What ARE you lamenting for?

This post might be a little scattered.  I’m told I’m the twelve hour warning for this bug – throat a little sore, tired beyond all reason – and that two weeks of being rather sick follow.  So, I’m trying to do my posts on Sunday night, and will re-run MGC if needed.

This is one of the things that has been getting to me, though, and I don’t even think it needs to be a long post (though knowing me, it might very well be.)

Recently and pretty much everywhere, I’ve been reading Eulogies to America.  Do not get me started on how this makes me feel.  Someone shortly after the election texted me with “You must feel like the last person who got a ticket on the Titanic.”

But even then, even after the poll watching that got me very angry, I didn’t feel that was quite right.  I had a moment of despair on the night of the election, immortalized forever at Instapundit, and probably ending up as part of my funeral service, but then I started perking up.

Look, our strength is that we’re Americans.

No, wait, I’m saying this very badly.  It doesn’t mean we’re immune from being spun or tricked into socialism/communism (if anyone wants to argue the differences, have at it, but really, guys, unless you want to dissect the innards of “State ownership” or “government control of private ownership” or… there is no point.  Socialism/communism/ and let’s throw fascism in are all different colors of statist ideal.  They all believe that if you have “the right people” on top commanding the economy all the way down, the future will be great.  Their definitions of what a great future is; their ideas of how much people should be allowed to own; their choice of demonization victims and everything else may vary but in the end, it is all the same.  I don’t believe they have the right to decide in which manner the individual should be happy; I don’t want any part of their utopias – and all of them end up demonizing and objectifying humans, hating all of humanity and advocating for fewer humans. And all of them can gaze upon my middle fingers, as I hold them up. I’d rather die in a free society than live in their “utopias”) but it means that we’re less likely to stick that way.  As someone told me the other day, we’re neither Russian peasants nor German soldiers.  There are hopeful signs of what Glenn Reynolds calls “Irish Democracy”, including the simple, silent resistance to doing what your betters insist is best for you. There are mutters from above that we’re ungovernable.  Hopefully this will be enough.  We’re Americans.  We’re peaceful.  We don’t want to have a revolution.  If we need one – forbid the thought! – it will take more than this.

But the funny thing is, right and left, what I hear about America being in decline always harks back to the fifties as some form of golden age.  I can get this from the left – no, truly.  If you think FDR was a right winger, you’re insane – but from the right?  And I get it from the right, too.

 

Here are some of the signs of hope that I think are being mistaken for reasons for despair:

–          We can no longer undertake big projects.  Now, I agree that EPA regulations are out of control and that is an issue, though I suspect in the next decade or so, if there isn’t any other type of correction, this will become self-correcting. Smaller technologies, better remote-work ability, all of it require less big projects.  At any rate, the big projects everyone hankers over are always things like the hoover dam.  A big statist project, with tight government control.

–          The fact the US had little competition in the world.  Well, then.  When a war just left most of your opponents flat broke, you’re going to have a monopoly.  Take a deep breath.  Even if you wanted that back (and some of our elites might) it’s not likely to happen.

–          American schools just “worked.”  Sort of.  Kind of. Arguably education was better in the old days, by which I mean when communities hired their own school masters and set their own standards.

The state view of education in the fifties gave us the dismantling of public education in the sixties, in order to accommodate new “scientific theories.”  Education in the fifties (and sixties and arguably the seventies) is only better compared to today because this has been a process of slow disintegration.

The school we have now is not very adequate but at least, thank heavens, people are aware of it, and alternatives such as remote schooling, homeschooling and others are available.  There is hope for the future.

And the number one, unmistakable sign: both sides lament the loss of “unity”.  But there was never any unity, guys.  There was a feeling of it (and only in the second half of the twentieth century, caused by the left having taken command of all the means of communication.  Be glad that is gone.  If it weren’t, what it would mean is that right now we’d think we were in a recovery and that the president is a genius among men, and that we must be the only ones not prospering/seeing it differently.  Bah.  I’ll take my chances.

It is normal, I guess, to hark back to youth and by numbers our population is mostly aging boomers, who gave us nostalgia radio stations and nostalgia fashions and nostalgia furnishings – but enough is enough.  Nostalgia culture and nostalgia politics are one step over the line.

Besides our sixty year olds today can expect to live healthy productive lives for the same twenty years or so that their parents would have had at forty, back in the “golden age.”

Stop being nostalgic.  This might not be the best, in the best of all possible worlds.  The lies of state control being best for everyone are still with us.  (They have to be.  If communists/socialists/fascists didn’t have a good PR department, they’d be chased out of town with torches and pitchforks.)

But we’re headed towards more freedom for the individual.  Something that has not been true in all of my life before ten years or so ago.  And for right now, that must be enough for me.

My grandmother used to say Rome and Pavia were not made in a day.  (I have no idea what Pavia is, but I’m sure it was a city?) Neither is the recovery of freedom.  Keep calm and work towards the future.

133 responses to “What ARE you lamenting for?

  1. So: the ship is meandering around and is not in the best possible condition, and the guys on the bridge pay more attention to appearances than actual steering or what part of the ocean they are in.

    But you haven’t hit an iceberg yet (even if skirting dangerously close when steering between the ones around you right now, it seems the current bridge crew is using a crystal ball rather than radar and sonar – and not paying much attention to the compass nor even eyeballing the seas), and the ship is maybe dirty and starting to rust but it’s still a very good piece of engineering which just needs some maintenance, and not all of the crew and passengers are focused only on the entertainment.

    Okay, if I get the chance I might still transfer there. Even in the worst possible scenario, well, you seem to have bigger and better maintained lifeboats than mine does (gun culture, for one).

    But for heaven’s sake, try to find a crew whose members pay more attention to those icebergs, the sea and essential functions of the ship than looking good in the karaoke competition. Especially the ones on the bridge.

    • That’s going to take a while. The passengers pick the crew, and way too many of them have been suckered by the “free” buffet line (at which the crew are busy picking their pockets while the passengers are distracted by the food). And while every day, a few more of them start to notice what the crew are doing, there’s a constant flow of new passengers onto the ship, all of whom are being escorted by crew whispering in their ears how awesome the buffet line is, and to pay no attention to those meanies over there spreading nasty rumors about icebergs.

      We’re going to have to get some good crew into the new passenger welcoming committee, or it’ll take even longer to demote the bad crew back down to passenger status.

    • Jordan S. Bassior

      But for heaven’s sake, try to find a crew whose members pay more attention to those icebergs, the sea and essential functions of the ship than looking good in the karaoke competition. Especially the ones on the bridge.

      Great ending to your metaphor … 🙂

    • But you haven’t hit an iceberg yet (even if skirting dangerously close when steering between the ones around you right now, it seems the current bridge crew is using a crystal ball rather than radar and sonar – and not paying much attention to the compass nor even eyeballing the seas), and the ship is maybe dirty and starting to rust but it’s still a very good piece of engineering which just needs some maintenance, and not all of the crew and passengers are focused only on the entertainment.

      Upside, if they don’t know what’s going on they can’t screw it up.

      There’s a REASON night shift was the most popular one in every shop I’ve seen….

  2. “Look, our strength is that we’re Americans.”

    Yes – and we solve problems. Occasionally, defining the problem takes some time (and to be honest, a fair number of social/economic problems do solve themselves with time) but once the problem’s been defined, it’ll get solved – if there isn’t something preventing the effort.

    And if that something is a government dictate or ‘expert’ saying something can’t be done, at a certain point we go “Chuck you, Farley”, ignore the sap, and solve the problem anyway.

    I think we’re getting close to that point with a number of the stupidities coming from Washington these days. EPA regs that require massive expenditures for only miniscule improvements, healthcare requirements that double or triple premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for most, while touting really low costs for a very few – I think our political ‘elite’ are getting desperate to prove their relevance by passing more and more ridiculous legislation.

    And at some point we’ll just go “Okay, whatever…” and tell them “Yep, we’ll do just as you say” – while ignoring them completely.

