Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Sound Of One Hand Clapping

Republicans have gotten the message.  People are alarmed at the size of government, both in dollar terms and in the scope of its ambition.  They don't appreciate its priorities, or its ceaseless subsidizing of personal irresponsibility, opportunism, and dependence.  They are terrified by yawning deficits and Gibralter-sized debt.  They are menaced by the grasping fingers of bureaucrats and scheming politicians who clutch for ever-larger shares of personal wealth in order to pay for their grandiose designs, and lifestyles.  People are wising up to the government-employee-union-scam: government workers earn better than private-sector equivalents, work less, enjoy greater job security, have far superior benefits, boss common people around, retire earlier, and saddle taxpayers with unsustainable legacy costs.  Many are infuriated at Hollywood propaganda, and the culture's hyper-sensualized lures to turn left.  They at least don't want tax dollars funding only one side's message.  

What Republicans don't seem to fathom, or at least lack the ability to articulate, is that the fiscal piece of their puzzle necessarily connects with a social piece.  It is necessary, but insufficient to say that we need to cut,  starve or repeal the abominations that reckless Democrats foist on the populace.  Democrats see a real problem.  Some people cannot take care of themselves, or get themselves out of intractable messes, and need to be helped, or even taken care of.  This group is the Democrats' mother's milk--or at least its invocation is.

Republicans need to communicate that the country must have fewer, not more, people in this needy class, and that Democratic governance ordered towards expanding, rather than contracting, its size is not sustainable.  Republicans must champion the socially conservative notions that people have a duty to be responsible for themselves, their family members, their fellow parishioners, and the like, in concentric circles expanding outward from the human heart to its natural attachments.  (Democrats go the other way, from some mass phenomenon--real or imagined--inward to the pocketbook of unrelated people.)  Moreover, the government's role is to foster and strengthen intermediary institutions such as the nuclear family, extended family and the church--to honor the "subjectivity of society," in Pope John Paul II's memorable phrase--and not to foment their demise as it does under Democratic sway (e.g., marriage penalties in the tax code; single parenthood subsidized by welfare).  Republicans are the only ones with the moral authority to proclaim the message that economic (classical) liberalism dovetails naturally with social conservatism, given Democrat's devotion to collectivist illusions, cost- and wealth-spreading designs, and debilitating the intermediary associations between the "individual" and the state.

The broader that Democrat's social welfare net expands, the greater the number of people who are snared by it, or resort to it, who choose dependency rather than responsibility for oneself and one's loved ones, because it pays better, and demands less.  This is the dynamic that is corrupting the country (and alarming its populace) from the inside out, person by person, eroded character by eroded character.

These reflections are provoked by an article in today's WSJ foretelling of Republicans initial attempt to constrain the entitlement black hole swallowng the nation's economy.

Republicans want to allow states more latitude on spending federal money (that is, federal taxpayer's money), permitting states to determine where it can best be spent.  In the sane world, this is called an application of the "principle of subsidiarity."  In the liberal political world, "this is yet another indication that a very significant part of the entitlement savings in the Ryan budget will come from severe cuts in health care for low- and moderate-income Americans."  That is not an argument that Republicans will ever win, as the terms undermine them: cost savings vs. care for the needy.  Can it be long before some prominent Churchman regurgitates this soundbite, thereby cloaking it in the mantle of Christian charity?  

It is ironically Republicans' duty--sooner or later met--to propose the novel idea that people themselves, with their families, churches, neighborhood-associations and the like have the primary responsibility in making sure that the poor and low-income do not suffer from the federal government's transfer of initiative, and authority, back to the people, where they resided and belonged in the first place.  It is the people's responsibility to do this with their own money, of their own volition, without government coercion or confiscation.  If Republicans don't draw the necessary connection between economic liberalism and what goes by the name of social conservatism--adherence to faith, traditional family, personal responsibility, "self"-sufficiency (fully recognizing that the personal self is a social entity), cardinal virtues, respect for traditions and the past, love of country that manifests itself in ways other than criticism and reform agendas, etc--their message will make the sound of one hand clapping, and be only as effective as it is noisy.  The coupling of economic and social conservatism is more than a marriage of convenience contracted in order to win a few political contests.  It is the basis for an enduring philosophy of personal and political self-governance.

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