Monday, May 30, 2016

How to Put Conservatives Back Together Again

After all the division and the tearing-apart of the 2016 election what happens next for conservatives and Republicans? John O'Sullivan gives us a tour d'horizon that reminds us that we are always arguing and divided.

But he makes important points about the Trumpites that need to be shared. Especially the question of entitlements.
Conservative writers have long pointed out that the present structure of such payments is fiscally unsustainable, destructive of self-reliance, unrelated to the contributions beneficiaries have paid in over years, likely to undermine the dependent–worker ratio on which the entitlements depend, and much else. 
Easy for us to say. But the ordinary voters are on the sharp end of entitlement reform and they see things differently.
Most suburban conservatives don’t see it that way, however, and in particular they distinguish morally between different kinds of transfer payments. As Rod Dreher found when talking to his father, they think that welfare payments going to idlers are quite different from Social Security payments going to retirees. In the first case, they reward vice and/or encourage dependency; in the second, they are the return on their investment in America as hard workers, good providers, helpful neighbors, potential draftees, and patriotic citizens.
Hmm. The way I've read about it, suburban Americans argue that they paid their dues, and by God, they are going to demand they get their reward. It's in the Trust Fund, right?

My own view is slightly different. Ordinary Americans are taxed up the Wazoo with payroll taxes, which is profoundly unjust. So they are right to have a bloody-minded attitude about getting back their contributions with interest.

So then John O'Sullivan comes up with his reality check, borrowing from James C. Bennett and Michael J. Lotus in America 3.0, and their prediction of the "Big Haircut."

"Haircut" is the term generally given to the treatment of bondholders when a government entity won't pay its debt. Nothing will happen to entitlements until a government debt crisis that forces everyone, even Democratic politicians, to agree on a solution in which everyone shares in the haircut.

In other words, big changes are afoot, but the times are not yet ripe.

In the short term, I can't help feeling, the action is going to be the growing rage against the injustice and the oppression that the Obama progressives have been dishing out to the people that think of themselves as "typical Americans."

So if conservatives and Republicans want to do anything they should be doing stuff that helps more people identify as typical Americans. One recent suggestion was to start hearings in Congress about the Asian American quota at Harvard and other selective colleges.

By the way, I just finished Chapter Ten in Alexis de Tocqueville's The Old Regime and the French Revolution and he talks about the disaster of the old regime's policy of divide and conquer and of concentrating all power at the center. It ended up that the whole nation was divided against itself, nobles against the middle class, middle class against the peasants and everything in between. So the French ended up with the Hobbesian war of all against all.

It really is better to avoid a top-down government of experts, and a divisive identity politics that sets every group against every other. You never know when you are going to need the nation to be strong and united.

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