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Unsinking the Titanic: Repairing the Hole that is America’s Debt Dilemma – Part 3

by Providence Crowder

Suggestions, Solutions, Reflections

If we as a nation truly want to do right by our poor, we must urge our politicians to get out of salvation politics and leave the “saving” of the poor and needy of society to the faith-based communities.  A safety net of government services can be a good thing, but it profits no one if we put so much on it that it rips under the bureaucratic pressure of big government.   If our federal government truly respected American citizens, then they would stop robbing us and selling us back our own goods at a higher price!  They would end the practice of deficit spending for programs and entitlements that do more harm than help and pass a balanced budget amendment requiring the federal government to exercise responsibility and restraint concerning its outrageous spending.  All Americans are expected to live within their means; therefore, so should the government we elect. 

Seemingly, our current President, Barack Obama, has a vision for America different than the vision of the founders of the great American experiment.  They envisioned a nation of free peoples whom—unlike all the nations before her— would govern themselves and share in ruling.  American colonists became disenfranchised and disillusioned by monarchial British rule; therefore, personal liberty and limited government were central themes to the founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.  Many nations have since emulated the American model and have tried to duplicate America’s ingenuity and success. 

Yet President Obama envisions big government and limited liberty because he has no confidence that Americans are capable enough to make responsible choices with their money and with their lives.  He believes in a ruling class, the government.  He promotes class distinctions by demonizing the rich and demoralizing the poor.  His ideology is reminiscent of German revolutionary and socialist Karl Marx.  Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro is quoted as stating this of Marxism;

Marxism taught me what society was.  I was like a blindfolded man in a forest, who doesn’t even know where the north or south is.  If you don’t eventually come to truly understand the history of the class struggle, or at least have a clear idea that society is divided between the rich and the poor, and that some people subjugate and exploit other people, you’re lost in a forest, not knowing anything.[14]

 But the grand communist experiment was just a secularized attempt to establish God’s Kingdom on earth, but without the God of heaven.  Richards notes that:

Marx’s story has the main elements of the Christian story: primeval paradise, fall, redemption, eternal paradise.  It’s just stripped of reverences to God, sin, Jesus, and the afterlife.”[15]  Christ established his Church, and we are expected to be salt and light—reflecting God’s kingdom though sin and death are among us.  Yet our good works will never bring about God’s kingdom.[16]  It’s a delusion to believe that we can build a utopia if we try hard enough.[17]  This vision doesn’t take in account human sinfulness and God’s mercy.  Jesus Christ will establish his Kingdom and if we try, we will not only fail, but “do more harm than good.[18] 

I believe Marx, Castro, and Obama genuinely want a world in which the ordering of society is more fair and just.  But when we speak of building a just society, we must ask ourselves, “just compared with what?  It does no good to tear down a society that is ‘unjust’ compared with the Kingdom of God if that society is more just than any of the ones that will replace it.”[19]  Compared to God’s Kingdom, every society gets failing grades.[20] Therefore, to hate capitalism and prefer socialism or communism is not more just.  Socialism has proven to bring greater poverty and injustice among the people and “never has there been a greater gap between ideas and outcomes than in communism.”[21]  Jay Richards notes that socialists, “talk a good talk, denouncing inequality and defending the poor, and despite the nasty outcome of their experiments, they can still get a pass from those who sympathize with their ideals.”[22]  

The current administration, under the lead of President Obama, should end its love affair with socialism and end his policies of taxing and spending.  The more that the government does for its people, the more dependent the people become and less likely they are to provide for themselves.  Without the safety net of big government, out-of-wedlock pregnancies look less attractive, hard work becomes necessary to eat, saving for hard times becomes a priority, community becomes important again to care for the least in society, and the government can focus on governing and protecting our freedoms.  America is still a great nation, and with the right leadership, the ideas upon which she was founded upon will again be respected.


 [1] Jay W. Richards is an author and theologian.  He has a PhD in philosophy and a Master of Ministry.  He has written dozens of books and articles on the topics of economics, theology, and science.  He has published in academic journals all over the country and he is an editor and contributor to numerous apologetic and theological research publications.

[2] Jay W. Richards, Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and Not the Problem (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2009), 94.

[3] Joel McDurmon, God versus Socialism: A Biblical Critique of the New Social Gospel (Powder Springs, GA: The American Vision, Inc., 2009), 43.

[4] Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 2010), 273-74.

[5] McDurmon, 43.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Grudem, 274.

[8] 2011 Chart Book, “Federal Spending Chart 7.”  Retrieved from http://blog.heritage.org/2011/08/21/chart-of-the-week-defense-spending-has-declined-while-entitlement-spending-has-increased/ on January 10, 2012.

[9] A baby boomer is a person who was born during the demographic Post-World War II baby boom and who grew up during the period between 1946 and 1964.  Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baby_boomer

[10] John Wihbey, “2011 Annual Report by the Social Security Board of Trustees,” Retrieved from http://journalistsresource.org/studies/government/politics/social-security-report-2011/.

 [11] McDurmon, 47.

[12] Richards 51.

[13] Ibid., 47.

[14] Castro, Fidel; Ramonet, Ignacio (interviewer) (2009). My Life: A Spoken Autobiography. New York: Scribner.

[15] Richards, 30.

[16] Richards, 30.

[17] Richards, 31.

[18] Richards, 30.

[19] Ibid., 31.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid., 25.

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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Poverty and Welfare, by Providence Crowder

Understanding the Democrat and Republican Parties

Through Their Own Words

 

Political parties are comprised of individuals.  Within a particular party, the individuals may vary to some degree on how they view particular issues.  Corporately, however, political parties set platforms that generally represent the ideologies of the people that make up that party.  In closely comparing the party platforms of the two major political parties in this nation, one can better determine which party best represents his or her moral, social, and economic convictions and make an informed choice based on that persuasion. 

How the Democrat and Republican parties address the social ill of poverty is worth examining. Poverty is a reality in this nation and abroad, and neither political party diminishes that reality nor seeks to intentionally do injustice to the economically disadvantaged.  However, the parties have differing ways in which they approach the poverty issue.  I have compared two years from each party’s platform; years in which they specifically addressed Poverty, Welfare, and Welfare Reform.  There were other years in which these issues had been addressed, but for simplicity, I used just two; 1968 and 1980.   After each year’s bulleted platform summary, I recapped the conclusions of each party in my own words.   

These are the parties, in their own words:

Democrat Party Platform (Poverty, Welfare, Welfare Reform) – 1968

  • Every American family whose income is not sufficient to enable its members to live in decency should receive assistance free of the indignities and uncertainties that still too often mar our present programs.

