Dr. Paul Rahe – the real problem that the Republican Party faces is not campaigning, technology, or GOTV

by Skip

The money lines:

The deepest source of our present discontents is the sexual revolution. Our abandonment of chastity as a norm has had dire political consequences.

Her right to be promiscuous trumps our right to the fruits of our own labor.

From commenter John Walker (a self described “flaming libertarian”):  The libertarian society in which I wish to live (and in which, to large extent I lived prior to 1965), was made up of people who shared a common moral code. Today we may call it “social conservatism”, but then we just called it “proper behaviour”.

Proper behavior may now be long gone.  Dr. Rahe is a professor at Hillsdale College and I would rank him with the likes of Mark Steyn, Victor Davis Hanson, Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell – awe, heck -just go here for the list!  He has penned one of his best (IMHO) called “The Deepest Source of Our Troubles” in which he describes one of the ugliest reasons (from a Conservative’s viewpoint) why our outlook that Obama would lose his re-election bid.  He postulates, and I agree, that the reason we lost was the culture has been changed from underneath what traditional America is – or, perhaps, is.  But he also posits, and I agree, that this change to the culture is not enhancing the sense of Liberty & Freedom which and here are a few snippets (emphasis mine):

One of the reasons that Romney was unable, despite my hopes, to do in 2012 what Reagan did in 1980 is that, in the intervening 32 years a great many of the American citizens who voted for Ronald Reagan had died and been replaced by Americans educated and morally formed in a very different fashion.


The last few years I have said that Conservatives have to go back into Education, especially at the elementary level.  Many boomers believe that since what they were taught in their early lives had been the same that had been taught for decades, nothing has changed.  Nothing could be further from the truth and we see that now in the unmooring of the culture.  It is not just because that we have become a ‘skin different’ and therefore, a ‘diverse’ society.  In effect, the Left has taken over Education, the arts, and the culture making institutions like TV and movie.  Its purpose has not, all protestations aside, has not in enhancing “multiculturalism”; rather, it is establishing a new monoculture based on being unAmerican (drifting to anti-American) values.  He continues on that theme through the post but also has a suggestion to counteract this undertow:

…The cultural crisis that we and our once and future allies in Europe now face is not going to go away in the near future.

Lest I bore you and fail to provoke sound and fury, let me preface my remarks by saying two things: that libertarians should be social conservatives and vice-versa.

More on that later.  For part of the change in the culture, he identifies one of the most important sources of that cultural change to task: the Religious-in-name-only (yes, another RINO classification):

In embracing the administrative entitlements state, as they have, Catholic churchmen and their Protestant counterparts have lent aid and comfort to those who believe that we can establish heaven right here on earth and they have led their flocks to mistake the Machiavellian maneuver of forcefully taking from one citizen to support another for a fulfillment of the Christian duty of charity…. The proper setting for the practice of Christian charity is a free-market society. The rise of the welfare state and the decline of Christianity go hand in hand. To see this, one need only go to church in Europe.

Indeed – they have become Government boosters and contractors.  Certainly, Christians wish to do well by those that need help.  But the Religious Left have adopted a social gospel with Government money over their true calling – a personal gospel of salvation.  And yes, while that salvation should be reflected in good works especially towards the less fortunate, it was never intended (IMHO) to force everyone to pay higher taxes.  Jesus’s sermons were not directed to government action or to the support of government (exclusive of the very real commands to obey those placed over us and to render unto Caesar which should be) but to individual changes to one’s heart and resulting in individual acts of charity.  Yes, God loves us, sent his Son to die for our sins, not because we are worthy but because we are fallen.  And that, in the proverbial nutshell, is the difference between the Left and the Right.  Obama and Michelle, and the Progressives that surround them, believe it is their mission (via the force of Government) to force us to perfect our Union and in doing so, become perfected by their actions.  They have become gods in their own sight in thinking they have such Power – thus we are reduced to being their “lower beings”.  This is the Land of the Free?

These RINOs have collectivized salvation and good works and now pester Govt to do more instead of holding themselves and their flocks to higher standards.  And in the process, removed a most valuable standard from individuals – helping others directly themselves instead of outsourcing it to government contractors.

