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How Republicans Live with Themselves: The Entitlement of Hypocrisy

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The Republican disposition to identify with faith thus makes a great fit for the honor-based fondness for moralizing. At the practical end of the stick this means that Republicans find it possible, indeed preeminently rational, to declare to themselves and to the world that making money and being successful are the moral prerequisites to a healthy democracy. Don't laugh; there is a brand of Protestant theology gaining wide traction that stresses exactly that message. Apropos God's will that we go out and propagate dollar bills is the commonplace that Republicans fill the ballast of those entrepreneurial pyramid programs like Amway. Republicans are nothing if not thorough about their self-interest, even if that requires putting words in God's mouth.

When those from honor-based societies emigrate to our country they find a receptive home in business and, as evidence illustrates, do quite well, thank you very much. The critical and hugely important difference between imports and native-grown moralists, however, is the former's commitment to ensuring basic needs to all alike. In point of theory and principle, it is likewise dignity-based, though the honor-based motivation isn't quite the same as ours. They have never been able to approve of dependence on others, which is viewed as an unnatural burden reflecting a character defect. In their societies efforts are undertaken to avoid conditions that make dependence the sore spot for society that it typically turns out to be. The ghettos in South American urban areas are caused by the same conservative mentality that produces the American equivalent, and not because the peoples' philosophy of life approves it. When pundits suggest we are already a banana republic, that's what they imply, less the caring part. Elites everywhere create disastrous cults of dignity. We are at risk of passively abetting the very worst.

Republicans, while fully agreeing that dependence is a defect -- the work of the indwelling Devil -- have absolutely no desire to work matters so as to avoid the problem. They prefer to permit the problem and avoid its consequences by devoting serious resources in the effort to insulate and isolate themselves. One reason they could care less about global warming is that they can afford to avoid the consequences. These consequences and justifications amount to creating the finest Venetian blinds for their glass houses. The end result, of course, is a blindness both to humanity and to the rudimentary responsibilities that all honor-based societies have always and everywhere acknowledged.

The land of opportunity

Opportunity, to hear it from Republicans, is a meow that miraculously transduces across phyla in order to exchange mean barks with the underclass once Republican policies are doing what they do so well. Should opportunity dilute the potential for profit, whether by capitalist competition or government doles, Republicans are not well for it. In between the capitalist and government variations on profit dilution is the concept of stewardship. In theory, corporate entities benefit in many ways from an honest attempt at stewardship. It exists to prevent collateral damage from concentrated power; it helps the corporate brand by enhancing respectability, and augments sustainability through conduct the integrity of which solidifies trust in the corporate management.

Republicans welcome branding that increases market share, and predictably detest all else, whence the corporate charter, which implies all of this, has been gutted by the courts in deference to arguments from high dollar industry lawyers arguing that stepping on the brakes equates to slippery slopes and falling skies. Judges routinely buy into this in part because they are not taught the reality of law's dependence on stewardship and the offices protected thereby. Were stewardship the term of legal art applied to offices in general rather than the narrowly prescribed application to union bargaining, Republicans would not get away with the worst of what they do by nature.

All of which speaks poorly of lawyers, of courts, of corporate business (and we're really just warming up). J. P. Morgan famously decried stewardship (providing employment was stewardship), and according to some helped to fashion conservatism into the mantra that it remains today for Republicans: financial prowess coupled with commitment to religion and the facilitation [entitlements] of high culture. Thus there is widespread apoplexy when liberals, who merely ask on the basis of inherent dignity for equal opportunity, call for spending that would ensure an even playing field. Republicans have never been interested in an even playing field excepting when it benefits them and them alone. It's high time we all understood this for the reality that it is. You cannot explain reality apart from this unpleasant fact.

A further honor-based feature shared by Republicans is the supreme joy in identifying with greatness. Russians exemplify the style, with their hero worship of chess masters and allowance for the acknowledged wayward behavior of prima donnas. Regardless who it is that Republicans want to identify with and emulate, I am going to exercise a novelist's prerogative and name the most appropriate, the same J. P. Morgan already mentioned. Even the glorifying biographer John K. Winkler had to declare at least a few solid facts that will brand the Republican ideal. "He took what he wanted. His code was his own. He did things that today could not be defended in law or morals. But, for his time and generation, he played the game and played it fairly." When Wall Street claims that the public just doesn't "get it', they are referring to the game they all play. Doesn't really go very far, does it? Fair for a den of thieves seems closer to the truth.

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Winkler also offered an apt metaphor capturing the temper of our own time, when remarking on the Roosevelt-Morgan feud: "Friends of both sought to bring them together. There were many meetings, but no fusion of friendship. To Roosevelt, Morgan was a man whose talents were devoted entirely to entrenching the power of organized capital. To Morgan, Roosevelt was a gentleman gone wrong -- a man who sacrificed all the privileges of his class for common applause."  