  3. Well, judging by the photos of Pavia (near Milan), I can see why it took a while to build. They did a lovely job with it, too.

  4. I wish that I could embrace your grimly optimistic assessment. I happily would accept Professor Reynolds’ thoughts on “Irish Democracy” as a basis for hope, if the only objective was to make the country ungovernable. Sadly, the ever expanding power of a corrupt government in DC and the 47% (and growing) of the population dependent on that government for survival points to a continuing slide toward socio-economic chaos. The federal government stupidly will respond — is responding — to the decline with ever greater oppression, ever greater lies and ever greater tyranny because it lacks the capacity to solve the problems it created in the first place. The decline likely will continue gradually until it becomes sudden. Collapse will catch most of the population by surprise. When the final crisis occurs, I doubt that the desire to preserve a rotten structure will survive among any but the degenerate class that led the nation to ruin. Of course, if an Orwellian nightmare of a totalitarian boot stamping on a human face forever embodies the alternative to collapse, I prefer collapse.

    • For goodness sake, learn some history. In the Present things ALWAYS look like Impending Doom or Coming Utopia. Because we know how The Past worked out we tend to discount the blood, sweat and fears along the way. Right now I would say the US is a couple quantum levels above where we were in the Thirties. As for impending doom, I would prefer the Islamofascists over the Aryanfascists, even if the former manage to acquire WMD technology.

      Besides, there is no better game to be in so we might’s well work at doing the best with the cards in hand. Doom & Gloom may sell but they’re a sorry excuse for doing a little dusting and sweeping out the trash. You eat a leviathan one sandwich at a time, same as a whale, so keep your mind on the possible and stay away from the Chlammy One — he farts.

      • I’m not sure any major faith or cultural system lacks a long lost Golden Age – the Romans had the reign of Saturn, the Greeks had a version, as did (do?) the Chinese. Christians and Jews have the Garden of Eden, IIRC the Persians had something similar. Islam’s a bit different, but the Wahabists and Salafists still maintain that it’s been downhill since the days of the Prophet. Even in the 17th and 18th centuries in England and Western Europe, it was the glories of Rome and Classical culture (the battle of the Ancients and Moderns). Some strains of Marx (and EcoFeminism) look back to the days when all were equal in quiet, peaceful, glorious peasanthood [is too a word]. Now it’s the 1950s, or the 1940s (all on board with the war effort) or ’30s (the Depression was horrible but look at how we all got along in the CCC, WPA, PWA, AAA, TVA, and EIEIO).

        • It has never been perfect. No Golden ages, not really. If one thing was once better something else was worse, or most likely several other things. But perhaps the best times have always been those when more people than not were optimistic of the future and their chances because when people are optimistic they build. That optimism seems to be in somewhat short supply right now.

          So yes, while pointing out the problems is absolutely necessary I am not fond of the full on pessimism mode or of encouraging it because when people start to worry too much – but are not at the point where they might be becoming truly desperate – they have the tendency to either hunker down and wait passively or to start paying more attention to just having fun in an effort to ease their worries, and neither alternative leads to anything positive.

      • Jordan S. Bassior

        As for impending doom, I would prefer the Islamofascists over the Aryanfascists, even if the former manage to acquire WMD technology.

        Agreed, largely because the Nazi Germans were frightentingly-competent. The Muslim Fundamentalists are more on the order of The Three Stooges trying to plan Barabarossa.

  5. I’d be a lot more optimistic if Charles Murray hadn’t done such a good job of documenting a growing cultural split in Coming Apart. We’ve got a growing white underclass that have lost values like marriage, work, and religiosity. The effects really are catastrophic.

    Murray points out that this really wasn’t true in the fifties. (Yeah, I guess I had to say it.) Rich and poor lived surprisingly similar ways. Yeah, if you were filthy rich, your dinner was brought by servants on fine china — but it was the same steak and potatoes the poorer family down the street was having for dinner. (Yes, he gives more substance than that to the observation. It’s his “for example” to make the idea concrete.)

    Murray traces the beginning of the underclass to about 1960. The beginnings of the Great Society.

    I suppose it’s no surprise that Murray, a former Peace Corps volunteer who was married for a time to a Cambodian woman and who regularly attends Quaker services with his current wife, is somehow a reactionary conservative, at least to The Nation crowd.

    The split worries me. Deeply.

    • Sigh. Read history again. What were Negro slaves if not an underclass? And do not confuse the fact, many of them were willing and even supportive of the system. There’s nothing new about the disparities Murray notes, except perhaps who is this era’s chosen underclass.

      That it is white males this time around should be no surprise to anybody watching the nonsense being paraded as wise thoughts in our universities where women are taught that they are strong, they are invincible, they are incapable of confronting a statue of a sleepwalking male in tidy-whiteys (the embodiment of the oppressor) and if a gal gets a guy drunk and impales herself on him — he is guilty of rape.

      But it is temporary and resistance is not futile; all tides ebb and so will this one.

      • Murray deliberately restricted the bulk of his book to whites, to avoid charges that his writings were somehow racist.

        He notes towards the end that the growth of the black underclass parallels that of the white underclass.

        This white underclass has almost nothing to do with feminism at the universities. It has much more to do with the Great Society. The chief effect of radical feminism at the universities is that the academic elite — which constitutes a very small if noisy segment of the national elite — is the only part of the national elite that is joining the underclass in rejecting marriage, work, religiosity, &c. in any numbers. That’s not a good thing, but it’s noise — in any sense you want to take that.

        I’ll qualify that a little. The tendency for the Great Society to encourage out-of-wedlock births is a feature that radical feminism has significantly enabled.

        I highly recommend reading Murray’s book. I can’t do justice to it in a comments thread.

        No, resistance is not to be disdained as futile. For those with religious convictions at odds with the current zeitgeist, which is an increasingly good description of myself, resistance is a sacred duty.

      • What were Negro slaves if not an underclass?

        Not a self-growing one, though– the problem with the “underclass” involved is that it can and will continue on its own, eating the seedcorn.

        Contrast the classic trailerpark single mother of four who have a dozen possible fathers, vs the married mother of four who not only know who the father is but have him come home each night. No matter what color is put on ’em, the probable results are extremely predictable.

        I’d say there was still an ‘underclass’– picturing Victorian hookers and bums. That’s a pretty small group, though, relative to the folks forming actual families. (And yeah, I know it was kept small by death.)

  6. The ACA law is causing ME to worry that the future my husband and I saved for will be hounded by government-induced surprise expenses.

    ACA reached right into my pocket. According to the arguments which the government lawyers made to John Robert’s Supreme Court, I must pay more so others can pay less. Now I worry that the future my husband and I saved for will be hounded by other government-induced surprise expenses.

    About 20 years ago we took the family to vacation on a Caribbean island. One cloudy day the kids & I took a battered VW bus taxi to the village for an indigenous lunch. It was fabulous. I noticed that we were charged three times what the locals were charged for the same daily special. On reflection, I did not mind. These poor people lived in a place where all the candidates on the ballot were kleptocrats. How lucky we Americans are I thought!

    If Americans are demoralized about what is going on I think you can credit it to our new ruling class voting for bills that fundamentally diminish the usefulness of financial prudence and in some cases, work itself. For example, I was a little surprised recently when I found out that a new acquaintance (from exercise class) is paying $25 a month for insurance that costs me $800 a month. This 50-something gal partied through life on pills/dope/alcohol and a couple of husbands.

    Is this the new new? Party party party, do dangerous forms of recreation, including recreational sex that promotes the spread of dangerous VDs, and the rest of us pay most of your medical bills?

    • I’m not going to dispute this. The ACA is a population reducing device by our “betters.” THAT part fine — and our politicians are the pits. But “society” — society is not worse than it was.
      As for ACA I feel your pain. I’m sick as a dog and changes to my doctor’s practice because of ACA means I can’t just go in and say “give me an antibiotic.”

