Dangerous loss of realism in politics
The people who pioneered democracy in Europe and the United States had a low but pretty accurate view of human nature. They knew that if we get the chance, most of us will try to get something for nothing. They knew that people generally prize short-term goodies over long-term prosperity. So, in centuries past, the democratic pioneers built a series of checks to make sure their nations wouldn’t be ruined by their own frailties.
The American founders did this by decentralizing power. They built checks and balances to frustrate and detain the popular will. They also dispersed power to encourage active citizenship, hoping that as people became more involved in local government, they would develop a sense of restraint and responsibility.
In Europe, by contrast, authority was centralized. Power was held by small coteries of administrators and statesmen, many of whom had attended the same elite academies where they were supposed to learn the art and responsibilities of stewardship. Under the parliamentary system, voters didn’t even get to elect their leaders directly. They voted for parties, and party elders selected the ones who would actually form the government, often through secret means.
Though the forms were different, the democracies in Europe and the United States were based on a similar carefully balanced view of human nature: People are naturally selfish and need watching. But democratic self-government is possible because we’re smart enough to design structures to police that selfishness.
James Madison put it well: “As there is a degree of depravity in mankind, which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust: So there are other qualities in human nature, which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence.”
But, over the years, this balanced wisdom was lost. Leaders today do not believe their job is to restrain popular will. Their job is to flatter and satisfy it. A gigantic polling apparatus has developed to help leaders anticipate and respond to popular whims. Democratic politicians adopt the mind-set of marketing executives. Give the customer what he wants. The customer is always right.
Having lost a sense of their own frailty, many voters have come to regard their desires as entitlements. They become incensed when their leaders are not responsive to their needs. Like any normal set of human beings, they command their politicians to give them benefits without asking them to pay.
The consequences of this shift are now obvious. In Europe and America, governments have made promises they can’t afford to fulfill. At the same time, the decision-making machinery is breaking down. American and European capitals still have the structures inherited from the past, but without the self-restraining ethos that made them function.
The American decentralized system of checks and balances has transmogrified into a fragmented system that scatters responsibility. Congress is capable of passing laws that give people benefits with borrowed money, but it gridlocks when it tries to impose self-restraint.
The Obama campaign issues its famous “Julia” ad, which perfectly embodies the vision of government as a national Sugar Daddy, delivering free money and goodies up and down the life cycle. The Citizens United case gives well-financed interests tremendous power to preserve or acquire tax breaks and regulatory deals. American senior citizens receive health benefits that cost many times more than the contributions they put into the system.
In Europe, workers across the Continent want great lifestyles without long work hours. They want dynamic capitalism but also personal security. European welfare states go broke trying to deliver these impossibilities.
The European ruling classes once had their power checked through daily contact with the tumble of national politics. But now those ruling classes have built a technocratic apparatus, the European Union, operating far above popular scrutiny. Decisions that reshape the destinies of families and nations are being made at some mysterious, transnational level. Few Europeans can tell who is making decisions or who is to blame if they go wrong, so, of course, they feel powerless and distrustful.
Western democratic systems were based on a balance between self-doubt and self-confidence. They worked because there were structures that protected the voters from themselves and the rulers from themselves. Once people lost a sense of their own weakness, the self-doubt went away and the chastening structures were overwhelmed. It became madness to restrain your own desires because surely your rivals over yonder would not be restraining theirs.
This is one of the reasons why Europe and the United States are facing debt crises and political dysfunction at the same time. People used to believe that human depravity was self-evident and democratic self-government was fragile. Now they think depravity is nonexistent and they take self-government for granted.
Neither the United States nor the European model will work again until we rediscover and acknowledge our own natural weaknesses and learn to police rather than lionize our impulses.
Baltimore County Delegate Acknowledges Epidemic of Black Mob Violence
Sooner or later even the authorities will have to acknowledge the epidemic of black on white mob violence that has made it unsafe to venture out of doors from one end of the country to the other. In Baltimore, it’s already beginning:
A Baltimore County delegate said Wednesday that the governor should send in the Maryland State Police to control “roving mobs of black youths” at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, prompting a colleague to label the message “race-baiting.”
Del. Patrick L. McDonough, a Republican whose district includes part of Harford County, distributed a news release with the headline: “Black Youth Mobs Terrorize Baltimore on Holidays.” In it, McDonough said he had sent a letter to Gov. Martin O’Malley urging him to use the state police to help prevent attacks and to declare the Inner Harbor area a “no-travel zone” until safety can be guaranteed.
