Day By Day

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Real Culture War

Arthur M. Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute (one of my favorite places on the net) has an interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal. In it he argues that the Obama administration, through its economic policies, is waging a culture war against capitalism. He writes:

There is a major cultural schism developing in America. But it's not over abortion, same-sex marriage or home schooling, as important as these issues are. The new divide centers on free enterprise -- the principle at the core of American culture.

Regarding the recent round of "tea parties" that sprung up around tax day, he notes:

[T]he tea parties are not based on the cold wonkery of budget data. They are based on an "ethical populism." The protesters are homeowners who didn't walk away from their mortgages, small business owners who don't want corporate welfare and bankers who kept their heads during the frenzy and don't need bailouts. They were the people who were doing the important things right -- and who are now watching elected politicians reward those who did the important things wrong.
I like that term, "ethical populism".

And what, in the minds of the protesters, constitutes wrong behavior on the part of government? He points to:
government deficits, unaccountable bureaucratic power, and a sense that the government is too willing to prop up those who engaged in corporate malfeasance and mortgage fraud.
These are not specifics; they represent core cultural values. Enormous deficits place an unfair burden on future generations; bureaucratic power short-circuits basic democratic principles; and government tolerance of corporate malfeasance is seen as fundamentally unjust.

Obama's programs and policies are thus, in the minds of many Americans unfair, unjust and undemocratic. I agree! Brooks further feels that this perception could provide the basis for a revitalization of the Republican Party. Of that I am not so certain. I do feel, however, that the charge that Obama is unfair, unjust, and undemocratic does resonate with mainstream Americans -- I know it does with me.

Read the whole thing here.