Quo Vadis

In his convention speech, when George Bush said “liberty is transformative” he was proclaiming his coming victory.

For the last two generations the political spheres in America have been in the process of making their distinctions by contrast with each other. In one sphere, the good of the group is paramount. In the other sphere, the group is background and the individual moves to the foreground. The tension between them is the difference in world views: one of scarcity and entitlement and one of plenitude and responsibility.

Some have called this the war between the Gramscians and Tocquevillians: between the Marxist left and classical liberalism. However, if economic motives underlie decisions, then the split is between the now-discredited Keynesian view of large government and progressive taxation for the commonweal, and the view of Nobel Prize winners Mundell and Prescott, who posit the necessity for lowered taxes as the driving force behind prosperity and productivity. In their more conservative view, individual liberty is based on an essential trust in the nature of man, despite his inherent flaws and limitations. It is a view of society which sees its potential secured in the freedom of each to make individual decisions, the sum of which add up to the wisdom of the community.

The Keynesian view is more paternal. The children — the electorate — are not to be trusted with so much responsibility. Instead, they make a Faustian bargain with a central government, trusting the solutions of large bureaucracies to provide better outcomes than can be achieved by aggregate decisions of the community. This is not a view of man as redeemed but rather man as eternally fallen. In trade for peacefully surrendering large amounts of individual wealth which the government will re-distribute for the greater good of all, the people are kept safe. In this world view Government Knows Best.

However, if Frederic Bastiat is right then America is beginning to grasp the old-but-ever-new idea that liberty is a gift bestowed by God on each individual; it is each person’s birth right. Through this authentic freedom lies the only path toward transformative change, a true metanoia.

And if, as his opponents have said, George Bush is simplistic, naïve and dim, then perhaps the idea that “a child shall lead them” has come to pass.

Finally, if, as The Wisdom of Crowds proposes, the group makes wiser, more truly intelligent decisions than do the “experts,” then the re-election of George Bush is good, is a good.

5 thoughts on “Quo Vadis

  1. I agree with you, and I think libertarians who look down on Bush for the Medicare bill, the Patriot Act, and the Iraq war are missing the importance of Bush’s central principles, liberty, opportunity and responsibility. In this respect, Bush’s ideology actually resembles that of Amartya Sen in Development as Freedom, who emphasized both the “instrumental” and the “constitutive” value of freedom in development; giving people more freedoms accelerates development, and development consists of providing people with more “substantive freedoms.” Bush gave these principles a bit of an edge, a follow-through, that they previously lacked. His immigration proposal is of a piece with his general project of expanding people’s substantive freedoms.

    The objections to Bush’s program are the same as those to Amartya Sen. One is the theme of Dostoyevsky’s The Grand Inquisitor: do people really want freedom, and do they simply make themselves miserable when they have it? Another: if freedom includes the freedom to do bad and self-destructive things, is freedom really the proper criterion? I admire Bush and what he stands for, but there is perhaps insufficient awareness in his creed of the mystery and tragedy of life.

  2. Liberty of course assumes freedom ‘for’ rather than a simple rebelliousness. Bastiat had a fully developed understanding of the mystery and tragedy of life. Otherwise, why would he have converted to Catholicism?…That is, if one could really ‘convert’ in France in his day. Let us say he ‘confirmed’ himself.

    Liberty is transformative on all levels. It leaves one free to pursue the good, the true and the beautiful. That we may disagree what those words mean and on what terms we gainfully pursue them is what makes for philosophy and physics. How else to gainfully employ all those academics?

    I am not familiar with Amartya Sen, though the book title is certainly intriguing. Watching a child develop proves your point. As his mobility and intellect increase so do the restrictions and responsibilities of being human. The child both looks back on his younger self with nostalgia for the time when he was simply taken care of and gazes forward, eager to be even more ‘at liberty’ than he finds himself at present.

    Our current appreciation for liberty is quite skewed.

  3. Dymphna

    While somewhat tangential to the main thread of the argument, what concerns me most is not the origins of the philisophical camps, but rather that those who have planned and implimented their post-war vision of transforming the Anglic Reach from their core belief in the individual to one where the population views itself merely as part of the collective seems to have achieved its goal of indoctrinating sufficient numbers to reach what it seeks. Critical Mass.

    Not withstanding GWB’s re-election, and the return of the Australian Prime Minister to power, they are nothing if not patient. Their successes are incremental by design and have at their foundation the same methodologies of any group seeking to collectivise a population.

    It matters little what political/ religious or philosophical basis they espouse to justify their actions, the end result is the same. As are the tools they use to achieve it.

    A pillar of this transformation, is of course, education. Most concern and debate is focused upon adults and the battle for their hearts and minds as voters. Secondarily,the attention is paid to those young adults attempting to navigate the environment perceived to be the most hostile to retaining the belief that each person is an individual..the university.

    While only some ever reach university, all of us attend elementary school. In this, those who seek to retain the concept of the individual as the “default” perception of one’s place in society have been intentionally misdirected.

    To illustrate, those over 40 will remember school as a place where one sits in an individual desk and achieves on their own merit through their own work. While individuality is perceived as the norm, social interaction with others as a skill was promoted and achieved through, sports, drama, etc. The ability of individuals to come together for a common purpose to achieve a goal..within which you retain individuality but put it to the collective good of the goal. Goal achieved you return to individual autonomy.

    Attend the majority of elementary schools today and the children will be assigned to a group table. They work as a group, they think as a group, they must critique each others work as a group and they succeed as a group regardless of effort. Some school boards have it in their policy manuals, the documents upon which teachers are contracted.. that no child will be or shall be seen to have failed. Its in the contract.

    Secondly, those of a certain age will remember that classroom transgressions were punished by individual reparations such as lines or detention. Now its exclusion from the group. The time-out. If you are not indoctrinated to see see yourself as part of a group, then banishment from it has no effect. This is not allowed.

    Its social engineering from daycare on up.

    That it exists to intentionally indoctrinate is not a conspiracy theory on my part but rather the result of research thanks to a subversive professor surviving within a rabidly politicaly correct education faculty. He sent me on a quest to define child-centred activity based whole language learning. I kept coming across documents and papers in which I could detect a subtext, but one that eluded me. Then in a box of materials I came across a blue, three-fold pamphlet from, I believe, a university in Illinois wherein the author a professor of education, stridently declared that at last a system had been formulated that could destroy the male heirarchical capitalist system.

    Damn if it isn’t working.

    It never ceases to amaze me how people shake their heads and wonder at the causes of the formation of so many gangs or the tragic incidents of high school shootings when the whole system they’ve been prisoners in reinforce in every way possible the primacy of: the unit, the group, the group, the unit. They’re just following the everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarten.

    From a Saturday at the mall to seeing themselves reflected in things like “Friends”, they can’t function without the unit/the group.

    So while millions are spent on election advertising and
    debates rage…the communalists wait, secure in the knowledge that much like the inevitability of the demographics in Europe to force change, primacy of collective thought is merely a matter of time.

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