply in denial about the injustice, the waste, the cruelty, the corruption of their blue social model. Liberals can retreat gracefully, or they can truculently resist until there is a Clausewitzian "decisive battle" and in the chaotic aftermath, liberals retreat in a rout.

And there is the strategic problem that liberals face that I mentioned yesterday. If you are a conservative you don't give a damn about the all the government programs, because they are not meant for you. Now the white working class, cast aside by the liberals a generation ago, are waking up to the notion that they don't have an interest in the vast swamp of government either. So when the liberals yell and scream that widows will be cast out into the street and orphans will starve, the American people will shrug. After all, who would be dumb enough to trust the government for the necessaries of life?

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