 

  • Income payments and eligibility standards should be determined and financed on a federal basis—This would assure the eligibility in all states of needy children of unemployed parents who are now denied assistance in more than half the states as long as the father remains in the home.

 

  • Assistance payments should be kept adequate by providing for automatic adjustment to reflect increases in living costs.

 

  • Congress has temporarily suspended the restrictive amendment of 1967 that placed an arbitrary limit on the number of dependent children who can be aided in each state. We favor permanent repeal of that restriction and of the provision requiring mothers of young children to work.”

 

Republican Party Platform (Poverty, Welfare, Welfare Reform) – 1968 

  • Welfare and poverty programs will be drastically revised to liberate the poor from the debilitating dependence which erodes self-respect and discourages family unity and responsibility. We will modify the rigid welfare requirements that stifle work motivation and support locally operated children’s day care centers to free the parents to accept work.

 

  • We favor efforts to enable residents of depressed urban and rural areas to become owners and managers of businesses to exercise economic leadership in their communities.

 

  • In programs for the socially and economically disadvantaged we favor participation by representatives of those to be served.

 

  • We pledge a unified federal food distribution program, as well as active cooperation with the states and innovative private enterprise, to help provide the hungry poor sufficient food for a balanced diet. 

Summary of the political parties – 1968:

That the Democrats had a very different approach to attacking poverty than Republicans is evident by comparing the platforms.  The Democrats had enacted a variety of programs and payments to the poor in an effort to lessen the burden of the poor.  They favored no limits on the amount of children that the federal government would provide assistance for and favored removing a requirement for the mothers of young children to work.  The Democrats opposed state sponsored welfare and favored a federal plan instead.  They also favored assistance payments with automatic cost of living adjustments.

The Republicans opposed their approach, citing that the programs and payments stifled work ethic and weakened the family unit.  They favored making payments to privately run daycare centers on behalf of the mothers so that their children would be taken care of, allowing them to accept work to provide for their family.  The Republican approach also favored home ownership and entrepreneurship for the poor to promote self-determination.  Republicans suggested including representatives from the poor in decision making when it came to developing and implementing programs that would best serve them.  The Republicans favored state and community sponsored services as opposed to a federal welfare program, except for a unified federal food distribution program (as opposed to food stamps) to help provide poor with sufficient food for a balanced diet.

Democrat Platform (Poverty, Welfare, Welfare Reform) – 1980

 

  • States and cities which make an honest effort to meet the welfare crisis find themselves in deepening fiscal difficulty.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

  • Incentives continue that cause families to break apart and fathers to leave home so that children may survive. Disincentives continue for welfare families to seek work on their own.

 

  • Many of these young mothers want to work. A companion to any effective welfare reform must be provision for adequate and available child care.

 

  • Social services must continue to be developed and operated at the local level, close to the users.

 

  • A government pledged to a fairer distribution of wealth, income, and power, and to holding as a guiding concern the needs and aspirations of all, must also be a government which seeks to alleviate hunger.

 

  •  Over the years, the Food Stamp Program, expanded and made more responsive by a Democratic Congress and Administration, has become the bulwark of this nation’s efforts to relieve hunger among its citizens.

Republican Platform (Poverty, Welfare, Welfare Reform) – 1980

 

  • In every society there will be some who cannot work, often through no fault of their own.  Yet current federal government efforts to help them have become counterproductive, perpetuating and aggravating the very conditions of dependence they seek to relieve.

 

  • For two generations, the Democrats have deliberately perpetuated a status of federally subsidized poverty and manipulated dependency for millions of Americans. This is especially so for blacks and Hispanics.

 

  • For those on welfare, our nation’s tax policies provide a penalty for getting a job. In these cases, due to taxes, earned income is actually less than welfare benefits. This is the “poverty trap” which will continue to hold millions of Americans as long as they continue to be punished for working.

 

  • By fostering dependency and discouraging self-reliance, the Democratic Party has created a welfare constituency dependent on its continual subsidies.

 

  • The Carter Administration has proposed to nationalize welfare.

 

  •  The Democrats have presided over—and must take the blame for—the most monstrous expansion and abuse of the food stamp program to date.

 

  • We categorically reject the notion of a guaranteed annual income, no matter how it may be disguised, which would destroy the fiber of our economy and doom the poor to perpetual dependence.

Summary of the political parties – 1980:

Reading through both platforms for 1980, again we see significant differences in how the parties aim to attack poverty.  The Democrat party took a strikingly different tone than that of 1968 against the very policies that they fought to implement.  Realizing the need for young mothers to work, they called for payments to day care centers to provide a means for young mothers to enter into the workforce to provide for their families.  The Democrats had also realized that the federal government could not do it all.  They suggested that the local government and the community were to have an integral role in welfare reform: “Social services must continue to be developed and operated at the local level, close to the users, with knowledge of and sensitivity to both the particular problems of each case and the community’s unique infrastructure, resources, and support networks.”

Democrats also cited a fiscal crisis for taxpayers, due to inefficiencies within the welfare system.  They also deplored the incentives that “cause families to break apart and fathers to leave home so that children may survive.”  According to democrats, the dependency upon their welfare policies and programs had caused welfare families to” not seek work on their own” and rely upon welfare to provide a regular income. The Democrats continued to praise their food stamp program and its expansions under Democratic presidencies in the fight against hunger.

The Republican Party blamed the Democrats for aggravating the poverty issue instead of helping it.  They believed that Democratic programs were counterproductive and encouraged dependence instead of dissuading it.  The Republicans recalled “For two generations, especially since the mid-1960s, the Democrats have deliberately perpetuated a status of federally subsidized poverty and manipulated dependency for millions of Americans. This was especially so for blacks and Hispanics, many of whom remain pawns of the bureaucracy, trapped outside the social and economic mainstream of American life.”

The Republicans berated that the nation’s tax policy provided a penalty for getting a job, citing that most individuals earned income is actually less than welfare benefits.  Republicans called this the “poverty trap” that punished Americans for working.  The Republicans insisted that increasing welfare and food stamp payments was counterproductive and increased dependency on continual subsidies.  They adamantly opposed nationalizing welfare, stating that it would cost billions more and made millions more on welfare.  Additionally, they called for reforms to alleviate the tax burden by ending payments to illegal aliens and the voluntarily unemployed.  Republicans opposed a “guaranteed annual income” for the poor warning that it would doom the poor to perpetual dependence.  The Republicans devised various means to increase work incentive and decrease abuses within the welfare system. 

When comparing the political parties on just one issue, one may not be able to determine which political party would best wholly represent his or her ideology.  If you are unsure of where the parties stand on other issues that may be near and dear to you, I encourage you to take a look at the party platforms and compare them FOR YOURSELF.  Bypass listening to the rhetoric of the liberal and conservative medias; bypass reading the revisionist history of so many commentaries and read FOR YOURSELF the principles that your representatives who have aligned themselves with either party actually stand on. 

