What If Progressives’ Cure Is the Disease for the Working Class?

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Bouncing off a Washington Post series on the current plight of the white working class, David French suggests that America’s problem isn’t primarily one of lost jobs and inadequate safety nets, but of spiritual destitution:

Life has always been hard for the poor, but it has not always been quite so lonely. Part of this is the legacy of the welfare state, which allows and even encourages lives of quiet desperation, cut off from the communities that used to sustain the less fortunate in their struggles. Part of this is the legacy of the sexual revolution, which devalued marriage and irreversibly cast off the “shackles” of self-denial. And, yes, part of it is economics. Losing a job is among the most stressful of all human experiences.

The complex nature of the crisis should not be a license to avoid facing its ultimate truth head on: America’s working class is in the grips of a malady far more spiritual than material. We can spend trillions more, but safety nets won’t save the human soul.

Happiness, not a government metric for “poverty” or “well being,” should be the guide and goal for public policy, and improving it will mainly entail forcing government to withdraw its heavy hand and allow Americans to do what humans being do:  interact, develop relationships, and help each other.



  • Ron Ruggieri

    What a perfect sermon for the approval of the American ruling class- and directed at the oppressed and exploited working class- which fails to benefit from the Republican goddess Ayn Rand’s ” Virtue of Selfishness “. ” We can spend trillions but safety nets won’t save the human soul “.
    Who is this WE that is so solicitous for the souls of working people ? Forget about the Helping Hand of the old FDR ” liberalism “. What the angry workers need is yet another unctuous TV evangelist ? But to the smug middle class they continue to preach the Gospel of Wealth.
    Not even Pope Francis hesitates to condemn greedy capitalism.He will soon meet and bless that ” socialist ” Democrat Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
    I will vote for Bernie in the Rhode Island Democratic Primary later this month. A little socialism is better for the soul than a lot of poverty.

    • Mike678

      Ron–continue to support those that make poor decisions and blame it on others–I’m sure that gets you a lot of support from some sectors.

      Capitalism has saved millions of lives and brought a standard of living second to none in this world–yet you want to throw that away because some can’t or won’t compete. Evidently you don’t care that when fruits of socialism truly kick in–when the country starts to eat itself as the productive stop being productive, that the ‘oppressed’ or less productive masses are the first to be fed into the grinder. The poorest in this country are way ahead of the poor in other countries.

      • Ron Ruggieri

        Socialism is a mode of production which makes greater productivity possible because it is not stymied by production- for- profit restrictions. A lot of mentally and physically healthy individuals cannot find employment because they are not immediately exploitable by the capitalist owners of private industry.
        The human race must now advance beyond the capitalist mode of production- just for its future survival, for the survival of civilization.
        Of course, this transition is not simple or without extreme challenge. We need a ” pragmatic ” socialism – that learns as it goes. But the fundamental axiom of democratic socialism is simply : the world and its vast resources belongs to all of us.
        I see no reason why profound social change cannot be peaceful and orderly – and very popular.

        • Rhett Hardwick

          “stymied by production- for- profit restrictions”

          I think history shows that without profit, production is stymied.

          • Ron Ruggieri

            Did you ever take a History of Western Civilization course ? Slavery was the mode of production in the ancient world -even up to modern times, the American Civil War. Slavery was very productive for the slave masters but not for the slaves. Slavery was the basis of the ” civilized world ” for century after century.
            Slavery ” evolved ” into feudalism and modern capitalist wage slavery. I am amazed by the number of ” intellectuals ” who think that PROFIT & WEALTH is the magic product of the capitalist owners.
            Thousands of college graduates in the United States are clueless about the true nature of the economic system . And no economist ever won a Nobel Prize for research useful and liberating for the working class.

          • Rhett Hardwick

            “Did you ever take a History of Western Civilization course ?” Yes, a number of them, did you ever progress past Dev. of Western Civ?
            “Slavery was very productive for the slave masters but not for the slaves.” Not really. In fact, in ancient systems people bound themselves into slavery. Consider medieval Europe,and its thousand years of stagnation. It was not the demise of slavery that brought prosperity, it was the invention of capitalism.
            “who think that PROFIT & WEALTH is the magic product of the capitalist owners” And you think it was produced by whom? Aliens?

          • Ron Ruggieri

            Even the most brilliant intellects of the ancient world could not even imagine a world without slavery- where there exited a vast class of workers compelled to work ” freely ” for private wealth – but -if and only if-that private wealth could exploit this ” free labor “..
            The creation of the modern working
            class was a long historical process. Too bad Ayn Rand was not around 2400 years ago to advise Aristotle writing his ” Politics “.
            Aristotle said that some people were just ” slaves by nature “. Ayn Rand thought that most people were working class drudges by nature.
            Modern capitalism depends on advanced science and technology. The Greek genius could not rise above the limitations of the times.
            Without the steam engine no modern capitalism. It was no accident that the Industrial Revolution happened when and where it did.
            Human society evolves. History does not culminate with Donald Trump and the American Way of Life.

          • Rhett Hardwick

            When you think about this again, try to remember that Aristotle was a slave. You seem much taken with Ms., Rand, you should remember that she was a 1950’s phenomena and there aren’t that many Randroids left. (Milton Freidman for one, he was captain of her softball team. Seriously.) Her beliefs in the incompetency of government survive, but they did not originate with her.

