Makers vs. Takers, in the World Series of Love

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Andrew Sullivan cogitates on the middle-distant future of conservatism:

The new cultural divide will not be on guns, gays and God. It will be between the makers and the takers, the producers of wealth and the recipients of redistribution.

Seriously?  I certainly hope so, as does every liberal, progressive, and Democrat across our great land.  Because if that’s the divide, conservatism and the GOP is going to find itself very, very marginalized and unhappy.

Sullivan is falling back into hoary conservative tropes with this “makers vs. takers” business.  His problem is that the great wizard’s curtain has been very publicly pulled away.  It’s now spectacularly clear to everyone that, contrary to equally hoary conservative doctrine:

makers ≠ the wealthy

I’m aware that by Sullivan’s definition of “makers” — the makers of money — that makes no sense.  Of course the wealthy are the makers.

But that’s Sullivan’s problem.  The meanings of the terms have shifted.  Thanks in no small part to this banking crisis, Sullivan’s definitions of “makers” and “takers” are not widely shared by Americans.  To most of us, “makers” are the makers of things.  That is, the people who actually do work, who actually produce goods and services that are actually of value.  Those folks are not wealthy and would be the beneficiaries of redistribution.

People who sit at a trading terminal and game the markets are not makers.  They are, in fact, takers.  Those folks are wealthy, and would see their wealth decline in a more redistributive system.

Everyone is now painfully aware of those facts, and I don’t think they’ll forget again for a good long while.  So if Sullivan is counting on making conservative political hay off a “makers vs. takers” redistribution debate, I think he’s in for a rude surprise.

He continues:

And it will be about tempering the over-reach that the Democrats will be unable to resist. But that means the critique should not be undermined by mindless partisanship now, and it should be based upon clear and constructive policy proposals to advance individual liberty and restrain the cold, clammy hand of the state.

I could imagine him being right if he were looking for this argument to happen way off in the far, far distant future, because there’s absolutely no doubt the Dems will overreach or otherwise royally screw up the task of governance, just like the GOP has just done.  It’s the nature of things.  But Sullivan doesn’t seem to be thinking of the far, far distant future.  He seems to be thinking of a 3-5 year time frame.

To which I can only say: if this Shiny Happy Laissez-Faire vs. Cold Clammy State debate happens that soon, I’m pretty sure he’s not going to like the outcome.

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3 Responses to “Makers vs. Takers, in the World Series of Love”

  1. urbino Says:

    And about half an hour after I posted this, Sullivan posted a similar criticism emailed to him by a reader.

  2. michaellasley Says:

    I get the impression (not from serious conservatives thinkers, but the O’Reilly’s and whatnot) that that conversation — the last sentence — is one they want to have now. Am I wrong to have that impression?

  3. urbino Says:

    It seems that way to me, too. In their case, I think it’s just sort of a reflex; they don’t know any better.

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