A Mind That Suits What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Thursday, February 10, 2005 :::
A certain pudgy, balding English teacher is now a columnist in Germany. Well, perhaps "regular contributor" is the mot juste, although mot juste is French. German is largely opaque to A Mind That Suits, whose feeble attempts to become a real scholar as a lad left him with sufficient German to be able to eat and sleep comfortably from Hamburg to Vienna, but that is about it. He writes what his editor asks him to write, and then turns it over to said editor, who then translates. This is a humbling amount of respect to receive, so even when he is overcome with the urge to throttle, he is thankful for the opportunity.

Said editor is young friend Philip described last month, a genius and an accomplished intellectual in the grand German tradition. This is a rarer breed than it used to be, so it is nice to see it thriving. His dissertation advisor is a) retiring, b) unwilling to read a dissertation over 300 pages, so young Philip will also have to synthesize, something intellectuals in the grand German tradition tend to avoid. This is a good thing, and young Philip will do it quite well. It would be nice to return the favor, and offer to translate the thing, but young Philip's English is nearly flawless, so perhaps he will just edit.

In any case, in addition to starting a family and finishing a dissertation, young Philip decided to start a new free-market journal called "Gegengift," which means "the Antidote." He and his fellow Young Turks intend to be the antidote to every silly, soul-destroying social policy inflicted upon the German people, apparently, and Godspeed. If they benefit from our experiences, then so much the better.

The first issue is apparently wending its way to the US even as we speak--well, not speak, but, you know, hang together, whatever. Here is the contribution from their correspondent in Washington.

How far right is America going to turn?

It’s not clear she has turned right, first of all. The last election consolidated the lead of the Republican Party, but the Republican Party is not George W. Bush.

Mr. Bush himself sought no mandate for his policies, running an almost exclusively negative campaign. Love is blind, it is true, but Europeans simply refuse to see what a terrible candidate John Kerry was. The choice was particularly stark, as Mr. Bush refused to publicly rethink anything he had done and Mr. Kerry refused to commit himself to anything other than an absolute right to abortion.

On foreign policy, Americans will likely never accept the idea that diplomacy without strength will get anywhere. However, the full truth about Iraq will soon impress itself on the American public, and then we will see where America goes. As it is, she has no further troops to go adventuring with, so now, maybe, we all can talk. But again, in this election, the choice was so stark as to make inferences pointless.

Yet it is true: the Republicans appear to be in charge. Why?

One must understand that the USA has no Right, in the European sense, and perhaps never has. Slavery was our own horrifying anomaly, and neither it nor any of its consequences corresponds to any aspect of Western European society.

America, however, does indeed have a very real Left. Franklin Roosevelt actually proposed a “war-time” employment act that would give him the right to reassign production capabilities and workers throughout the country. That would have been the end of property rights. Congress balked. Earlier, the Supreme Court, the third branch of our government, had put a brake on his efforts to accomplish the same thing piece-meal.

Throughout the rest of the era of Democratic Party dominance, attacks against property and family continued apace on the local level. By the 1970s, at least three cities--New York, Detroit, and Washington, DC—were dominated by mayors or senior bureaucrats whose politics could only be described as Marxist, with corresponding decay.

But Marxism is not the preferred form of radicalism. Far more influential is the “lifestyle” left in the tradition of Sartre, Gramsci, and, ultimately, Rousseau.

Sartre, Gramsci, and their heirs are still worshiped by our elites as much as by those in Europe, yet our elites are certain they live the land of the Philistines. Americans are often free to ignore them, and often do. Our elites, you see, are not as elite as Europe’s elites. Tocqueville noticed this nearly 200 years ago: there are many places and many ways to be important in America. This diffuse power system produces very real benefits.

A number of books have appeared trying to explain our “right turn.” Right Nation, by two British journalists, may help Europeans understand the ins and outs of every local variation of Americana. The better book is surely Hard America, Soft America by Michael Barone, our foremost political scientist. Mr. Barone demonstrates how, for example, leftist schools may teach mathematics as an “adventure for everybody,” but our vibrant economy demands workers who actually know real math. A young person launched upon the world with inferior skills almost immediately begins looking for adult schools or home study programs to get what he was denied as a child. Even our most ostentatiously leftwing corporations, such as Starbucks Coffee and Borders Books, subject their new employees to training regimes so severe that all their workers handle money with ease and speak clearly.

Towards the end of The Fatal Conceit, von Hayek comments, “Common practices must have a chance to produce their beneficial effects on a group on a progressive scale before selection by evolution can become effective.” (p.136) In the United States, they have that chance. Those states that have the best set of policies and laws flourish, and they attract people from states that have inferior policies. When the massive migration to the South began in the 1970’s, many leftwing commentators assumed that the conservative South would become more liberal. Racial tensions did ease considerably, but those who left the North wanted nothing to do with the failed policies that ravaged those states. The South is now almost irreversibly Republican.

Consider, also, this remarkable statistic: the African-American vote for W went up almost a quarter, from 9% in 2000 to 11%. This, after four years of shameless leftist charges that Bush had “stolen” the Florida election by intimidating Black voters. Not one single instance of such intimidation has been uncovered, but the President, typically, relied on the reports of experts to vindicate him. He almost never actively challenges what is said about him.

Blacks, however, can make their own comparisons. African-Americans who accept the requirements of modern life have done quite well. Many prominent automobile dealers in the D.C. area are Black, for instance, and they have mammoth houses—and are welcome--in the most exclusive neighborhoods. Bill Cosby, our most venerable African-American entertainer, chose 2004 to point out the gulf in skills separating poor Blacks from the rest of the country.

In 2004, perhaps most importantly, Blacks lost their historic place as “the largest minority” to Hispanics. The reason was writ large. 2004 was also the 31st anniversary of the judicial fiat, Roe v. Wade, by which an unrestricted abortion right was mandated. 12 million Blacks have been aborted since. Planned Parenthood, the great promoter of abortion, began as a eugenics outfit and for years promoted abortion as a way to reduce the welfare rolls. In style, Blacks do not “hold back”, and Black conservatives on their own initiative ran ads saying bluntly, “Murder is not the way to help poor people.”

Among religious Blacks, Pres. Bush received more than a third of the vote.

Which brings us to the question of religion. Religion thrives in America because it is free. The de-Christianization of Europe came about because elites wanted it. It was not popular when it started, and even now faces strong resistance on occasion. In very sharp contrast, the American government funds virtually no religious activities, but it cannot curtail any either. American religion is consequently highly personal, and its actual effect on politics can be debated. But religion itself is very strong.

Our Left is not comfortable with this. It is hard to imagine a cabinet member being blocked because of his religious beliefs, as was Rocco Buttiglione. Leftists have, however, opposed several of W’s judges solely because they are Christian, despite sterling credentials. The judges have not yet been finally blocked, and what would normally be minor nominations with no publicity have become causes celebres—on the Right.

The above quote from Hayek was taken from a chapter on “Religion and the Guardians of Tradition.” While he was no conservative, and he ultimately found religious language meaningless, he was a great defender of tradition on evolutionary grounds. He was adamant that the “Great Society” (that is, the liberal, capitalist system) was built by institutions and practices that support both property rights and the family. Conservatism in the US is famously the first kind of conservatism in the European tradition to embrace both free markets and traditional values. Hayek saw no contradiction between the two, but he did see that they could conflict and interfere with each other. Still, he maintained, both were necessary. Europeans may wish to look to themselves, therefore, and not the “frightening” US, to understand their own failures.

::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 4:12 PM



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