So Pat Deneen—on the distinguished ISI honors listserv thing—responded to my post below:

Peter makes the very un-Tocquevillian point that the Republicans should ” work on the upside of devolving what entitlements there are to individuals.”

I rather thought Yuval Levin made a better, and more Tocquevillian case during the election - not how we should all become more self-reliant, but in what ways a conservative party would be truly supportive of families, churches and local communities.

I think Yuval engages in some wishful thinking in his underlying assessment that the Republicans are the party of associations and intermediate associations - they may be that, at least some of the time, but very few people were able to hear that. Frankly, both parties have become fairly committed to a fairly individualistic message (life of Julia vs. John Galt). It may be that there’s more than a rhetorical problem here.

Here is what I responded, in the spirit of instructive intramural pro-wrestling:

So I have no idea what in Patrick’s long post really is critical of my short point.

My point had mainly to do, obviously, with health care. Employer-based health care is unjust (regressive)—because it sticks it to the self-employed in several ways—and almost surely unsustainable. Single-payer health care is both unsustainable and would obviously undermine familial responsibility and all that. So health care, as Yuval says, has to devolve to individuals buying their own policies with means-based government subsidies. This, of course, would help out those inidividuals who choose to buy insurance through church-run associations or even (an interesting new TV show) “the Amish mafia.”

Most Porchers want to use libertarian means to achieve non-libertarian ends. (See the rampant and sometimes silly Ron and Rand Paulism of THE AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE magazine.)

The Porcher homeschooling on his family farm with his goats and all the kids in the family bed would, in fact, be self-employed and benefit greatly from this necessary reform. He could afford to buy his kids insurance and keep them from lining up at the public health clinic for shots and such.

And don’t forget I said it’s NOT altogether good that unions, pensions, tenure, and employer and employee loyalty don’t have much of a future. But they don’t.

I’m for tax policies that favor having kids—and don’t forget that Bush gave us one—but don’t think they will actually generate more kids (see Europe). And in any case: The self-employment tax guarantees that the self-employed guy with kids still pays as much as Romney. So again a reform that would reduce the burden on the self-employed individual actually promotes freeing oneself up from bureaucracy for familial self-reliance.

I have to admit, of course, that the Galt vs. Julia issue is not wholly rhetorical. But it also seems to me that it functions sometimes as a relatively poor reason for conservatives traditionalists and orthodox Catholics not to vote Republican. I concede that the Galt plus Julia party—lots of the swing voters—is the one on the move in our country.

More on: Etcetera

Articles by Peter Lawler

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