Friday, April 18, 2008

Still More Updates

And on basically the same topics as before, no less.

First, the discussion about Texas's raid on the FLDS compound in El Dorado, TX--and about the women and children caught up in the FLDS cult and the subsequent raid, and about issues of custody and definitions of abuse and the history of religious discrimination--is continuing at great length on a few blogs, both Mormon and otherwise. For the Mormon perspective on this tragedy (meaning both the suffering in the families and lives that have been twisted through their acceptance of this way of life, as well as the trauma and precedents which may unavoidably follow in the wake of Texas's effort to investigate and end it), check out further blog posts at Millennial Star, Messenger and Advocate, and Times and Seasons. For a terrific, contentious couple of threads that are arguing about the "outrage" of polygamy, check out Laura's blog here and here. (And also Rod Dreher's here.)

Second, the rambling discussion of Obama's "bitter" comments, which I thought I'd said my last about here in response to Patrick Deneen's brilliant summing up of the whole mess, may have finally come to an end. (And just in time for next Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary!) But before the week ends, there comes from The New Republic one of the truest, best, non-theoretical, just-the-facts bits of "true and defensible" populist criticism I've ever read. Let me just hit some highlights:

William Kristol wrote in his New York Times column that Senator Obama was "disdainful of small-town America--one might say, of bourgeois America." The problem is that small-town America can no longer be characterized as "bourgeois." Bourgeois people are supposed to own things. But over the past few decades, rural Americans have seen their ownership of their communities hollowed out by relentless consolidation in the retail and financial sectors--to say nothing of agriculture. While Obama is right to emphasize the fact that rural areas are hurting financially, the problem is not just cyclical changes in the economy but a deeper crisis of ownership.

I saw this destruction of local ownership happen to my own town, Grayling, which was settled in the 1870s as a lumbering outpost in the northern part of Michigan's lower peninsula. When I was born in the mid-1970s, the people in Grayling were still the owners of the town. Even though only a few thousand people lived there, they bought what they needed in a functioning, locally owned economy, in which there was only one business--an A & P supermarket--that was not owned by residents. Businesses were financed by local banks that were controlled largely by local directors, who made decisions based on what they thought was best for the community in which they lived. People were independent.

Today, the situation has changed dramatically. Although a few shops are still run by local owner-operators, the economic landscape is now dominated by chain stores, absentee investor-owners, and shopping malls in nearby towns. There are no longer any locally controlled banks. The range of available goods is largely similar, and prices might be a bit lower. But far more important than any statistic is the change in ownership and control. The simple truth is that the people no longer determine the economic destiny of their own community....

[W]hereas Kristol tried to compare Senator Obama to Marx (for implying that religion is the opiate of the people), the relevant political thinker to cite is not Marx but Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson believed that freedom had to be rooted in the kind of economic independence that can come only from ownership. A republic could be secure only if its citizens owned and controlled their means of making a living. Otherwise, they would be dependent on whoever paid them and thus not truly free. Government's role was to increase the number of citizens who owned and directly controlled productive resources. As Jefferson put it, "Legislators cannot invent too many devices for subdividing property." It is precisely this Jeffersonian concept of economic self-direction as the basis of political freedom that small-town Americans have seen slipping away from them over the past several decades....In the end, the problems of rural America--some 20 percent of the country--will not be solved until we rediscover the political and social value of ownership for its own sake rather than for the sake of economic efficiency.

As we bloggers tend to say, read the whole thing.

1 comment:

A Christian Prophet said...

I've been reading the hundreds of comments from outraged citizens at:

Also, I've seen the video of Texas Foster Care system horrors at:

Whew! What a situation!