We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Tuesday, May 26. 2009
In an essay of the above title, Will Wilkinson compares David Brooks with Glenn Beck, and wonders what "Conservative" means in actual policy terms.
I think it's well-worth thinking about, if only for fun. One quote:
Read the whole thing. What we're talking about here is where abstract ideology and abstract terms and abstract rallying cries like "individualism" and "freedom" meet reality in the form of politics.
Me? I am a small-scale collectivist (family, church, village, charities), and decreasingly collectivist as power and money move further away from my personal experience and purview, and into the hands of people who pursue personal (mainly careerist) goals and games with money and power they have taken from me.
Barrister comment: I had read that Brooks piece. Wilkinson rightly notes "... Brooks goes wrong when he leaps from the biological facts of life to the “illusion” of individual agency and the desirability of a more communitarian culture." In fact, we view Individualism with its Judeo-Christian-Greek underpinnings as one of the, if not the most remarkable, contribution to Western civilization, and a giant advance for the human spirit on the external control cultures which preceded them. That revolutionary individualism said that a man can be his own master, that he need not be mastered or be a serf, and that the sacred spark in everyone requires this. Socialists, Communists, Liberal Communitarians, Totalitarians, Dictators, Mussolini-style Fascists, Kings of the Jungle and Kings of France are all communitarians who place the individual second to the whole.
Editor reply to The B: Thanks for that, B. By coincidence, but I was working yesterday on an entirely non-political post about ant colonies, and your comment seems relevant to that.
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I like your thinking. I think that's why things that work well on a city level ie Chicago don't work so well on a national scale.
Humans are not happy with collectivism on a big scale. it's too big and oppressive and not responsive. however the most happy communities tend to be the ones collectivist on a local scale. We have too much of the former, and far too little of the latter. most human beings thrive in a local community of traditions, faith, rules and culture. but big collectivism just becomes tyranny eventually, because the "enforcers" are too distant. it's easy to oppress, when you don't have to see the result. We have spent the last century distroying the local, and building up the far away and powerful.
It's also easy to oppress when your victims don't live next door and own a shotgun.
I'm with you, government should be smaller and less involved in our lives as it goes from town to to state to federal.
Exactly right. Between my husband and me, it's basically "from each according to his ability, to each according to his means." To a lesser degree, that remains true among our close friends and even my local church and community. It's a system that works in small, voluntary associations. I am a member of my nation, but at that scale I want the mutual duties to be much more formalized and limited -- in fact, capitalist and legally defined, with very strict controls on the government's power.
Individualism is a good thing, but extreme individualism is the weakness of conservatism.
Is this where we come to the conversation about over crowding? How was the degree of individualism that we expected related to the space available? Are we like many warm blooded animals susceptible to the same level of distress and confusion caused by too large a population?
This is part of the great divide in America: it isn't by class or economics, it is geographical.
In cities there is a movement towards large scale, localized structures to serve the entire population of that city. Roads, water supplies, sewage, communications... all of that is compacted due to urban environment. That environment brings large results to minor changes: add aqueducts and cities go from mere tens of thousands to millions in size. Ditto sewage systems, which were invented before the late Bronze Age and lost, only to be re-invented by necessity. Both of these have dramatic impacts to public health by keeping fresh water flowing in and sewage flowing out. Until London got a modern sewage system in the 19th century, it was always getting plagues of typhus and cholera due to contaminated water supplies.
What works great for a dense accumulation of people doesn't work at larger geographic areas. We do make huge municipal water systems due to the scale of nearby cities and now even small towns have same, but the cost per person investment is far higher for lower output and higher processing costs. Ditto with sewage systems. In rural areas when I was growing up 'city water' was a luxury and a county project, not a city or town one. At that point the cost per person is higher due to distances of water travel and use of water and sewage capability (and I do remember the septic tank and leech field in my youth without county sewage).
Health care is great for cities, a hospital can serve a dense amount of humanity within walking distance or a few miles drive. In a low density population county that could be a half hour or more to a similar facility. It is necessary but is only made possible with modern transport.
Civic support systems, however, are stronger in rural areas and small towns which gather together like-minded people who enjoy their surroundings and each other. Becoming a functioning part of a small town is a multi-year or even generational affair as it is a community with history that is remembered. In cities and especially suburbs, that evaporates into transient populations. You stay in a city to use cultural institutions, you live in a small town to create them and sustain them personally.
Not only do the scale differences in life change the economic outlook, but the social one, as well. This goes back before the Founding and nearly broke the Nation under the Articles of Confederation as the northeast States were dominated by cities at the expense of the rural communities. The Shaysites appeared because of that and the oppressive behavior of city denizens towards those in the countryside. That was very much what people who fought in the Revolution were against, and the uprisings were getting to the point in 1785-86 that one successful rebellion in the northeast would start the process of tumbling down the new Nation.
The Constitution was supposed to help that, and did, by and large, yet the Anti-Federalists pointed to weaknesses in the structure of the system and that it did not have powerful enough checks and balances... which was a strong federalist argument put forward by a few writers against the Constitution. The worry of concentration of power was a strong one, as the preceding years had shown and it was unknown if the Constitution would last. It did, but the differences in outlook in society that now washes up to interstate bypasses is coming to the forefront, again.
Geography very much determines your view on collective need and individual support of social structure, and if you live on one side of a bypass you see the world one way, and on the other side it goes the other way. And when those who move from cities to small towns to retire bring their big city views and spending ideas, along with taxation, they find that no matter the size of their cohort, their solutions do not scale down well or at all. California, New York, Michigan and a few other states have exported their views to Florida, Arizona, the Carolinas, and elsewhere and are finding that they are bankrupting states unable to gain benefits to large scale social structures that work so-so to middling in cities and are expensive in non-city environments. These two views of personal responsibility to society have come to loggerheads before and nearly broke the Nation.
We are one fine Shays away from that day again.
ajacksonian--thank you for the wonderful piece. However, I do not believe we have the ability to rebel anymore, but I do believe we are a fine minute away from anarchy! For thirty years our children have been trained up (not educated) under the heavy hands of teachers who in turn owed their livelihood to the teamsters. Until we fully address the issue of mafia in this country, we will not have the inner strength necessary to maintain either our liberty, or our republic.
Baby Beck is wrong again.
Rights are exercised by indivduals but they are several and certain and endowed to all men.
I still think Beck is a girl in drag.