For more information on other issues that are near and dear to you, check out the Democrat and Republican platforms in their entirety at the American Presidency Project: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/platforms.php

 

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Republicans and A New Reconstruction, by Tommy Davis

Normally, when it comes to government programs that attempt to address ethnic bigotry, I am a total critic. Policies that include contemporary affirmative action actually turned out to encourage discrimination rather than discourage unfairness when it comes to certain groups of people.

The original affirmative action ruled out race as a factor. Contemporary affirmative action leads to the underdevelopment of those who did not really obtain success through candid competition; but rather through policies that reward failure and penalize someone else’s achievement.

As a Republican, I understand that laws must be initiated that would prevent citizens from being deprived of their human and citizenship rights by other citizens. In January of 1865, Republican President Lincoln prompted Congress to enact the Thirteenth Amendment ending slavery. The Civil War ended that same year when General Lee surrendered on April 9 with Lincoln being assassinated 6 days later.

When Andrew Johnson, a war Democrat, became president upon Lincoln’s assassination, the Democrats initiated the “Black Codes”. This was a set of directives that sought to control the freed slaves by enacting and enforcing preventive laws that included restricting blacks from juries, the voting booth, and subjecting blacks to more harsh penalties than their white counterparts.

The Republicans in Congress, in an effort to protect southern blacks, passed the Civil Rights bill of 1866 over Andrew Johnson’s veto. This bill disallowed discrimination in state laws, but was restricted to the states that refused to guarantee civil rights to its citizens.

The Republicans then proceeded to draft the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution in the spring of 1866 that established the citizenship of all people born or naturalized in the United States. Such amendment also addressed black suffrage whereas Section 2 overturned the Three-Fifths Compromise that counted black residents as a fraction of whites when it came to apportioning representation in Congress. Congressional reconstruction brought black citizens directly into the nation’s political structure and would lead to at least ten black Republicans in Congress after the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment, which prohibited both federal and state governments from interfering with suffrage on racial grounds.

None of the laws passed by the Republican Congress initiated a favoritism based on race. Fair edicts foster competition, equality, and real growth that always involve an improvement within society. Unjust regulation sponsors inequity and typically has an unconstructive bearing on other groups of people.

Our prison system is made up of those who volunteered for slavery by being convicted of a crime(s). Upon release, their prior servitude or conviction of a felony leaves them disenfranchised and closed out from many of the economic and employment opportunities that would allow them to be productive. Even so, our prisons are filled with juvenile offenders who will never experience a chance to be constructive upon release if some of our laws are not repealed.

A legacy of failure serves as a portion of future generations who are subject to poverty due to the lack of opportunity afforded their parents after incarceration. As a black American, it is just plain reality that a disproportionate number of blacks (including juveniles) are incarcerated for committing crimes; and it is equally factual that many learned a valuable lesson while incarcerated.

Our Republican leaders would do well to continue the custom of equality by adopting a federal Act (The Reconstruction Act) in which I am currently drafting, that would override state laws barring the sealing of criminal records that does not involve sexual offenses or capital murder. We must again champion decrees that would enfranchise the penitent and disadvantaged as well as give former criminals a motivation to hold a trustworthy citizenship.

A modern-day Reconstruction that would assist in economic growth by strengthening responsible families would again confirm the Republican Party as an advocate of the minority, EQUALITY, and a stalwart republic.

 

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Why I Will not Vote the Democratic Ticket

Democrats

“We regard the Reconstruction Acts (so called) of Congress as usurpations, and unconstitutional, revolutionary, and void.” – Democratic Party Platform 1868

1880 VOTER HANDBILL 

     “I am opposed to the Democratic Party, and I will tell you why.  Every State that seceded from the United States was Democratic State.  Every ordinance of secession that was drawn was drawn by a Democrat.  Every man that endeavored to tear the old flag from heaven that it enriches was a Democrat.  Every enemy this great Republic has had for twenty years has been a Democrat.  Every man that shot Union soldiers was a Democrat.  Every man that starved Union soldiers and refused them in the extremity of death of crust was a Democrat.  Every man that tried to destroy this nation was a Democrat.  Every man that loved slavery more than liberty was a Democrat.  The man that assassinated Abraham Lincoln was a Democrat.  Every man that sympathized with the assassin —every man glad that the noblest President ever elected was assassinated – was a Democrat.  Every man that impaired the credit of the United States; every man that swore we would never pay the bonds; every man that swore we would never redeem the greenbacks was a Democrat.  Every man that resisted the draft was a Democrat.  Every man that wept over the corpse of slavery was a Democrat.  Every man that cursed Lincoln because he issued the Proclamation of Emancipation — the grandest paper since the Declaration of Independence— every one of them was a Democrat.  Every man that wanted an uprising in the North, that wanted to release the rebel prisoners, that they might burn down the homes of Union soldiers above the heads of their wives and children, while the brave husbands , the heroic fathers, were in the front fighting for the honor of the old flag, every one of them was a Democrat.  Every man that believed this glorious nation of ours is only a confederacy, every man that believed the old banner carried by our fathers through the Revolution, through the War of 1812, carried by our brothers over the plains of Mexico, carried by our brothers over the fields of the Rebellion, simply stood for a contract, simply stood for an agreement, was a Democrat.  Every man who believed that any State should go out of the Union at its pleasure; every man that believed the grand fabric of the American Government could be made to crumble instantly into dust at the touch of treason was a Democrat.  Soldiers! Every scar you have got on your heroic bodies was given to you by a Democrat.  Every scar, every arm that is lacking, every limb that is gone, every scar is a souvenir of a Democrat.”

Dr. Davis’ commentary:

“Even though this handbill was published in the year 1880, how many similarities can you find today?  What politician or policies come to mind as you read through a document written fifteen years after the Civil War.?”

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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US Automaker

Townhall.com Columnist
Breakdown
by Cal Thomas

Remember when Democrats lamented the growing budget deficit and spoke of the burden our children and grandchildren would face if we didn’t put our fiscal house in order? That was when Republicans ran the federal government and Democrats opposed tax cuts. Now that Democrats are about to be in charge, concern about the deficit has disappeared and spending plans proliferate, even though the national debt passed $10 trillion in September and we added another $500 billion last month.

The latest, but by no means the last supplicant at the public trough, is the auto industry, which wants a bailout to save jobs because its cars are not selling. There is a reason for that and it can be summed up in five words: The United Auto Workers Union (UAW).

