How Government 'Empowerment' Corrupts
This lecture is one of four that Kirk delivered on the "Varieties of the Conservative Impulse." Kirk considered four main strands of conservatism united in their stand against the Leviathan state: cultural conservative, libertarian, neo-conservative, and general conservatism of the American people.
This piece speaks directly of the cultural conservatives and examines the roots of culture in Christianity. Of relevance to Intellectual's Takeout's section "Rome: Bread and Circuses" is Kirk's discussion of the corruption of culture through government action or "empowerment."
An excerpt below:
"My present point is that the principles and policies of the Institute for Cultural Conservatism are founded upon the Christian understanding of the human condition; and what they are determined to conserve is not nineteenth century Utilitarianism, or the twentieth century ideology of Democratism, but Christian civilization as it has been realized in American beliefs, customs, habits, and institutions. Amen to that. With this high aspiration, the authors of Cultural Conservatism advance programs for renewal and reform - innovative programs, some of them. That is as it should be: Edmund Burke remarked that his model of a statesman was one who should combine a disposition to preserve with an ability to reform. In that spirit, the ten 'Policy Areas' of the book are presented. But various readers of the little book have grown uneasy at a neoteristic tone in various of the proposals; and I am one such reader, in certain instances. Lind and Marshner recommend that the federal government authorize new 'empowerments.' They argue that empowerments not at all the same thing as the increasing of governmental powers and activities. This thesis they illustrate by a sentence borrowed from Mr. Michael Novak: Huge Boondoggles. Among such people-empowering actions by our own government might be cited the Homestead Act, the land-grant colleges, the Highway Act, rural electrification, the Social Security Act, food stamps, housing assistance, AFDC, and a host of others.
Should we rejoice at such 'empowering'? The Homestead Act opened up the West for exploration far too rapidly, sweeping away most of the national treasure of the public lands; the land-grant college subsidies seem to this speaker, a graduate of one such, a dubious blessing, for higher education should have been left to the several states; federal highway building has produced huge boondoggles and social mischief, often; rural electrification could have been carried out perfectly well without federal direction and privileges; the Social Security system, compulsory saving, is in deep trouble and a prop of demagoguery; the food stamp program has become a permanent sore and the prey of the racketeer; 'housing assistance' has been a dismal failure in the federal projects; aid to dependent children has given us, though unintentionally, an American proletariat (a condition described elsewhere in this pamphlet). Save us from more empowerment of this sort!"
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