          • Mike678

            Nor was she a Republican, but arguing with the ideological or associated useful idiots is often a waste of time. The funny thing is that many of the them preach equality like they are some type of ethical superman while motivated by envy, greed and self-interest. The word hypocrite doesn’t even scratch the surface.

          • Rhett Hardwick

            I know, I “clicked” on him and he has spouted the same nonsense all over the local web. Too much time on my hands, I guess.To correct myself, I named Milton Freidman as the captain of Ayn Rand’s softball team. In fact, it was Alan Greenspan. When I heard his first speech, I recognized “Atlas Shrugged”. In a biography of her there is a picture of Greenspan in his softball uniform.

          • Mike678

            Didn’t know that….thanks.

          • Rhett Hardwick

            “It did not go without notice that Ayn Rand stood beside me as I took the oath of office [as chairman of the council of economic advisors] in the presence of President Ford in the Oval Office. Ayn Rand and I remained close until she died in 1982, and I’m grateful for the influence she had on my life. I was intellectually limited until I met her.” – Alan Greenspan

            There are also rumors of a sexual relationship, but little evidence.

          • Ron Ruggieri

            I am well aware that very brilliant and well educated individuals can have conservative political views. I do try to learn something from all types of people. But it is very hard for individuals to rise above class prejudice. Just as it was hard for a gifted biologist like Charles Darwin to go against ” respectable ” religious views.
            Even if you reject Marx , any rational view of ” history as a process ” would approach his historical materialism.
            I suspect that most of the Republican candidates for president have been smitten by Ayn Rand’s philosophy. Ted Cruz read from her cult book ” Atlas Shrugged ” while trying to defeat Obamacare in the Senate.
            Even the Catholic Church – ” the mystical body of Christ ” – arrived at a negative view of capitalism long before Pope Francis .You could say that feudalism was based on a different social morality.
            Modern capitalism rejects any social obligations whatsoever. At least the feudal lords felt some responsibility for their peasants.Was there a homeless problem in the time of King Arthur ?
            In general , how can you understand the present without a critical study of the past ?
            Is it a good thing that the American education system produces so many citizens who cannot even imagine a different social and economic order ?

          • Rhett Hardwick

            Believers in Socialism, or , “Income redistribution”, seem not to have studied anything outside of their own discipline. They seem to believe that the quantity of money is static and the only “fairness” is to distribute it equally. I commend a course on “Money&Banking”, under the Capitalist system, it is quite possible to “create money”. This is very different from “printing money” which is something else altogether. Socialism presumes that to get a “Slice of the pie”, you have to reduce someone else’s slice.
            I find it hard to believe you are advancing feudal lords as “benevolent despots”. Perhaps if you had been at Runnymede. “Was there a homeless problem in the time of King Arthur ?” First there is a dubious possibility that there was a Welsh King Artur around 400 AD, the knights of the round table, and the “lady of the lake” are mythical creations of the 14th century. Serfs probably were not “homeless” because they were tied to the land they were born on, and couldn’t leave it. This does not mean they didn’t sleep in the cold. Clothing was so precious that many worked nude in the summer. Don’t pay any attention to paintings you may see, those are 15th century creations.

        • Mike678

          Socialism as a theory is a beautiful thing. The assumptions that underlying the theory is that all are the same. All people will work for the common good.

          That said it is unworkable. We aren’t all the same and we don’t all work for the common good. Most people that I hear preaching “everything belongs to us” are those that want the fruits of others labor. You want to make the world a better place? Advance yourself, make a few billion, and then give it away.

          http://www.culture-war.info/Socialism.html

  • Rhett Hardwick

    “all men lead lives of quiet desperation” W. Churchill
    I think any belief that there was a better time for the poor and unemployed is a belief in a “Golden Era” that never existed. Social history is full of examples of the poor, and unemployed, becoming either drunkards or vicious. Try “Gangs of New York”, or “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”. Think of the great European migrations here of the 19th century, they did not come here because life for the poor was a delight in Europe. Granted there was a time when large families were considered a retirement plan, I think the fact was that aging parents were considered a burden. In colonial times, it was possible for a community to rid itself of the poor (not born to the community) by giving them travelling money to the next town.

    Although I certainly cannot remember before Social Security, I have posted here about small towners from my youth, “Handy Andy” and “Woo Woo”. They lived in shacks and some how supported themselves. They were not seen as “shiftless”, and were not disdained. It seemed to me that other adults “looked out for them” with small acts of charity. There were “shiftless” poor who were not well thought of.

    Fine, what do I suggest? Well the best answer we can provide is opportunity. We have to accept that a portion of society is shiftless, “safety nets” will only cause more borderline people to find it easier to fall into the net. There are a number of hard questions. With 80-90% “unemployment” in urban centers, how are they living? Can we afford to promote this, while we import “cheap labor”. Why aren’t the 80% “unemployed” “cheap labor”? On the other hand, we cannot permit Americans to starve, there’s the rub. The collapse of marriage may be seen as another form of shiftlessness. I think I posted once about hiring 4 guys to do a roof for me. All the talk was of their “baby mamas”. I think I counted 15 children among them.
    I think Mr. Ruggieri is of on the wrong foot with references to “ruling class”, “smug middle class”, “Republican goddess”, “greedy capitalism”, etc. They are simply people who have seen what America has to offer and “ran with the ball”.

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