November 12, 2012

Lesson 2: Crusaders vs. Mercenaries

Maybe it's a Brave New World we are living in, one where government encroachment on liberty will continue unabated, with ever-increasing speed. A few years ago I asked whether all roads led to socialism and whether a nanny state was inevitable. Throw crony capitalism and now the idea of co-opetition into the mix and the answer seems increasingly to be 'yes'. The previously unthinkable notion that big government and super-corporations would collude among themselves to ensure that they money flowed only where they wanted it to flow, seems now not only plausible but normal. Those who are crusaders for liberty and against socialism have an uphill climb to make

The idea that Mitt Romney got 'caught' talking about at a fundraiser - 47% of the population is lost to conservatism - may have been overstated as well as poorly stated, but it is not without merit. The nation has become a victim of it's own success.  Increased national prosperity has led to increased centralized welfare for the disenfranchised.  The differences between the wealthy and the poor have grown larger as the poor have grown wealthier as the rising tide has lifted all boats.  But the disparity became the focus.  Success breeds socialism.

Self-interest plus laziness is a a perfect match for socialism. People want to get more but they don't have to work for it.  That's seemingly natural - if you can get something of value for no effort, why not do so?  Socialism, while predicated on the idea of a noble humanity striving to do things for the greater good, appeals directly to the exact opposite human trait.  People do not want to give away the efforts of their labors for less than the real value - they want to get something for free, or at least less than it's real value.

Socialism appeals to the mercenary in people: I want something of great value, for as little effort as is required to get it.  Crusaders for conservatism - now the de facto home of value for value - are up against an integral part of human nature in their battle for economic liberty.  Promised something for nothing, who says 'no'?  No one does.

The irony of all this is that while capitalism may lead to socialism, the flip side is that socialism leads to collapse. And collapse leads to a need to rebuild. Rebuilding is the beginning of a new cycle where the individual profit motive, and the invisible hand guide us back to capitalism.  Another aspect of human nature is the desire not to starve to death.  Necessity is not only the mother of invention, it is the mother of effort.  Effort can lead to invention, but what necessity delivers directly is effort and hard work.  Once the free goodies state collapses under it's own weight, survival becomes a self-realized effort.  The problem is that during that time of renewal, things can often get very ugly.

Crusaders don't get paid. Mercenaries get paid. Mercenaries can be in the form of GM unions. Welfare recipients. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid recipients. (As an aside, notice the elderly leaned towards Romney in the election cycle?  They realized the cuts to the largess didn't affect them but rather future generations). Mercenaries can exist in the form of crony capitalism - government contracts for those who play ball, legislative barriers to new entrants or to those who would disrupt the status quo.  Various entities are being mercenary in their attempt to suckle from the government.  The requirement for those mercenaries is to simply support the agenda and the preferred nominees in exchange for the handouts.  Companies don't have to compete.  Labor unions don't have to compete with right to work states.  Welfare recipients get welfare for free - no competing in the labor market.

Conservatism is for the crusaders. Of course the true believers are always going to be downplayed as the lunatic fringe. Too many are on the mercenary side now for it to be otherwise. It used to be that the crusaders weren't necessary, but as the numbers dwindled relative to the mercenaries, the country has indeed reached a tipping point.

How do crusaders win in that framework? There's only one way. Converts. People need to be converted to the notions of economic liberty and independence.  Converts can go viral. Bill Whittle is a great example of this. He is a modern day version of Ronald Reagan in the sense that he used to be a liberal. His conversion has made him a true force (admittedly not on Reagan's level) for conservative principles. He is worth 1000 times his vote. He is a crusader for liberty and conservative values.  His voice can reach far further than someone who has always been on the side of conservatism because he has been where the future converts currently are. That carries more weight and has more visibility than most. 

What that means is we need to convert the persuadable at a grassroots level.  That's hard, but hey - who said being a crusader would be easy?

One last thought for those who thing "rather than converting people, why not capitulate?" For example, why not go soft on immigration and scoop up available constituencies? Because you can't crusade on oh-well-me-tooism. And what's worse, you are no longer a true crusader.  You are adapting for the sake of victory, but in that case, what have you really won besides power?  You have simply become the enemy at that point.

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