G.K. Chesterton

It has now been several weeks since we imaginative conservatives woke up to the nightmare that President Obama had been reelected. It is time we wake from our delusional daydream for a future conservative order. It’s time we realize it’s morning in America again and that we have been blind to the glaring truth that the brave new world that is dawning is far better than the lost days we’re mourning.

That portly prince of paradox, G.K. Chesterton, told us that the best way to get a clear look at the reality of something is to turn it upside down and stand it on its head. I propose that we do that this morning, step back, look, and be honest with ourselves that we conservatives have been seeing the world completely backwards. I’ve thrown in some paradoxical excerpts from G.K. Chesterton himself to help light our way

G.K. Chesterton

First of all, it is quite clear that when it comes to economics, we fiscal conservatives—whether we be Chicago or Austrian Schoolers, Third-Way Röpkeans, CrunchyCon agrarians, or simply supply-side Reaganites—were all wrong for wanting to distribute political power and the means of production and create incentives for enterprise. It is so much easier to grow the nation’s wealth by merely redistributing our nation’s current wealth through the combined strength of centralized government. Apparently it has been proven by the empirical evidence that, after all, the more the government spends—whether borrowed or collected through taxation, as you wish—the more the economy booms and the better off we all are. “Big Business and State Socialism are very much alike, especially Big Business.”

Who knew that we could multiply our nation’s wealth by dividing and redistributing it? We need only the courage to believe and we’ll surely see that we conservatives have been obstructing the best remedy to our malady. We can spend our way out of debt! It’s time we stop worrying about our current sixteen trillion dollar debt and all the long-term unfunded liabilities ($84 trillion on Medicare alone!), and just step on the gas and go forward! Let Uncle Sam write bigger and bigger checks to more and more people. When we can always just print more money. It’s time we realize that the piper never needs to be paid. There’s always more road to kick the can down. “Political Economy means that everybody except politicians must be economical.”

The recession President Bush handed President Obama was officially over before spring became summer of ’09, and under Obama the economy has not double-dipped into a recession (as many of us predicted) and there has been no economic collapse (as many of us prophesied). The stock market continues to soar—or at least steadily climb—and although our economy has showed signs of struggling, we’ve reached no catastrophe yet. All we have to do to avoid going off the fiscal cliff is, follow Obama’s advice and raise taxes on the top two percent. All will be well. “When men have come to the edge of a precipice, it is the lover of life who has the spirit to leap backwards, and only the pessimist who continues to believe in progress.”

President Obama promised beforehand that his $787 billion stimulus package would create 3.5 million new jobs (that equates to the bargain-basement, penny-pinching price of approximately $225,000 per new job!) but instead President Obama boasts 5.4 million new jobs even though some two hundred thousand fewer people have jobs today than when he took office. But let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good story. “Truth can understand error, but error cannot understand truth.” If only we would’ve had a stimulus of three trillion! nay, four, or even ten trillion! just think of how we’d be at full employment today! Surely there’d even be enough extra jobs leftover for a spillover of immigrants and we’d not be experiencing the net zero immigration—illegal or otherwise—from Mexico that we’ve had in recent years. If we don’t let the big kahuna spend more on stimulus, the wave of amigos will just roll out with the tide.

Perhaps economist Paul Krugman was right that what was really needed was an exponentially larger stimulus. We’ll never know because austere and stubborn conservative and libertarian budget hawks dug in their claws and stood in the way just as the Keynesians were trying to spread their wings and America’s wealth. “Misers get up early in the morning; and burglars, I am informed, get up the night before.” Krugman might just be right about his theory that there is a ‘multiplying effect’ when Uncle Sam spreads the wealth around. It’s time we consider sending every American a million dollar check and charging it on our American Express card. It’s as easy as taking candy from your babies. And after all, we shouldn’t worry about the debt we’re handing our grandkids because, like Krugman declares, they will just “owe the debt to themselves.”

G.K. Chesterton

It’s also time for us conservative communitarians to realize that only a centralized bureaucracy in a far distant capitol, overseen by a tiny panel of unaccountable, unelected, elite political appointees can efficiently order our local communities and market economies for us. Those experts can do it better than can the little platoons of leaders living within each locality who are surely unaware, simply unprepared, unenlightened, and unequipped to deal with the unique challenges that face their particular communities. “[All] men must be so stupid that they cannot manage their own affairs; and also so clever that they can manage each other’s.” How can those localities ever muster the know-how—much less marshal the needed funds—to handle all the problems of their neighborhoods when compared to the enormous wisdom and consolidated resources available to our the centralized government? “I’ve searched all the parks in all the cities and found no statues of committees.” It’s simply better and more efficient to have every municipality conform to the dictates of the burgeoning bureaucracy in the District of Columbia, and it’s time we conservatives stop biting the hand that feeds us. Let us dispense with this ‘laboratories of democracy’ nonsense about “states’ rights.” The states’ rights issue was settled once and for all with the Civil War. Heck, even conservative hero, Russell Kirk, said that technically states cannot have rights, only people have rights.

