Skip to comments.SOCIALISM AGAIN
Posted on 12/23/2006 12:29:02 PM PST by hubbubhubbub
A reader of this column recently asked what policies I'd recommend for the U.S. government. It is one thing to criticize policymakers. It is another thing to come up with constructive solutions. One of the reasons I don't generally offer solutions is my conviction that Western Civilization is approaching a dead end and must, therefore, turn around and go back to the last crossroad. The problem, however, is that very few people believe we're headed to a dead end. And no going back is possible until the dead end is actually reached, with all its attendant mayhem.
Over the past thousand years the West has "evolved" from the simple Iron Age economy of post-Roman feudalism to the ultra-complex global economy of today. This development occurred because economic freedom and governments with built-in checks and balances gave ordinary people a chance to build something for themselves and their posterity. But that wasn't all. Aristocratic and Christian idealism successfully mitigated the usual course of enslavement and pillaging. The lords and nobles of England, in particular, exercised a noble self-limitation (and constitutional restraint). Quite logically, the fastest development of wealth went to the freest and ablest societies, the ones least encumbered by tyrannical or rapacious overlords. England and its offshoot, the United States, were the leading countries in this process.
So why do I say that this process approaches a dead end?
My analysis has nothing to do with resource depletion, global warming or Marxian pauperization. We can all see that Western ideals of freedom have been eroding away. Welfare entitlements, environmentalism and wealth redistribution have proven irresistible. Liberty is giving way to regulation. The noble creed of aristocratic culture based on a mix of classical and Christian ideas has fallen before a demagogic cycle of political promises, a regime of gross flattery aimed at the common man, increased government bureaucracy, further promises, and further bureaucracy. The education system follows the logic of socialism, with a subtle tendency to indoctrinate the next generation. The economic system is Keynesian, with no long-term future and no guiding principle other than short-term enjoyment. Here the logic of Late Antiquity, with its emphasis on bread and circuses, finds its Electronic Age variant. The resulting culture presents us with a stupefied general public and a debased politics. Where there is a will to confront present dangers there is no wit. And more often than not there is neither the will nor the wit. When we look at immigration policy, trade and national security (particular pertaining to counterintelligence), the government will not admit that dangers threaten because democracy hasn't the stomach for tough decisions.
Obviously, this isn't Francis Fukuyama's "end of history." Modern man isn't so special, or so very clever. Our time is like countless others in which the price of folly is paid in blood and treasure. Under these circumstances we must discount what a patriot would like to do and consider what he can actually get away with. Everything depends on circumstance, and circumstances are going to change. And so it's a matter of the type of change we can expect. Take a look at the world today. The wolves are hungry and ready to pounce. The sheep are numerous and fat. The result of this situation is easy to predict. Furthermore, there is nothing to stop the logic of democracy from weakening civilization (i.e., the sheep); and as civilization weakens, there will be nothing to stop the barbarians (i.e., the wolves) from storming the gates as soon as the outward defenses are compromised.
Should we pray for a man on a white horse?
There are no more white horses, few men and no heroes in late capitalist politics. In the age of specialization the insects are firmly in charge. It is a hopping flea circus - broadcast live, with commentary from Gregor Samsa's kinfolk. Statesmanship has been set aside in favor of Lilliputian demagogues. Such are predicated on the language of ethnic resentment, class envy or environmentalist humbug. If the people know nothing of real dangers, the politicians know less. Jeff Stein recently interviewed the incoming head of the House Intelligence Committee, Sylvestre Reyes, for Congressional Quarterly. He asked Reyes whether al Qaeda was Sunni or Shiite. Reyes answered: "Predominantly - probably Shiite." When Stein asked about Hezbollah Reyes couldn't give an answer.
To be a policymaker today you don't have to know anything. All it takes is a teary eyed concern for a suffering planet and sacrificial victims like rich folk or Jews to placate an angry Gaia. Placebos are preferred to real solutions, since the political climber imagines that an ongoing crisis will clear his way to Olympus. Let's see how high the budget deficits will go. The sky is the limit, until the sky begins to fall. And let's see which political party is eager to commit suicide by taking away all the entitlements and benefits with the suggestion that "the people" take responsibility for themselves. To say there is a solution for a system so predicated would be, in plain truth, to utter an imbecility. We live well today, for the moment, because centuries of freedom are propelling us from behind.
So what is the solution for the young idealist sent to Congress by an electoral fluke? Like any condemned man there is only the option of a blindfold.
The trouble of our time can be spelled out in many ways. Simply put, socialism isn't dead, neither is the parasitism of its economics nor the tyrannical end point of its politics. The individual is weakened, the state is strengthened. The producer is punished, the parasite is fattened. Stupidity is flattered, intelligence is feared. From the supposed collapse of communism in Eastern Europe to the welfare sepulcher of Western Europe - the underlying theme is the same. And that theme is decline, senility and death.
To say the truth in these things is not defeatism. Who said the battle for liberty would be easy? Who misled us into thinking that history would consist of an uninterrupted string of glorious victories? Every struggle entails losses, and men must be strong enough to accept the worst as they struggle toward the best. If you cannot run, you walk. If you cannot walk, you crawl. If you cannot crawl, you wriggle. You fight on even if all around you have given up. Things are going to get very nasty before they get better. And don't expect a political leader to say anything truthful about the situation until our illusions are thoroughly extinguished.
Can I get an AMEN!!!
" Things are going to get very nasty before they get better. "
I'm afraid of what the "new dark ages" are going to be like....
