Wednesday, April 22, 2009

 

Revolution?

In store for the Special Interest State?

Via Instapundit, The Coming of the Fourth American Republic:
This Third Republic has had a good run. It was wobbling in the late 1970s, but got bailed out by a run of good luck—Reagan; the fall of the USSR; the computer and information revolution; the rise of the Asian Tigers and the “BRICs”; the basic dynamism and talent of the American people—that kept the bicycle moving and thus upright.

It could continue. It is characteristic of political arrangements that they go on long after an observer from Mars might think that surely their defects are so patent that they have exhausted their capacity for survival. Besides, as the Declaration of Independence counsels, “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” The culture, the people, are astonishingly creative and productive, and may demonstrate a capacity to keep the bicycle moving faster than the demands of the Special Interest State can throw sand in the gears.

But it is more likely that the Special Interest State has reached a limit.

Few Washington lawyers and lobbyists know that it was once questioned whether the Special Interest State is an appropriate form of organization for a polity.

This may seem a dubious statement, at a time when the ideology of total government is at an acme, but it is not unusual for decadent political arrangements to blaze brightly before their end. Indeed, the total victory of the old arrangements may be crucial to bringing into being the forces that will overthrow it. In some ways, the grip of the aristocracy on 18th-century France tightened in the decades leading up to 1789, and the alliance-of-states idea could have lasted a while longer had the Confederacy not precipitated the crisis. So the utter triumph of the Special Interest State over the past 15 years, and particularly in the recent election, looks like the beginning of its end.
The author, James V. DeLong, is optimistic about our future. I think the jury is still out. As the path we are on is unsustainable, I agree that a radically different political arrangement among Americans is in the offing. DeLong assumes American history will repeat itself. Given that those now in power are determined to make this impossible makes me question this assumption.

The key for those in power is 'comprehensive immigration reform' -- which, to our political class, means opening US citizenship to anyone who wants it so as to dilute the franchise of current Americans. Cellec, from this Belmont Club thread on immigration:
The debate over immigration in the U.S. is unusual in that it’s less a debate between Republicans and Democrats than a debate between the general populace and the political class.

To be sure, Liberals are marginally less concerned about the border then conservatives, but the broad and largely bi-partisan consensus amongst the populace seems to be: Establish real control over the border and get serious about enforcing the existing laws before creating new “paths to citizenship”.

The political class on the other hand seems unanimously in favor of some form of amnesty, with even the conservative Wall Street Journal giving a thumbs up to George Bushes failed “Shamnesty” bill of a year or two ago.
To cement their power, they need to remake the electorate. Noting the polarizing nature of President Obama, hdgreene comments:
I view the United States as close to being a one party state, and that Party is the DC Power Party. They seek to centralize more power, not just in Washington DC but in the hands of a Credentialed Aristocracy. This Aristocracy is not yet hereditary, but it is headed that way. You notice the groups that are the biggest boosters of “Affirmative Action” don’t mind nepotism (think Hollywood and Politics). Those who rant the most about “conflicts of interest” don’t think the concept applies to them and their close family members. Andrea Mitchel married to the Fed Chairman? What could be wrong with that? And what is wrong with a Senator bequeathing his seat to his daughter or his son? Even affirmative action, in practice, favored the daughters of this emerging order over the sons of sharecroppers.

When President Obama speaks of bipartisanship, he speaks of uniting this Aristocratic group into a permanent governing class. Of course Republicans cannot totally go along because they represent the “pockets of resistance.” These are folks who see themselves firmly on the other side of the divide and whose children will be out of favor in the credential hunt. They would not object to an aristocracy of merit and accomplishment — which is attacked as greed and selfishness by the Credentialed, since this would give upper middle class kids a leg up (especially if the parents instill drive and ambition in their kids). Interestingly, they would have a leg up on the poor and working class kids but be a threat to the Patrician class, who would like to flow into power the way the river flows to the sea.

As long as this Aristocracy could acquire more power it could grow and welcome new members (in fact, offering membership was a tool for acquiring power). But now they are reaching their “limits to growth” and they will need to cement their leadership in place and pull up the bridge behind them. A situation of low growth and controlled growth will help them — so society itself much reach its “limits to growth.”

In the latest economic crisis we find the relationships among the various actors obscured and the causes portrayed as beyond our understanding. More and more we will find that the actors in the various dramas are in some sense related. And being a part of the same Aristocratic Class will not be a reason for recusal. Why be a member of a select class and give up the advantages?

In this Credentialed State, a lot of power accrues to the gate keepers of entry into the Aristocratic class — those who will grant “The Patents of Nobility.” Demanding that the novice display Fidelity to the emerging order by signing on to some rather bizarre ideas makes a lot of sense: it shows they are willing to suppress their individuality in the service of the new class (early in the process this looks like a “counter culture” of free thinkers and then emerges as the autocratic PC of the narrow minded). Of course, you are expected to do more than mouth these ideas, you are expected to believe them.

What infuriates liberals (read progressives) are arguments that make these ideas look as nonsensical as they are. Hence the new cliche, “Shut up, they explained.”
Hence the hysterical reaction from Democrats concerning the tea party protests:
Isn't that what's going on here—that those who have a stake in a bigger government, higher taxes, and higher spending might feel threatened by what they saw last week? The fact that the RNC had nothing to do with the tea parties makes them even scarier to some. These were citizens upset at the size and scope of our government, and there's nothing wrong with them saying so—even if some of them were a little on the fringes. That happens at every protest. The bottom line is that the vast majority of protesters were not "hate-filled," but expressing a legitimate concern. They don't deserve to be belittled and insulted.
No, they don't. I agree with Glenn Reynolds:
Yeah, it’s kinda weird to say that if you didn’t raise a stink about a $300 billion deficit, you can’t complain about a $2 trillion deficit. But in fact, some of us were complaining — and, as I recall, being criticized then because we weren’t talking about whatever the lefty critics wanted us to blog about instead at the time. But you know Al Gore’s story about the slowly-boiling frog? Obama’s turned the stove up to 11, and the frog has started to kick.
UPDATE: Larry Kudlow fears we are witnessing the death of democratic capitalism:
So call it corporate capitalism or state capitalism or government-directed capitalism. But it still represents a huge change from the American economic tradition. It’s a far cry from the free-market principles that governed the three-decade-long Reagan expansion, which now seems in jeopardy. And with cap-and-trade looming, this corporate capitalism will only grow more intense.

This is all very disturbing. For three decades supply-siders like me and my dear friend Jack Kemp talked about democratic capitalism. This refers to the small business that grows into the large one. It means necessary after-tax incentives are being provided to reward Schumpeterian entrepreneurship, innovation, and risk-taking.

At the center of this model is the much-vaunted entrepreneur, who must be supported by a thriving investor class that will provide the necessary capital to finance the new economy. But also necessary for the Schumpeterian model is a healthy banking and financial system that will provide the necessary lending credit to finance new ideas.

Do we truly believe that raising tax rates on investors and moving to some sort of government-controlled banking system will sufficiently fund the entrepreneur and sustain democratic capitalism? Do we really believe that a federal-government-directed economic system will generate a sufficient supply of capital and credit to produce a strong economy?

I doubt it.
But economic growth isn't the point. Expanding, consolidating and entrenching the power of the governing class is.

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