Friday, March 13, 2009

Where Do These Kids Come From?

Christian America

I was reading a blog by some college kids, the Undercurrent, that looks at the contradictions of the present Republican coalition.
In the aftermath of the substantial Democratic victory in last November’s election, Republicans nationwide are reported to be doing a great deal of “soul searching.” Indeed they should. After all, times are not looking good for the Republican Party. Former President Bush left office with record-low support, and both houses of Congress, along with the White House, are now solidly Democratic. Michael Steele, a former lieutenant governor and recently elected chairman of the Republican National Committee, attributed the Republican loss in the last election to a lack of understanding of what the party stood for. In his words, “We didn’t have anything to say to the American people other than, ‘We’re not Democrats.’”
Mr. Steele was not being entirely correct. What he should have said is that the Republicans want to go slowly towards government control of the economy and the Democrats want to go fast.
Saxby Chambliss, the newly re-elected Republican senator from Georgia, has echoed Steele, calling on the party to return to its principles.

But what principles are those? Historically, the political philosophy of the Republican Party has been an amalgam of advocacy for small government and capitalism, combined with support for religion and traditional values. The more capitalist element of the party tends to concern itself primarily with economic policy, traditionally supporting less government spending, lower taxes and deregulation. By contrast, the religionist element of the party tends to focus on social policy.
Ah. Yes. Social policy. Isn't social the root of socialism. Yes it is. Now don't get me wrong. I'm not against social relations. I'm against them at the point of a government gun. What I call moral socialism.

Which brings us to the inherent contradictions between the two elements of the party.
This clash in policy positions is the result of two distinct sets of political principles. In the past, both sides coexisted in an uneasy alliance, but over time the disagreements between them have become too great to reconcile. This is unsurprising: the two sets of political principles are grounded in two opposing ethical systems.

Capitalism upholds each individual’s right to exist for his own sake, independent from any group. Its moral foundation is rational self-interest. According to this morality, the good is the pursuit of one’s own happiness. Religion, on the other hand, implies a system where each individual exists to serve the group or greater good. Christian tradition is rife with admonishments against selfishness: “we are our brother’s keepers” is an obvious example. This sentiment represents the moral code of altruism, which holds fulfilling the needs of others as a moral imperative. The welfare state is a natural extension of this tenet. People need money, education, sanitation, transportation, etc. Under a religious (i.e. altruistic) morality, we are obligated to satisfy these needs for those unwilling or unable to do so themselves.

How can one reconcile these opposing beliefs? How can one unite the religious demand to selflessly help the needy through welfare state agencies (such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) with the capitalist insistence that an individual’s primary responsibility is achieving his own well-being? Where is the compromise between the religionist’s call to force children to pray in school and the capitalist’s call to maintain a barrier between church and state? How can one bring together the principle that a woman’s life is her own (the morality of rational self-interest), with the edict that a woman has a duty to protect the growth of an embryo (the morality of religion)?

The answer is that one can’t. There is no way to reconcile an individualistic, self-interested morality and an altruistic morality of religious duties. Politically, this means there is no way to support both capitalist and religious policies. “The party of principle,” as the GOP often calls itself, is currently governed by two sets of principles that fundamentally contradict one another.
I think the idea Jesus had about the separation of private morality from governance is the correct guiding principle. We seem to have a lot of Christians in America and very few followers of Jesus. I think Jesus said render unto Cesar. I don't recall him saying become Cesar. Did you know that the word czar comes from the word Cesar? And yet Bill Bennett our first Drug Czar is supposed to be a hell of a Christian. In fact he wrote a book, The BOOK OF VIRTUES, explaining how we can become more virtuous. I wonder if becoming a dictator (Cesar) is what he had in mind?
The first years of President Obama’s administration provide the Republican Party with an opportunity to redefine itself. To do so, Republicans first need to decide what they stand for. They can become the party that promotes individual rights, small government, and capitalism, or they can become an ever more theocratic, intrusive, and socialist party.
So even the author of this article is calling the Christianist elements of the party socialist. Good. It is catching on.

Now do I want to drive the Christianists out of the party? Of course not. I'd like to see them welcomed as long as they are willing to give up their moral socialism. And let me add that there is nothing wrong with socialism as long as people who want to practice it do it on their own dime. What I object to is having it enforced with government guns.