I'm afraid for my grandchildren.....
From the supposed collapse of communism in Eastern Europe to the welfare sepulcher of Western Europe - the underlying theme is the same. And that theme is decline, senility and death.
He is so very correct. I would add to his short list of problems that the politicians would prefer to ignore, Social Security and Medicare. Politicians of neither party have generally covered themselves in glory, looking for solutions. But at least President Bush attempted a Social Security fix during his first term, only to be stonewalled and scorned by the Democrats. (In case anyone has forgotten, those are the folks who like to lecture Republicans on the virtue of bipartisanship.)
And then there are the nuclear wannabes, Iran and North Korea. Who in either party is now calling for the US to do whatever it takes to put a thorough end to their nuclear ambitions? It seems that most would prefer an unimaginable catastrophe later--under someone else's watch--to a serious showdown today.
Like the author of this somber piece, I am not encouraged about our long-term (or even medium-term) prospects.
I don't buy it:
If you are taking about an "aristocracy of merit" US society is far more "meritocratic" than it's ever been, and rapidly becoming even more so - witness for example the fact that vast numbers of minorities and women - who were excluded from almost all the well-compensated professions fifty years ago - are now achieving economic success, or that admission to prestigious colleges is far more a function of ability and accomplishment than even twenty-five years ago.
Or, if you are talking about the more traditional sort of "aristocracy",in which wealth and social position are passed down through generations, we are increasingly headed in that directions as well, with the richest one percent - and especially the richest one-tenth of one-percent - of the population owning an increasing share of the nations productive assets.
What's happening instead is that we are increasingly becoming a nation of class divisions, increasingly created within generations by differences in intelligence, "talent" and starting point, and across generations by inherited wealth - the problem is not that we are short of aristos, but that the position of our "yeoman farmers" is becoming increasing tenuous.
The difficulty with painting in broad historical trends is that it only allows for the broadest of conclusions. I would certainly agree that the degree of outright socialism within the movement in Europe for "social democracy" guarantees a fall, and that the fall will be accelerated by the imminent demographic changes that ensure that a decreasing population of the young and affluent will be strained to support the population of the elderly and the formerly affluent in the manner to which they've become accustomed (mostly by skimming off the top). Importing the non-affluent and non-assimilable is not a solution but a compounding of the problem.
There is an upside to all of this, and it is simply that socialism fails when it has nothing left to steal. A gradual slide toward socialism means a gradually decreasing surplus necessary to support it. This is a pain level that the "progressives" may not wish away. It is entirely possible that they might learn from it at some point.
Where I depart from Nyquist's gloomy considerations is that at least in certain very significant places capitalism is still very much alive and well, offering opportunity and creating wealth for those willing to forgo theft for merit. I would agree with Nyquist that capitalism's real problem is that it has been so successful that it has created a level of economic surplus beyond the remotest fantasies of the most luxuriant satrap in old Persia, and that this looks to a socialist as if it were an inexaustible natural resource ripe for redistribution along more "equitable" social lines. Those obsessed with doling out golden eggs will happily kill the goose that laid them and proclaim themselves the benefactors of men, at least until the eggs run out, at which time the egg shortage will be somebody else's fault.
The question really becomes whether the socialist theorists are parasites smart enough not to kill off the host or too stupid to stop the hemorrhage short of suicide. On the one hand there are ample dire warnings of failed attempts at socialism and are likely to be more coming up in Europe. On the other, these folks don't seem ever to learn.
But I remain optimistic. Perhaps it's only that holiday cheer, but I also think there's a large element of Carter's "malaise" at work as a result of fat and self-indulgent media that used to be society's gadflies and now have become an insufferable, nagging dead weight. To hear them prattle we're not only headed to Hell in a handbasket but deserve to do so. That's what the Off button is for. Merry Christmas, all!
"the education system follows the logic of socialism, with a subtle tendency to indoctrinate the next generation."
should read, "the education system is based on the logic of socialism, with a blatant attempt ( painted with the camouflage of sublety) to indocrinate the next generation.
I think the author forgets that Patriots are Patient... we wait for socialist to kill themselves before crushing them.
"I'm afraid for my grandchildren....."
I am afraid for my children; I don't even know if there will be anything left for our grandchildren.
Re: Mr.Nyquist, the phrase that leaps to mind is: "We see what we look for."
So an Oligarchy (sp?) from what I understand would only be a tool in the way an aristocracy, as you state it, would re-establish itself in modern society...
Maybe not here in the U.S., but maybe in the new "Europe" or Asia...
Might kinda bleed into us at that time possibly???
I guess I'm just not seeing how an "new" aristocracy could effect me enough to warrant anything more than a "whatever" at this time...
Don't get me wrong, I may simply not be seeing what you mean by this...
Could it be simpler to understand that you meant that the "elite" may just simply be "shining" us on just to make us feel like we mean something to the process???
I could actually buy that, if thats what you mean...
Interesting to say the least...
Simple, the addage uttered by one of the founders is true and come to pass ,Im sorry I dont remember which one it was but ,once the electorate figures out it can vote itself largesse it is over.
I suspect that J. R. Nyquist will not be invited to give his opinion on CBS news. He might wake up a few fleas to irritate the government's butt.
The mindless pursuit of happiness has overtaken vigilance for liberty.
That's what happened to Athens, certainly. Populists like Creon and Alcibiades pandered to the people, and the Democracy that built Athens into a great power degenerated into popular madness. As a result, Sparta won.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.