Sunday, January 15, 2012


Mark Steyn in his book "AFTER AMERICA" gives what he believes are
the ways to "fix" the USA. Myself being much more "socialistic"
than Steyn do NOT agree with him. But a few points he gives I do
agree with ON THE WHOLE - the following:


The most important place to start correcting America's structural
defects is in the schoolhouse. The Democrats justified ObamaCare
on the grounds of "controlling costs." What about applying the
same argument to education? The object should be not to
universalize college and therefore defer adulthood even further,
but to telescope schooling. Even if one overlooks the malign
social engineering, much of what goes on in the American
schoolhouse is merely passing the time. In 2011, a study by
Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa found that fewer than half of
America's undergraduates had taken a single course in the
previous semester that required twenty pages of written work. A
third had not taken a single course demanding forty pages of
reading. Forty-five percent of students showed no improvement in
critical thinking, reasoning, or writing by the end of their
sophomore years. Writing, reading, thinking: who needs it?
Certainly not the teachers of tomorrow: students majoring in
education showed the least gains in learning.

Six-figure universal college education will only reinforce a
culture of hermetically sealed complacency. Instead, it should be
possible to teach what a worthless high school diploma requires
by the age of fourteen. You could then do an extra two years on
top of that and give people a real certificate of value, unlike
today's piece of paper, to prospective employers. College should
be for those who wish to pursue genuine disciplines, not the
desultory salad bar of Women's "Studies," Queer "Studies," or 99
percent of the other "studies." As a culture, we do too much
"studying" (mostly of our navels, if not lower parts) and not
enough doing. Vocational education, even for what we now dignify
as "professions," would be much better. So would privatizing
education entirely.


During Scott Brown's insurgent election campaign in deep blue
Massachusetts, he was joined at one rally by a rare non-Democrat
celebrity, John Ratzenberger, who played Cliff Claven on the
sitcom Cheers. Back in 1969, it turned out, Mr. Ratzenberger had
been at Woodstock. No, he wasn't the bass player with Country Joe
and the Fish, assuming they have a bass player. Rather, he was a
working carpenter. And four decades later, stumping for Brown, he
offered the all-time greatest comment on those three days of
"peace and love":

This isn't the Democratic party of our fathers and grandfathers.
This is the party of Woodstock hippies. I was at Woodstock--I
built the stage. And when everything fell apart, and people were
fighting for peanut butter sandwiches, it was the National Guard
who came in and saved the same people who were protesting them.
So when Hillary Clinton a few years ago wanted to build a
Woodstock memorial, I said it should be a statue of a National
Guardsman feeding a crying hippie.

Oh, my. Was Mr. Ratzenberger an officially licensed carpenter?
Maybe whoever leaked Joe the Plumber's files could look into it.
I mentioned earlier that I always advise aspiring writers to not
only write but do something. I have a particular respect for
fellows who are brilliant at one thing but nevertheless like to
potter at something else entirely. Frank Loesser was one of the
greatest figures in American popular music, a man whose songs
include "Heart And Soul," "Baby, It's Cold Outside'" and the
score for Guys and Dolls. That would be enough for most of us.
But I remember being very impressed to discover that he was also
a prodigious carpenter and cabinetmaker whose home was filled
with amazing pieces of his own design and construction. He once
got one of those pompous letters from some Hollywood
vice-president or other headed "From the Desk of...." So he went
into his shop and spent the weekend crafting a beautiful
life-size desk corner complete with inlay and moldings, and put
it in the mail with a sheet of paper headed "From the Desk of
Frank Loesser."

On a broader socio-cultural point, people who don't know where
stuff comes from or how it works are more receptive to bigger
government. That's one reason why Canada and much of western
Europe, both of which are more urbanized and in which more people
live in small apartments, vote leftier than America. In my part
of New Hampshire, we have to drill our own wells and supply our
own water. Obviously, that's not feasible on Fifth Avenue, or not
without greatly spoiling Central Park So water becomes just
another thing that government takes care of for you.

The aforementioned John Ratzenberger isn't merely an actor. He's
also the founder of the Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs Foundation,
dedicated to reviving the lost art of tinkering. Familiar with
the word? Messing about with stuff taking it apart, figuring out
how it worked, putting it together again with some modification
of your own. What boys (and a few girls) used to do in the garage
or the basement before the Internet was invented. "If we give up
tinkering," says John Derbyshire of National Review, "we might
survive, but only as a bureaucratic empire of paperpushers and
lotus-eaters." Tinkerers built America. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas
Edison, Henry Ford, all were tinkerers in their childhood.
Everything from the airplane to the computer started in
somebody's garage. Go back even further: the Industrial
Revolution was a revolution of tinkerers. The great scientific
thinkers of eighteenth-century England couldn't have been less
interested in cotton spinning and weaving. Why would you be? It
was left to a bloke on the shop floor who happened to glance at a
one-thread wheel that had toppled over and noticed that both the
wheel and the spindle were still turning. So James Hargreaves
invented the spinning jenny, and there followed other artful gins
and mules and frames and looms, and Britain and the world were
transformed. By tinkerers rather than thinkerers. "Technological
change came from tinkerers," wrote Professor J. R. McNeill of
Georgetown, "people with little to no scientific education but
with plenty of hands-on experience." John Ratzenberger likes to
paraphrase a Stanford University study: "Engineers who are great
in physics and calculus but can't think in new ways about old
objects are doomed to think in old ways about new objects."
That's the lesson of the spinning jenny: an old object fell over
and someone looked at it in a new way.

