A conservative news and views blog.

Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Affluent Problem

Timothy Birdnow

Pyrrhic victory \PIR-ik\ , noun:
A victory achieved at great or excessive cost; a ruinous victory.

The Founding Fathers understood the necessity of the upper class. That much is crystal clear; there was great fear - and justifiably so - of raw democracy which the Founders saw as little more than mob rule. The Founders understood that the upper class was far smaller than the middle and lower classes, and would therefore be much easier to pressure than would a rabble of commoners. Efforts were taken when establishing the United States to dilute the power of the lower classes; a bicameral Congress with the Senate acting as a type of House of Lords, Senators being appointed by state legislatures and not elected, the College of Electors to place the actual election of the President in the hands of upper class, responsible men, the vote being given only to male landowners, etc. The Founders had to deal with a number of realities, among them an illiterate population, large immigrant communities, a populace spending far too much time toiling with their hands and far too little time studying the issues. The wealthy class was best equipped to deal with the mechanics of governing, and had the most stake in the success of the society. They were also the smallest class, most capable of governing against their own interests because the classes below them held real power - economic, political, social. Their wishes could not simply be ignored, while a pure democracy would guarantee the wishes of smaller classes would be disdained. The Founders hated democracy.

But they also understood the danger of a self-serving or disengaged upper class; they were not elitists. That is why they had direct elections of the House of Representatives.. That is why they had far greater participation for the average person; any male landholder could vote, not just those in the formal aristocracy. (Just about every American either owned or aspired to own land.) The most powerful branch of government was intended to be the House of Representatives, which was the commoners branch. And, of course, the individual states were to trump the entire federal government in terms of power.

They sought balance.

But that balance required a number of elements; an educated, moral populace. As Scottish Jurist Alexander Fraser Tytler once observed:

"Patriotism always exists in the greatest degree in rude nations, and in an early period of society. Like all other affections and passions, it operates with the greatest force where it meets with the greatest difficulties ... but in a state of ease and safety, as if wanting its appropriate nourishment, it languishes and decays." ... "It is a law of nature to which no experience has ever furnished an exception, that the rising grander and opulence of a nation must be balanced by the decline of its heroic virtues."

Tytler was right, and the decline of patriotism in the U.S. has followed along asymptotically with the decline in common hardships once shared by all Americans. And it is no coincidence that it is the upper classes that display virtually zero patriotism in America and, indeed, throughout the West. Far too many see themselves as "citizens of the world" rather than citizens of their country. And this is perfectly illustrated in the fact that the richest men in the Western world are often the most radically socialist - George Soros comes to mind. But in America it is true of the upper classes in general, and the RINO wing of the Republican Party is the liberal side of the coin. They are the least patriotic, the most likely to see themselves as above such mundane emotionalism.

Which is precisely the opposite of what the Founding Fathers were trying to do by placing the upper classes in such a position of power. The Founders thought that these individuals would have more stake in the success of society - not less.

This decline in patriotism is accompanied by another problem. As Alexis De Tocqueville observed in "Democracy in America":

"Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith."

America's founders understood this principle, and there are numerous quotes by the men who made America that predated De Tocqueville's. For instance:

John Adams to Thomas Jefferson:

"The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God."

or Jefferson in his Notes on the State of Virginia:

"God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever; That a revolution of the wheel of fortune, a change of situation, is among possible events; that it may become probable by Supernatural influence! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in that event."

or John Hancock:

"Resistance to tyranny becomes the Christian and social duty of each individual. ... Continue steadfast and, with a proper sense of your dependence on God, nobly defend those rights which heaven gave, and no man ought to take from us."

and George Washington so eloquently put it:

"While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian."

And in the 18th and early 19th centuries the educated were those most knowledgeable about the Bible, most trained in Christian principles by Christian scholars. But the opposite has happened in America and the West since; atheism has become the default position in almost all institutes of higher learning, and the upper classes are indoctrinated into the cult of social gospel instead. As a result their moral compass has been skewed away from true north, and it is the upper classes that agitate for social revolution, not the lower. The middle class has become the keepers of our cultural flame, standing athwart the engine of the upper class and shouting stop! The wealthy, the educated, the powerful have become at best indifferent to the fate of our traditions and culture.

There are reasons why the Occupy Wall Street movement has rich corporate financiers and wealthy allies . There are reasons why Barack Obama has the support of Wall Street, even while he vandalizes the free market.

