Friday, July 26, 2013

Obama as the Liberals' Bigger Problem

I wrote a nuts-and-bolts review of President Obama's Galesburg speech yesterday.  The main reason was to get the details out of the way so that I could think about the predicament of the president -- and of liberals in general.

Indeed, the president's situation tells us a lot about the predicament of ruling classes in general.

Like I always say, government is force; it always comes down to men with guns, and it's telling that every government department these days seems to want its own SWAT team.  Politics, the trade of people who want to govern, is division.  And system, the stock in trade of every bureaucracy, is domination, the bending of other humans to your will.

You see all these themes at work in the president's speech.  There are the rhetorical sallies against the opposition, the "us" versus "them" of ordinary political divisiveness.  There is the setup for force, the "inequality" that shows that you can't leave the economy to deliver prosperity on its own.  Government force is needed to rectify the inequality.

Then there was the laundry list of "new" government initiatives: outsourcing, green jobs, innovation, infrastructure, universal pre-K, student and mortgage loan fixes, tax subsidies for saving, urban renewal.

Considering that our big challenge was to fight "inequality" you'd have to think that the laundry list was pretty tattered: time-worn bureaucratic ideas, fixes to previous failures, and a new pre-K system to let the ruling class dominate the education of pre-schoolers.

Conservatives right now are obsessing about the "low-information voters" that Obama targets, the disengaged people that that just get a whiff of politics from Obama and the mainstream media, and think that the president is battling evil forces on their behalf.

But I think that the bigger problem is the rank-and-file Democrats that just have faith in the president and the welfare state, the kind of people that the president always features as a backdrop to his speechifying in a public arena.  We are not talking about the ankle-biting progressive base, and certainly not the elite educated class of New York Times readers.  We are just talking about ordinary folks, maybe with a government job in education or health care.

When the president calls for a program for worker training or a new program to extend schooling to pre-schoolers these rank-and-filers nod their heads in agreement.  Of course "we" need to do that, they think.  What a good idea!  And they could never afford to do it on their own.

The conservative answer to this is threefold.

First of all the government isn't "we."  The government is "them," the ruling class ruling "us," the people.

Second, these good social initiatives are not the sort of thing you would want let politicians, the dukes of division, control.  Politicians are good at dividing people into warring armies for a battle, not into bringing people together for the benefit of all.  Don't mention the politician's assistants, the experts: they will do anything and say anything for another grant.

Third, all these new programs end up being a yet another way for the ruling class to dominate us.  Education is a prime example.  The reason we have an exploding home-schooling movement is that many people don't like other people dictating how their children will get an education.  They especially don't like it when the other people do it very badly.

But the bigger problem, the one that is demolishing the whole liberal project, is that government never knows when to stop; it's incapable of prudent course corrections.  In capitalism, you are always striving to change and to improve; your profit tells you immediately whether you are on the right track or whether you have to change.  But government is different.  It never changes until disaster strikes.

There is no mystery about this.  Government is force, the governing class is the warrior band.  Wars and battles are won by the side that gives up last.  So perseverance is the one great virtue in the warrior and the politician.  Never, never, never, never give up, said Winston Churchill.  Easy for him to say, for it's not the rulers that suffer when the government screws up.  The problem for the rank-and-file is that they are the ones that actually pay the butcher's bill when the army gets defeated or the government screws up another big program.  Napoleon gets to ride back from Moscow to France in a horse and carriage.  The French poilus had to struggle through the Russian winter.

In other words, when the government screws up the people suffer.  And the ruling class skips off to its next gig.  All those good folks in the backdrop to the president's speeches:  when the money runs out they will get screwed.  But don't worry about the Obamas and the Anthony Weiners and the Lois Lerners.  They will do just fine.

1 comment:

  1. You got a great message I like and believe everything you say about the ruling class. It's a shame that both the Dems and Reps are in the tank for the same thing. It is the common folks both that are getting screwed it just that the LIV Dems seem to like it. Conservatives both would like to change the way Gov works but he Ruling Class will not let that happen, at least not by the electorial process. You, we, us got a vision but no game plan to get us there. It going to take time to figure it out. Less Federalism, Liberal (Marist, Socialist)Institution of Learning, Entitlement driven economy,on and on. It's like we got to throw away the 50 years of planning to get us where we are and start over. I believe a cogent message, rights, right and wrong, increasing freedoms and liberty, the responsibilities of the individual, morals, and ethics. Well I could go on but I feel like I'm rambling. We are once again found wanting for a little real hope and change.