And that brings up another point; it’s time for us to realize that this whole sanctity of rights thing has been a hoax. There are really only a few really important rights to society, among them are the rights to licentiousness and ease. There is no real right to several property, nor a right to multiple customs and traditions, and there is no sphere of immunity from the state. “We are passing into a social phase in which unless a heroic effort is made for human dignity and freedom, gold will be the sole method of government and therefore the sole standard of manners.”

There are no truths, only tastes. Truth, beauty and goodness can now be easily decided democratically by a simple majority. There is no conclusive or convincing evidence about what cultural conditions and personal behaviors are better, best or worst for man’s flourishing. All opinions are equal and all lifestyles are simply choices. The only virtue permitted shall be the virtue of openness. Only good intentions matter. And that’s good because it turns out that if you give someone something they haven’t earned, instead of robbing them of their dignity and initiative, they become more enterprising, independent and personally responsible. People cannot be really free until they are free from responsibility and are allowed to chase their dreams and indulge their wildest fantasies. We should free them from their needs so they can pursue their wants. “The modern man says, ‘Let us leave all these arbitrary standards and embrace unadulterated liberty.’ This is, logically rendered, ‘Let us not decide what is good, but let it be considered good not to decide it.’ He says, ‘Away with your old moral standard; I am for progress.’ This, logically stated, means, ‘Let us not settle what is good; but let us settle whether we are getting more of it.'”

When people do not have equal means, treating everyone equally under the law is simply cruel and unusual punishment. It’s time we realize that no two men are ever really equal, and therefore the State should be used as an instrument to level those differences out. That’s fairness. What some people have earned is rightfully theirs so long as they don’t have more than others. Democracy wants no great men. It wants regular guys who are great at sympathizing and gratifying. “He who weds the spirit of the times quickly becomes a widower.”

It’s also best if we come to realize that our Constitution is a living document, a capricious, arbitrary, ethereal set of ideals rather than a strict code for conducting the affairs of the state and restraining the actions of our politicians. We must look at the silver lining to this dark cloud; someday we so-called conservatives will be back in charge, and then it will be grand to be empowered to grant privileges and subsidies to our votaries without having to worry about obstacles like Congress or the Supreme Court. I am happy to be a real ray of sunshine this morning but, alas, collectivism and progressivism never fails, so it’s surely a fantasy to wish for those days to return. It would be useless to stand on our principles and attempt to earn the favor of public opinion with persuasive arguments. The Left tells us that we only infuriate people by discussing our out-of-date ideas. Far better for our party to know when we’re beaten, stop fighting for our ideas, and become merely the Democrat-light Party. “It is the mark of our whole modern history that the masses are kept quiet with a fight. They are kept quiet by the fight because it is a sham-fight; thus most of us know by this time that the Party System has been popular only in the sense that a football match is popular.”

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Eat, drink, and be merry, for we’ll never run out of other people’s money, and in the long run we’re all dead. “We now have a strong desire for living combined with a strange carelessness about dying. We desire life like water and yet are ready to drink death like wine.”

“If there is one fact we really can prove, from the history that we really do know, it is that despotism can be a development, often a late development and very often indeed the end of societies that have been highly democratic. A despotism may almost be defined as a tired democracy. As fatigue falls on a community, the citizens are less inclined for that eternal vigilance which has truly been called the price of liberty; and they prefer to arm only one single sentinel to watch the city while they sleep.”

“Then I suddenly saw, as in one obvious picture, that the modern world is an immense and tumultuous ocean, full of monstrous and living things. And I saw that across the top of it is spread a thin, a very thin, sheet of ice, of wicked wealth and of lying journalism.

And as I stood there in the darkness I could almost fancy that I heard it crack.”

“The one perfectly divine thing, the one glimpse of God’s paradise given on earth, is to fight a losing battle—and not lose it.”

Books by G.K. Chesterton may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.

All comments are moderated and must be civil, concise, and constructive to the conversation. Comments that are critical of an essay may be approved, but comments containing ad hominem criticism of the author will not be published. Also, comments containing web links or block quotations are unlikely to be approved. Keep in mind that essays represent the opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Imaginative Conservative or its editor or publisher.

Leave a Comment
Print Friendly, PDF & Email