Unsurprisingly, many of McDonough’s colleagues were aggressively “offended.” Nothing could be more predictable than that he will be denounced as a racist for pointing out that the house is on fire. However,
McDonough refused to back down, saying he had heard from police that the crowds involved in several recent incidents were all black. Failing to mention the race of the participants, he said, would be “political correctness on steroids.”
McDonough said his statement was prompted by several recent problems, including a St. Patrick’s Day disturbance and a recent incident in which he and his wife witnessed a fight involving about 100 youths at Pratt and Calvert streets.
The St. Patrick’s Day incident involved a tourist being beaten, robbed, and stripped in front of a courthouse by one of the black mobs that roam cities looking for lone whites to assault. Refusing to address them while not only justifying but inciting their behavior with liberal propaganda will only cause the mobs to grow larger and more vicious.
British PM's radical plan to reform jobs red tape
David Cameron is to back a radical plan to rip up employment red tape to help deliver growth. He will throw his weight behind a far-reaching report which calls for a bonfire of regulations that employers say are stifling job creation.
The report by Adrian Beecroft, a venture capitalist, will be published in full this week after months of delay.
The Sunday Telegraph has learnt that it will call for firms to be given much greater flexibility to make redundancies; for the lifting of restrictions on the equality laws that industry says are stifling job creation, and for a cap on employment tribunal payouts.
Mr Cameron will risk severe tensions with the Liberal Democrats by backing such far-reaching proposals but will use his support to attempt to reassure business that the Government is “pro-growth”, after a bruising reaction to the Queen’s Speech.
The Sunday Telegraph has learnt that the 15-page document, drawn up by Mr Beecroft after he was given access to Government lawyers, has 20 proposals including:
* An end to a mandatory 90-day consultation period when a company is considering redundancy programmes. Mr Beecroft recommends a 30-day period and an emergency five-day period if a company is in severe economic distress.
* A cap on loss of earnings compensation for employees who make successful unfair dismissal claims. Payments can often total hundreds of thousands of pounds.
* Major reform of the rights that workers are allowed to “carry” to new employers when they are the subject of a takeover. Currently, the rights, called transfer of undertakings (TUPE), can leave people in the same company working in the same job with different levels of rights for many years.
* An end to provisions in the Equality Act which make employers liable for claims from employees for “third party harassment” — for example, customers making “sexist” comments to staff in a restaurant. The Government has already begun a consultation on the issue.
* Moving the responsibility to check on foreign workers’ eligibility to work in Britain from employers to the Border Agency or the Home Office.
Whitehall sources said the Prime Minister and the Chancellor believe the publication of the report will show that the Government is serious about kick-starting the economy, which has seen two quarters of negative growth, officially putting the UK in recession. A Whitehall source who has seen the report said: “It is aimed at getting rid of blocks to hiring people and the sense of entitlement for those who are already in employment.
“What about those who want to get into employment? They need the chance. It is about reform to drive growth, it is much too hard for companies to restructure and get the right people that they see as fit to do the job.”
Yesterday Mr Cameron spoke of the urgent need for growth as he met the leaders of the world’s most powerful economies at the G8 summit in the United States. He delivered a blunt warning directly to other European leaders about the need to resolve the mounting eurozone crisis.
At the summit in Camp David, the US presidential retreat, he said Europe’s leaders should act “very fast” to resolve the crisis. The Prime Minister urged eurozone leaders to put in place “strong contingency plans” for a possible break-up of the single currency.
The fate of Greece, which is widely expected to crash out of the euro in the near future, was high on the G8 agenda.
Last night, in their post-summit communiqué, the G8 leaders said they wanted Greece to remain within the single currency but acknowledged that “the right measures are not the same for each of us”.
Mr Beecroft, a Conservative Party donor, caused controversy when parts of his report for the Prime Minister on making it easier for employers to sack underperforming staff were leaked last autumn.
Many Liberal Democrats made clear their opposition, with Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, particularly concerned by the recommendations, which is why the report has languished unpublished since then.
Although the first Bill outlined in the Queen’s Speech was legislation to overhaul employment regulation, it stopped far short of promising moves to implement Beecroft.
The only concrete detail disclosed of the report was that it would encourage employers and employees to go through conciliation rather than legal tribunals.
Critics pointed out that the legislative programme would lead to the creation of several new quangos, undermining previous efforts to cut the number of such bodies.
In a major speech last week, the Prime Minister said that although he would not deviate from plans to bring Britain’s deficit under control, he recognised the need for growth policies.
Some business leaders, such as Justin King, the CEO of Sainsbury’s, have criticised the lack of pro-growth measures in the Queen’s Speech earlier this month. Last week, William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, issued a stinging riposte in a Sunday Telegraph interview, telling business critics to stop “complaining” and saying: “There’s only one growth strategy: work hard.”