Our culture has become so degraded, based on our original political AND religious philosophy, that the electorate has become such that perhaps we cannot keep this Democratic Republic…unless.  Dr. Rahe sets out the important points that must be “rediscovered” and “reset” back into our culture.  He brings up Montesquieu whose writings played such a major roles in our Founding Fathers thinking:

Instead, he relied on the fact that Britain was a commercial polity — for he believed that the market produces in its participants a simulacrum of virtue. They may not be honest because it is honorable to be honest, but they are honest, nonetheless, because they learn from experience that honesty really is the best policy (and I use this word policy in its 18th-century Machiavellian sense). What I mean is that they are honest on calculation. They learn that, in business, honesty pays — as does frugality, orderliness, caution, and care. Indeed, all of the virtues that constitute civility in its broader meaning appear to be nourished by trade.

The influence and importance of tradition – experience over time that has proven what actually works.  The important word there is virtue – the idea that good behavior (honesty) actually works and results in internal self-governance.  Civility is the external sign of virtue – and ask yourself: does today’s society place a high value on civil behavior?

Businessmen plan ahead. They do not lose themselves in present pleasures. They habitually forego today’s delights for those of tomorrow. They pursue self-interest, yes, but the self-interest that they pursue is what Tocqueville calls “self-interest rightly understood,” and self-interest rightly understood quite frequently comprehends the long-term public interest. Those who habitually plan ahead are clear-headed about the dependence of their well-being on the well-being of the larger public, and Montesquieu thought that for the most part sufficient.

Today, the biggest basher of “self-interest rightly understood,” is our President himself – while he talks at times about how needful business is, yet at the same time, is absolutely pedal to the metal in branding them “greedy”.  This is the second “removal” of a Classic Western liberal idea – commerce is good.  Commerce is not inherently bad – the “good” or “bad” is totally on the person engaging it it.  Commerce is a tool, a technique, for building and acquiring wealth – another Western (especially American) value under attack by Progressives (“you may not engage in economics freely but only under our rules – and we WILL tax you for the opportunity”).  By doing so, we see the undermining, again, of self-governance (for if the Govt controls everything you do, you lose opportunity for self-government and, thus, the opportunity to develop it.

Tocqueville was less confident than was Montesquieu. He lived in an age in which socialism had already reared its ugly head, and he discerned in his fellow Frenchmen a taste for servility. He feared that there might be a general descent into presentmindedness, and he anticipated Friedrich Nietzsche’s vision of the last man — who would be so satisfied with his little pleasure in the morning and his little pleasure in the evening that he would think of nothing else.

 In America, he found institutions, mores, and manners antithetical to what he took to be democracy’s natural drift. Vigorous local self-government drew the inhabitants of New England townships out of their homes and into the public square. Initially, they made this move in self-defense, but the experience of participating soon became a pleasure all its own, and it induced individuals to abandon what he called “individualism” and to devote themselves to public concerns. In the process, these Americans learned to think ahead, they developed a powerful sense of their own capacity to cope with the vicissitudes of life, and they learned to cooperate with their neighbors and even with strangers in forming private associations for public purposes.

 This is what could be called Private Society or Civil Society – that “entity” that occupies the volume between Individuals and a limited Government is what so amazed De Tocqueville.  Here was a people that understood “WE are responsible for ourselves – and for others“.   This last phrase has been degraded by Progressives by redefining it as a personal or family responsibility and action but simply playing off that we form our own government, “and for others” has become code and an off-hand remark to really mean “by we, we mean Govt at any level”.  Yet again, we see another personal responsibility removed; one more item removed from self-responsibility.

Tocqueville’s Americans were also religious. This anchored them morally and gave them a sense of place in a world otherwise in flux. It also directed their attention to the future.

Given the current secularization, mostly pushed by Progressives and the Left who do tend to be non-religious, we see the above sentence almost reversed.  Progressives know the kind of “perfected” world they want but what they need is “individuals otherwise in flux” in order to bend them to fit into that new world.  They are succeeding with their hands controlling the levers of culture – which as we are now seeing, control the levers of power.

Closely connected with religion was family, and the Americans were devoted to family. Chastity was the norm; adultery was rare and divorce almost unheard of. Families, too, caused men to think ahead. America was the home of self-interest rightly understood. It was the place where women and men planned prudently for their future and that of their offspring.

In short, Tocqueville’s view was that the commercial mentality singled out by Montesquieu (and, before him, by the Jansenist Pierre Nicole and the Epicurean Bernard Mandeville) was reinforced in America by local political experience, by activities in associations, by religion, and by family.