Too many liberals and some independents naively expect warring entities to become purple. "We're all purple,' announced President Obama years back. Nice words to get elected, not so accurate for truth-telling. No conscious liberal is going to metaphorically bed up with Hitler and then accept the shame that befitted Chamberlain. The friendships between those holding mutual political offices are for show. Professionalism is supposed to do the rest based on the rules of offices that demand the job get done at a high standard. It is only the lack of accountability and the ugly composition of the Republican presence that foils efforts at rational compromise.

Morgan's impression of Roosevelt was not based in fact but in moralistic terms. In classic honor-based theory, outsiders are as good as inhuman, at a minimum barbarian. His words were high moralism meant to enshrine felt entitlement. In sum, the 'opportunity' of America is for the powerful to be an acolyte of 'high culture'. To a Republican it also smacks of entitlement on steroids. Opportunity for the underclass is a useful locution -- for getting votes. The economic arguments suggesting that the underclass is helped by jobs created by Republican policy are a sham. The underclass is being used and abused.

Fifty years ago Republicans didn't used to be quite this extreme. Even Richard Nixon favored a guaranteed national income. Never mind the fact that it is a built-in stimulus package that can only put money in Republican pockets and seriously reduce the downside of down-turns in the business cycles. None of that fluffy stuff for today's Republicans, Their objection is moral, not economic or political. They, like their honor-based counterparts, are disposed to be moralistic. They get away with this nonsense because their underclass rigidly adheres to self-help credos along with much else in the honor-based litany.

What remains unexplained is that equal opportunity presupposes reliance on self-help. Why on earth wouldn't Republicans support opportunities that lead to self-help? I can't imagine any economist denying that competition at the level of opportunity wouldn't result in greater productivity across the board. The liberal position is that, given the nature of reality and of Republicans, such opportunity comes at a cost a portion of which society may have to pay for through taxation. Brown v. Board of Education was addressing this very issue. Separate schools were not offering equal opportunity and it was a cruel joke to suppose otherwise. The idea that property taxes would support schools was an attempt to equalize opportunity, but the desire to throw any amount of money at an education that granted status and a better college (etc & etc.) meant that those who could, moved into neighborhoods where high culture, high taxes and great schools were the perfect troika, effectively replicating 'separate but equal' and denying the spirit of Brown. Republicans simply took advantage, and can't honestly be blamed for that. It was 'the system' that screwed up educational opportunity. But it was sheer manna for their ideological Weltanschauung. Except, that is, for Republicans who would not tolerate their angelic children mingling with the heathens.

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Of course if you have enough money you can send kids to private schools that are effectively college prep academies, and there's no arguing against that, nor should there be. That's how the system was designed. That's not exactly how Republicans want it to work, however. Republicans who fall in between ridding themselves of the heathen and the ability to afford the prep academy are still faced with paying the freight of a separate, private, education. They have never been well for that. Then they dreamt up Charter schools. Clever. Liberals saw what was going on and took them to court in Republican Arizona, no less, in a case that wound up in the lap of the five Catholic conservative justices who not unexpectedly handed the Republicans what they wanted. This business of Republican ideology isn't just a disease, it is a virus that spreads. After decades of this High Court politicking, lawyers are still able to ignore reality in favor of the happy mythic mantra that the Court does not abide mixing politics with law. Someone hasn't been to the clue store.

Writing in the Atlantic, Garrett Epps saw the majority [for the Court] defending the proposition that harnessing religion for "public and civil duty" is a great idea. He then wrote about James Madison's veto message of 1811, noting the clear parallel: "he sent back to Congress a bill that would have funneled tax money to a church in the District of Columbia to operate a school."   (Justice Scalia's version of originalism doesn't much abide legislative intent or the fact of vetoes on behalf of the people.) Back in reality, instances illustrate the creative ways in which Republicans have used the recent ruling to have their cake and eat it too. In some cases funds dedicated as scholarships for the poor landed in the laps of those already in the private school. Clever, these Republicans! They are out for number one. There is no such thing as doing what is right for the community or state or nation. They truly are apostles for J. P. Morgan. And they truly are proud of it. They are the entitled hypocrites of our era.

And why exactly are Republicans so attached to this curious topic? It manifestly is not helping the underclass, with the pitifully tiny exceptions of exceptional students. They want what they want and they want it for as low a cost as possible. Like everything else in the marketplace, morality is what they and the market says it is. Which is precisely the problem. They care for nothing but themselves, meaning that they use and abuse all else, justifying whatever they can on the morality of the marketplace. Clever, convenient, cruel and unconscionable.

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Mr. Herrman is a liberal philosopher specializing in structural metaphysics, where he develops methodologies enabling him to derive valid and verifiable answers not only in matters of the ontology of reality, but also in real-world concerns for (more...)

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One reason I wrote these articles was that so many... by C. S. Herrman on Friday, Aug 31, 2012 at 10:46:06 AM
Any member of the republican party must know that ... by Francine Caran on Friday, Aug 31, 2012 at 11:56:44 AM
You must be good with a hammer, Francine, cause yo... by C. S. Herrman on Friday, Aug 31, 2012 at 12:01:12 PM