      • Sarah, if what you have is a virus, an antibiotic is not a good idea.

        I imagine you know that, but just in case.

        If what you have is bacterial, then by all means. Gorillacycline the snot out of it. (Um, so to speak.)

        • And take the Gorillacycline until your prescription is done, not just when you feel better.

          (I once made a libertarian back off on the rule that anyone should be able to take any drug at any time with two words: antibiotic-resistant bacteria.)

          • Yeah. The problem with pure libertarianism, as opposed to the libertarian-leaning conservatism I subscribe to, is diffuse exernal costs versus concentrated benefits. Well, that’s one problem, anyway.

      • I am not convinced that society hasn’t changed. A society in which roughly half the population exists in a parasitic relationship to the other half, is not the same as the one — that did exist in the past — in which the vast majority of people supported themselves. Again, this change is largely a consequence of government malpractice, but it is real as are the consequences. Charles Murray (as Kent mentioned above) and others — at least as far back as Daniel Patrick Moynihan — have documented the impact of this decay. Even FDR acknowledged that government handouts were “a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human soul.”

        • Just because there is an “underclass” of people who chose to live as they are given incentives to do so, doesn’t mean that they’ve completely lost our American culture. It just means they see no reason to participate, compared to what they get right now. No matter how unintelligible a person may mumble in “ebonics”, they understand correctly spoken english just fine. They just choose to speak with the speech patterns to which they were raised.

          If/When the incentives go away, or change, most of the people will also change, after fighting to keep what they had they way it was. It’s human nature.

          • It is not likely those entitlements will go away before the economy collapses.

            • It is, if you don’t think of them as a solid block of monolithiciness. (totally a word. heh.)

              “entitlements” and “welfare” is a crazy-quilt patchwork of many different programs and agencies, that is a part-time job to keep up with and get the best out of the system. And a chunk of that is from the state, and local support. While the Fed may believe in pouring lots of money down that drain, and widening the drain, states often cut back as they get different leadership (or get broke). So there’s an entire subgroup of people who move from state to state, depending on the best available welfare at the time.

              However, when things get cut back, there’s also another group who find that spending the equivalent of a part-time job to hold onto what’s left is harder than gainful employment, and do that.

              Another thing we learned from Katrina is that refugees cut off from their culture are more likely to adapt to the predominate culture where they land. Solid blocks of urban slum-dwellers who moved to Texas and got on welfare there remained a solid block of urban slum-dwellers, with their own culture not native to texan urban slum-dwellers. However, there were plenty of cases where people used the change to leave their past behind them and take the opportunity to be who they wanted instead of who they felt trapped into being… and they ended up better for it.

              So, I don’t worry about “the entitled class” and “the underclass” as much as some, due to repeated exposure.

              • Okay, this is of course the situation as it looks where I live: fact is I could probably live better, and have more money to use daily if I gave up trying to work and started living off the benefits I am entitled to (according to local laws and other rules – no, I don’t think ‘entitled’ as by some nebulous universal right). And it’s tempting. And part of the reason why it would be easier in some ways is that figuring out lawful ways to make a living right now, when the employers are not hiring much, is difficult. Which is due, in great parts, to all the red tape you encounter if you try to do anything by yourself, not as an employee to some big firm. And I am not very employable anymore since pretty much everything I have been doing has been stuff which require being in good physical shape, and I no longer have that.

                Part of the reason why I haven’t gone on the dole is that I don’t trust the system and its durability all that much, and I am worried that it might be a lot harder to adjust if it does crash in my lifetime if I have already spend years on it.

                The other part is that the damn system is pretty much like living at home when you were a teenager, you’ll have to tell mommy and daddy all the details of how much you used and where you used it and how much you need and exactly for what you need it. And it is degrading.

                Perhaps that game feels easier for those ones who approach it as a con game, and some would undoubtedly keep playing cons even in a situation where making a living on your own became easier, but I think there are also lots of people who’d jump at the opportunity to get off the dole and became their own men and women, or at least try, if it was simpler. Right now one of the big hurdles is the fact that it is simple only if you can do it by working for somebody else. Becoming an entrepreneur, even very small scale one, can be pretty damn complicated, and not that many dare to try it here anymore.

                It’s, to a great extent, forced helplessness, one part of it being that it’s nearly impossible to try something without committing to it – you can’t, for example, see if you could find customers for a small scale taxi service, like perhaps driving your neighbors to and from places because you just can’t do that, not if you get money for it, period, without first obtaining a bunch of permits and registering as a firm and so on. So, if you do all the preliminary work and then find out that it doesn’t pay enough? Tough shit. And in this country, most likely also debt (personal bankruptcy is not possible here).

                • started living off the benefits I am entitled to

                  … started living off the benefits which are available to me.

                  Except, as you note, someday that cage door will surely be closed with you inside.

                  • Heh. I did try to clarify that ‘entitled’ as being something which exists only according to the rules as the rules are right now. And those rules will undoubtedly be rewritten at some point.

                    Which thought, by the way, can make that option even more tempting. As in ‘use it while you still have it’. Especially considering that I have been paying taxes which are said to exist in part so that I would have that option when I need it, only if I don’t use it now and the system crashes in the near future, well, I have been just subsiding others, and get nothing much myself.

                    Only I don’t like living like a teen (mom, I need money for this and this and this, can I have my allowance now, please?).

                • YOu just explained in triplicate why I don’t take SSI (or other entitlements). I figure if this boat goes under, I want to be ready for it, rather than be surprised, then thinking had something to do with it. Also, having BEEN on SSI warped the depression in a particularly pernicious way. This way, I have some dignity left.

                  • If you’re eligible for SS retirement payments but don’t need them, just give the money to someone who does. Kids if you have ’em (reimbursing them for the taxes they paid so those bennies would be available) or a scholarship fund like the MikeRoweWorks thing. Letting the Feds keep the money is like feeding the hand that bites you.

              • Sorry for the delay in responding, but I had to teach a class. I understand that the current welfare state consists of a crazy quilt of state and federal benefits. Nor do I dispute that for many recipients of entitlements, accessing all the potential benefits might be the equivalent of a part-time job — a totally non-productive part-time job. Moreover, it is indisputable that individuals will often choose to change the trajectory of their lives for the better given the opportunity. Those points, however, do not refute the larger assertion that the swelling percentage of the population choosing to live in a state of dependency — sustained by the forced expropriation of wealth from those who are productive — is altering in a negative way the fundamental nature of our society. This decay is exacerbated by the perpetual corruption and incompetence of a government that should be an embarrassment to all free citizens.

                • No worries; I’m home sick, so I have time but not sustained attention span. Good to hear you have work and are healthy enough to do it!

                  Ah, but I argue that these points do refute, most specifically, the charge of changing specifically of “fundamental nature.” I am saying that people are still fundamentally people, they’re still fundamentally American, and they are responding as humans do to the incentives temporarily available to them, and the society immediately around them.

                  When the incentives change, the society will change. The 80s came after the 70s; economies described as moribund and a country described as crime-ridden and “ungovernable”, down to the “we can’t fix anything, even oil, so put on a sweater” … suddenly wasn’t.

                  There’s a lot of pent-up creativity and energy in the American public, simmering quietly and waiting for a more favorable regulatory environment / less socialist leadership to burst forth. It’s already cutting channels in the bedrock and springing up in Texas, Arizona, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, North Dakota… and there are plenty of people, one household at a time, who are already picking up and moving to a better life. As change is forced on others by unemployment running out and bankrupted benefits being cut, they’ll be forced into taking that same leap – and being human, once they’re no longer trying to fit in with the local social group, what makes life best for them will encourage them to come off the rolls and start a job.

                  When the political pendulum at the top takes its next wild swing, (and it does; there is no inevitable trend here), I’m looking forward to a booming good economy and a completely unexpected change to our lives from some tech that might exist in infancy right now, but no one’s heard of or thinks about. (Who saw smart phones coming?)

                  • Sorry to hear you’re sick. Feel better.

