A British Blog’s take on “The Politics of It’s a Wonderful Life”

If you’ve ever felt moved and even a little inspired by the old Frank Capra movie It’s a Wonderful Life, I highly recommend this excellent post at Westminster Wisdom. It’s good.

Cross-posted from Sustainable Middle Class Blog

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3 Responses to A British Blog’s take on “The Politics of It’s a Wonderful Life”

  1. Ginny Cotts says:

    Interesting analysis. I always cite one of Freud’s books Civilization and Its Discontents, as another example of how humanity is constantly trying to balance the two sides of our existence. The productive, orderly independent individual and the creative, chaotic, connected member of the human family and earth. Or, as I have seen the conflict for decades: the left brain versus the right.

    There is a distinct lack of full recognition of this in the discussions. That both sides are important and, as Freud essentially brings up, individulism was elevated to the competition by the enlightenment and subsequent changes in society, religion, economics and government brought about by the new scientific knowledge. I believe it created too far a swing to the left brain individualism, which some parts of society fought by clinging to religion in a very blind way. Mucking it up for the whole world.

    This is ultimately why we need the checks and balances that the founding fathers so brilliantly put in the Constitution. We need government – up to a point. We need freedom and privacy – up to a point. And the point shifts as new knowledge and technology change the environment and societies we live in.

    Ultimately, history teaches us that civilizations have been more likely to survive drastic circumstances and difficult environments when community was stronger than individualism. The key for me is in the balance. Can we learn to look at our problems and realize that we have moved too heavily in either community or individualism and need to adjust our government to correct the problems?

    We have so abandoned community in this country (partly in favor of nationalism) that our map is far more Pottersvilles than Bedford Falls. Which strikes me as ironic since a Christian connotation of ‘potter’ is poverty.

  2. Thanks for the feedback, Ginny. Well said. As for your following question:

    “Can we learn to look at our problems and realize that we have moved too heavily in either community or individualism and need to adjust our government to correct the problems?”

    The rate of change is significant. Grover Norquist and his club who want to shrink government to the point it is “small enough to drown in the bathtub” have a 30-year plan. They are patient, incrementalists. Their changes would happen slow enough for most peop[le to get used to. This is why point-in-time data is fairly meaningless and why we need to look at historical trends in data. In the movie,

    Clarence runs the trend line out to show George Bailey the long-term consequences of his hypothetical absence from the community of Bedford Falls.

  3. Ginny Cotts says:


    I think my question involves two pre-emptive concepts. One is whether the accumulative problems can be traced to a trend one way or another over a decade or more. The other is to look at incremental changes to see if some group is intentionally luring us to the slippery slope.

    The neocons have been accusing the Dems of wanting to gradually turn the country into a socialist state. What always got to me about Norquists comment was that it started with “I don’t want to do away with governtment,”

    Well if you are trying to get it small enough to drown in a bathtub, aren’t you going to do away with it?

    I think the other aspect on the rate of change that we need to pay attention to is that it creates enough chaos and stess in our lives that we don’t have time to stop and figure what is going on, what are we actually creating in terms of the unintended consequences of change. This insane busy-ness that we find ourselves in allows those incremental changes to get lost in the overall sea of changes.

    But I am all too familiar with trying to get people to look at what has been going on incrementally and where it will lead us – only to have them ridicule the consequences as unrealistic, overblown, etc. It seems like the oppostion intentionally goes out crying wolf or the sky is falling so the citizens get desensitized to warnings. It takes a crisis to get us to change our ways.