This translates to the GOP side as well, and the history of the GOP since , well, Calvin Coolidge is the battle between the ennui-laced, moderate, aristocratic class and the Conservatives. Conservatism was born of the betrayal of the upper class to their duty, and has found it's principle supporters in low-middle to upper-middle classes, the same classes that work within the system and hope to better themselves. Conservatism seems to go hand-in-hand with the God-fearing, those Barack Obama characterized as "bitter clingers" clinging to their "God and guns". As Sarah Palin (not from the aristocratic class) might say "you betcha!" And it is only the Conservatives, or at least an appeal to their sensibilities, that has ever given the GOP any sort of electoral success. Why should a weak, Fabian style social democratic approach appeal when you have the Democrats to give you the full monty?

Consider; outside of Ronald Reagan the GOP has never nominated a Conservative since Barry Goldwater, and before him since Coolidge. George W. Bush has been painted as a radical right-winger, but he gave us a prescription drug entitlement, No Child Left Behind, an incandescent light bulb ban, ethanol subsidies, and a massive inflation of government power. He came from the upper class of the GOP, the elites.

And now we are to accept their choice for President yet again in the person of Mitt Romney.

Recently Michael Barone wrote about the move by America's upper class away from Barack Obama toward Mitt Romney. According to Barone:

"The cold gray numbers tell us that Romney has an affirmative appeal to this constituency. He has run 4 to 12 points ahead of his statewide average among over $100,000 voters in every exit poll."


"I sense that affluent voters find Romney a kindred spirit -- articulate but politically awkward, self-disciplined and successful, able to make a sharp argument but polite. He's conservative on cultural issues, but in a way that reminds me of the 18th century Englishwoman's gravestone noting approvingly that "she was religious without enthusiasm."

Ah, yes...he says the right things to get the rubes in the middle class to support him. But what does he really BELIEVE?

One must question the value of yet another RINO who is acceptable to the chardonnay swilling class. This class has largely abdicated it's responsibilities to our society. And while Mitt may sway the rich from Obama (why would any wealthy person have supported Obama in the first place?) do we really want them nominally on our side? We aren't in this just to give the GOP electoral success, but in changing the way things are done. How can we expect a renaissance with a class of Fabian Socialists nominally on our side? Was the loss of Olympia Snow in the Senate a disaster to our cause?

And while we may win this segment of the vote, we are going to lose a segment of the primary engine of the GOP - the conservative, Tea Party, the Middle Class. Romney is the perfect candidate to appeal to those suffering anomie, but not for those who believe in something.

And that is precisely where the line draws. The Country Club wing of the GOP keeps trying to shut us up about social issues, to concentrate on economic issues as though the two exist in absolute independence of each other. The elites better education shows here, because they have been told that faith, that morals, are vestigial appendages from a superstitious age. RINO Republicans don't like the more radical socialism because it hurts their financial superiority, but they equally do not like free markets because they mean too much competition. But the entire economic debate is a moral issue; are men free to pursue their own interests (and free to do their moral duty to help the less fortunate themselves) or are they pawns of the State, compelled to follow the marching orders of government and the corporate system? Corporatism is little different from direct socialism; what does it matter if government owns the means of production or a few mega companies? In the end you still restrict the ability of the individual to pursue his own interests. As G.K. Chesterton put it Capitalism is that form of Communism in which the organizing officials have a very large salary."

Chesterton did not mean capitalism in the form we envision it today, but the thing we call crony capitalism, or better Fascist economics. The State regulating every aspect of our financial house with "trustees" in the form of major corporations.

The Rockefeller Republican wing stands firmly on the side of this quasi-socialist form of capitalism while the Democrats ostensibly defend pure socialism, but they are both the same sickness. This is the moral sickness of covetousness. It is the same sickness that creates welfare queens and Bernie Madoff. It is the sickness that says what's mine is mine and what's yours is mine, too, if I can get my hand in your pocket with the Law. It is a spiritual malady, a worship of the work of human hands. Social Democracy can only exist in a culture that has devalued both patriotism and God.

As Sarah Palin might say "You betcha this is about morality!"

And that is the reason conservative voters are so glum about Mitt Romney; he doesn't seem to understand this, nor the seriousness of our situation. We are on the Titanic, it's halfway submerged, and the upper class is dithering about on deck while those in second class and steerage are about to drown. Romney is the guy the committee of blue bloods appointed to complain about the shortage of brie cheese.

So Michael Barone's pleasure at Romney winning the hearts and minds of the wealthy is not shared by those in the trenches. It suggests a failing in Romney that we suspected all along. We cannot afford to just shut up about the moral implications of, say, Obamacare; it is this entitlement mindset that is killing us. It is a moral issue, not an economic one. We are ultimately trying to start a political revival. Without it we are lost.

But, hey, those citizens of the world can still enjoy their brie!

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