Monday, June 4, 2012

Whose Emerging Majority?

Early in the new century, John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira argued that the Democrats were entering on a new era of dominance, becoming The Emerging Democratic Majority.  The new majority would center around the educated, the minorities, and the youth.

On the contrary, argues Sean Trende in The Lost Majority, under the two party system the future is always up for grabs.  That's because there is always some demographic group wavering in the middle between the two parties.

James Piereson proposes a more grandiose vision in The New Criterion.  He calls it the Fourth Revolution.  He looks at a 50 year Democratic dominance starting with the election of Thomas Jefferson in 1800, a 50 year dominance for Republicans starting in 1860, and a 50 year dominance for Democrats starting in 1932.  Each of these periods of dominance came to grief when the political case for the dominant or "regime" party collapsed.

Right now there is an impasse between the two parties because the support for the "public sector" party, the Democrats, is about equal to the support for the "private sector" party, the Republicans.
This impasse between the two parties signals the end game for the system of politics that originated in the 1930s and 1940s. As the “regime party,” the Democrats are in the more vulnerable position because they have built their coalition around public spending, public debt, and publicly guaranteed credit, all sources of funds that appear to be reaching their limits.
I have been arguing something similar, and from a more negative viewpoint, that nothing will change on the entitlements front until the federal government runs out of money.  Republicans may have been warning for the last generation that entitlements will bankrupt the state, but the fact is that, for today's beneficiaries, it makes no sense to reform.  Most of the beneficiaries, like me, are senior citizens.  We will probably be dead, or nearly dead, when the crash comes.

The discouraging thing about the welfare state is that, from Greece to Argentina, an over-extended welfare state does not reform its entitlements honestly.  It can't because the beneficiaries will take to the streets.  The only thing it can do is devalue its currency and default on its debt.  That has the effect of reducing entitlements (and screwing creditors) but doing it by the back door in a coup de main.  You wake up one morning and find that your bank account is worth 50 percent of what it was worth yesterday, and the government has unilaterally cut the interest rate and the principal owed on its sovereign bonds.  They already did that in Greece.

Many people have criticized the president for his Obamacare as a reckless expansion of entitlements.  But to the president, it is a solution to the health care crisis, because it buries all health care decisions in a heap of bureaucratic procedures and "death panels."  It hides the decisions to ration health care.  And it may be that most Americans really don't care how bad their health care is as long as it is "free."

If there is really to be a revolution and a fundamental reform of the welfare state it will happen because a majority of the American people want an honest system that is based on freedom and un-coerced social relationships.  The trouble is that everyone wants freedom in the abstract; they just don't want to have to pay for it.

But one thing, surely, we have learned in the 20th century.  Big government is always unjust, because it always reduces society to a power play between powerful interests, and reduces politics to a question of rewarding your supporters and punishing your opponents.  We have seen that played out in spades with the Obama administration as it has openly rewarded friends, from green energy companies to labor unions, without regard to the national interest, and done corrupt bargains with special corporate interests in order to get its legislation passed.

The point of human society is that it softens the natural war of all against all into mutually beneficial cooperation.  Society is nothing if is does not reduce the need for and the compass of force.  That means that government must be limited, because government is force, and politics is civil war by other means.  This is surely not that hard to understand.

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