Again, lots of smoke, but no fire. The article that the Cato piece refers to was called A Return To National Greatness; A Manifesto for a Lost Creed (http://www.weeklystandard.com/Conten...8/333pjkmj.asp), which explicitly rejects central planning and big government. It begins with a description of the Library of Congress building, and links it to the attitudes that produced it:
Originally Posted by Molon Labe
He then goes on to describe the current attitude towards American exceptionalism:
The Elevation of America
The designers of the Library of Congress had a view of history that is now deeply unfashionable. They saw civilization as a chain of achievement in which each generation is the grateful inheritor of a precious legacy and is called upon as a matter of highest duty to add to and continue the great transmission. Around the Jefferson Building's central dome is a mural that epitomizes this idea. It features 12 seated, monumental figures representing the nations or epochs that, in the words of the building's original catalogue, "have contributed most to the development of present-day civilization in this country."
Under each figure is a plaque naming that culture's great achievement. Egypt is first, given credit for "Written Records." Then come Judea (religion) , Greece (philosophy), Rome (administration), Islam (physics), the Middle Ages (modern languages), Italy (the fine arts), Germany (printing), Spain (discovery), England (literature), and France (emancipation). The list ends with America, which is credited with "science." The American figure in the mural, based on the young Abraham Lincoln, is dressed as an engineer, sitting in a machine shop, contemplating an electric dynamo.
The theory of history depicted in this mural balanced change and continuity. It demanded that people march forward by looking backward. It gave America impressive historical roots, a spiritual connection to the centuries at a time when Americans like Henry James felt their civilization was "thin." And it assigned a specific historic role to America as the latest successor to Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome. In the procession of civilization, certain nations rise up to make extraordinary contributions. Their golden ages, it was believed, are to be revered and studied. The designers of the Library of Congress, like so many of their countrymen, thought America was on the verge of its own golden age. At the dawn of the 20th century, America was to take its turn at global supremacy. It was America's task to take the grandeur of past civilizations, modernize it, and democratize it. This common destiny would unify diverse Americans and give them a great national purpose.
The designers must have felt in their bones what Tocqueville observed: Democracy has a tendency to slide into nihilistic mediocrity if its citizens are not inspired by some larger national goal. If they think of nothing but their narrow self-interest, of their commercial activities, they lose a sense of grand aspiration and noble purpose. "What frightens me most," Tocqueville writes, "is the danger that, amid all the constant trivial preoccupations of private life, ambition may lose both its force and its greatness, that human passions may grow gentler and at the same time baser, with the result that the progress of the body social may become daily quieter and less aspiring."
Post- Greatness AmericaMind you, this was written during the Clinton era. His point is that those Americans who shape opinion no longer believe that we, as Americans, are part of something greater than ourselves, that America is unique and worth protecting and advancing, that America is exceptional. He then goes on to dissect what he saw as the conservative failings in this area:
Our culture no longer speaks of a unified and coherent order. The post-modernist view emphasizes fragmentation and disorder. Philosophers talk about contingency and irony and the ever-shifting meanings of words. Since Hemingway, our intellectuals have perceived hypocrisy, not transcendence, when words like "honor" and "glory" are used.
Our official culture disdains the idea that history is a story of progress unfolding. We think it naive. Maybe it was World War I that made the idea unpopular, or the Holocaust, or a thousand other events in our pessimism-inducing century. We no longer look at history as a succession of golden ages. Instead, history is something of a chaos; cultures bubble about in a relativistic stew. Historians do not measure cultures by their contribution to one central world civilization.
And, save in the speeches of politicians who usually have no clue what they are talking about, America is assigned no special role as the vanguard of civilization. Nobody talks of America as a New Jerusalem; that would be ethnocentric. Nor do we engage in grandiose hero-worship; indeed, we are more adept at debunking than idolizing. We are suspicious of hierarchies, of the idea that one art form is higher than another, that one way of living is superior to another. On the contrary, as Denis de Rougemont says, "It is whatever is lower that we take to be more real."
America is a more dominant power in the world than Americans a century ago could ever have imagined. Yet we have almost none of the sense of global purpose that Americans had when they only dreamed of enjoying the stature we possess today. Domestically, we have a president and a Congress whose major common purpose is . . . balancing the budget.
The fact is, if liberals choke on the "greatness" part of national greatness, conservatives choke on the "national" part. Most conservatives have come to confuse "national" with "federal." When they hear of a national effort, they think "big government program." Conservatives have taken two sensible ideas and ballooned them to the point of elephantiasis. The first is anti-statism. They took a truth -- that government often causes suffering when it interferes in the free market -- and stretched it into a blanket hostility to government. Instead of arguing that government should be limited but energetic, slender but strong, they have often argued that government is itself evil.What he is saying is not that America needs central planning (in fact, he explicitly rejects that), but that we need to have a strong but limited government, which is pretty much why we have a Constitution in the first place, and that this government must identify with the basic purpose of America. Ronald Reagan understood that when he referred to America as the "shining city on the hill", a phrase that evoked Athens and Rome and put America in the context of a continuum of great civilizations that led by example as well as through power.
