A Small Matter

Eugene Robinson speaks in terms that echo Mark Steyn's focus on demographic trends.
Obama’s racial identity is a constant reminder of how much the nation has changed in a relatively short time. In my lifetime, we’ve experienced the civil rights movement, the countercultural explosion of the 1960s, the sexual revolution, the women’s movement and an unprecedented wave of Latino immigration. Within a few decades, there will be no white majority in this country — no majority of any kind, in fact.
Well, that's not quite right, Mr. Robinson. It's true that there won't be a racial or ethnic majority in this country. There will be pluralities. There will presumably be a majority of either male or female voters, most likely female given historic and demographic trends, but it will be a small one.

There will, however, still be one very solid majority in this country: Christians. Christians currently make up 78.4% of Americans, and the growth of Latino voters will not undermine that figure. Catholics, once a reasonably reliable Democratic Party bloc, have been swinging more and more into the Republican column. This is reflected in the party leadership. Paul Ryan, Vice Presidential nominee of the party, is a Catholic. Rick Santorum, near-victor of the Republican primary, is a Knight of Malta. Newt Gingrich, in the top three or four, is a Catholic by conversion.

More and more the Republican party is the party that supports a society roughly built around Christian norms, if not explicitly on Christian teachings. More and more the Democratic Party is the party of undermining and defying those norms. As Christian norms are not all that different from conservative Jewish or even mainstream Islamic norms, there will be a draw even beyond the loose boundaries of the faith of the Cross.

Maybe you can rely on ethnic or racial plurality to overcome that powerful majority interest. I'm betting it won't work out. The very trends making black and Latino voters a richer and more successful part of American society are going to make them less susceptible to manipulation by ethnic patronage. As they rise into the core of American society, they will no longer need -- and may no longer want -- special privileges in hiring or education. They may begin to look to higher values, as people usually do when their economic needs are satisfied.

Just a thought.


E Hines said...

I wish I shared your optimism.

Welfare is addictive, even in the forms that are useful and even in the forms that recipients actually need. Welfare is just as addictive for those who hand it out--the power and the ego trip are very powerful.

Ethnicity matters, too. 95% of blacks, more or less, went with Obama in 2008, and 95% are polling as favoring him today after four years of his utter failure.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

I don't think welfare is the big issue. I think the big issue is public sector unions. By this I mean that nobody wants to think of himself as a beggar or a charity case. But once you're working for a living, you feel entitled to what you've earned. We all do. The problem with public sector unions, and similar GS-type positions that outbid the private sector, is that you're earning at a rate that the economy wouldn't ordinarily support. That's not sustainable, but because you've earned it honestly via a lawful contract, naturally you feel entitled to it.

That strikes me as a big deal. Welfare, I think people will yield up as they are able to do so. Cushy government jobs, that's going to be a big fight.

E Hines said...

Welfare, as it is normally conceived, is a very powerful habit when it's generations old, as the eastern--and western--Germans discovered in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union and reunification. And as the Russians discovered post-USSR, even given their hatred of the Soviet system.

And as Americans are discovering with our own welfare now becoming a generational thing.

The public service unions are just a new form of welfare, with a veneer of "earned."

Eric Hines

Grim said...

No, I don't think that's right. A man who earns by a lawful contract has earned, whether the contract is public or private. Our problem isn't with the man, it's with the government that has defrauded us. Him as well, him and us.

This is going to be a hard problem, but answering it means putting the blame where it belongs. He took a lawful deal offered by lawful contract. If he did what he said he would do, our problem isn't with him. It's with the government that offered a deal, based on what it thought it could extract from us, that was rapacious against us.

E Hines said...

Our problem isn't with the man, it's with the government that has defrauded us.

So it is with any welfare program. The problem isn't with the recipient but with the pusher. The man getting "regular" welfare as a handout also has fulfilled one contract, and likely is fulling an implied one. The first contract is that he exists as a law-abiding man. The implied one is that he'll earn his handout by voting for--supporting the power of--the government man who provides the handout.