In 2008, America elected a man with no "hands-on experience" of
anything who promptly cocooned himself within a circle of
advisors with less experience of business, of the private sector,
of doing than any previous administration in American history.
You want "change," so you vote for a bunch of guys who've never
done nuthin' but sit around talking?

That letter from the post-American world a few pages back was
addressed to those Americans of 1950. By the beginning of the new
century, "1950s" had become a pejorative. Conservative pundits
are routinely accused of wanting to turn the clock back to the
Fifties. Not me. There is, after all, no need to turn the clock
back because, fiscally and geopolitically, America's clock is
stuck in the Truman administration. At the U.S. Treasury, the
State Department, the Pentagon, it's forever chiming 1950. At the
dawn of the American era, Washington was the last man standing,
the victor of the Second World War and with its cities and
factories intact, unlike Europe. It had a unique dominance of the
"free world," and it could afford to be generous, so it was.
America had more money than it knew what to do with, so it funded
the UN and a dozen subsidiary bodies, and it absolved post-war
Europe of paying for its own defense. And, as Germany and Japan
and the rest of the West recovered, we continued to pay,
garrisoning not remote colonies but some of the richest nations
in history. Having forsworn imperialism, we sat back as the UN
fell into the hands of our enemies and their appeasers, and still
we picked up the check. Western economic ideas were taken up by
Asia and Eastern Europe and Brazil and Turkey, and enriched many
lands, but we saw ourselves as the unipolar hyperpower, so at
Nato and the G7 and everywhere else, each time the bill came and
the rest of the gang skipped to the bathroom, we were happy to
stick it on our tab. We threw money at our friends (to defend
them against hostile powers that had collapsed a generation
earlier) and at our enemies (to enable them to use their oil
revenues to fund anti-Americanism worldwide) and at dozens of
countries in between who were of no geopolitical significance but
wouldn't say no to a massive subsidy for an AIDS prevention
program or whatever.
And we never even noticed we were no longer paying cash but with
foreign credit cards.

1950 never ended. Even after the 2008 crash, even after the
multi-trillion dollar deficits, it's still 1950. At the 2009
Copenhagen summit, America (broke, bankrupt, drowning in debt)
offered to pay for China (the country in whose debt we're
drowning) to lower its carbon footprint." As Jonah Goldberg said
to me on FOX News that week, that's like paying your loan shark
to winterize his home.
The further we get from 1950, the more Washington spends like
1950 is forever.

This is the real "war on children" (to use another Democrat
catchphrase)- and every time you bulk up the budget you make it
less and less likely they'll win it. Conservatives often talk
about "small government," which, in a sense, is framing the issue
in leftist terms: they're for Big Government - and, when you're
arguing for the small alternative, it's easy to sound pinched and
mean and grudging. But small government gives you big freedoms -
and Big Government leaves you with very little freedom. The
opposite of Big Government is not small government, but Big
Liberty. The bailout and the stimulus and the budget and the
trillion-dollar deficits are not merely massive transfers from
the most dynamic and productive sector to the least dynamic and
productive. When governments annex a huge chunk of the economy,
they also annex a huge chunk of individual liberty. You
fundamentally change the relationship between the citizen and the
state into something closer to that of junkie and pusher - and
you make it very difficult ever to change back. In the end, it's
not about money, but about something more fundamental. Yes, you
can tax people to the hilt and give them "free" health care and
"free" homes and "free" food. But in doing so you turn them into,
if not (yet) slaves, then pets. And that's the nub of it: Big
Government leads to small liberty, and to small men. If a
26-year-old is a child, as President Obama says; if a 50-year-old
hairdresser can retire and live at the state's expense for over
half her adult life, as the Government of Greece says, then you
are no longer free. "You can be anything you want to be"? Not at
all. Not when you're owned by the government.

Freedom is messy. In free societies, people will fall through the
cracksdrink too much, eat too much, buy unaffordable homes, fail
to make prudent provision for health care, and much else. But the
price of being relieved of all those tiresome choices by a benign
paternal government is far too HIGH......


No comments:

Post a Comment