The rose-colored world of Cloward-Pivens

The Cloward-Pivens Strategy describes one way of causing civil unrest: by straining the walfare system to the breaking point.  We’ll quote Wikipedia, since it tends to view everything on the left side of politics with incredible leniency:

The Cloward–Piven strategy is a political strategy outlined in 1966 by American sociologists and political activists Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven that called for overloading the U.S. public welfare system in order to precipitate a crisis that would lead to a replacement of the welfare system with a national system of “a guaranteed annual income and thus an end to poverty”.

Interestingly enough, the strategy was designed to force the Democrats to basically put up or shut up.  Conservatives weren’t even considered, since they could be relied upon to respond predictably:

The authors pinned their hopes on creating disruption within the Democratic Party:

“Conservative Republicans are always ready to declaim the evils of public welfare, and they would probably be the first to raise a hue and cry. But deeper and politically more telling conflicts would take place within the Democratic coalition…Whites – both working class ethnic groups and many in the middle class – would be aroused against the ghetto poor, while liberal groups, which until recently have been comforted by the notion that the poor are few… would probably support the movement. Group conflict, spelling political crisis for the local party apparatus, would thus become acute as welfare rolls mounted and the strains on local budgets became more severe.”[5]

I always find it interesting that the progressive ideology (unless you think that Cloward and Pivens were more communist–a possibility, to be sure, but let’s just call them progressive for now) recognizes the divisions of people in its coalition, and uses those differences to its advantage, but believes the other side is monolithic and lockstep in its thinking.  It comes across both as incredibly cynical, and exceptional rose-colored at the same time.

Let me me be clear: Cloward-Pivens wants to change the system by causing it to fail. Their goal is civil unrest, a very euphemistic way to say rioting and violence.  They believe the politicians will cave rather than see the cities burn, and to be fair, they might be right. But the strategy is also short-sighted, and even optimistic to the point of willful blindness, because they believe they know the outcome.

Socialists, communists, and progressives suffer this strange optimism often enough.  If they just start the revolution, or change the thinking, or get their agenda passed, then everything will end up closer to what they want, which is easily defined as power.  Power to force people to make good decisions, and punish those who disagree. Power to make the perfect world, the one they just know is good and right and better than anything ever seen.

But all those people who are so predictable… aren’t.  Especially in America.  We have this ornery streak that runs through every strain of political thought and ideology, that often comes out as stubborn intractability, but cannot be ignored.  The reason for my post yesterday is because it is a very American solution to the problem.  You want to favor non-citizens?  Fine.  Prove that I am a citizen.

Progressives tend to think the masses, the ignorant unwashed, the fly-over areas, are all sheep to be led.  I’m not sure what their proof is.  A higher percentage of church-goers? Opiate of the masses, so they say.  Have none of them noticed the proliferation of denominations in America?  If you like your church, you can keep your church.  If not… you go out and start your own. Or join one that teaches closer to what you believe.  Hell, I live in Utah, that theocratic state of Mormons.  You know, the one where the Catholic cathedral was built before the Mormon temple.  The one that has plenty of non-Mormon churches, voted for a lesbian mayor in Salt Lake City, and produces some fine craft beers. All too predictable.

I don’t welcome the fruits of a Cloward-Pivens strategy, any more than I welcome a civil war.  But I think that the foundations of our civil structure are cracking and will lead to a massive reorganization, but I for one will not bet on either side.  It’s not that easy to see. But I trust the American ideal of individuality and cussedness way more than any Utopian vision.  And you never know what those crazy Americans might come up with.


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