In any case it may not matter what I think should be done. The moral socialist in the Republican Party are a dying breed. I wish them well in their next life as long as they leave me alone in this one. Which is why I'm a member of the leave us alone coalition. And we even have our own flag too.
Don't Tread On Me
A word to the wise ought to be sufficient. Generally it isn't though. More through lack of wisdom than a lack of words. As the old saying goes "experience is a hard teacher, some men will have no other."

Cross Posted at Classical Values


RavingDave said...

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” John Adams

Yeah, some people have to have experience as a teacher.


M. Simon said...

I agree about moral people. We ought to start thinking about how to make it work where there is no common religion or no religion at all. Because it is coming.

tomcpp said...

Do you even seriously think that's possible ?

The only state that can function in the presence of oppresive religions and/or ideologies (or drugs, for that matter) is a police state (for obvious reasons). Not just a theoretical police state, but one that regularly actually fires into the crowd.

We will see this problem is soon enough (way too soon) in Iraq. Iraq's state might (tiny chance) last one generation. It will not survive two.

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

By this, I think he meant that for people who are not overwhelmingly pushing christian ethics on themselves, the freedoms the american constitution "guarantees" would blow up in a civil war.

And yes, a little bit doesn't matter. A little bit of interreligious conflict doesn't matter. A little bit of ideological issues doesn't matter. A little bit of murder doesn't really matter. A few atheists don't matter.

But if economic theory about pareto-efficiency is correct, America cannot, and will not, survive having more than 12% of it's people not following christian ethics in their everyday lives.

And what will remain is a leader-worshipping (at gunpoint, obviously) massively oppressive debt-laden-and-long-defaulted third world country, barely able to support even the tiniest of freedoms like free assembly for small groups, like for sports games.

If "it is coming", you can only enjoy what you have for the time you have left to enjoy it.

RavingDave said...

This is my point. It is Judeo Christian Ethics and teachings that created the conditions that allowed the system to work up to now. We are in the last generation that actively participated in maintaining these ideas through Religion and the teaching of their children right from wrong.

The system can survive Atheists,agnostics,"don't cares", and other religions, but only if sufficient quantity of people maintain the base conditions. As that quantity declines at some point we should see a hysteresis transition and then a violent anarchy will ensue. (for awhile)

As I've said before about Santa Clause, He doesn't have to really exist to have a beneficial effect. It is only required that children believe him to exist, and they will act accordingly.


Blaze said...

Why even bother trying to discuss this with Simon? He just trots out his “moral socialism” phrase faster than Andrew Sullivan can say “christianist”.

And when try to discuss religion with him; he just accuses you of being a prohibitionist and starts foaming at the mouth about legalizing drugs. He never seems to actually engage in anyone else’s questions.

M. Simon said...

The Democrats Have Their Own Moral Socialism. They call it gun control.

Tom Cuddihy said...

Actually it's called Political Correctness. That would actually be a correct usage of the two contradictory terms you keep sticking together.

Socialism is by definition amoral, because it only focuses on relative outcome rather than the rightness or wrongness of individual actions, whereas morality by definition focuses on the rightness or wrongness of a particular action.

That's why your usage of it to describe the aim of social conservativism is just plain incorrect. Social conservatives attempt to maintain the existing and long-standing social mores and traditions of society in accord with the past.

Political correctness on the other hand attempts to enforce a "moral" code of speech and deference that defines the bounds of acceptable discourse in a manner favorable to socialists and socialism.

So at last, a correct usage of "Moral Socialism" on your blog. If I can't convince you that you're wrong on the aims of social conservatives, perhaps you would at least consider precision in your choice of terms?

Continually incorrectly using a term like "moral socialism" to describe social conservatism is actually precisely the method of political correctness.

If you are honest and believe that truth is important you will stop at least that line of attack.

lkdemott said...

Traditional conservatives have always supported free markets and have also believed that government has a role in supporting traditional moral values. Ronald Reagan was, of course, an example of traditional conservative.

A explanation of the political philosophy of traditional conservatives is beyond what can be covered in a blog comment. However, I think that both impulses can be reconciled in a coherent political philosophy. Thomas Sowell in his book, A Conflict of Vision, goes into detail