                    I don’t think we are that far apart on the capacity of individuals to alter the trajectory of their lives for the better. That said, however, I believe that as the government makes it easier for people not to work and — tragically — makes it more difficult to create jobs, an increasing number of people will opt to take advantage of an unhealthy and unwise welfare system to gain their livelihood.

                    Needless to say, I do not include in this number those who truly cannot care for themselves. But, I would wager the number of people exploiting entitlements far exceeds those who truly are incapacitated.

                    I cannot believe, however, that the dependency of such large numbers of Americans on the government does not alter the fundamental nature of our societal constructs and does not undermine the proper functioning of the Republic.

                  • Keep in mind that even lazy people tend to not like suckling at the government teat for very long. For most (non-politicians, non-community organizers) the career ladder is disenchanting and the cost in self-respect is surprisingly (to Liberals) high.

                    That is why the hook is so often hidden in the palatable bait of entitlement. “The Man” owes this to you because (omit logical connection.) “This will leave you free of financial worries so you can pursue your creative dreams” — writing poetry, making movies, sculpting clay, eating Cheetos while gluing your butt to the couch watching your stories on TV or playing WOW with similarly slacker friends.

                    • There are some people who’d rather suckle at the gov’t teat than work. They are a minority. Most people would rather tend their own lives free of govt interference.

          • Dorothy is right. Regency England had a dysfunctional underclass. It went away later. (And now it’s baaaack.) Humans are adaptable animals.

            • The historian Gertrude Himmelfarb has several books about how the Victorians worked to make the dysfunctional underclass go away. Aaaand then along came the socialists and do-gooders and we all know what happened next.

              • Eventually the “socialists and do-gooders” got so frustrated with the problem they corrupted biology to create “eugenics” as their “final solution”.

    • “Is this the new new?”

      Why, yes. Yes, it is.

    • Is this the new new? Party party party, do dangerous forms of recreation, including recreational sex that promotes the spread of dangerous VDs, and the rest of us pay most of your medical bills?

      While this is not the way it is presented, it is the way it is viewed by the useful idiot masses. The ones in power think that by stealing from the rich, they can not only force everyone to be equal, but to pay for the abuses of the “liberated”. The low education masses believe this gives them license to do anything they want, and the “evil rich” will pay for it.

      The ones who recognize the truth in the statement, “Some day you run out of other people’s money” have this as their goal, because then they will be the ones who control what we eat, where we live, where we work, and whether we are worth keeping alive.

      • At the rate the Boomer are starting to retire, often taking early retirement, the money is going to run out RSN. Even a resurgent economy won’t pull all those sixty-somethings back into the job market. And that kid who slid through high school getting grades just good enough to stay in the football program can’t step into the shoes of someone with forty years of experience unless it’s flipping burgers or construction.

  7. Your average free range lib/prog falls into one of two types. The majority are longing for an idealized permanent childhood where mom and dad provide their every need while turning a blind eye to a constant stream of debauchery and party time. The movers and shakers simply lust for control. They are driven to run things and progressivism or socialism is simply the vehicle they envision to carry them to positions of power.

    It appears to be a human trait to wax nostalgic about the past. We tend to remember the good times, and with every visit to our memories they become more special more enhanced. The bad stuff we are inclined to push away until it fades in the distance.
    I was born in 1951. I remember a whole lot of fear. Even with antibiotics there was rampant disease. Polio, lockjaw, a raft of childhood illnesses. If you travelled outside the US you had to be innoculated against stuff such as smallpox. And then there were those duck and cover drills. See a huge bright flash in the distance and your school desk might just save your life, but if you looked you would be blind forever.

    • I’ve had the same thought in your first paragraph for a while, using the left’s own terms, I call then the Proles and the Party. The Proles want to suck at the government teat, and the Party wants the Proles’ votes, and thus cater to them in ways that concentrate power in their hands.

  8. As one who lived through the Sixties and Seventies, I assure you youngsters that this ain’t nothing. Frankly, the corruption in government is far less, we just see more of it being exposed. The stench at the bottom of the stable is always the worst and hardest to scrub.

    • Yeah, Twinkletoes may be mayor of Chicago, but he can’t hold a candle to His Honor Duh Mayor. The rule by fear and fiat has descended into petty political warfare, fractured and fractious, and the courts are growing bolder at smacking the overreach down.

    • One word: Detroit.

      Yes, it is as bad as they say it is there. I would know. I live less than a mile from the cities borders.

      • I keep telling people that our current Incompetent in Chief is NOT a Chicago politician. The Chicago Machine dodged that bullet very deliberately for a reason. There are bare minimum requirements for competency and an ability to at least look like you are operating under the cover of the law. There is a need to fill certain pragmatic aims that keeps the machine running. They still remember Mayor Washington. Do the research. The One and him are cut from the same psychological cloth, if their backgrounds are different.

        Our current Grandee is a Detroit style politician like Mayor Archer and Coleman Young (immortalized by the cartoonist Bill Day as “Detroit’s Real Crack Problem”). Like our Coleman, Obama has that teflon exterior that resists any criticism and magically turns all his critics in to cretins, due to no fault or merit of his own.

  9. INDEPENDENCE and INDIVIDUALISM? People who believe in doing for self and accepting help only when it’s absolutely necessary? People with a clear sense of right and wrong? People who are willing to fight, not just in wars but with fists in bars or on streetcorners if necessary, when they’ve been wronged? People who believe in th exceptionalism of their country and themselves? I don’t see it.

    We live in a country where the future, our precious children, are being taught that they’re dirt. That Americans are vile and corrupt because we live in a wealthy nation. That people who manage to make something of and for themselves are greedy, capitalistic thieves that didn’t build their businesses themselves. That the person of government is to provide services in exchange for tax dollars. That they should be ashamed of living in a country where very few people starve.

    *SIGH*

    I’m not willing to give up. Not yet. There may be a way to salvage this mess. Home schooling is a good start. Teaching our kids what to believe OURSELVES. Stop subjecting them to Leftist indoctrination starting at age five. Start teaching them the truth: That a government that has the power to give you everything has the power to take it all away. Everything. Including your life whenever they choose to. That a government that takes guns away from its populace is a government that doesn’t TRUST the people it governs. That more regulation and a larger government are NOT going to fix the problems.

    And yet, I am heartened when I hear stories. FEMA has been ignored when showing up after disasters. TEA Party members showing up to rallies where their movement is dencounced and demanding an explanation of what makes them racist. Then the people they’re talking to being unable (for obvious reasons) to come up with a single racist thing that the TEA party has done. And do you know what the highest rated cable news networks is? FOX. People are starting to pay more attention. The far left is out of reach. It just is They can’t be convinced because they’re not willing to listen. They’re lost. They’re also not worth the effort. It’s the rest we can save. They can help us fix this mess. It’s not too late.

    But we cannot wait another minute. I know it’s not possible for most rightist (or leftist and centrist for that matter) parents to home school their kids. Kids need to be fed and bills need to be paid. Money has to come from somewhere and, for those of us NOT on welfare, that means work. The thing that people HAVE to realize if we’re going to save this country is that education is as important as eating. Does that mean people should quit their jobs to teach their kids? No. But as the “smart kid” in school, I can assure you that it is possible to learn more outside of school than you ever thought of learning in school, especially if you can find a way to teach a kid something they’ll enjoy in an enjoyable manner.

    Seriously people, we’re here because we’re bookworms, at least most of us. Giving a kid who likes to read a book is a good, if obvious, way to educate them. Animal Farm and 1984 take on a new relevance in a country where the NSA monitors all of our phone calls and watches our email. The TV does watch us now. Ok, so maybe it’s the computer that watches us, but you take my meaning. Find a way to make the kid aware of what’s going on. Granted, it can be hard with younger kids. My youngest just turned one. She hasn’t learned to talk yet. It’s going to be awhile before I can fire her up to defend her rights from the government. But it has to start sometime.

