die and drive the pickup to town for arncloser look.rnBill Croke is a writer living in Cody,rnWyoming.rnPolitical Orgiesrnby Paul GottfriedrnThe Pohtics of Empowermentrnby Robert WeissbergrnWestport, CT: Praeger Publishers;rn272 pp., $45.00rnRobert Weissberg produced the presentrnvolume, on the concept andrnpractice of empowerment, almost simultaneouslyrnwith another monograph, onrntolerance, published last year. Both studiesrnhighlight the difference between a polihcalrnideal and its grim result—that is,rnbetween what people are told the idealrnconsists of and what they ultimatelv get.rnhi Political Tolerance, Weissberg showsrnhow the ideal of openness to dissentrnevolves from the simple acceptance ofrnparticidar religious or cultural differencesrnto the glorification of lifestyles andrnideologies generally considered as obnoxiousrnor even perverse, hi The Politics ofrnEmpowerment, he argues that a similarrnevolutionary process is at work, from exhortationsrnto help raise up the impoverishedrnand marginalized to the shakedownrnof those deemed empowered amidrna cacophony of claims and protests fromrnselt-cerhfied victims.rnWeissberg covers a daunting range ofrntopics, from the Empowerment Actrnpassed by Congress in 1993 for the purposernof providing federal funds to economicallyrnimpoverished communities tornprescripHons for participatory democracyrnand calls for self-liberation by black, feminist,rnand “homeless” organizations. Despiternthe distinctions to be drawn amongrnthese groups, all contenders for empowermentrnillustrate the ultimately non-politicalrnnature of the problems for whichrnpolitical solutions are sought. For thernmost part, “a decent case could be madernthat [the Empowerment Act] merely rewardedrnnumerous big-city Democraticrnmayors and was not a well-crafted instrumentrnto alleviate poverty.” hi one possiblernexception to this rule—the cit)’ of Detroit,rnwhich created jobs after an infusionrnof federal funding —Weissberg showsrnthat economic improvement resulted almostrnentirely from major auto industriesrnagreeing to build plants in Detroit, hi Atlanta,rnanother major recipient of EmpowermentrnAct funds, the use of federalrnfunds went primarily toward subsidizingrn”administrative overhead.”rnMost efforts at empowerment, accordingrnto Weissberg, lead to bureaucratization,rnincreased power for the centralrnstate, and little benefit for the supposedlyrndisadvantaged. There are two major reasons,rnaccording to Weissberg, why empowermentrnschemes yield these sorts ofrndividends. First, the advocates of empowermentrnprojects do not recognizerntheir own failure: “The term failure is almostrnunspeakable, and irrelevant; discreditedrntheories are cherished as valuedrnfamily heirlooms.” hi fact, failed plansrnserve “to justify yet more ill-conceivedrnforays bringing personal rewards and opportunitiesrnto propagate radical ideologies.”rnSecond, the problems that advocatesrnof empowerment claim to bernaddressing are often not amenable to politicalrnsolution: Some, such as the demandsrnby feminists that the state be authorizedrnto provide “a solution [to allrntheir grievances] by overthrowing patriarchy,”rnare Utopian and delusional.rnOther nonpolitical problems forrnwhich empowerment is demanded arernlow scholastic achievements among minorities,rninsufficient public attention tornmulticulturalism, and an unacceptablyrnhigh unemployment rate in urban areas.rnIt may be questioned whether any ofrnthese problems can or should be remediedrnby applying political coercion tornoutside groups. Multiculturalists are freernto celebrate whatever the’ wish to celebraternin private institutions or under theirrnown auspices. Cities like Detroit improverntheir financial climate by recruitingrnindustrial support, not bv extractingrnfederal handouts that are used to enrichrnmunicipal administrators. Those racialrnminorities who are unhappy with theirrnchildren’s grades or scholastic ineptituderncan organize themselves to tutor, or tornfind tutors for, the young. They can openrncharter schools that stress real learningrnskills. Finally, they can and do vote forrncandidates of their choice, who, as Weissbergrnnotes, devote more energy to complainingrnabout racism, while lining theirrnpockets, than to solving the crises forrnwhich they demand greater manipulativernclout.rnWeissberg raises the provocative questionrnof why blacks imagine that theirrnwell-being improves in proportion to thernpublic offices they hold. American Jews,rnas Thomas Sowell notes, acquired morernwealth and influence than Irish-Americansrnwhile holding only a fraction of thernnumber of political offices. One possiblernreason why, for several generations, Jewsrndid better professionally than the Irish,rnaccording to Sowell, was that they ignoredrnthe allure of elected office, whilernapplying themselves to occupations thatrndid not require winning popularit)’ contestsrnto control and distribute publicrnfimds. In the end, the Irish did well despite,rnnot because of, machine politics.rnThey entered non-political professionsrnand were able to prosper. The history ofrnthe Irish in America deserves to be notedrnby blacks who believe that once theyrnelect—or get a congressional act to providernthem with—enough black officials,rnthey will close the social distance betweenrnthemselves and whites and Asians.rnWeissberg further observes that orderlyrngovernment is impossible as long as peoplernbelieve that they can get what theyrnwant by mounting noisy protests inrnsearch of special rights and benefits:rn”The easy insistence on power breeds insatiablernappetites.” Though “conflict isrnendemic and healthy [in popular government]rn. . . it must be bounded. Democracyrnrequires disputes be ended and defeatsrnaccepted.” On this last point,rnWeissberg is right in principle, less so inrnterms of the example offered. He calls attentionrnto the argument—made by thernAmerican Founding Fathers, among othersrn— that inner restraints on factionalrnpassions must exist in order to hold togetherrna constitutional republic. Fromrnthis perspective, one is justified in castigatingrnmost empowerment advocates forrnarousing envy and factionalism as well asrnfor inciting the central government tornplunder taxpaying citizens.rnWeissberg, however, avoids the questionrnof how to halt the constitutional derailmentrncurrently taking place. My ownrnview is that it cannot be stopped, and thatrnthe present orgy of empowerment claimsrnis the inescapable outcome of a deeplyrncorrupt regime.rnPaul Gottfried is a professor of humanitiesrnat Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown,rnPennsylvania, and the author,rnmost recently, of After Liberalism: MassrnDemocracy in the Managerial Statern(Princeton).rnOCTOBER 1999/31rnrnrn