Reform conservatives vs. Rejectionist conservatives

Michael Gerson says that there are currently two kinds of conservatives:

On one side there are Rejectionist Conservatives, who come in a variety of forms. There are libertarians who view federal taxation, except to fund a few night-watchman roles, as theft. There are tea party activists who believe that any federal power must be specifically enumerated in the Constitution — and then interpret the Constitution as if it were the Articles of Confederation. And then there is Ron Paul, who seeks to overturn the Lincoln and Hamilton revolutions.

But Obama’s overreach has also produced another conservative reaction — a Reform Conservatism. The key figure here is Paul Ryan, the main author of two House Republican budgets. The movement’s intellectual headquarters is National Affairs, a journal of small but potent distribution. Its brain trust includes thinkers such as Yuval Levin, James Capretta and Peter Wehner.

The reform movement — being prone to long, self-reflective policy articles — is not hard to summarize.

First, it asserts that America’s massive fiscal crisis is a result of public-sector inefficiency. So it looks for ways to achieve the ends of the welfare state both through more private means and more efficient public means.

Second, it asserts that America’s economic challenge is also a function of public-sector inefficiency and seeks above all to encourage growth — by streamlining the tax code, reducing burdens on competitiveness and showing confidence in market mechanisms and consumer pressure.

Third, Reform Conservatism argues that America’s social problem is largely a function of the collapse of social capital among the poor and seeks to transform the safety net — encouraging responsibility and providing training toward integration in the broader stream of American life.

Reform Conservatism is less ideologically ambitious than Rejectionist Conservatism. It would replace Obamacare, for example, rather than simply abolish it. Similarly, it focuses on education reform — school accountability, parental empowerment and teacher quality — rather than on the demolition of the Education Department. Reform Conservatism tends to be politically pragmatic. In exchange for serious Medicare reform, for example, it would certainly accept a higher portion of gross domestic product taken in taxes to ease cuts in discretionary spending — if those taxes are designed in a way that doesn’t undermine economic growth.

via The GOP’s conservative reformers win out – The Washington Post.

OK, but I thought Paul Ryan was a hero of the “rejectionist” Tea partiers.  And are any conservatives really committed to achieving the ends of the welfare state?   But still, perhaps there is something to this.  Clearly different Republicans have different priorities.  Then again, Is “reform conservative” just another name for “moderate”?  Are the “rejectionists” so extreme that they cannot anything done, as Mr. Gerson suggests?  Are there any other ways forward?  At any rate, according to Mr. Gerson’s taxonomy, Mitt Romney is of the reform party.

A college football playoff is in the works

The BCS conferences have reportedly agreed to devise a four-team playoff for the college football championship:

College football is on the verge of finally having a playoff, its own version of the final four.

For the first time, all the power brokers who run the highest level of the sport are comfortable with the idea of deciding a championship the way it’s done from pee-wees to pros. And the way fans have been hoping they would for years.

“Yes, we’ve agreed to use the P word,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said Thursday.

They want to limit it to four teams. That’s for sure. Now they have to figure out how to pick the teams, where and when to play the games and how the bowls do or do not fit in. The new postseason format would go into effect for the 2014 season.

As for the 14-year-old Bowl Championship Series, it’s on life support. Any chance that it survives past the next two seasons? “I hope not,” said Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive, who pitched a four-team playoff four years ago but was shot down at this same hotel beachside hotel.

“This is a seismic change for college football,” BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock said after the 11 conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director wrapped up three days of meetings in south Florida.

That Hancock actually used the word playoff when describing what was being considered alone signaled a shift in thinking for the BCS. In a memo leading up to these meetings, the term “four-team event” was used to describe creating two national semifinals and a championship game.

via Finally? BCS on verge of becoming 4-team college playoff, though plenty of details to workout – The Washington Post.

OK, but the little question of how to arrive at the four playoff teams has got to be resolved, given that there are 11 conferences at the table.  It sounds like BCS will just do their polls/computer thing to arrive at the final four, just as they have been doing to decide the bowl match ups and the championship, so that the controversies will continue.  Still, a four-game tournament would be exciting and an improvement.

Does anyone have any ideas about how else to determine the top four contenders?  How about just have the conference winners of the Big 12, the Big 10, the Pac-12, and the SEC play each other and be done with it?

These technical difficulties

No sooner had I trumpeted the return of this blog than the whole thing went down again. We were online for about an hour. Now we seem to be back. I’ll put up some posts and we can pretend this blog week never happened. (If the problems continue, at least you’ll know of the server woes.)

This is the problem with post-humanist cyborg mystics who have the dream of downloading everyone’s consciousness into the internet so that we can dispense with the human body and live forever. When the servers crash, there won’t be anybody to fix them!

We’re back online!

Finally! Long time no see. This blog went down on May 1 and just came up again the night of May 3. According to our hosting people, the server went down and then they had trouble moving everything over to a new one. I don’t understand why it took so long to zap some electronic files from one place to another.In that time I could have loaded all of my possessions into a moving van, driven halfway across the country, and moved everything into a new house.