    For those kids out there who *GASP* don’t like to read, find a movie. Or a video game. Professional sports are a great way to show a kid that yep, hard work will get you further than a welfare check, but so is the office building down the street. The guy who runs the food truck makes a good example. So does the fashion designer that makes the clothes that the kids wear. And, prepare yourselves, be prepared to use negative examples too.

    Not everyone who fails is a failure. Picking yourself up, dusting your self off and moving forward is a skill that EVERY winner has to learn. The fact remains that some people don’t even try. When you see a woman on TV talking about “Somebody has to pay for my fifteen kids” point out that SHE is the one who got pregnant fifteen times. Make sure they learn that this woman DID have a choice and chose to be irresponsible by not working and sleeping with every man she could find. When the news tells the story of a drug dealer getting shot, make sure that they know that it comes with the lifestyle. The three Rs are taught pretty well in American schools. It’s our job to make sure that critical thinking and a belief in personal responsibility are taught in the home.

    • Crap. Somehow I lost the beginning of this post. Here is the whole thing:

      I’m not sure that many of the people in this country ARE still Americans anymore. Don’t get me wrong. I know that, in most cases, they’re citizens who have lived her for their entire lives. But TRADITIONAL Americans? People with their own senses of INDEPENDENCE and INDIVIDUALISM? People who believe in doing for self and accepting help only when it’s absolutely necessary? People with a clear sense of right and wrong? People who are willing to fight, not just in wars but with fists in bars or on streetcorners if necessary, when they’ve been wronged? People who believe in th exceptionalism of their country and themselves? I don’t see it.

      We live in a country where the future, our precious children, are being taught that they’re dirt. That Americans are vile and corrupt because we live in a wealthy nation. That people who manage to make something of and for themselves are greedy, capitalistic thieves that didn’t build their businesses themselves. That the person of government is to provide services in exchange for tax dollars. That they should be ashamed of living in a country where very few people starve.

      *SIGH*

      I’m not willing to give up. Not yet. There may be a way to salvage this mess. Home schooling is a good start. Teaching our kids what to believe OURSELVES. Stop subjecting them to Leftist indoctrination starting at age five. Start teaching them the truth: That a government that has the power to give you everything has the power to take it all away. Everything. Including your life whenever they choose to. That a government that takes guns away from its populace is a government that doesn’t TRUST the people it governs. That more regulation and a larger government are NOT going to fix the problems.

      And yet, I am heartened when I hear stories. FEMA has been ignored when showing up after disasters. TEA Party members showing up to rallies where their movement is dencounced and demanding an explanation of what makes them racist. Then the people they’re talking to being unable (for obvious reasons) to come up with a single racist thing that the TEA party has done. And do you know what the highest rated cable news networks is? FOX. People are starting to pay more attention. The far left is out of reach. It just is They can’t be convinced because they’re not willing to listen. They’re lost. They’re also not worth the effort. It’s the rest we can save. They can help us fix this mess. It’s not too late.

      But we cannot wait another minute. I know it’s not possible for most rightist (or leftist and centrist for that matter) parents to home school their kids. Kids need to be fed and bills need to be paid. Money has to come from somewhere and, for those of us NOT on welfare, that means work. The thing that people HAVE to realize if we’re going to save this country is that education is as important as eating. Does that mean people should quit their jobs to teach their kids? No. But as the “smart kid” in school, I can assure you that it is possible to learn more outside of school than you ever thought of learning in school, especially if you can find a way to teach a kid something they’ll enjoy in an enjoyable manner.

      Seriously people, we’re here because we’re bookworms, at least most of us. Giving a kid who likes to read a book is a good, if obvious, way to educate them. Animal Farm and 1984 take on a new relevance in a country where the NSA monitors all of our phone calls and watches our email. The TV does watch us now. Ok, so maybe it’s the computer that watches us, but you take my meaning. Find a way to make the kid aware of what’s going on. Granted, it can be hard with younger kids. My youngest just turned one. She hasn’t learned to talk yet. It’s going to be awhile before I can fire her up to defend her rights from the government. But it has to start sometime.

      For those kids out there who *GASP* don’t like to read, find a movie. Or a video game. Professional sports are a great way to show a kid that yep, hard work will get you further than a welfare check, but so is the office building down the street. The guy who runs the food truck makes a good example. So does the fashion designer that makes the clothes that the kids wear. And, prepare yourselves, be prepared to use negative examples too.

      Not everyone who fails is a failure. Picking yourself up, dusting your self off and moving forward is a skill that EVERY winner has to learn. The fact remains that some people don’t even try. When you see a woman on TV talking about “Somebody has to pay for my fifteen kids” point out that SHE is the one who got pregnant fifteen times. Make sure they learn that this woman DID have a choice and chose to be irresponsible by not working and sleeping with every man she could find. When the news tells the story of a drug dealer getting shot, make sure that they know that it comes with the lifestyle. The three Rs are taught pretty well in American schools. It’s our job to make sure that critical thinking and a belief in personal responsibility are taught in the home.

      • A friend of mine, second generation teacher and Hispanic Texan, tells me that the Hispanic community in Houston, back in the 60s or 70s, broke with the public school system (for some complicated reasons) and formed their own Freedom Schools. It can be done. (I must say, the superiority of schools in the 50s – no social promotion, less bureaucratic nonsense, but also the fact that women had fewer career options back then other than teacher or nurse, so you got some really great teachers – and I believe in those pre-union days, teachers could reach higher job levels and get higher pay.)

        It’s the current school systems that scare me most of all – even without the political indoctrination, they seem designed to take the bored academically bright kids and turn them into tuned out slackers, convinced of their own superiority, and the stupidity of their fellow classmates. Just right to go on to college, get frightened by the hard courses like science and math and economics, since they’ve never had to work at school before, and then turn to the social sciences and “blank” studies majors. And then graduate with no skills, in a world with no jobs that will teach them any skills, and be set up to join the 47%.

        • But… math and science are the easy subjects. Not like those nasty English and History courses. 😉

          • Hey, I was a liberal arts major just so I could avoid that nasty math stuff. And ended up taking astronomy (math), statistics (math), fluvial geo-engineering (uh oh), and surviving a “weeder” biology course (physics, population statistics, and biochem [maaaaaatthhhhhh]).

          • Taking a humanities course with a math/science oriented brain means being nauseated by the postmodernist & Marxist taint the whole time. It’s not that they’re hard, they’re just harder to do if you gravitate toward logical and evidence-based reasoning. The trick is learning to have enough confidence to meet the nonsense head-on (knowing that it will crumble) while you’re still in school.

      • Here’s a crazy little thought experiment. Let’s say I live in a little cloud castle, or whatever, with 1000 people. Everyone is very independent, self-motivated & individualistic. We’re all pretty equal economically, so everybody makes an OK living, even if some have to work a little harder than others. We also help their neighbors, so if somebody has some terrible luck, there’s a kind of support network. In fact, people tend to be pretty charitable, because the culture of independence and individualism is so pervasive, it’s impossible to blame anybody who needs help for the fact that they need help. And if the worst comes to the worst, and somebody doesn’t get the help they need, they still feel okay about it — they really will suffer their fate, however horrible it is, with a certain gladness, drawing strength from both the knowledge that it is a fate which, in some sense, they have chosen, and the knowledge that in suffering it, they are exemplifying those virtues of independence and individualism which make the society so successful.

        Now say time goes by and my buttressed cloud-top paradise gets corrupted by an influx of people with a different attitude. They’re not wicked folks, they’re not lazy exactly, but they lack the values I’ve been accustomed to. Compared to the previous generation, there’s a lot of stuff they would rather not worry about, rather not take responsibility for. Let’s even say a lot of them are highly irresponsible, keep doing risky things, and expect everyone else to club together to get them out of trouble which they brought down on their own heads. Let’s say they’re weirdly clumsy and short-sighted, and they kind of bungle things, and bump into each other and fall into things a lot. Let’s say there’s, uh, 700 hundred of them.