Half of the $50 billion the auto industry wants is for health care for its current and retired employees. This is the result of increasing UAW demands, strikes and threats of strikes unless health care and pension benefits were regularly increased. While in the past UAW settled for some benefit decreases while bargaining with the Big Three U.S. automakers, according to the Wall Street Journal in September of 2006, “on average, GM pays $81.18 an hour in wages and benefits to its U.S. hourly workers.” Those increased costs, including the cost of health care, were passed along to consumers, adding $1,600 to the price of every vehicle GM produced. In February 2008, after General Motors offered buyouts to 74,000 employees, the Center for Automotive Research estimated the average wage, including benefits, for current GM workers had dropped to $78.21 an hour. New hires pulled down a paltry $26.65. GM, now facing a head-on collision with reality, has taken an important first step tow ard fiscal responsibility by announcing the elimination of lifetime health care benefits for about 100,000 of its white-collar retirees at the end of this year.

Contrast this with non-union Toyota, whose total hourly U.S. labor costs, with benefits, are $35 per hour. Those lower labor costs mean Toyota enjoys a cost advantage over U.S. automakers of about $1,000 per vehicle. Is it any wonder that Toyota is outselling American automakers and from plants that have been built on U.S. soil? According to James Sherk of The Heritage Foundation, Japanese car companies provide their employees with good jobs at good wages: “The typical hourly employee at a Toyota, Honda or Nissan plant in America makes almost $100,000 a year in wages and benefits, before overtime.”

While many in the Democratic Party have focused on “corporate greed” and “fairness,” according to Sherk, “competition, not corporate greed, is the real problem facing labor unions. When unions negotiate raises for their members, companies pass those higher costs on to consumers.” Americans used to tolerate those increases, but no more. Competition has brought lower prices for Japanese cars and Americans are buying more of them, taking a pass on those manufactured in Detroit.

The argument made by those favoring a bailout of Detroit is that it will save more than 100,000 jobs in the auto and related industries. But what good does that do if people are not buying cars in sufficient numbers to allow the Big Three to make a profit? This becomes the kind of corporate welfare Democrats decry when it comes to Wall Street. But, then, Wall Street isn’t unionized and Democrats want and need the union vote.

What about Chrysler’s bailout 30 years ago? It was a loan. Didn’t Chrysler pay back the government? Wasn’t it worth the risk to save jobs? According to the Heritage Foundation, the $1.2 billion in loan guarantees made by the Carter administration still resulted in a partial bankruptcy for Chrysler. “Most of the company’s creditors were forced to accept losses just as they would if Chrysler had gone through Chapter 11, and the company ended up firing almost half its workforce, including 20,000 white-collar workers and 42,600 hourly wage earners. The only people who benefited from the bailout were Chrysler shareholders.”

The Heritage Foundation also notes, “If Washington really wants to help Detroit, they could end the regulatory nightmare that prevents profitable, fuel-efficient cars from reaching market.” Ford, they say, has begun selling a car that gets 65 mpg, but they’re not selling it in America. Why? Because it runs on diesel fuel “and environmentalists in the U.S. have fought to keep diesel taxes high and refinery capacity low.”

More government intervention in private industry will bring us closer to socialism. Better to renegotiate the labor contracts, re-train workers for other jobs, or help them get hired at the Japanese auto plants in America than to subsidize a failed economic model for the sake of political gain.

 

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Grand Old Party

February 25, 2008 Issue
The American Conservative

High spirits and low expectations at CPAC

by Michael Brendan Dougherty

At last year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, a man in a dolphin suit stood outside the Omni Shoreham Hotel mocking Mitt Romney’s flip-flopping on abortion, the Reagan presidency, and other issues dear to conservative hearts. Attendees loved him. This year, Flipper stood by himself in a hallway, his dorsal fin drooping, his plush head hanging—a year’s worth of wear and tear. With John McCain on the verge of winning the Republican nomination, few of the conservatives at CPAC wanted to joke about Romney, in whom they had of late placed their hopes. And within a few hours of the start of the conference, both Romney and Flipper would need to find new lines of work.

The former Massachusetts governor was introduced by Laura Ingraham, who, clueless of the drama to come, waxed on about Romney as the “conservative’s conservative” while enthusiastic supporters waved foam “Mitts.” With trademark efficiency, he delivered a speech that served red meat with the regularity and forced sincerity of a Denny’s waitress. On welfare and regulation, Romney said, “Dependency is culture killing.” On family, he declared that the development of a child is “enhanced” by having a mother and father. “I wonder how it is that unelected judges, like some in my state of Massachusetts, are so unaware of this reality,” he mused.

He compared his run against McCain to Reagan’s campaign against the moderate Ford, but then declared that one issue trumped everything, even his own presidential ambitions: “There is an important difference from 1976. Today we are a nation at war.” He explained that by fighting on to the convention, he would “forestall the launch of a national campaign and, frankly, I’d make it easier for Senator Clinton or Obama to win. … I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.” As disappointed fans filed out, organizers hauled out the campaign debris. Exit Romney faithful, enter McCainiacs. The transition took mere minutes.

Well aware that CPAC wasn’t a natural constituency, McCain’s campaign had loaded a double-barreled introduction: former Virginia senator George Allen, who but for three unfortunate syllables might have been in McCain’s place, and Tom Coburn, arguably the Senate’s most conservative member.

His credentials polished, McCain entered to orchestrated applause—the string of speakers preceding him had urged the crowd to mind its manners—and struck as conciliatory a tone as an old maverick can muster. “Many of you have disagreed strongly with some positions I have taken in recent years,” he said. “I understand that. … And it is my sincere hope that even if you believe I have occasionally erred in my reasoning as a fellow conservative, you will still allow that I have, in many ways important to all of us, maintained the record of a conservative.”

The reaction was mixed. The author of last year’s wildly unpopular “comprehensive immigration reform” was roundly booed when he broached the subject of America’s borders. But he knew how to win the audience back: “Whomever the Democrats nominate, they would govern this country in a way that will, in my opinion, take this country backward to the days when government felt empowered to take from us our freedom to decide for ourselves the course and quality of our lives.” (Within the same paragraph, McCain inadvertently demonstrated the contradictions between the old Republican palaver about freedom and the demands of the war on terror saying, “It is shameful and dangerous that Senate Democrats are blocking an extension of surveillance powers.” No line got louder applause.)

McCain may not have sealed the deal, but he got his foot in the door. Blogging for National Review, Stanley Kurtz wrote, “I thought McCain did an excellent job … he won over most of the crowd.”