And if you are like I, born in the 50’s, growing up in the 60s, coming of age in the 70s, starting family and career in the 80s and 90s, you have seen sea changes in all those items:

  • American political philosophy and history is made to be of no-account at best and horrible on its face (“Founders?  Old rich white slave owners”).
  • Private associations like mutual aid societies, private institutions, and folks voluntarily banding together are disappearing (as Government crowds out these former pillars of Society)
  • Religion is under attack on all sides: Political Correctness, militant atheism, and by our Government (by our President, no less: his “clingers to Bibles”phrase , and yet another redefinition of “expression of religion” in all facets of life to simply “freedom to worship” strictly within 4 walls of (almost) his choosing).
  • Family – Progressives have derisively commented on the 50s “Father Knows Best” model (and used it against Romney in this last campaign).  In any and all ways, Progressives and almost every Democrat sexual identity group have redefined what a family is, it has almost rendered it meaningless (“it means what I mean it to say).  And for you to make that observation means almost lightening upon your head.
  • Individuals – is no longer responsible for himself or his behavior.  Instead, Government is now responsible for outcomes and is working hard to equalize these outcomes.

Rahe goes to the heart of the matter – and what he feels is the root cause of the largest cultural morphings that aided Obama and the Left to take this election – and has tremendous ramifications going forward:

The deepest source of our present discontents is the sexual revolution. Our abandonment of chastity as a norm has had dire political consequences.

 …As you will see, in 1940 (before I was born) and in 1950 (shortly after I was born), something on the order of 3% of American children were born out of wedlock. By 1960, the number was up to about 5%. Then, it went up by leaps and bounds. In 1980, it was 18.4%. In 2007, it was 39.6%. Today it is somewhere in the neighborhood of 40%. As the editors at Pravda-on-the-Hudson proudly trumpet, bastardy is “the new normal.” In 2009, 53% of all children born to women under 30 were born out of wedlock.

 And the main loss for society and individuals in all this that has a role in our culture and politics?

 So, what did women do in 1940, 1950, and 1960? For the most part, they exercised an iron self-control. They forced interested men to respect their needs and concerns, and men complied. Now young women do not have it together well enough even to be able to take a pill every morning or a shot every month. As contraception and abortion have become available, as they have become a frequent resort, the proportion of out-of-wedlock births has soared. If the trend continues, bastardy will be the norm, and the family will be regarded as a relic from an earlier, benighted age.

 Once again, self-governance and as we saw from the above words by Rahe – self-interest and a view for the longer term has almost all but disappeared.  The sixties mantra of “live for today” / “live in the moment” has led to impatience and a lack of the need for self-control and self-restraint.  Couple that with the fading of morality that absolute standards by religion maintain and we get what Progressives have wrought.  In each of those areas, Progressives have deliberately degraded the importance of each either through cultural means or by redefining the language, ever so slightly over the years, to no longer mean

The heart of the matter is this. As a people — thanks in part to our astonishing prosperity, thanks in part to technological change, and thanks in part to the ordinary human propensity for self-indulgence — we have abandoned the notion that impulse-control is a thing both good and necessary, and we have abandoned it in a sphere that is fundamental. We are creatures of habit. In the absence of sexual self-control, there is apt to be very little self-control of any kind. The young lady who is sexually self-indulgent is not apt to be disciplined enough to take a little white pill every day or to present herself at a clinic once a month. That there are a great many exceptions to this rule we all know. But the statistical pattern is nonetheless clear.

 All of this began in the 1960s, and it has grown and grown and grown. We now live in a society educated by televisions series like Sex and the City and its successors, and it is in no way surprising that single mothers are almost as common as married mothers — and they now feel entitled to our respect and support. The most astonishing aspect of the November, 2012 election was that the Democratic Party took as one of its slogans: “Sluts vote!” And, by golly, they did.

And then he gets back to his main premise of how to begin the process of unwinding this problem (reformatting mine for emphasis):

Why, then, you may ask — if you even remember the question I posed some paragraphs back — should libertarians be social conservatives? The answer is simple:

  • Single mothers and their offspring are bound for the most part to become wards of the state.
  • For a man and a woman who are married to rear offspring is a chore.