        And there’s 297 of us, the old-fashioned types. Wait! That leaves 3 more. Who are those guys?

        It turns out that they’re 3 extremely rich & powerful types. They claim to be the old-fashioned, individualistic type, but there’s no way to know for sure — they’re just so rich and powerful, it’s impossible to make comparisons. They do seem to work very hard, so perhaps they’re telling the truth. But you never know. Anyway, the point is, these 3 rich & powerful types are happy to use their influence to keep the laws of the land so that they favor us, the 300 old-fashioned types. We won’t be obliged to club together when somebody gets in trouble. We’ll look after ourselves, and perhaps our neighbors. The other 700 are going to be in serious trouble all the time, because they’re going to constantly get themselves hurt, or sick, or unemployed, or aren’t going to save for retirement, or aren’t going to put something aside for an emergency, or aren’t going to get things insured, and when something goes wrong, they’ll be in trouble, because there won’t be much of a safety net.

        Maybe from time to time one of them learns from that experience, and switches over to our responsible, individualistic way of thinking. But it turns out that’s pretty rare. It’s more likely they start asking for a different system, one with a stronger safety net. And/or, in their bitterness, they start spreading upsetting ideas about what the castle is — vile ideas which, in particular, dishonor the memory of the castle back in the days when everything worked perfectly. Most likely of all, though, they get in trouble again and again, and eventually die without learning anything, except some heartache.

        The 3 rich & powerful guys ask me if I think it’s a good idea to keep going like this. (I don’t know why they care so much about my opinion: they just do). So the question is: do I let them?

        What do you think?

        If so, let some years pass. Now there are only 20 of us old-fashioned types left. The whole castle is filled with these bungling, complaining fools, who keep .

        The 3 rich & powerful guys approach me on my porch & thank me for my support over the years. They point out that they’re not even the same 3 rich & powerful guys as before: one of them used to be one of the complaining collectivist types himself, but he had a hard fall, learned his lesson, got back on his feet somehow & worked his way up. But the 3 guys just want to make sure, one last time. Is this the way things should be run?

        I really mean it. What do I do? Yay or nay?

        I gotta say for my own conscience, Jim McCoy, that I don’t think this thought experiment reflects reality in the least! It’s a thought experiment which concedes 90% to a worldview I pretty much abhor, unless I’m feeling really euphoric on that particular day. I just kind of intend it as a bridge heading over toward your sense of things, you know? For that bridge to bear any kind of load, it would be important to think about the experiment carefully in its own terms, before trying to translate it out of the clouds, back down to this prejudice-saturated earth.

        Anyway I’m way too mouthy tonight. Aaargh 😛

    • Mike Rowe’s Dirty Jobs is a great show and an ode to hard work and individualism, especially doing the icky stuff that makes our society go.

      • Saw a great quote from Rowe today — how the people he met doing all those jobs weren’t worried about who had more than they did, they were just doing what ever they could find to get ahead.

        • That is the basis of our country. Hard work to get ahead.

          Envy doesn’t get you anywhere. If you want to do better, then work at it. Envy is only embraced by losers who can’t do better.

  10. Jordan S. Bassior

    The fact the US had little competition in the world. Well, then. When a war just left most of your opponents flat broke, you’re going to have a monopoly. Take a deep breath. Even if you wanted that back (and some of our elites might) it’s not likely to happen.

    Very unfortunately, that might happen again. I once didn’t think it would, because I thought that the lessons of the 1930’s – 1940’s, coupled with the fears of the Cold War, were so obvious — and the strength of the Free World so great — that another World War would never happen in my lifetime. At most I feared one or two medium-sized wars on the on the Asian margins.

    But the West seems to be in the most delusional or suicidal mode that I’ve ever seen it,worse in some ways than we were in the 1930’s (it’s not producing immediate catastrophe mainly because our enemies are right now relatively weaker than they were back then). America has not only launched onto a course of diplomatic and economic self-destruction, but confirmed that course in the 2012 elections. Europe is admitting swarms of openly-hostile immigrants and destroying its own liberties in a quest to suppress any voices who object to this. India’s own democratic system has been corrupted in ways giving its own Muslim population an influence out of proportion to its numbers.

    Outside the West, our main international rivals seem to have embarked upon an utterly-insane course of diplomacy. Russia, with a declining demographic and Muslim enemies right on its doorstep, has apparently-decided that its long-term enemy is America and its long-term interests lie in blocking by armed threat any action to stop the Terrorist States from acquiring nuclear weapons. In other words, the one country that you’d think would have had a memory of the mistakes that led up to World War II seared into its soul at such a level that it would never forget it is reprising the NAZI-SOVIET PACT. If that’s not the definition of a national deathwish, I don’t know what would be.

    China’s, unfortunately, being quite rational in opposing us, because China’s own Muslim minority is relatively minor and in a totalitarian society easily suppressed: if they make too much trouble, they can always be assigned some new work projects that they won’t survive. They figure that they can get the Muslims to make just enough trouble for us that they can snap up some of the countries on their border. They may well be right, though I doubt they’ll get Japan — too easy for the Japanese to build missile defenses and offensive missiles.

    I think we’re just 5-10 years at most on our current course from an outbreak of actual large-scale global war, and if we avoid this fate it will be because of the tension being drawn off (and the Terrorist States themselves literally cauterized, as in many of their cities being burned to ashes and large portions of their populations killed) by medium-scale nuclear warfare on the Asian margins. Because of the massive infiltration of Muslims into Europe, this is probably going to collapse Europe’s economy; because of Muslim aggressions against Russia, also completely abort any Russian economic growth. Meanwhile, Pakistan and India are very likely to be two of the countries that actually fight an atomic war, and China and Japan might go at it as well.

    Come 2025 or so, America (and maybe Australia) might well be the only major industrialized parts of the world that don’t have significant damage from nuclear attack. Maybe (shades of de Camp) Brazil and the rest of South America will be similarly lucky.

    But — unless we get a really competent President in office in 2017 — I don’t see any way out of this. Obama is either an incompetent or an outright traitor — I can’t figure out which. A similar successor would be a disaster for the whole world. And we may GET one.

    • Obama is either an incompetent or an outright traitor — I can’t figure out which.

      Why does it have to be one or the other? Why not both? (For which we ought be thankful — consider how much damage he, Pelosi & Reid could have done if they were competent instead of simply venal, vicious and vacuous.)

      • This is true, but it also occurred at a critical point in time.

        I’m pretty sure we passed the tipping point, and that future historians will view our current position as the transition phase between the Republic and the Empire.

        • Nah. The third-generation blight (Fourth generation, with Obama, third with Reid & Pelosi) of socialism’s philosophy has corrupted that weed so it can’t flower. Empires need emperors to run, and empty suits (and empty chairs) aren’t enough for the job. Empires have a strong identity, a ruthless willingness to take the rest of the world and expand into it, sucking in the treasure from the newly conquered territories. These socialists? Oh, the old, canny ones do, but their empty suit in power bows to little tribal princes, and can’t even goad his populace into supporting a “short, victorious war” in the middle east.

          They’re on their way out. Pelosi is 73. Reid is 74. In twenty years, they’re going to be gone, and the bright, smart, canny challengers they want to take the reins of power (Clinton) are scarce compared to the mindless party-voter go-with-the-polls they’ve encourage.

          • Perhaps this is true.
            However, I don’t see it as remaining true when the beer runs out and the piper needs to be paid.

            I don’t know how long that’s going to take. Inertia is a pretty powerful political force. But I would be terribly surprised if the reckoning was more than a handful of years off.

        • Rome is a false analogy.

          • All analogies are false if inspected closely enough. :shrug: But (IMO) it’s not a horribly inaccurate comparison, which avoids the problems implicit with invoking what might be slightly more accurate comparisons from last century.

            • It’s incredibly inaccurate. Rome was always more like the USSR

              • The Founders saw many similarities between the Republic they wanted to create and the Roman Republic. They also understood that all Republics ultimately fall victim to corruption and tyranny. The crucial transition came when the citizens abandoned civic virtue and embraced the corruption.

