Related Topics
gas prices

President Bush Job Approval

RCP Average
Send to a Friend | Print Article

'You Must Suggest an Alternative'

By Christopher Chantrill

It's one thing to complain about the problems of the welfare state. But what are you going to do about it?

That is what author and journalist James Bartholomew confronted on May 10 when he presented a copy of his book The Welfare State We're In to Baroness Thatcher. Writes Bartholomew:

I told her that the book argues that we would be better off if the previous welfare systems had been allowed to develop instead of being replaced by the welfare state.

She announced, "You must suggest an alternative. If you say the welfare state is no good, you must suggest an alternative."

Er, yes, thought Bartholomew, but suggesting an alternative would be a lot of work, and then who would want to read his "particular blueprint?"

"You must," retorted the 80-year-old Thatcher.

She's right, of course. It's the job of thinkers and scribblers to present ideas to the world. It's the job of politicians to steal the best ideas and change the world. It was Prime Minister Thatcher who is said to have thumped a copy of F.A. Hayek's Constitution of Liberty on the Cabinet table in Whitehall and announced: "This is our bible."

It is easy to blame President Bush for failing to push our conservative agenda hard enough. But that's not his job. His job is to defend the nation. Our job is to manure the ground and bring up a bumper crop of prize-winning conservative ideas, year after year, for conservative politicians to feast upon.

Here's how you do political change, according to Eric Hoffer in The True Believer.

First you convince everyone that the present is intolerable, unjust, and not to be endured; you make the established powers ashamed.

Then you offer a compelling vision of the future.

Then politicians get elected to implement the glorious vision.

But there's a problem for those who want to bring about major change. Despite the outrage of schools that don't teach, emergency management agencies that don't manage, government intelligence agencies that don't collect the dots and don't connect the dots they've collected, things really aren't that bad in America. At least, not for the middle class.

There is one thing that's at the stage of intolerable, unjust, and not to be endured in the public's mind today. And that is $3.00 gasoline.

It Here we have a situation set up by thirty years of not drilling for oil in the arctic, not drilling for oil on the continental shelf, not building safe nuclear power plants just like the French: all not done at the insistence of liberals.

And what do the American people think? They think that oil company price gouging is not be endured.

There are shelves of conservative books about energy and the environment. But somehow they have failed to take with the general public. Somehow no conservative has written a book to make liberals ashamed of their energy ideas. Why is that?

There are also libraries of books that expose the meanness of the welfare state. Margaret Thatcher had F.A. Hayek to tell her that brilliant government experts couldn't outperform millions of consumers in the marketplace. Since then we've had Charles Murray's Losing Ground double-teamed with George Gilder's Wealth and Poverty demolishing the ideas of the War on Poverty.

We've had conservative success on "broken window" policing, stunning conservative success on welfare reform, slow conservative success in school choice, common-sense reforms fought every step of the way by liberals. We've had a revival of interest in civil society, from libertarian David Beito's inspiring history of fraternal associations in From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State to liberal Theda Skocpol's grudging admission in Diminished Democracy that something was lost when national membership associations were replaced by member-free activist groups.

But what we have not done is make liberals ashamed.

Why not? Liberals have a lot to be ashamed of. In the 1960s liberals demolished the working class when they broke the bright line between the deserving and undeserving poor. And they are not ashamed.

Liberals betrayed the civil rights revolution by condoning a culture of black racism in African Americans. And they are not ashamed.

Throughout the last generation liberals have stood in the schoolhouse door opposing reform as big city school systems cratered. And they are not ashamed.

In 1981 liberals opposed the economic reforms that yielded a twenty year boom. And they are not ashamed.

Liberals complain of a government that cannot "connect the dots" on terrorism one day and complain of government programs to "collect the dots" the next, yet they are not ashamed.

Someone must write the book:

Liberals, You Should Be Ashamed: How Liberals Got Everything Wrong for Thirty Years and Yet They Still Have Jobs.

Then we'll need someone to write:

You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet: How Conservative Ideas Will Bring New Hope to an America That Wants to be Great Again.

But first we had better get gas prices down and declare victory in Iraq.

Christopher Chantrill ( blogs at His Road to the Middle Class is forthcoming.

Email Friend | Print | RSS | Add to | Add to Digg
Sponsored Links

Christopher Chantrill
Author Archive