It may be fulfilling, but it is demanding and hard. It requires sacrifice and discipline. For a single person to do so and to do it well requires a species of heroism. For a single person to do so at all requires help — and that is where we are. For we now take it for granted that we are to pay for the mistakes that the single mother (and her sexual partner) made.

And indeed, I do believe it to be a mistake, for the underlying problem is NOT in having a child (though some will argue that, and I believe it to be sinful) but that Society is forced by Government to atone for the mother’s (and father’s) mistake that will last for decades.  We are teaching that there ARE no downsides to bad consequences – and for other decisions / actions like this.  This mentality has now become entitlement and here I agree with Romney; these types of voters ARE voting for their own self-interest – and it means and does require our labor (money).

We now, in fact, presume that she is entitled to our help — and we now have a political party in power built on that premise.We are to pay for her groceries through WIC (Women, Infants, Children), for her medical care through Medicaid, for the contraceptives that she does not have the discipline to use properly and for the morning-after pill should she slip up and need an abortion. Her right to be promiscuous trumps our right to the fruits of our own labor.

 What is left for herself to be responsible for, if all of her needs are to be met by others?  A hard question: and if all needs are met, should we then re-evaluate whether she (and the father, who has probably moved on spurred by Government dis-incentives) really is an adult?  I’m quite sure that there are going to be some “haters” that hate the idea that I am putting a pin into their ballon of perpetual victimhood – but why not?  Am I to be responsible for everyone and their bad decisions – without the ability to tell them to cut it out (like what I should have done to the gal at my 5th High school reunion that had already been married and divorced twice with 5 kids)?  If not, doesn’t that mean that *I* become irresponsible, too, for not correcting them?

Rahe hits the noodle on the head – which runs totally against what any Progressive would rail against (or at the least, have lots of “buts” and anguished emotional anecdotes:

What I would say to libertarians is this: Liberty requires a responsible citizenry, and the sexual revolution (very much like the drug culture, which was and is its Doppelgänger) promotes irresponsibility of every kind. It promotes dependence, and it fosters an ethos in which those who exercise the virtues fostered by the market are punished for doing so and in which those who live for present pleasure are rewarded.

 Indeed.  We who “live by the rules” are getting the shaft (or so, many of us feel).  Democrats have made fun of Atlas Shrugged – but they I think they do so as they know that the basic premise of the book, why work for others at your own expense involuntarily, really spells doom for their movement.  What Progressives really want are children – and a good example is that a 26 year old “adult” has been reclassified as a “child”.

And here is where I will hear from the Libertarian readers of the ‘Grok in the comment area:

There are many reasons why Mitt Romney lost in 2012. Some, as I suggested in an earlier post, were his fault. Some of them were not. One of the latter is that the demographic deck was stacked against him in a fashion that it was not stacked against Ronald Reagan in 2008. If we do not find a way to reverse the sexual revolution, we are doomed. The future of liberty is contingent on the success of the social conservatives. The libertinism that some libertarians ostentatiously embrace provides the growth in the administrative entitlements state with its impetus. If to be a libertarian is to favor political liberty, then libertarians must embrace social conservatism. If to be a libertarian is to embrace sex, drugs, and rock and roll, then libertarians are the proponents — whether witting or not — of the soft despotism that threatens to engulf us.

 Total individual Freedom requires self-restraint, self-control, and self-governance by a virtuous people.  What are our shared virtues, reflecting on this last election?  How does one call the act of demanding and requiring the goods and possessions of others simply because they perceive their needs to be greater of that of those that own them?  Libertarianism says that if you, as an individual, do not impinge on the freedom of others, you should be able to do what you want behaviorally.  The problem is in scaling up – a Libertarian Society (back to Robert Heinlein!) requires a virtuous moral code but as Rahe points out that Libertarianian behaviour has been baked into the mix for the culture, especially on the sexual side.

But the virtue that many Libertarians have is not. And that is what Rahe is getting at for the nub of the problem – how to do that?  How to return Society back to the mores of everything that Libertarians hold necessary?

What kind of compromise can be made with folks like me, not only a fiscal conservative and proponent of limited Government, but also a social conservative?  In the TEA Party movement, the first two attributes are sufficient for me to have linked arms with Libertarians – and them with me.  Now, with Dr. Rahe pointing out an existential threat to ever being successful (with the assumption that if nothing is done by us in the culture, the speed away from those internalized values will only increase) on those two values, can there even be a linkage of arms on the third?

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: