Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

12/09/2008 (8:09 am)

Some Conservative Impulses

Bits and pieces worth reading.

From P.J. O’Rourke, an entertaining old lecher who can write like nobody’s business, and who is full of sound impulses mixed in with curious resorts to unrestrained conscience, or sometimes lack thereof. Here’s his wisdom concerning free markets:

What will destroy our country and us is not the financial crisis but the fact that liberals think the free market is some kind of sect or cult, which conservatives have asked Americans to take on faith. That’s not what the free market is. The free market is just a measurement, a device to tell us what people are willing to pay for any given thing at any given moment. The free market is a bathroom scale. You may hate what you see when you step on the scale. “Jeeze, 230 pounds!” But you can’t pass a law making yourself weigh 185. Liberals think you can. And voters–all the voters, right up to the tippy-top corner office of Goldman Sachs–think so too.

He’s wrong about one thing. Free markets are not just a bathroom scale. They’re also human liberty.

A Britcom called “Yes, Prime Minister” somehow fails to produce laughs, but instead produces uncommon good sense regarding education policy. Translator’s note: “DES” is the Department of Education and Science, their equivalent of the US Department of Education. The clip is 6 minutes long:

The best part occurs just after the 4 minute mark:

PM: “We’ll abolish the DES.”
Minister: “Abolish science and education? That will be the end of civilization as we know it!”
PM: “We’re only abolishing the department. Science and education will flourish.”
Minister: “Without a government department? Impossible!”
Aide: “Government departments are tombstones.
The Department of Industry marks the grave of industry.
The Department of Employment marks the grave of employment.
The Department of Environment marks the grave of the environment, and
the Department of Education marks where the corpse of British Education is buried.”

P.J. O’Rourke again. Same article as before, but this time he’s railing about the vanished principle of fiscal responsibility:

… a low tax rate is not–never mind the rhetoric of every conservative politician–a bedrock principle of conservatism. The principle is fiscal responsibility.

Conservatives should never say to voters, “We can lower your taxes.” Conservatives should say to voters, “You can raise spending. You, the electorate, can, if you choose, have an infinite number of elaborate and expensive government programs. But we, the government, will have to pay for those programs. We have three ways to pay.

“We can inflate the currency, destroying your ability to plan for the future, wrecking the nation’s culture of thrift and common sense, and giving free rein to scallywags to borrow money for worthless scams and pay it back 10 cents on the dollar.

“We can raise taxes. If the taxes are levied across the board, money will be taken from everyone’s pocket, the economy will stagnate, and the poorest and least advantaged will be harmed the most. If the taxes are levied only on the wealthy, money will be taken from wealthy people’s pockets, hampering their capacity to make loans and investments, the economy will stagnate, and the poorest and the least advantaged will be harmed the most.

“And we can borrow, building up a massive national debt. This will cause all of the above things to happen plus it will fund Red Chinese nuclear submarines that will be popping up in San Francisco Bay to get some decent Szechwan take-out.”

Yes, this would make for longer and less pithy stump speeches. But we’d be showing ourselves to be men and women of principle. It might cost us, short-term. We might get knocked down for not whoring after bioenergy votes in the Iowa caucuses. But at least we wouldn’t land on our scruples. And we could get up again with dignity intact, dust ourselves off, and take another punch at the liberal bully-boys who want to snatch the citizenry’s freedom and tuck that freedom, like a trophy feather, into the hatbands of their greasy political bowlers.

And finally, a quotation from a comment on a site called “The New Republican,” concerning the difference between a private company and allowing the government to perform a similar task:

… when Katrina devastated several parts of our country the United States Post Office found it necessary to STOP all interaction with such regions for six months, yet FedEx continued normal (as in, yes, even next day service) to ….wait for it….ALL Katrina-affected parts.

Government is not the solution, it’s the problem.

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December 13, 2008 @ 5:32 pm #

“He’s wrong about one thing. Free markets are not just a bathroom scale. They’re also human liberty.”

Time and again laissez-faire economic policy and democracy are equated with one another. How does this stand in relation to the economically ‘free’ but edging-on-fascist russia, or the chinese powerhouse of asia that arrests bloggers who reference tiannamen square? Is there no contradiction that countries with some of the highest standards of living and most developed societies, like sweden and denmark, germany and taiwan, operate social markets rather than ‘free’ ones? Is the worker who has been laid off more ‘free’ for having a range of healthcare plans that he can’t afford to buy into more free than the one who recives government-adminstered, social healthcare?

December 13, 2008 @ 9:26 pm #

Just unbelievable, Tom. You’ve done this before, and I’ve explained it to you before.

The ability to make economic decisions without government restraint is liberty in economic acts. The ability to make political decisions without government restraint is also liberty, in political acts. The fact that you may have one but not the other DOES NOT IN ANY WAY minimize the importance of either, or make either one less “liberty.” They are both liberty, in separate areas of endeavor.

What the hell is so difficult about understanding that liberty may be had in lesser or greater quantity in two separate spheres, that you simply fail to get it?

And if this helps you in any way, this has nothing to do with “democracy.” Democracy is not mentioned, considered, or implied… it just ain’t there. Get it out of your head. Democracy in a country like the US is about to become, with nationalized industries, government work rules, wage controls, profit maximums, environmental restrictions up the ying-yang, government interference in even the smallest buying decisions, and government dictating to religious and political groups what they may or may not say (not all of this has occurred yet, but it’s on the way) is not liberty in any sense, it just gives the slaves the opportunity to select their next overlord. Democracy don’t mean dick about liberty.

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