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  Road to the Middle Class
Monday January 26, 2015 
by Christopher Chantrill Follow chrischantrill on Twitter









1930s analysis

UK spending

US bailout

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US spending

sisters, sisters


















The Shrinking Middle Class: What To Do?

LIBERAL Harold Meyerson in the Washington Post is delighted. Finally, after 35 years of inaction -- since the Reagan recession of 1980-82 -- someone is doing something about the hole in the middle class. Here's the problem:

A gap between productivity gains and average family income — which didn’t exist in the three decades following World War II — opened in the 1970s and has only widened since.
After 30 years of inaction here comes President Obama with a solution.
This time, he had a concrete proposal to diminish the shift from income derived from work to income derived from investment — by raising the tax on capital gains and using the income to provide a tax credit to help working parents pay for child care. 
I guess what makes me dispirited about an opinion like this is the thought that Mr. Meyerson really believes it. By taking away money from capitalists and giving it away in a tax credit  he thinks we are really going to be able to boost middle class incomes. Where has he been?

Does he not get that taking money away from the capitalists and giving it away is exactly what Lenin did in Russia, exactly what the Castro Brothers did in Cuba, exactly what Chavez and now Maduro have been doing in Venezuela?

OK, let's admit that there are two narratives to account for the modern era.

One narrative is that the surprises of several economic revolutions have showered wealth upon all the people of the world, but disproportionately more wealth upon those communities that let capitalists get stinking rich.

The other narrative is that the benefits of economic production in the last two centuries only got shared because compassionate liberals forced the capitalists to share it out. You can see which side Harold Meyerson is on.

The president's new initiative is really cool, he writes:
Democrats have long sought to represent the interests of both business and labor... They’re the party that rewards work, that seeks to increase labor income even if — and you’d better believe they’ve polled on this — it means taking a bite out of capital income.
Hey, it might even win them back some of the white working class vote, he says. Yay!

OK. Here's my counterblast. (Aside from the fact that, given the swingeing taxes on business and labor, especially payroll taxes on labor collected by business, I'd say that Democrats are strongly opposed to both business and labor.)

The hollowing out in labor income since 1980, sez I, came from a number of secular trends and government policies. Let's list them, in no particular order.

  • Labor income in the immediate post-WWII years artificially boosted by labor unions. After 1980, labor income reverted to the mean, as unionized companies went broke.
  • Great Society programs that made it easier for people not to work, and imposed extremely high marginal tax rates on low-skilled workers trying to get off welfare.
  • Entry of women into the workforce. More workers competing for jobs equals lower wages.
  • Increased economic regulation.
  • Staggering capital gains from the electronic, computer, and internet revolutions, that boosted capital income.
  • Cheap money, which usually screws mom-and-pop savers.
  • "Affordable housing" policy which has wiped out minority homeowners that got mortgages they couldn't afford.
Really, Harold Meyerson and I couldn't be further apart on this. For instance, I think that the current policy across the west of Zero Interest Rate Policy and Quantitative Easing is a clear sign that redistribution is failing. It is telling us that entrepreneurs and capitalists aren't investing enough in new jobs, so government has to pile on and help them by artificially lowering the interest rate. But Meyerson wants to reduce the return on capital with new taxes.

Look. Right now in the United States the governments are spending about $1 trillion a year on government pensions, $1 trillion a year in government health care, $1 trillion a year on government education, and $0.5 trillion a year on welfare. That's according to usgovernmentspending.com. All this money is straight-up redistribution.

So are we saying that $3.5 trillion a year in straight-up redistribution is not enough?

We are talking about $3.5 trillion in benefits that people don't have to work for. So no wonder the middle class doesn't work as hard as it might. And really, Harold Meyerson thinks that some fiddling with the capital gains tax and middle-class tax relief is going to fix the hollowing out of the middle class?

I tell you what scares me. Imagine what the economy would look like without the extraordinary wealth from electronics, computers, and the internet. And imagine the slashing articles Harold Meyerson would be writing to call for more redistribution from the greedy capitalists to the helpless middle class.

perm | comment | Follow chrischantrill on Twitter | 01/23/15 11:17 am ET

Harvey Mansfield on Democrats

THE chaps at the Manhattan Institute have signed up conservative Harvard Professor Harvey Mansfield to write a two-parter on our national political parties. Mansfield starts with the Democrats in "Our Parties, Part One." This creates a good opportunity for me to match my rather wild and crazy ideas against a man who is rather less wild and crazy, if still conservative. Mansfield begins by ...

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perm | comment | Follow chrischantrill on Twitter | 01/22/15 12:58 pm ET

"Who Killed the Enlightenment?" is the Wrong Question

THE idea of the 18th century Enlightenment was ideological. It was to create a cultural and political movement to overthrow the dark night of religion and superstition, and replace it with the bright light of reason. In particular, its leading lights wanted to chop the trunks of kings and princes away from their divine roots, the association of kingliness with godliness. Guess who would replace ...

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perm | comment | Follow chrischantrill on Twitter | 01/21/15 12:59 pm ET

On the Other Hand: Bubba Bait for Progressives

YESTERDAY I worried that President Obama's tax and spending ideas for the FY16 budget were bubba bait for the middle class. Because what working woman doesn't want more sick leave and maternity leave mandates? Who doesn't want to stick it to the Rich? But now I think that I'm wrong. The president isn't trying to separate the middle class from Republicans. He's just throwing red meat to his ...

