Thursday, July 17, 2014

If not us, then who?

kw: book reviews, nonfiction, national politics, conservatism

Here are a few facts, well known to social and behavioral scientists:
  • Children from two-parent families who live in communities where the two-parent family is the norm have a much higher chance of succeeding. [34]
  • Three factors of success: graduate from high school, get a full-time job, and wait until you are married to have children. Only 8% of those who do all three end up in poverty. [66]
  • Strong families are churchgoing families; families of faith have stronger marriages and healthier families, and family members experience much lower levels of crime, addiction and depression. [102]
The numbers in brackets are page numbers where these matters are discussed, and referenced in endnotes, in the book Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America That Works by Rick Santorum. All three of the factors listed above are related to self control. I would add a fourth factor, not mentioned explicitly by Senator Santorum: although the national divorce rate is about 50% for first marriages, the majority of those unstable marriages are for couples whose "courtship" was unusual from the perspective of American families of the 1950s. That is, if a couple marries too quickly, or begins a sexual relationship before marriage, or even before getting to know one another well at all, the chance of divorce exceeds 80%.

Self control. It means a lot. During 50 years in the workforce, I worked for several major corporations. One would think, since the "sexual revolution" of the 1970s ("the 60s" began in 1968), that companies would not care any more about the extracurricular activities of their employees. To a certain extent, major companies pay less attention to people's living arrangements and dating habits than in the past. But if a couple (gay or straight) has so little self control that they carry on an affair in the office, both are summarily fired. This is true in every company I've worked for, even today, in our "ultra-modern" 21st Century. Why is this? Company leaders know that people with poor self control are poor employees. Furthermore, affairs carried on at work typically involve at least one person who is married to someone else, and such affairs very frequently result in messy divorces that distract everyone involved for months. They simply aren't worth their pay.

But Rick Santorum's concern is more far-reaching than how companies deal with employee misbehavior. The political leaders of the United States of America have taken the national polity far to the left, and in a social direction that makes both Democrats and Republicans uneasy. Genuine conservatism has all but vanished on the political scene. To my observation, the leadership of the Republican party is now to the left of the politics and policies of John F. Kennedy, who was considered a leftist radical by the Republican party of the 1960s.

Senator Santorum ran for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2012, eventually losing to Mitt Romney. Although Romney was greatly favored by party leaders, he could not inspire the conservative populace. If "Santorum Republicans" and a few others who sat out the election had voted, Romney would have won. I gritted my teeth and voted for Romney, feeling he could not be as bad as Obama. I also recall the 2008 election, where I also gritted my teeth and voted for McCain. Both elections were not won by the Democrats; they were lost by the Republicans. I felt like I had, years ago in the classroom, trying mightily to induce certain students to pass the course. Those to whom I finally "awarded" an F grade had made it clear that that was what they wanted more than anything else…so that is what they got. I have wondered if Republican party leaders threw those elections on purpose.

In the meantime, success and happiness have been redefined. The White House loudly brags of a "recovery" that sure doesn't feel like a recovery to most people. Beginning in 2008, a few million jobs were lost. Since then, a few million jobs have been created. These numbers are said to match, but there are just a couple little things: Firstly, in 2008 there were 304 million Americans, and today there are 318 million. At least 2/3 of the added 14 million, some 9 million or more, are eligible to work. Those added folks who got jobs are matched by others who formerly had jobs, lost them and haven't found another. Secondly, what kinds of jobs? Few of the jobs added since 2008 can support a family, or even half of what a family needs, and many, perhaps most, are part-time. The true measure of recovery is the inflation-and-population-adjusted salary budget increase of companies over the past 6 years. By that measure, we have a less than half a recovery.

The most conservative commentators, such as the "Big 3" of radio, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck, state that President Obama and those working with him are consciously making America into a totally government-dependent society. If that is actually true, these statists are the most evil of their generation. But I am not sure it is so conscious; as with other similar matters, I ask, "Does the Devil know that he is evil?" The Devil of the Christian Bible disagrees with Almighty God about how the Universe ought to be run. He thinks he is a pretty good guy, certainly better able to whip things into shape than "the other guy" who happened to create it all.

But, whatever the intent, or conscious plan, I have learned a few important things about "controlling" people, whether abusive husbands or boss-zillas or statist politicians:

  • Some people firmly believe that they cannot be wrong. Such people never sincerely apologize for anything (many are unable to apologize: never, ever).
  • Such people usually believe that others cannot know what is good for them, and cannot be trusted to decide for themselves what kind of work to do, what kind of friends to have, or what might make them happy.
  • Such people see nothing wrong with coercion, as long as they do the coercing.

This is the definition of an evil person. By these criteria, nearly every person holding national public office is evil. But look within: we all have the impulse to control others. Do we have the self control to allow others to make their own choices? Only when the choices of others will result in imminent damage should we intervene.

Back to re-definition. The founding documents of the USA seek to promote "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Today, when people hear "happiness" they think "pleasure". There is quite a difference. Happiness is the enjoyment of good, and requires a moral context. Happiness is a long-term condition of those who seek it rightly. The normal condition of a successful human is long-term happiness punctuated by short-term pleasure or displeasure in response to immediate events. Pleasure is a temporary emotion brought on by doing something enjoyable, however that might be defined, including immoral or amoral things. Pleasure in immorality cannot result in happiness, because the conscience is defiled.

The words "morality" and "values" are denigrated in today's society. This has greatly damaged our society. Poor self control, undermined morality, and lack of values make people weak, and make a nation weak. Senator Santorum's message is that, in spite of so many damaging trends, this country is still filled with people who strive to do good work, to have a good family, to earn an honest living and raise successful children. Regardless of party membership, these are America's conservatives. If America is to recover from its present malaise, these are the people who will raise it up. They will raise up America by how they work, how they vote, and how they worship. These are the people he is writing about and writing to.

God bless America…nobody else can.

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