While the establishment was upstairs coalescing around its unlikely champion, the full spectrum of the conservative grassroots was on display in the downstairs exhibition hall. Where else to buy an “I’d rather be water-boarded than vote for McCain” t-shirt? Other conservative couture featured a picture of a bricklayer constructing a wall: “If you build it, they won’t come.”(One wonders what the Hondurans who make these shirts think of the Americans who buy them.) A generation after the Berlin Wall fell, red-baiting is still in vogue: one activist sold t-shirts with the figure of Vladimir Lenin bestriding an American university; another offered bottles of Lenin-ade and ushankas with hammer and sickle insignia and Clinton or Obama’s name.

Wandering among the dealers, Max Blumenthal greeted me. Son of former Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal, Max writes for The Nation and produces video exposés of the Right. He looked over his shoulder at the young Republican women standing around and asked, “Shouldn’t they be dressed more modestly?” I laughed and said that the conservative movement doesn’t come from Amish country. Max offered his opinion of the way liberal women dress (not all that great) and pressed on about the short skirts and plunging necklines around us. By then, I wanted to get away. “I guess they are dressed for breeding,” I quipped—then immediately worried that he was videotaping me. That would never sound right. But Max had hit on something odd about CPAC.

Six feet from us hung a t-shirt that read “I only sleep with Republicans,” and two booths away Young Americans for Freedom featured an airbrushed poster of Ann Coulter in her best come-hither pose. The Young Britons’ Foundation didn’t have any Edmund Burke tracts, but they did have a poster of a sultry brunette, her lips parted slightly. The lascivious caption: “Life is better under a conservative.” Not to be outdone, banners at the Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute’s booth encouraged each young woman walking by to become “A Luce Lady.” CPAC’s many parties would provide ample opportunity.

The first night, a Washington Times editor rented a room and spread the word that he had $1,500 worth of booze. The party was loud, and just a few moments after former congressman Bob Barr, leader of the House’s effort to impeach Bill Clinton, posed for a picture with his arms draped over two young women, the hotel shut down the festivities. The consensus opinion of the party: “Off the hook.”

The Maine College Republicans boasted on Facebook of their annual binge: “In just five years Mainefest has grown from a small hotel gathering to become one of Washington’s most highly anticipated social events of the year.” It’s not quite the Gridiron Dinner, but the parties seem to please the attendees. Washington’s free-market think tanks and lobbying outfits suffer from a lack of females, and college Republican groups contain a surfeit of attractive women looking for America’s future lawyers. Besides, the men in college Republican groups are unavailable and undesirable—their romantic attention entirely fixed on Ayn Rand.

Not everyone came for the parties. Outside the main ballroom, angry CPACers waved “Republicans Against McCain” protest signs. Another cluster held up a “McCain = Amnesty” banner. Libertarian activists claimed that registrations at their booth spiked as soon as Romney announced the suspension of his campaign.

Ron Paul, under whose standard most dissenters rallied, gave one of the sharpest speeches of his campaign. The only featured speaker to attack John McCain, Paul asked the audience to consider that the presumptive nominee had allied with Tom Daschle on tax policy, with Russ Feingold on campaign finance, with Al Gore on global warming, and with Ted Kennedy on immigration. He did not shy away from his differences with the movement on the war on terror: “Osama bin Laden loves our foreign policy.” Donald Devine, second vice chairman of The American Conservative Union, moved slowly to the back of the room, asking if the people there supported Paul. With a sigh, he admitted that he, too, would probably vote for him. It was a stunning admission from one of CPAC’s founders.

But the organizers know better than to let their conference devolve into dissent. Newt Gingrich was called in as the closer. His speech contained his familiar chorus of absurd statistics: “85 percent of American people believe we have an obligation to protect America and her allies, 75 percent believe we have obligation to defeat our enemies.” Apparently Democrats believe that America’s enemies should pillage Kansas City next week.

At one moment Gingrich seemed to echo the dissident voices heard in break-away sessions: it is essential for “the conservative movement … to declare itself independent from the Republican Party.” But that doesn’t mean starting a new party or even sitting out an election. Gingrich continued, “Any reasonable conservative will—in the end—find they have an absolute requirement to support the Republican nominee for president this fall.” Apparently political independence from Republicans still implies an absolute requirement to vote for them.

Gingrich was acting according to the logic of CPAC. Founded to pull the country and the Republican Party to the right, the conference is now so well established and so reliant on the appearance of big-name politicians for its success (measured in number of attendees and media buzz) that it has become the place where conservatives reconcile themselves to voting Republican no matter what. Tempted though they may be to punish the GOP for its transgressions, each year Raymond Aron’s dictum prevails: “In politics, the choice is not between good and evil, but between the preferable and the detestable.” Of course this gives incredible license to “the preferable” to act detestably. If a movement believes that its opponents are the communist caricatures depicted on CPAC t-shirts, it can convince itself to throw in with McCain. By the end of Gingrich’s speech, morale had been lifted and attendees had their bags stuffed with all the trinkets they could carry.

The bullying bumper stickers, the man in the dolphin outfit, and the bestsellers by radio personalities are all the result of conservatives turning toward movement politics. It is tempting to sniff at the CPAC crowd—many of whom claim to be conservatives but cannot tell the difference between Russell Kirk and Captain Kirk. But that would be wrong.

Moving from ideas to policy advocacy and finally to governance requires building an electoral coalition that will, by its very nature, simplify subtle reflections into campaign slogans. When William F. Buckley tied himself, and by extension National Review, to the cause of Joe McCarthy, the conservative intellectual movement was married to a populist base. In his 1992 Republican convention speech, Pat Buchanan spoke of a great class of voters: “They don’t read Adam Smith or Edmund Burke, but they came from the same schoolyards and playgrounds and towns as we did. They share our beliefs and convictions, our hopes and our dreams. They are the conservatives of the heart.” Many of them are now at CPAC—and that’s part of the problem.

The conference flattens the political passions of these conservatives, channeling their energy into national politics and away from local concerns. Thus the range of activism narrows to immigration, foreign policy, and the solipsistic goal of sustaining the conservative movement itself. This is good for keeping Beltway institutions well funded but bad for the actual work of conservatism.

As the Omni Shoreham’s staff disassembled the exhibit hall, the young Republicans repaired to Capitol Hill for the last party of the weekend, Reaganpalooza, where organizers urged everyone to “Drink one for the Gipper.” A handful of anti-McCainiacs ordered stiff shots and argued over whether they could vote Republican in the fall. “It’s an anti-Obama vote, that’s all,” one offered. “But on immigration, McCain is against us. And on the war he’s against public opinion,” said another. But soon enough they swallowed their doubts and began dancing to the music, determined to celebrate a president who left office before some of them were born. The band never stopped playing on the Titanic either. 