In the case of the public service union, the first contract is that he does the work agreed; the welfare aspect, the handout, is in the excess payment above the value of the work. The implied contract is that he'll earn his handout by voting for--supporting the power of--the government man who provides the handout.

Given that excess payment beyond the value of the work, the only difference between the "standard" welfare recipient and the New Model Welfare recipient is that the latter has to do more than merely exist--he has to keep his shovel from falling over. And he gets to negotiate the size of his handout with his pusher, that government man.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

I must continue to object to your description of these jobs as "welfare." They're not -- very often we're talking about people doing quite honest work, which does deserve a level of compensation. Soldiers, for example, deserve to be paid for their labor.

If the objection is that it is somehow 'welfare' to pay people more than the market would pay them if it were a market position, we run up against several difficulties. Chief among these is that many of the jobs of government are the preconditions of the market. To take the soldier, it is the soldier who establishes a safe space in which it is possible to enforce contracts and bring goods to market without having them stolen. How much is that worth? In a way, it's impossible to set a market rate on the service because there would be no market as such without the service.

In another way, we might be able to get the service for less -- but only by lowering standards. There are problems with requiring the government to always go with the lowest bidder, especially when we are talking about core services.

It seems to me that market information can sometimes be used to set rates, but market rates cannot be a full-fledged standard against which to judge the rates appropriate to soldiering. If we tried to employ the market (since it does exist now), how much is a soldier worth on the market? Well, how immediate is the danger from barbarians? Yet if you want a soldier, you have to pay him to train years before the threat becomes high enough that the price is right; and that means you must pay him MORE than the market would suggest he is worth in the years when the threat is kept low by his actions.

E Hines said...

You've morphed the discussion from public service unions to soldiering. The Netherlands has its military as a public service union; the US does not.

The magnitude of the excess pay that public service unions in the US collect as a result of their "negotiations" with their government man co-dependent is easily assessed, simply by comparing their pay with that of private sector workers doing the same tasks--both union and non-union in that private sector. That excess pay is...welfare.

We probably don't pay our soldiers enough, but that's another matter.

Eric Hines

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Coupla additions. Public sector unions usually have above-market cost in the form of health care and other benefits. The deal used to be "we'll work for less salary, more benefits." Over time, the salaries came up near market levels. But I could still make more salary privately - just no benefits. With the feds it seems to be different. I picked the wrong level of gummint to work for, I think.

From the inside, I would say that it's not the compensation, but the number of jobs, that runs up the bill. I think soldiers deserve more dollars - I also think we have a lot fo people doing useless stuff in the service.

I don't know how long a work ethic will persist. It's not an either/or but a gradual reduction. Communism taught GERMANS to stop working hard, for pity's sake. I see the erosion not only in society, but in myself.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Second. the other changes noted by Robinson are real. We are entering some new world, not a continuation of the old one. Many Americans will continue to be informed by something derived from Christian thought. But how that mixes has too many variables.

Dad29 said...

AVI--yes, but no.

Judaeo-Christian principles are not exclusive to Judaeo-Christian believers. The fundamentals are 'inscribed in the hearts' of all people, including Mohammedans, Confucians, and Hindi.

All of those principles are subject to the deformation caused by Original Sin, of course, and sloth happens to be a deformation. But that doesn't mean that people do not KNOW what is right; it simply means that they don't PRACTICE what is right.

douglas said...

Dad29, I think there's a fundamental difference between the Judeo-Christian outlook, and the others you mention. Respect for life as a God given gift. Muslims don't regard it much, it's a thing for Allah to play with as he wills. Eastern religions don't see it as significant in and of itself either. I know, the Hindu won't kill a cow- but it's not because of a respect for life- he wouldn't even save a starving man by killing the cow- it's the sacred status of the cow that's important. An inscribed powerlessness if you will. I think that's the fundamental that really sets the Judeo-Christian ethic apart. It is true that the fundamentals are 'inscribed in the hearts' of all men (some sense of the ultimate truth, our likeness to God, etc.), but there are other things in there, and how we read it all and act upon what we read can come out quite differently.