Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ryan's Rhetoric: A Suggestion

You gotta love that Paul Ryan guy.  For his demeanor, his rhetoric, and his zingers.

How about those faded Obama posters?

But I want to add a new concept into the lexicon of conservative rhetoric.  It's a simple idea, as all good ideas are.  It's not my idea, but it is stolen from Roger Scruton in his new book on the environment, How to Think Seriously about the Environment.  He uses the concept of elite "confiscation" to critique the way in which our educated class confiscates problems away from ordinary people.

To illustrate his point, I am going to quote the various places in Environment where he uses the word "confiscate".
p. 134: "In all such cases top-down solutions have a tendency to confiscate problems from those whose problems they are."

p. 395: "the unscrupulous use of Trade-Related Property Rights to confiscate the social capital of peasant economies."

p. 158: "Once again we see the counter-productive nature of regulatory policies that confiscate risk and remove the incentive to prepare for it."

p. 171: "It comes from believing that this problem is our problem, and therefore my problem, as a member of the group. That belief disappears when anonymous bureaucracies confiscate our risks, and pretend that they can regulate them into extinction."

p. 402: "By acting always to enhance oikophilia [, love of home,] and not to confiscate its sphere of legitimate action, the state will prepare us for the sacrifices [to come]".

p. 400: "The greatest danger to the environment, it seems to me, comes from the growing tendency of governments to confiscate the powers and freedoms of autonomous associations, and to centralize all powers in their own hands."

p. 360: "[A]lthough [the EPA's] regulatory regime has provided guarantees against the worst forms of pollution it has done as much to confiscate as to support the oikophilia of ordinary Americans".

p. 150: "Any such regulation... should never confiscate a problem from those who have the job of solving it".
Do you get what he is saying?  He is indicting the whole big government idea, because its whole idea is to say: you poor diddums can't really be expected to educate your children, because we experts can do it better.  You can't really be expected to save for retirement, or deal with unemployment, or provide for your health care.  So why not let us tax your employer and the rich and we will do it all for you.

We conservatives usually like to talk about "responsibility," and that is fine.  But it really misses the point.  The whole thrust of progressive politics, starting with Marx, is to "confiscate" problems from society at large, to deny the opportunities for responsibility, and sequester them forever in the political sector where liberals live.

This confiscation is bad for one simple reason.  We humans are social animals.  We live by our cooperative social thoughts and acts.  But if we don't use them, they atrophy, just like a muscle that we don't exercise.

And then, when a crisis comes, we don't have the skill or the will to do the social thing.  We are no longer social animals, but dependent animals.

Scruton picks up a point made by Aaron Wildavsky, the idea of "resilience," which prepares us for adversity.  You can manage risks by "altering the object that presents them" or by "altering the subject that confronts them... by changing ourselves or our competences in order to cope better when things go wrong."

In the liberal welfare state the liberals confiscate risk and confiscate the opportunity for ordinary people to develop the resilience and the competence to cope with things when they go wrong.  Are they really helping us?  Or are they helping themselves, grabbing all the satisfactions of social life, of life in common, for themselves?

Whaddya think, Paul Ryan?

No comments:

Post a Comment