In so doing, conservatives have introduced their own version of the liberal sin by allowing the private to eclipse the public. Many conservatives argue simply that the private realm is good and the public realm is bad, that private endeavor is moral and public endeavor is corrupt. They saw that many of the public policies that emerged during the 60 years of liberal dominance had nightmarish consequences. Now many can't conceive of a public realm that would affirm any of the virtues they hold dear. Instead, they have concluded that the public policy issuing from the public realm is the problem. They want to free the private sector from big government, which is a worthy goal, but you can't lead a great nation if you don't have an affirmative view of the public realm.
Finally, Brooks proposes, in broad terms, what he sees as the need for the government to restore its vision:
Restoring American GreatnessThe bolded text shows that this is not a call to centralized planning, any more than the expansion of the nation westward, or the moon landings were a call to central planning. Rather, it is a call for the government to establish its mission within the boundaries set by the Constitution, beyond simply going through the motions of budgets and administration, which eventually becomes a game of fleecing the people. America, unlike France or England, is not a tribal nation whose borders happened to coincide with the fringes of the tribe. America is first and foremost, an idea, that people can govern themselves, and in doing so, accomplish great things. It doesn't presume that the average person is a sheep to be guided, but a citizen, to be inspired. Brooks isn't calling for central planning, but a reengagement of the national mission, to protect our liberty and defeat those that would destroy it. Since our founding, Americans have done more to advance global science, art, culture and civics than the European states that preceded us had in the previous two millennia. Within two centuries after the Declaration of Independence, Americans walked on the moon, split the atom, shortened the physical distance between east and west (the Panama Canal), liberated hundreds of millions of people and inspired billions more. That is our legacy, and if the best that we can hope for from the Hagels and Obamas of the world is a retreat from it, then we are betraying that legacy.
Can we create a 21st-century version of the national-greatness ideal and so recapture the confidence manifest in the Library of Congress? What is needed is a process of pruning -- cutting government's forays into private life while strengthening its public role. This is not the anti-statism of recent conservative vintage, nor is it a proposal to reinvent government along neoliberal lines. It's a more fundamental change that requires a transformation in the way we think about the federal government's role.
Currently, American political philosophy has divided itself into the opposing principles of "order" and "freedom." Now, when liberals stand for one, conservatives stand for the other. Liberals want economic order; conservatives want economic freedom. Conservatives want social order; liberals want social freedom.
This has forced the national government to engage in a pervasive balancing act. It is forever invading the private sphere in an effort to strengthen community here, or strengthen individual freedoms there. Washington becomes the battleground on which the fine distinctions between individual rights and community prerogatives are fought out. The national-greatness ideal assigns the federal government another role: It should accomplish national missions. And in so doing, it will set the national tone.
The national mission can be carried out only by individuals and families -- not by collectives, as in socialism and communism. Instead, individual ambition and willpower are channeled into the cause of national greatness. And by making the nation great, individuals are able to join their narrow concerns to a larger national project.
Historically, national missions have included settling the West, building the highway system, creating the post-war science faculties, exploring space, waging the Cold War, and disseminating American culture throughout the world.
The most successful missions have set physical goals, rather than abstract ones: America in 1897 constructed the world's finest library. The library has had an important impact on culture, but its impact is the byproduct of a physical project. Sometimes the federal government has funded these efforts. Sometimes it has merely identified the new national cause. Sometimes it has eliminated barriers to ambition.
It almost doesn't matter what great task government sets for itself, as long as it does some tangible thing with energy and effectiveness. The first task of government is to convey a spirit of confidence and vigor that can then spill across the life of the nation. Stagnant government drains national morale. A government that fails to offer any vision merely feeds public cynicism and disenchantment.
But energetic government is good for its own sake. It raises the sights of the individual. It strengthens common bonds. It boosts national pride. It continues the great national project. It allows each generation to join the work of their parents. The quest for national greatness defines the word " American" and makes it new for every generation.
Oh, now that's just BS. Taxes were going to go up no matter what congressional Republicans did, because the Bush rates were temporary, and due to expire. Obama could sit on his hands, and get the tax hikes that he wanted while blaming Republicans for intransigence. That's the context. Kristol didn't propose tax hikes, he proposed protecting the tax rates for as many Americans as possible, by calling Obama's bluff, which is what Boehner eventually tried to do, and which ended up demonstrating that Obama was lying about not wanting to raise taxes on the middle class:
Originally Posted by Molon Labe
This is how you distort a position to make it appear that Kristol is a Marxist, but it is a lie.
Kristol continued, saying he doesn't understand why Republicans don't just take President Obama's offer to go ahead and extend the Bush tax cuts for everyone making under $250,000 per year while a larger deal is reached. "I don't really understand why Republicans don't take Obama's offer to freeze taxes for everyone below $250,000, make it $500,000, make it $1 million,"
ROFLOL!!!!! Henry Jackson was a conservative Democrat at a time when such a thing existed. Had he lived, he'd also have found his way to the Republican Party, just as Ronald Reagan did two decades earlier, and his key staffers did after the fact. Jackson and the neocons were at home in a Democratic Party that was willing to fight communism, cut taxes (remember JFK?) and inspire Americans to take bold actions when necessary. Would any of them be at home in that party today? Of course not. But then, neither would JFK.
Originally Posted by Molon Labe
You made one (partially) valid point in your entire tirade, Molon, and it's all a distraction, since you still haven't answered the most important question. I will break this post here so that you can respond to it without confusion.
To be continued