                Do you mean the Roman Republic was more like the USSR or that the Roman Empire was more like the USSR?

      • Jordan S. Bassior

        Why does it have to be one or the other? Why not both?

        Heh — very good point! 😀

      • I have no idea if this is true or not, but Putin supposedly likened negotiating with Obama to playing chess with a pigeon: first, the pigeon knocks all the pieces over, then it, ahem, “poops” on the board, then it struts around as if it won.

  11. Hey, the memories from my youth include Watergate, Operation Frequent Wind, Carter giving away the Panama Canal, and stagflation devastating our local economy. With the threat of nuclear armageddon overshadowing everything, natch.
    I can be nostalgic about the small things (like just leaving the keys in the car’s ignition, with never a thought that someone might steal it), while understanding perfectly well that politicians have been seeking power over the polity for most of our country’s history.

    My concern is that history is no longer being taught.
    Children could learn about my state being founded by Southerners fleeing Reconstruction and/or not covered under the general amnesty. As well as Yankee “bummers” (Who’d fought in the ACW, then returned home to find their girlfriends married to others, themselves too old to apprentice, and unskilled labor a glut on the market.) As well as Mormons, who had their own resentments toward the federal government.
    They could learn about the appointed territorial Governors repeatedly absconding with the public treasury.
    They could learn about the violence of the Wobblies. In the name of “social justice”.
    They could learn that martial law was twice imposed, and that silver miners were forced to work at gunpoint.
    But they aren’t taught this. Instead, they get pablum and the secular religion of the supreme state at the altar of Dewey. They don’t know what they don’t know, but they have a state certificate stating that they’re educated.

  12. I’m not sure where they’re getting their portents from, but the whole issue may be moot:

    Norse myth predicts world to end this week
    Y2K has passed. The Mayan apocalypse has passed. But we’re not out of the woods, yet, it would seem. Norse mythology predicts that the world will end this Saturday, when the Earth will split open and unleash the “inhabitants of Hel,” one newspaper reported.

    It’s called Ragnarok, and the Vikings apocalypse, The Daily Mail reported. And the belief is that a series of natural disasters would herald in the final days, which then culminate with a massive battle that kills several of the Vikings’ major gods — leading to submersion of the planet in water.
    * * *

    Frankly, my money is on the Yellowstone caldera blowing, splitting open the Earth and washing the planet in a rain of fire, occluding the sun and creating a greenhouse effect that melts the icecaps, flooding the planet.

    Um, waitaminnit …

  13. Apropros to this message, I recently ran across this slightly different slant:
    http://cobb.typepad.com/cobb/2014/02/too-quiet.html

    This jumped out at me: “I am not compelled, and that is my luxury. I have everything I need for everyday, so I have begun to prepare for the extraordinary.”

    And that is my luxury. This phrase has been haunting me ever since I read it.

    Warning — the pic he uses to start the post is … gory … you’re warned.

  14. What’s y’all’s take on Ukraine? I keep waiting to hear that Moscow has offered troops to help quell the riots . . .

    Maybe I’ve read too much history!

    • I’m crossing my fingers that Czar Putin keeps out of it, as he did with the Orange Revolution. But I’m not certain, since we’re not as strong as we were then (Europe and the US, in terms of fast-response and perceived moral authority both).

  15. One good thing, in our American culture, is that we still celebrate the rebel. Even in fiction, the main character tends to be more the Captain Kirk/Han Solo type, the one who doesn’t play by the rules but still gets things done.
    Thus, the basic core of pure Statism, that the individual must lay down all for the benefit of the State, doesn’t really resonate with the people of this country. Ponder the shots from “Triumph of the Will” with thousands of uniformed soldiers in orderly, anonymous ranks. To Americans, an image that is both sinister and risible.
    Even the American Left still treasures its iconoclast and rebels.

    • The left’s idea of an “iconoclast” is Che Guevara and Mumia; they prize them for being ruthless and bloody, not for their independence.

      • That’s not entirely fair; not all of their rebellious exemplars are violent thugs. Most of them are useful idiots of one sort or another, but that’s beside the point. Still, the American Left does praise non-conformity as a virtue, at least from the mouth outward.

  16. Look, this is just one small thing, but. There’s a distinction between ownership and governance. They’re not perfectly correlated. By governance I mean the way in which something is controlled, used, invested, replaced, repaired, retired, allocated or whatever. Something — some resource, or service, or institution, or organisation, or category of goods, or whatever — can be collectively owned, and yet its governance can be done locally, transparently, informed by the right expertise, whilst subjecting the grounds of expertise to constant scrutiny, and giving appropriate weight to the decisions of all its stakeholders. It can be governed in that way, rather than just “from the top” (or “by everybody”). OR as you say, something can belong to everyone in theory, and yet in practice be governed by an elite, who may or may not know what they’re doing, but probably don’t. It’s a bit less obvious, but the inverse is also true. Private ownership can imply a flexible and at least potentially wise style of governance — where decisions are made right at the heart of the matter, where the right people reap the benefits or suffer the consequences. OR private ownership can imply a loss of individual freedoms, the dogmatic domination of governance by some small set of interests — whether that’s because of standardisation at the organisational level, at the sectoral level, or because of something more elusive, something to do with social and cultural norms. Sorry if that’s a bit wordy, I’m too tired to think elegantly & simply! I’m not trying to make any claims about how innumerable forms of communism, socialism, social democracy, and innumerable forms of capitalism, have played out historically, although obviously it’s important to think about that. I’m just suggesting that in order to think about that honestly, we have to make space for much more annoyingly nuanced and complicated distributions of decision-making power. It’s not a matter of a state elite owning everything and deciding everything, versus individuals owning everything and deciding everything.

    Hmm. Yeah! Woooo! WOOOOO! PARTY! PARTY!

    (The “Our strength is we are Americans” bit reminds me a bit of Tocqueville BTW). 😛

    • I’m just suggesting that in order to think about that honestly, we have to make space for much more annoyingly nuanced and complicated distributions of decision-making power. It’s not a matter of a state elite owning everything and deciding everything, versus individuals owning everything and deciding everything.

      Then why is it that every single “more annoyingly nuanced and complicated distributions of decision-making power” seem to end up actually being “a state elite owning everything” ?

      • Because once they get their claws one one thing, who is going to stop them? You don’t have the power to.

        • Yes, that and the fact that another definition of Fascism is “more annoyingly nuanced and complicated distributions of decision-making power…”

          • @SPQR: Argh, I don’t understand, sorry! I’m talking about making space in our minds, in the way we talk about this stuff with one another. The kinds of nuance and complications I think we have to be open to would be present under any system, not just the ones I’d prefer! I certainly wasn’t trying to describe any particular ideology – fascism or any other – just more the messiness of reality, a reality which often doesn’t fit too well with the big political ideas we use to describe it! I guess I wasn’t being very clear either, sorry 🙂

            @Sarah Is that like Hayek’s argument? Except Hayek does the spiel about informational requirements? He’s obviously not quite right, at least insofar there are many countries throughout the world with all kinds of different sizes and shapes of government, and they haven’t all inexorably grown into totalitarian states. For instance, where I’m living right now, the last few years have seen a lot of privatisation of formerly publicly owned resources, driven by the government in the face of strong public opposition. And I do agree that there’s a problem about individuals often lacking the necessary power to determine our own mode of existence, and a REAL problem about big, organised claws, and who’s going to stop them!

    • Um, Jo? I’m not sure exactly what your point is here, except that maybe “communism good, because cronyism, or something.”

      It’s really not complicated. The evils of unbridled capitalism are far preferable to those of socialism, communism, social democracy or any of the other innumerable forms of totalitarianism under another name.