At any rate, we’re back. I think. Sorry for the inconvenience. I appreciated hearing from some of you who were worried and whose loyalty to this blog is so great that when you couldn’t get to it your whole day was thrown off.

Thanks to Todd for hassling with the hosting company for me, and thanks to the tech people there who finally got things working.

And now, plant rights

Philosopher Michael Marder, with a platform in the New York Times, takes the next step, after summarizing some research as to how peas “communicate” their condition to other peas:

The research findings of the team at the Blaustein Institute form yet another building block in the growing fields of plant intelligence studies and neurobotany that, at the very least, ought to prompt us to rethink our relation to plants. Is it morally permissible to submit to total instrumentalization living beings that, though they do not have a central nervous system, are capable of basic learning and communication? Should their swift response to stress leave us coldly indifferent, while animal suffering provokes intense feelings of pity and compassion?

Evidently, empathy might not be the most appropriate ground for an ethics of vegetal life. But the novel indications concerning the responsiveness of plants, their interactions with the environment and with one another, are sufficient to undermine all simple, axiomatic solutions to eating in good conscience. When it comes to a plant, it turns out to be not only a what but also a who — an agent in its milieu, with its own intrinsic value or version of the good. Inquiring into justifications for consuming vegetal beings thus reconceived, we reach one of the final frontiers of dietary ethics.

Recent findings in cellular and molecular botany mean that eating preferences, too, must practically differentiate between vegetal what-ness and who-ness, while striving to keep the latter intact. The work of such differentiation is incredibly difficult because the subjectivity of plants is not centered in a single organ or function but is dispersed throughout their bodies, from the roots to the leaves and shoots. Nevertheless, this dispersion of vitality holds out a promise of its own: the plasticity of plants and their wondrous capacity for regeneration, their growth by increments, quantitative additions or reiterations of already existing parts does little to change the form of living beings that are neither parts nor wholes because they are not hierarchically structured organisms. The “renewable” aspects of perennial plants may be accepted by humans as a gift of vegetal being and integrated into their diets.

But it would be harder to justify the cultivation of peas and other annual plants, the entire being of which humans devote to externally imposed ends. In other words, ethically inspired decisions cannot postulate the abstract conceptual unity of all plants; they must, rather, take into account the singularity of each species.

via If Peas Can Talk, Should We Eat Them? – NYTimes.com.

With no God, there is no Image of God.  And so nothing qualitatively to differentiate human beings from animals.  And once we have arrived at that point, there is really little to distinguish animal life from plant life.

Also at work is a squeamishness at the necessity of sacrifice, that all life depends on the sacrifice of other life to sustain it.  This is a physical fact as well as a spiritual fact.

And yet, I see some hope in this earnestly scrupulous moralizing.  Not a single member of the cat family or the dog family feels the slightest qualm about killing and eating meat.  And it would never occur to cattle and other plant-eaters to feel guilty about grazing on vegetation.  Professor Marder is demonstrating that, for better and for worse, human beings are different after all.

 

HT:  Wesley J. Smith

What grates about the GSA scandal

More from that brilliant column by Peggy Noonan, America’s Crisis of Character:

There is the General Services Administration scandal. An agency devoted to efficiency is outed as an agency of mindless bread-and-circuses indulgence. They had a four-day regional conference in Las Vegas, with clowns and mind readers.

The reason the story is news, and actually upsetting, is not that a government agency wasted money. That is not news. The reason it’s news is that the people involved thought what they were doing was funny, and appropriate. In the past, bureaucratic misuse of taxpayer money was quiet. You needed investigators to find it, trace it, expose it. Now it’s a big public joke. They held an awards show. They sang songs about the perks of a government job: “Brand new computer and underground parking and a corner office. . . . Love to the taxpayer. . . . I’ll never be under OIG investigation.” At the show, the singer was made Commissioner for a Day. “The hotel would like to talk to you about paying for the party that was held in the commissioner’s suite last night” the emcee said. It got a big laugh.

On the “red carpet” leading into the event, GSA chief Jeffrey Neely said: “I am wearing an Armani.” One worker said, “I have a talent for drinking Margarita. . . . It all began with the introduction of performance measures.” That got a big laugh too.

All the workers looked affluent, satisfied. Only a generation ago, earnest, tidy government bureaucrats were spoofed as drudges and drones. Not anymore. Now they’re way cool. Immature, selfish and vain, but way cool.

Their leaders didn’t even pretend to have a sense of mission and responsibility. They reminded me of the story a year ago of the dizzy captain of a U.S. Navy ship who made off-color videos and played them for his crew. He wasn’t interested in the burdens of leadership—the need to be the adult, the uncool one, the one who maintains standards. No one at GSA seemed interested in playing the part of the grown-up, either.

Why? Why did they think this is OK? They seemed mildly decadent. Or proudly decadent. In contrast to you, low, toiling taxpayer that you are, poor drudges and drones.

via America’s Crisis of Character – WSJ.com.

HT:  Doug Reynolds


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