The real “Culture War” in America is not about religion or abortion or gay marriage or anthropogenic climate change. The real culture war being waged in this country, most recently evidenced by the well attended Tea Parties on tax day, is about the appropriate relationship between Government on one side and The People and our economy on the other side. Arthur Brooks wrote a smart piece in the WSJ that outlines his view of the true culture war:
Despite President Barack Obama’s early personal popularity, we can see the beginnings of this schism in the “tea parties” that have sprung up around the country. In these grass-roots protests, hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans have joined together to make public their opposition to government deficits, unaccountable bureaucratic power, and a sense that the government is too willing to prop up those who engaged in corporate malfeasance and mortgage fraud.
That was exactly what I saw when I attended my (not quite) local Tea Party with 20,000 other very vocal citizens. Brooks points out that these were regular people engaging in a true populist movement which he labeled as “ethical populism”:
The protesters are homeowners who didn’t walk away from their mortgages, small business owners who don’t want corporate welfare and bankers who kept their heads during the frenzy and don’t need bailouts. They were the people who were doing the important things right — and who are now watching elected politicians reward those who did the important things wrong.
After quoting some rather scary statistics about support for capitalism versus socialism among different age groups and different parties (“Republicans were 11 times more likely to prefer capitalism than socialism; Democrats were almost evenly split between the two systems”) he points out that government is helping this along:
The government has been abetting this trend for years by exempting an increasing number of Americans from federal taxation. My colleague Adam Lerrick showed in these pages last year that the percentage of American adults who have no federal income-tax liability will rise to 49% from 40% under Mr. Obama’s tax plan. Another 11% will pay less than 5% of their income in federal income taxes and less than $1,000 in total.
To put a modern twist on the old axiom, a man who is not a socialist at 20 has no heart; a man who is still a socialist at 40 either has no head, or pays no taxes. Social Democrats are working to create a society where the majority are net recipients of the “sharing economy.” They are fighting a culture war of attrition with economic tools. Defenders of capitalism risk getting caught flat-footed with increasingly antiquated arguments that free enterprise is a Main Street pocketbook issue. Progressives are working relentlessly to see that it is not.
I have always argued that collectivism, which I personally utilize as an umbrella term encompassing socialism, communism, marxism, maoism, etc, is inherently immoral in and of itself, regardless of what results come from it. Collectivism says to me that I am owned by the government and am a cash cow to be milked for what they (Ellsworth Toohey’s all) deem to be the collective good. I argue strenuously that collectivism is not different from slavery in kind, only in degree. I was happy to see Brooks echo that sentiment, though perhaps in more toned-down terms than I just did:
Advocates of free enterprise must learn from the growing grass-roots protests, and make the moral case for freedom and entrepreneurship. They have to declare that it is a moral issue to confiscate more income from the minority simply because the government can. It’s also a moral issue to lower the rewards for entrepreneurial success, and to spend what we don’t have without regard for our children’s future.
Brooks ends with a pep talk about the present opportunities for free marketeers.
We had better continue what the Tea Parties started if we care about our childrens’ (and grandchildrens’) future. Please read Brooks’ entire piece here and draw your own conclusions.