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perm | comment | Follow chrischantrill on Twitter | 01/20/15 10:01 am ET

|  January blogs  |  December blogs  |


Georg Simmel’s Sociology

Thomas Piketty’s Capital

The Spirit Level

McCloskey’s “Bourgeois Era”


Download latest e-book draft here.


A New Manifesto
A spectre is haunting the liberal elite—the spectre of conservatism.


The Crisis of the Administrative State
It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Government and the Technology of Power
If you scratch a social reformer, you will likely discover a plan for more government.

Business, Slavery, and Trust
Business is all about trust and relationship.

Humanity's Big Problem: Freebooters and Freeloaders
The modern welfare state encourages freeloaders.

The Bonds of Faith
No society known to anthropology or history lacked religion.

A Critique of Social Mechanics
The problem with human society reduced to system.

The Paradox of Individualism
Is individualism the gospel of selfishness or something else?

From Multitude to Civil Society
The larger the government, the smaller the society.

The Answer is Civil Society
In between the separated powers.

The Greater Separation of Powers
If you want to limit power then you must limit power.

Conservatism Three by Three
Conservatism, political, economics, and cultural.

The Culture of Involvement
Imagining lives without the welfare state

The Poor Without the Welfare State
Can the poor thrive without the welfare state?

The Middle Class Without The Welfare State
How would the middle class live without all those middle-class entitlements?

From Freeloaders to Free Givers
The path to the future lies through moral movements.

The Real Meaning of Society
Broadening the horizon of cooperation in the “last best hope of man on earth.”

conservative manifesto



AAM Book of the Day

Gould, Philip, The Unfinished Revolution

AAM Books on Education

Andrew Coulson, Market Education
How universal literacy was achieved before government education

Carl Kaestle, Pillars of the Republic
How we got our education system

James Tooley, Reclaiming Education
How only a market in education will provide opportunity for the poor

James Tooley, The Miseducation of Women
How the feminists wrecked education for boys and for girls

E.G. West, Education and the State
How education was doing fine before the government muscled in

AAM Books on Law

Hernando De Soto, The Mystery of Capital
How ordinary people in the United States wrote the law during the 19th century

F. A. Hayek, Law Legislation and Liberty, Vol 1
How to build a society based upon law

Henry Maine, Ancient Law
How the movement of progressive peoples is from status to contract

John Zane, The Story of Law
How law developed from early times down to the present

AAM Books on Mutual Aid

James Bartholomew, The Welfare State We're In
How the welfare state makes crime, education, families, and health care worse.

David Beito, From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State
How ordinary people built a sturdy social safety net in the 19th century

David Green, Before Beveridge: Welfare Before the Welfare State
How ordinary people built themselves a sturdy safety net before the welfare state

Theda Skocpol, Diminished Democracy
How the US used to thrive under membership associations and could do again

David Stevenson, The Origins of Freemasonry
How modern freemasonry got started in Scotland

AAM Books on Religion

David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing
How Christianity is booming in China

Finke & Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990
How the United States grew into a religious nation

Robert William Fogel, The Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism
How progressives must act fast if they want to save the welfare state

David Martin, Pentecostalism: The World Their Parish
How Pentecostalism is spreading across the world


A misleading chart on welfare spending
plus an OK one that shows that welfare recipients face a 50% marginal tax rate.

Harvey Mansfield on the Democrats
what are the limits to progress and equality?

How Obama lost the middle class
But the writer, Rick Newman, really doesn't get it.

Would You Punch the Security Code?
to let the terrorists in? Our liberals already did, writes Richard Fernandez.

Is Life Better in America’s Red States?
Creative Class author Richard Florida tells NYT readers that red states are parasites on blue state economies.

> archive


cruel . corrupt . wasteful
unjust . deluded



After a year of President Obama most Americans understand that the nation is on the wrong track. But how do we find the right track? Americans knew thirty years ago that liberalism was a busted flush. Yet Reaganism and Bushism seemed to be less than the best answer.

But where can we turn? Where are the thinkers and activists of the old days? Where do we find the best ideas? And how do we persuade our present ruling class to loosen its grip on power so that we can move the locomotive of state back onto the right track?

With all of our problems it seems like the worst of times.

In fact, this is the best of times. Under the radar a generation of great thinkers have been figuring out what went wrong and conjuring up visions of a better future. This book, "An American Manifesto: Life After Liberalism" is an introduction to their ideas, and to the great future that awaits an America willing to respond to their call.

Although this book is addressed to all Americans, conservative, moderate, and liberal, and looks to a nation that transcends our present partisan divide, I must tell you that liberals will have the most difficulty with the book. The reason is simple. I am asking liberals to give up a lot of the power they have amassed in the last century. But we are all Americans, and we must all give up something for the sake of the greater good.


I am Christopher Chantrill and I am writing this book in full view. I'll be blogging on the process and the ideas, and I'll be asking you, dear readers, to help. Read the blog. Read the articles as they come out on American Thinker and ponder over the draft chapters here on this site.

Then send me your reactions, your thoughts, and your comments. You will help more than you know.


What Liberals Think About Conservatives

[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. “Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists,” she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican

US Life in 1842

Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism

Taking Responsibility

[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050

Society and State

For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008

Socialism equals Animism

Imagining that all order is the result of design, socialists conclude that order must be improvable by better design of some superior mind.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit


[Every] sacrifice is an act of impurity that pays for a prior act of greater impurity... without its participants having to suffer the full consequences incurred by its predecessor. The punishment is commuted in a process that strangely combines and finesses the deep contradiction between justice and mercy.
Frederick Turner, Beauty: The Value of Values

Responsible Self

[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.


©2014 Christopher Chantrill

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