 

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Paternalism

Hearts of Darkness
Trendy paternalism is keeping Africa in chains.
Paternalism was supposed to be finished. The belief that grown men and women are childlike creatures who can thrive in the world only if they submit to the guardianship of benevolent mandarins underlay more than a century’s worth of welfare-state social policy, beginning with Otto von Bismarck’s first Wohlfahrtsstaat experiments in nineteenth-century Germany. But paternalism’s centrally directed systems of subsidies failed to raise up submerged classes, and by the end of the twentieth century even many liberals, surveying the cultural wreckage left behind by the Great Society, had abandoned their faith in the welfare state.

Yet in one area, foreign aid, the paternalist spirit is far from dead. A new generation of economists and activists is calling for a “big push” in Africa to expand programs that in practice institutionalize poverty rather than end it. The Africrats’ enthusiasm for the failed policies of the past threatens to turn a struggling continent into a permanent ghetto—and to block the progress of ideas that really can liberate Africa’s oppressed populations.

The intellectual cover for the new paternalism comes from economists like Columbia’s Jeffrey Sachs, who in his recent bestseller The End of Poverty argues that prosperous nations can dramatically reduce African poverty, if not eliminate it, by increasing their foreign-aid spending and expanding smaller assistance programs into much larger social welfare regimes. “The basic truth,” Sachs says, “is that for less than a percent of the income of the rich world”—0.7 percent of its GNP for the next 20 years—“nobody has to die of poverty on the planet.”

Sachs headed the United Nations’ Millennium Project, created in 2002 by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to figure out how to reverse poverty, hunger, and disease in poor countries. After three years of expensive lucubration, the project’s ten task forces concluded that prosperous nations can indeed defeat African poverty by 2025—if only they spend more money. “The world already has the technology and know-how to solve most of the problems faced in the poor countries,” a Millennium report asserted. “As of 2006, however, these solutions have still not been implemented at the needed scale.” Translation: the developed nations have been too stingy.

We’ve heard this before. The “response of the West to Africa’s tragedy has been constant throughout the years,” observes NYU economist William Easterly. From Walt Rostow and John F. Kennedy in 1960 to Sachs and Tony Blair today, the message, Easterly says, has been the same: “Give more aid.” Assistance to Africa, he notes, “did indeed rise steadily throughout this period (tripling as a percent of African GDP from the 1970s to the 1990s),” yet African growth “remained stuck at zero percent per capita.”

All told, the West has given some $568 billion in foreign aid to Africa over the last four decades, with little to show for it. Between 1990 and 2001, the number of people in sub-Saharan Africa below what the UN calls the “extreme poverty line”—that is, living on less than $1 a day—increased from 227 million to 313 million, while their inflation-adjusted average daily income actually fell, from 62 cents to 60. At the same time, nearly half the continent’s population—46 percent—languishes in what the UN defines as ordinary poverty.

Yet notwithstanding this record of failure, the prosperous nations’ heads of state have sanctioned Sachs’s plan to throw more money at Africa’s woes. In July 2005, G-8 leaders meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland, endorsed Sachs’s Millennium thesis and promised to double their annual foreign aid from $25 billion to $50 billion, with at least half the money earmarked for Africa. This increased spending, the Gleneagles principals proclaimed, will “lift tens of millions of people out of poverty every year.” No doubt, too, Africans will soon be extracting sunbeams from cucumbers.

It is doubtful whether the G-8 leaders themselves believe all the gaseous rhetoric that emanates from their meetings. But a sort of fifth estate, composed of actors and aging rock stars, has emerged, determined to hold the prodigal statesmen to their word. The new Africrats include pop empress Madonna, actress Angelina Jolie, and U2 singer Paul Hewson, better known as Bono, who has emerged as Sachs’s leading promoter and enforcer. After attending this year’s G-8 summit at Heiligendamm, Germany, Bono pronounced himself “skeptical” of the pledges made at Gleneagles. The skepticism was reasonable, given that the document in question was not intended to be credible. But Bono, who wrote the foreword to Sachs’s The End of Poverty, has made it his life’s work to force the G-8 to take its oratory seriously. At Heiligendamm, he got into what he called a “huge row” with the Germans, whom he accused of “playing a numbers game” with their aid contributions.

Bono has had better luck with U.S. leaders. In 2002, he and then–treasury secretary Paul O’Neill traveled together to Africa on a widely publicized 12-day “fact-finding” mission to study the AIDS epidemic. This year President Bush, who reportedly discussed increasing American aid to Africa with Bono at Heiligendamm, announced that he would expand the centerpiece of his Africa policy, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Bush launched the initiative in 2003 with a five-year, $15 billion commitment; in May, he asked Congress to approve an additional $30 billion.

Like earlier practitioners of paternalist charity, today’s Africrats propose policies that treat the material effects of Africa’s problems—disease, dirty water, hunger—not their underlying causes, which the West, too, once struggled with. For thousands of years, high rates of death from infectious diseases were the norm throughout the world. Before the twentieth century, Western parents expected to lose at least one of their children to illnesses that are preventable today. Not until late in the nineteenth century did the White House itself have clean water; in 1862, Abraham Lincoln’s son Willie died of typhoid, likely contracted from the mansion’s tainted plumbing. Hunger, too, once darkened what is now the prosperous world, though so effectively has the problem been solved that countries like the United States face a looming obesity crisis.

How did today’s prosperous nations create the embarrassment of riches that they now enjoy? No benign magician descended, à la Jeffrey Sachs, on London or Washington to shower its inhabitants with money. Instead, the rich nations developed laws and freedoms that enabled people to take their futures into their own hands. As Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto has argued in The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else, the world’s poorest countries remain poor in part because they lack legal protections—property rights foremost among them—that enable people in the West to tap the potential of “dead” capital and invest it in wealth-generating enterprises.

Kenyan economist James Shikwati agrees that handouts thwart the emergence of a culture of self-reliant problem solving and that they breed corruption to boot. When a drought afflicts Kenya, he says, Kenyan politicians “reflexively cry out for more help.” Their calls reach the United Nations World Food Program, a “massive agency of apparatchiks who are in the absurd situation of, on the one hand, being dedicated to the fight against hunger while, on the other hand, being faced with unemployment were hunger actually eliminated.” When the requested grain reaches Africa, a portion of it “often goes directly into the hands of unscrupulous politicians who then pass it on to their own tribe to boost their next election campaign.” Much of the rest of the grain gets dumped at less than fair market value. “Local farmers may as well put down their hoes right away,” Shikwati says. “No one can compete with the UN’s World Food Program.”

Care, one of the world’s largest charities, would agree. In August, it rejected some $45 million in U.S. government financing to distribute subsidized food in Africa, saying that the subsidies hurt African farmers. “If someone wants to help you, they shouldn’t do it by destroying the very thing that they’re trying to promote,” George Odo, a Care official, told the New York Times. The American government, however, has no plans to scrap the practice.

