Saturday, December 31, 2011

Communitarians Olasky & Bush Vs. Reagan's Constitutional Libertarians

Allthough a lot of focus has been placed on incidents, foreign policy and the characters of the individuals running, the real battle inside the Republican party goes deeper. It's the battle of the communitarians that built the Bush coalition in 2000 against the older libertarian leaning Reagan coalition. For that reason chief-editor Marvin Olasky, who consistently claims the  label "Christian" for his communitarian views, published a hitpiece against Ron Paul in his World Magazine days away from the Iowa Caucuses .

On both sides of the Atlantic communitarians have virtually taken over the major parties, Democrats and Republicans in the US, social- and christian democratic parties in Europe. In my perception the dangerous aspect of communitarianism is it's total reliance on the here and now. A purely technocratic form of politics that fails to inspire the masses. The rise of populism is directly related to this. Communitarians fear or despise the people and therefore ignore them. Offcourse, the Olasky's and Balkenende's of this world throw some redmeat to "the ignorant masses" from time to time.

Democracy is not perfect and life in liberty is not easy, as John F. Kennedy said in his famous Berlin speech but encouraged citizens to look beyond their own city and country. Martin Luther King emphasized the importance of citizens having dreams. Abraham Kuyper, Klaas Schilder, Groen van Prinsterer and other Dutch antirevolutionaries also emphasized the importance of the invisible world and dignity of the citizen beyond his car, house, family and nationality. Where does a citizen find his dignity? That's a basic question communitarians fail to answer.

To understand the battle raging now within the Republican party, read for example the excellent stuff by journalist Dana Milbank who wrote in 2001:
"The problem, some Bush advisers and friends say, is that conventional political definitions do not adequately explain what the president is trying to do. His actions have less to do with the left vs. right, they say, than with his embrace of many of the ideas contained in the movement known as "communitarianism," which places the importance of society ahead of the unfettered rights of the individual."
Dana Milbank writes in his book Smashmouth:

More significantly, the coalition Bush is assembling is in some ways the opposite of Reanganism. Reagan's alliance was in large part libertarian, and young Bush's is communitarian. The communitarian movement, known also by it's "civil society" "social capital" and "quality of life" buzzwords, is vaguely defined, but it's based on the idea that too much Hobbesian individualism has created an atomized, selfish and disconnected society.
"It's a new coalition," Olasky says. "That's why some people on the right are so uncomfortable" with Bush. In Bush's way of thinking, the individual-rights chmpions on both sides- the civil libertarians on the left and the anti-government, leave-us-alone right-wingers- are on the outside. They'll be replaced by a mixture of incentive-based conservatives and good-government liberals. "He could bring a lot of communitarian Democrats with him" Olasky says. If liberals were willing to give up some federal control, Bush and like-minded cnoservatives would be content to spend more money on the poor and other government pursuits. "Let's throw away the budget cutters," Olasky says. "I see that coming with Bush. I see that as part of a governing alliance."


Ann Garrison said...

Communitarian? Aren't you talking about corporate welfare?

Vincent Harris said...

communitarians, something like: not the individual not the state, but civil society. Amitai Etzioni, Balkenende (former Dutch prime minister) and others.