Thursday, February 02, 2017

Towards Thermidore

Thermidore was the eleventh month in the French revolutionary calendar, derived from the Greek word “thermos,” which means hot. And it was hot indeed, particularly for the French monarchy. Heads rolled after a particularly severe bread shortage in Paris, which was caused by a monarchy inattentive to an overtaxed middle class about whom Marie Antoinette reportedly said “Let’em eat cake.” Poor Marie likely did not say it, but this did not prevent the French revolutionists from cranking out convincing propaganda or, as we are now pleased to call it “fake news.”

Connecticut may be approaching Thermidore, that point at which the patience of a majority of the people finally snaps.

CTMirror pretty much comes right out and says it in a readable series written by Keith Phaneuf, AS CUTS GET UGLY, LEGISLATORS FORFEIT POWER, TRANSPARENCY.” 

“As retirement benefit and other debt costs continue to surge, some officials say there’s more at risk than higher taxes and deep cuts to key programs. 
“As budget choices turn ugly and voter frustration mounts, they say, legislators have been willing to forfeit some of their power and accept less public transparency, sometimes in exchange for greater political cover.”

Translation: Taxation in Connecticut, vigorously boosted by the Malloy administration, cannot keep pace with spending. The General Assembly over the years has moved spending cuts into a lockbox; huge swaths of spending are protected by the governing class. The legislature is at the mercy of a contractual negotiation process that continually favors state workers, i.e.  the Connecticut’s extensive administrative apparatus. However, Malloy’s budgets, almost always out of balance, can no longer be financed through tax receipts without causing ‘bread shortages,” i.e. reductions in services to Connecticut’s Democrat dominated cities, which contain pockets of revolutionists waiting patiently for the inevitable crash. And, to make matters worse, the middle class is also restive, because government in times past – alleging it has a revenue problem, not a spending problem -- has invariably taken bread from the mouths of taxpayers to support an administrative apparatus furnished with benefits beyond the grasp of anyone who is not a member of cosseted unions.

Herein lay the seeds of a rebellion against the ruling order. Metaphorically speaking, heads should roll, if only there were in Connecticut a republican (note the lower case) to arouse the discontented public, Donald Trump being otherwise occupied.

What might a restoration of republican government in Connecticut look like?

The government would return the Constitution State to a constitutional government committed to both transparency and an invigoration of representative government. Budgets under such a regime would be determined by a democratically elected legislature, and not by a governor who marches in union picket lines to show his solidarity with the very unions to which the Democratic dominated General Assembly has ceded its constitutional obligation to shape Connecticut’s social and economic future.  It is a scandal that final budget products achieved after Mr. Malloy has concluded his contractual negotiations with unions are automatically affirmed if, as often happens among cowardly legislators, the General Assembly does not vote within 30 days to affirm the often revised budget. A General Assembly that is constitutionally responsible for getting and spending should not shamelessly flee from their fiduciary responsibilities.

The Gordian knot of excessive regulation would be cut, and businesses in the state once again would be free to make profits and expand to create employment opportunities, thus providing necessary relief and financial independence to both middle class taxpayers and the job famished poor in cities. A good government is one that is productive of good, and the independence that comes from self-reliance must always be preferred in a republican government to a spiritually crippling dependence on an administrative state whose solicitude is usually bought by the highest bidder.

Because it is the culture that fashions politics and not the other way around, as many social progressives would have us believe, a republican government would recognize the extent to which a healthy government is dependent upon a populous that is virtuous -- and energetically so. Virtue, as the founders of the country understood it, arises from a social order that is deeply rooted in religious presuppositions, strong family units and what G. K. Chesterton used to call the “little platoons of democracy” – i.e. normative social and political battalions unmolested by an unnecessarily oppressive governmental apparatus.

We know such a re-ordering of governing is possible, because ordered liberty has in the past succeeded in pointing the way to freedom and prosperity for citizens of Connecticut. The fight for the future – which, paradoxically, also must be a struggle to recover from the past buoyant practices that made our state an economic and social pearl of New England – will be lost if the future is not wrested from those who cling desperately to an unmoored, unexamined and unsuccessful recent past. Indeed, this formulation – a future you can live in -- might make a persuasive campaign slogan for any republican whose mission it is to solve problems rather than passing them on to Connecticut’s children, assuming the kids will not soon bolt to Massachusetts, which now is beating the pants off us.  

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