Shikwati’s observations have been borne out most recently in Ethiopia, where the government’s collectivist agriculture policies have unsurprisingly resulted in famine. Foreign nations duly sent aid, which, according to a July 2007 report in the New York Times, government soldiers duly squandered: “Soldiers skim sacks of grain, tins of vegetable oil and bricks of high-energy biscuits from food warehouses to sell at local markets. The cash is distributed among security officers and regional officers. . . . Then the remaining food is hauled out to rural areas where the soldiers divert part of it to local gunmen and informers as a reward for helping them fight the rebels. . . . To cover their tracks, the soldiers and government administrators who work with them tell the aid agencies that the food has spoiled, or has been stolen or hijacked by rebels.”

The cycle is vicious. The aid that ends up in corrupt rulers’ bank accounts enables them to stifle both free markets and the political and legal reforms that free markets need to operate efficiently. A recent Heritage Foundation study found that, of the 70 least-free countries on earth, nearly half have received U.S. foreign aid for more than three decades. The result is more poverty, more aid money, and more corruption. In Zimbabwe, for example, foreign aid enabled strongman Robert Mugabe to destroy property rights, introduce a command economy, and create a kleptocracy where the inflation rate recently reached 11,000 percent. Once southern Africa’s breadbasket, Zimbabwe now depends on subsidies to feed its people.

Sachs points to his “Millennium Village clusters”—12 sites located in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda—as evidence that he will succeed where earlier centrally directed efforts failed. The Millennium Village initiative, its apologists claim, does what “has never been done before.” It “addresses an integrated and scaled-up set of interventions covering food production, nutrition, education, health services, roads, energy, communications, water, sanitation, enterprise diversification and environmental management.”

If this doesn’t sound like a conceptual breakthrough, it’s because it isn’t. The Millennium Project, like earlier paternalist programs, is a collectivist enterprise run by bureaucrats and subject to—or as the apparatchiks prefer to say, “scaled up” by—central governments abroad. These “colossally expensive, non-replicable” villages, contends Bunker Roy, founding director of India’s Barefoot College, have been imposed on locals by governments and academics seeking “installations that are friendly to globe-trotting celebrities.”

Sachs boasts that the village of Sauri, in Kenya, recently “celebrated its first harvest as a ‘Millennium Village’ ” with a bumper crop. Yes, with sufficient money and attention, it is possible to produce a Potemkin village. But no centrally directed program has yet been able to create and sustain a sprawling network of prosperous villages, towns, and cities, such as we take for granted in the United States.

Why? One reason is that the amount of information required to administer so extensive a prosperity will baffle even the most careful plan and the most thoughtful administrator. “We know little of the particular facts to which the whole of social activity continuously adjusts itself in order to provide what we have learned to expect,” Friedrich Hayek wrote in The Constitution of Liberty. Only by renouncing bureaucratic control, Hayek maintained, can a country make the most efficient use of the knowledge that its citizens collectively possess. It is for this reason that a free society can employ “so much more knowledge than the mind of the wisest ruler could comprehend.”

Another reason that Millennium Villages won’t succeed is that they fail to foster a climate of innovation. Four centuries ago, Francis Bacon, analyzing the emergence of problem-solving cultures, observed that the solutions that they lighted upon were often “altogether different in kind and as remote as possible from anything that was known before; so that no preconceived notion could possibly have led to the discovery of them.” But the preconceived notions imposed by large, bureaucratic programs too often thwart the unforeseeable breakthroughs that result when people are free to pursue their own destinies. According to a candid report issued in July by a group of nongovernmental organizations, aid initiatives in the Sahel region, along the southern perimeter of the Sahara, “are almost always driven by externally imposed ideas for development” intended to make donors look good; the architects of the programs approach problems in “narrow and inflexible ways” that ignore the ideas of locals.

Shouldn’t the prosperous nations, at the very least, underwrite African health care to stem the tide of death? Perhaps; but the real question is whether subsidized medicine is the best way to raise life expectancy—or whether political and legal reforms that promote the creation of wealth do more. Nor is it clear that, even if subsidized health programs do work in some circumstances, they are likely to be effective in Africa, given the corruption that so often prevents aid from reaching its intended recipients.

Not only do the Africrats’ policies fail to address the real causes of Africa’s troubles; they treat the people whom they are trying to help as children. Vanity Fair’s recent Africa issue described how Sachs, in a southwestern Ugandan village last January, addressed the inhabitants as though they were slightly dim kindergartners: “And we have seen the bed nets in your houses. Do you have bed nets in your houses?”

“Yes!”

“We are happy to see that. And are they working? Do they help?”

“Yes!”

“We are happy to see that.”

Yes, Kimosabe! Sachs is not the only sahib who invites us to view Africa through the prism of childhood. In 2004, Prince Harry of England visited Lesotho, a small, landlocked country in southern Africa, to befriend children with AIDS; in front of cameras, the prince gave a four-year-old boy a pair of Wellington boots and cradled a six-month-old girl in his arms. When Madonna traveled to Malawi in 2006, dripping dollars and sentiment, her publicist spoke candidly of her paternalist (or maternalist) aspirations: “She’s kind of adopting an entire country of children.”

Rotimi Sankore, a journalist who has written widely on Africa, points out that the Africrats’ favorite poster child is “a skeletal looking two- or three-year-old brown-skinned girl in a dirty torn dress, too weak to chase off dozens of flies settling on her wasted and diseased body, her big round eyes pleading for help.” Sankore calls such images “development pornography.” The “subliminal message, unintended or not,” he argues, “is that people in the developing world require indefinite and increasing amounts of help and that without aid charities and donor support, these poor incapable people in Africa or Asia will soon be extinct through disease and starvation.”

Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina maintains that the relentless focus of the Africrats on the image of the pitiable, childish African distorts Africans’ idea of themselves and their potential. “There must be a change in mentality,” agrees Kenya’s Shikwati. “We have to stop perceiving ourselves as beggars.” At the same time, Africrat rhetoric that depicts the continent as “one giant crisis” (Wainaina’s phrase) obscures the progress that many Africans are making on their own. The African entrepreneurs who make up what Wainaina calls the “equity generation”—stock exchanges now thrive in Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana—are, by pursuing their own private interests, doing more to assure a prosperous African future than all the Africrats’ programs put together. President Bush has made subsidized medicine the centerpiece of his Africa policy; he might do better to invest in Africa’s rising entrepreneurs.