This week, a group of backbench Conservative MPs will keep up the pressure on the Government with their report “The Growth Factory”.
Edited by Damian Collins, with contributions from fellow MPs Kwasi Kwarteng, Sam Gyimah and Jo Johnson, it will call for new policies to support growth, such as an extra runway in the south-east of England; a push for more engineering graduates and the promotion of start-up loans for businesses.
“With high levels of unemployment in Europe in particular, people require more of their leaders and to see evidence that they are straining every sinew to help create competitive advantage in their economies,” Mr Collins says in the report which will be published by TLGLab, a new business think tank.
At the G8 summit, President Barack Obama said all the G8 countries were “absolutely committed” to growth, stability and fiscal consolidation.
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, is coming under pressure from the United States and François Hollande, the new president of France, to soften her commitment to austerity in favour of growth.
In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph this weekend, Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, urges Europe’s leaders to develop a continent wide growth strategy rather than each pursuing austerity within their own country.
Separation of Church and State: Misinformation and Hypocrisy
No sooner had I expressed my differences with the president’s announcement supporting same-sex “marriage” than a young man named Collin posted on my Facebook page, “You have to leave your stupid religious dogma behind when talking about state and national issues. You are basing your objection to homosexual marriage on the Bible which would be violating the American principle of separation of church and state.”
Not only is this the opposite of what our Founding Fathers intended, but it is also completely hypocritical, since Collin voiced no objection to the president pointing to his religious beliefs in support of same-sex “marriage.”
And so, President Obama can invoke “Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi can invoke her Catholic faith, Episcopal bishops in North Carolina can invoke the Bible and their religious traditions, even to the point of actively campaigning for gay “marriage,” and virtually no one (perhaps with the exception of Barry Lynn) is crying out, “Separation of church and state!”
But let conservative Christians invoke the Bible or quote the words of Jesus or point to their religious traditions in opposition to redefining marriage, and comments like this one come pouring in faster than you can count them: “I live in North Carolina where the separation of Church and State doesn’t exist.” (This was from “Eric R.” after the marriage amendment passed on May 8th.)
I have even been told that I have no right to cast a vote for a candidate or a bill if my viewpoint is based on the Bible. What? This notion is as idiotic as it is outrageous.
Let’s set the record straight for those who might be misinformed. First, “the separation of church and state” is not mentioned or alluded to in the Constitution. Second, the concept of “the separation of church and state” is found in the First Amendment, the relevant part of which simply reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” In other words, the state needs to stay out of the church’s business. It was not until 1947 that the Supreme Court invoked the principle of “separation of church and state” in a legal ruling.
Third, the wording for “separation of church and state” is based on Thomas Jefferson’s reply to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut in 1802, but as Yale law professor Stephen Carter pointed out, “The separation of church and state, properly understood, comes from the work not of Thomas Jefferson, as is widely perceived, but from the insights of Roger Williams.”
It was Williams who “developed the metaphor of the garden and the wilderness. The garden was the place where the people of faith would gather to struggle to understand God’s Word. The wilderness was the rest of the world; the world where the light had not yet been received. Between the garden and the wilderness stood a wall. The wall existed for one purpose only. It was not there to protect the wilderness from the garden; it was there to protect the garden from the wilderness.”
What does this mean to us today? Listen again to Prof. Carter: “The wall of separation between church and state is not there to protect the state from the church; rather, it is there to protect the church from the state. It stands as a divide to preserve religious freedom. And one needs to protect the church from the state because the latter will utilize its enormous powers to do what the state has always done – either subvert the religion or destroy it. If we continue our slide toward a state that breaches the wall of separation whenever it is convenient, then I worry about the great risk to religious freedom. In the end, such a breach could destroy our ability to form the communities of resistance that are crucial if we are going to have a chance to transform the nation.” (This quote is worth reading again and posting as widely as possible.)
Based, however, on modern misconceptions of the separation of church and state, there could have been no abolition movement to eradicate slavery, since it was led by Christians with the Bible as their principle ideological text, nor could there have been a Civil Rights movement (other than, say, the Malcolm X version), since it too was a church-based movement led by ministers quoting the Bible.
Dr. Martin Luther King, who was one of those ministers, expressed things succinctly when he said, “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool.” But King also gave a sober warning: “If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.”
What America really needs, and what many of our country’s founders envisioned, is a vibrant, healthy, non-hypocritical church functioning as “the conscience of the state.” As John Adams famously wrote in 1798, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.