The Real Culture War is not about moralism

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.

5 responses to “The Real Culture War is not about moralism

  1. I find it difficult to offer much comment here….but in a GOOD way. It’s hard to say much more than clichés such as, “ditto”, “right on”, “you go boy” and such. This is just plain, good ol’ common sense. Not much to add to and certainly even less to take away.

    We usually get the rap that we are simply “parroting” the views and comments of Conservative Talk, but I gravitated to Conservative Talk because it confirmed and agreed with the way I think and feel.

    I’ve alway been a worker and entrepreneur. I’ve always felt that the majority of the “WORKING” U.S. Citizens were simply indentured servants for one group or the other. I’ve always believed in personal responsibility and have hardly ever asked for any type of help and NEVER asked simply for a handout. (Never received one either. If I had, maybe I would have liked it!!)

    We are quickly reaching the point of over saturation. The percentage of people and the growing number of groups (companies) receiving entitlements are quickly outstripping the ability and capability of a very small minority of us to continue to pay for their excesses.

    There exists in this country an ersatz war against responsible people who have worked hard and managed to accumulate any measure of financial security. The Government has pretty much been able to and successful in identifying those who are willing to work hard and live up to their responsibilities as evil and selfish. They have been able to position themselves as some sort of “Avenging Spirit” to take from these that do not deserve, to distribute to the poor unfortunates that do not have.

    I truly fear with the power this Administration is beginning to form, and the resultant ability to force their Socialist, Communist, Collectivist, Statist, whateverist policies on our country, it may well spell the end of the America I grew up in. It may well spell the end of the America that led the world in innovative thinking, in remarkable accomplishment, the America that was a shining beacon of opportunity for all.

  2. I worry about my country as well. Philosophically, I sympathize with those who talk of going Galt, sick of shouldering so much of the burden of this ever growing behemoth. This perfect storm of financial crisis plus hard-left congress and president provides a dangerous window of opportunity for those who seek to increase the size of government and government control. Based upon my own personal observations, entitlements are forever.

    I remember reading some parts in Atlas Shrugged where the politican was over the top with socialist rhetoric, maybe when stealing Rearden Metal or taking the railroad from the Taggarts, it has been too long to remember the details. But those class warfare collectivist phrases seemed somewhat exagerrated at the time. Not quite so now.

    What happens when a majority of the voters are not paying any of the bill? It does seem obvious that very little good can come from that.

  3. I’ll just repeat. This book should be required reading. They should come up with a Cliff’s Notes Version of “Atlas Shrugged” and EVERYONE should read it. Very frightening (bad word. Let’s make the Liberals Happy. “Thought Provoking”) how it parallels much of what is happening today.

    To paraphrase lines from the original “Planet of the Apes”…..”What would they find if they read it? Their destiny!”

  4. You know, after thinking about it a bit, the thing that I got from reading Atlas Shrugged that stuck with me the most and has had the most positive impact for me is that phrase “check your premises”. In other words, we so often have this large set of “already decided” positions or beliefs that we never take another look at, never stepping back far enough to evaluate those things that we stopped thinking about a long time ago.

    I have always tried to check my premises frequently; I submit that failing to do so risks intellectual stagnation and ignorance. Getting into the skeptical movement, with people like James Randi and the Skeptics’ Guide people, has just strengthened that for me. [Too bad that they are not skeptical enough of anthropogenic climate change!].

    Did you ever read Rand’s Anthem? It is about a 45 minute read but was interesting nonetheless: they had no concept of “I”, everything was “we” and “us” because they lived in such a collectivist society.

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