If paternalism doesn’t work, why does the paternalist mentality persist? Joseph Conrad suggested an answer in his 1902 novella Heart of Darkness. Conrad’s antihero, Kurtz, is a man of benevolent intention who goes to Africa with grandiose dreams of saving people but who ends by slaughtering those natives who resist his hunt for ivory. The story’s narrator, Marlow, finds a report that Kurtz prepared for the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs. Kurtz, Marlow says, “began with the argument that we whites, from the point of development we had arrived at, ‘must necessarily appear to them [savages] in the nature of supernatural beings—we approach them with the might of a deity,’ and so on, and so on. ‘By the simple exercise of our will we can exert a power for good practically unbounded.’ ” The thesis of Sachs’s The End of Poverty is not essentially different. He, too, believes that Westerners “can exert a power for good practically unbounded” over people who have not reached our “point of development.”

The patina of benevolence, Conrad suggests, often conceals a messianic narcissism, an incipient megalomania: Kurtz spent his days in Africa “getting himself adored.” Egotism and the desire for adoration are useful stimulants when they spur people to produce things that other people want or need. But it is a tawdry ambition that deters, as the paternalist philosophy does, people from realizing their own potential.

Reading Conrad, one is uneasily reminded of today’s Africrats. Under the guise of helping Africans, they aggrandize themselves, burnish their fame—and, not least, get themselves adored. Their tours of Africa are exercises in hero worship, part Roman triumph, part Felliniesque spectacle. The landing of the jet on some remote shimmering tarmac; the heat of the African sun; the exotic savor of the desert or of the jungle air; the fawning masses: all contribute to the narcotic spell that these progresses cast over those who undertake them.

Then comes the encounter between the benign magician—the Prospero from the northern latitudes—and the Suffering African. Amid a glitter of flashbulbs, the august tourist, like a monarch touching for the King’s Evil, lays hands on the dying AIDS patient or the undernourished child. Bobby Kennedy and Princess Diana perfected the art with which the superstar feels another’s pain; Bono, Madonna, and Angelina Jolie have carried on the tradition. A messianic odor clings to Sachs’s account of this celebrity satrapy, in which the superstars figure both as agents of grace and as high priests of a cult: “The Live 8 concerts, Bono’s ONE campaign, Angelina Jolie’s work for the United Nations, and many other acts of leadership and grace are drawing millions of eager individuals into a new commitment to work for the end of poverty, and thereby for a world of peace and shared well-being.”

Paternalism persists as a psychology precisely because it satisfies the cravings of vanity in a way that real reform doesn’t. (Where people have learned to save themselves, they do not need saviors.) So potent are paternalism’s pleasures that it has beguiled even those who theoretically oppose it. Consider the regression of Sachs himself. Sachs was born, in Detroit, into a family of civic aspiration and the desire to do good. As a young economist at Harvard, during the 1980s, Sachs did good, helping to devise “shock therapy” for Bolivia, a country crippled by public-sector spending.

Today, however, he rejects his old faith in economic freedom, which he ridicules as “magical thinking.” Repudiating his Bolivian policies, he now calls for curing African poverty LBJ-style, through massive wealth transfers. Sachs has discovered that it’s more glamorous to be a paternalist wizard, solving the little people’s problems for them, than it is to help them, as in Bolivia, solve their problems for themselves. When he was advocating a Reagan-Thatcher program of spending cuts and smaller government in Latin America, the most Sachs could hope for was an appreciative notice in the Wall Street Journal. Now he hangs with Bono and goes off into the bush with Angelina Jolie.

So prosperous have free nations become that not only their tycoons and superstars but even members of their middle classes are rich enough to taste the pleasures of paternalism—a fact that Madison Avenue has not failed to exploit. Companies like Gap, Converse, Motorola, and Armani—which were also sponsors of Vanity Fair’s Africa issue—have subscribed to Bono’s “(red) manifesto,” a promise that “if you buy a (red) product or sign up for a (red) service, at no cost to you, a (red) company will give some of its profits to buy antiretroviral medicine” for Africa. The curious (use) of (parentheses) in Bono’s “manifesto” is apparently intended to give the ad campaign an edgy, agitprop flavor, enabling the consumer to flatter himself that, in purchasing his new cell phone or pair of sneakers, he is doing something more than engaging in a routine market transaction. An acquisitive bourgeois on the surface, he is at heart (or so he pretends) a spiritual guerrilla on Bono’s long march to social solidarity.

The ambivalence about economic liberty that characterizes Bono’s campaign points to a larger contradiction in Africrat charity. It is a paradox of these figures that they should long to retreat from the commercial civilization that has made them great to the primitive conditions of the jungle and the desert. The Africrats are plainly enchanted by the exoticism, the pastoral simplicity, of peoples who have not yet mastered the secret of market prosperity.

This longing for the supposed innocence and simplicity of more primitive cultures was an important element in the psychology of nineteenth-century romanticism, which emerged from the same cultural matrix that gave birth to nineteenth-century paternalism. Both paternalism and romanticism developed in reaction to the progress, in the West, of political and economic freedom and the unexampled prosperity that came in their wake. Slaveholders in the United States fashioned an apology for human bondage that was partly romantic and partly paternalistic: they were, they claimed, re-creating the feudal splendors of Ivanhoe on the plantation, while at the same time tending to the submerged class with a solicitude absent in the cold world of free labor. Across the ocean, romantic aristocrats like Bismarck, confronted with the progress of liberty, sought to preserve the power of the patrician classes by means of a new method of paternal supervision—the social legislation of the Wohlfahrtsstaat.

Paternalism’s most astute defenders have always worked to disguise its coercive qualities by framing their efforts as an attempt to save the little people—as yet unspoiled by the cruel ethos of capitalism—from the evils of freedom. Some paternalists, like the socialists of the 1920s and 1930s, romanticized alienated proletarians and made a fetish of their innocence; others, like the “radical chic” philanthropists whom Tom Wolfe satirized in the 1960s, found their noble savages in the urban ghetto. Like their predecessors, the Africrats, too, romanticize their exotic pets. In doing so, they have worked out a new bucolic aesthetic to justify their disillusionment with capitalism, even as they promote policies that promise to keep their wards in a Rousseauian state of primitive innocence.

If the prosperous nations really want to help Africa, they need to resist the seductions of paternalism. They need to promote, not policies that will ensure that the continent remains a collection of fiefdoms dependent on subsidies and celebrity pity, but wealth-generating entrepreneurial efforts. They need to export, not a dated philosophy of mandarinism, but ideas that really can lift peoples and nations out of the lower depths—the ideas of Bacon, Hayek, de Soto, and The Wealth of Nations.

Michael Knox Beran, a lawyer and writer, is a contributing editor of City Journal and the author of Forge of Empires, Jefferson’s Demons, and The Last Patrician, a New York Times Notable Book of 1998.

 

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