      It’s not annoyingly nuanced, it’s not complicated. It’s always better for individuals to own their own property, keep the fruits of their labor and make their own decisions about what they want to buy. While capitalists may kill people or impoverish them occasionally through indifference or outright evil intent, the ability of a single capitalist to cause those sorts of evils is inherently limited in scope.

      Not so of the communist. One has only to examine the history, as you suggest. Hitler, socialist, 8 million dead. Pol Pot, communist, 12 million dead. Stalin, communist, 50 million dead. Mao, communist, 100 million dead. Need I continue?

      • It’s really not complicated. The evils of unbridled capitalism are far preferable to those of socialism, communism, social democracy or any of the other innumerable forms of totalitarianism under another name.

        Unbridled capitalism will kill itself– “capitalism” with the bridle of the proper moral atmosphere will work really well, though, especially because it doesn’t have a single point of failure like the others.

        • Also, there’s never been unbridled capitalism anywhere, since EVER.

          • Yeah, because there’s still human nature.

            Still, some places have been closer to it– usually in conjunction with dehumanizing a portion of the population.

            It’s tricky, because “capitalism” is a ghost. It doesn’t exist. It’s the name stuck on “what happens when you have property rights, humans have some kind of don’t-just-kill-them value and a person’s labor is their own” to make it SEEM like Communism (or was it socialism? I can’t remember who stuck it on first) was “another system,” rather than imposing a while new system.

          • I am now trying to figure out how you would manage unbridled capitalism, since you need a strong society to get up to that point….

            Maybe some kind of anarchist international college kids’ meetup that gets isolated from everything?

            • Is that like Tunnel in the Sky by Heinlein?

              • In as much as it is, it’s also a significant portion of ALL YA books. “Young adults cut off from society and have to make it on their own” is a standard because it makes for good story fodder, after all.

                Gotta say, the “pure capitalism” one would be pretty sort.

          • So, um, the only reason Capitalism fails is because nobody’s actually tried it?

            GD&R.

      • If I might add, reduced to simplest terms, one breeds responsibility, the other dependence. One treats you as an adult, free to seek your fortune and happiness however you are able. The other treats you as a child, making decisions “for your own good” that you’d never conscience on your own. One treats you as an end, fully worthwhile as a human being. The other, as a means to an end you have very little say in (if any). One gives you nothing but the freedom to make your own choices (and suffers you to live with the consequences thereof). The other gives you everything you “need,” and collapses when it runs out of other people’s money.

        I know which one I’d rather live in.

      • Going to have to try to deal with this on its own terms! The one thing that springs immediately to mind is your inclusion of social democracy in there. It can be an equivocal term, but I’m assuming we’re talking about basically the same kind of thing — a universal welfare state, post-WWII compromise stuff? I.e. what you might call “bridled capitalism”?

        But listen: you & I have probably both have had the conversation implied by your response post (thanks, BTW!) about a million times. I’m not knocking it, it can be a fun conversation! My role is to go, like, “Oh, but Hitler wasn’t a socialist! Stalin wasn’t a proper communist!” Or, “Not THAT kind of communism!” I’m not really super-interested in trying to reclaim those terms. I was trying to have a different conversation. One where we don’t immediately go from the idea of collective ownership to the history of communism to the figure of Stalin and his purges, Gulags and famine. One in which we at least allow for the possibility that things we tend to bundle up conceptually — like individuals owning property, keeping their fruits of their labor, making decisions about what they want to buy — don’t necessarily historically always accompany each other; or at least, that the presumption that they do deserves regular examination from lots of different perspectives. Does that make sense? The things we think go together: do they go together? Do they HAVE to go together? What keeps them together?

        For instance, I guess I live in a fairly capitalist society. It has a slightly larger welfare state, relatively speaking, than the USA, but not hugely so. I don’t feel like I can do whatever I like with my property. I feel like there are all kinds of moral, psychological, interpersonal, cultural, legal constraints — some of those good, some of them bad. I don’t feel like I can buy what I like, partly because I don’t have enough money to do that, but mainly because most of the things I imagine I’d want aren’t for sale. I also don’t feel like I can keep the fruit of my labors exactly: I get paid, if that’s what you mean, but it never feels like it’s worth the amount I’ve put in — obviously! — and I also often feel I’m forced to spend it in particular ways, which I might not have to were certain public services beefier than they actually are. OK, now I’ve slipped into a polemical mode, which I’m trying not to do!

        I really like your initial caricature, and in a way it’s a helpful way of clarifying what I’m getting at. It’s about the kinds of thinking and arguing we do around these big, important, emotionally fiery ideas. It’s about the kinds of people we become when we do. I’m exactly not saying communism good. I’m saying these big terms just starting points. If I seriously want to be an individual, the source of my own beliefs, I can’t just pick my favorite ideological flamewar karaoke duet and sing along to the appropriate parts. I have to think about all the different forms capitalism has taken and does take and could potentially take, and I have to think about how they apply to the world I live in. And I have to do the same for the other ideological starting points you mention. It’s a big task — impossible, basically — but even to try implies both a good kind of pride and a good kind of humility. To try to do it with others is the best of all. I’m sure I have a propensity to make things sound more complicated than they are. But things are complicated. Anyway, it’s the wee hours & I’m ranting now, & I don’t want to start encouraging you or me or anyone into doubling down on anything, so I’ll be outtie for a while. OMG it’s 3:30 in the morning. I have so much shit to do tomorrow. NIGHT 😛

        • You’ve “spoken at length” and I’ve no interest in responding at similar length, so a couple minor points are offered.

          I also don’t feel like I can keep the fruit of my labors exactly: I get paid, if that’s what you mean, but it never feels like it’s worth the amount I’ve put in …

          The cost of your labor to you is not, N-O-T, the same as the benefit to your employer. That is why wages are and ought to be the fruit of negotiation.

          This hits at the crux of the discussion. Who decides what your labor is worth, and how is that decision reached? If a board of economists somewhere decrees that no man’s labor is worth less than $15 an hour, is that fair? Do they suffer the loss if the employer decides to spend his money on machines instead of laborers? Do they distinguish between the guy who comes on shift and works industriously until shift end, anticipating problems in the work flow and acting to prevent them and the guy who spends his first twenty minutes on shift drinking coffee, scratching his butt and talking about the bender he went on last night before taking on his duties in a diffident fashion, taking frequent breaks?

          One observation I’ve had over the years is that when authority to make a decision and responsibility for that decision are not jointly held then disaster is sure to follow. In the broadest sense this is expressed in the economic problem known as The Tragedy of the Commons. Almost ALL “social” forms of government fall prey to this error. The ideal is to minimize the cost of government’s necessary services, always a problem when government sees no service it might offer as unnecessary.

    • Every single deviation from free market capitalism manifests physically as someone with a badge and a gun preventing two people from doing business together. Maybe there are a very small set of good reasons for this, but it can never be an organizing principle for society, because society *is* people doing business with each other, freely associating, etc.

      Every *single* deviation.

      Put this way, it’s obvious why every attempt to “fix” the “evils of unbridled capitalism” turns into a totalitarian hell.

      Private property just means that you, your home, your means of earning a living, (your property) isn’t going to be arbitrarily violated by men with badges and guns.

      • Every single deviation from free market capitalism manifests physically as someone with a badge and a gun preventing two people from doing business together.

        Including when the “business” they wish to do is illegal or immoral– such as selling kidnapped babies or contracting a hit.

        • The reason capitalism needs the rule of law is not only to enforce contracts — an important component of doing business — but to prevent three-party externalities like that. (The juggling act of determining what externalities to prevent and which to require compensation for is what makes it so tricky.)

          • Yep. The externalities can be defined so broadly, or so narrowly, as to justify almost any form of government you like.

            If a libertarian wants to argue for a very narrow definition, I’ll listen very sympathetically. But the libertarian needs to understand that there is a tradeoff and it’s not a simple or obvious one.

            Or, at least, the obvious choices of tradeoff — every has externals (totalitarianism) or nothing has externals (pure anarcho-capitalism) — are flatly unacceptable to me.

  17. I’m in the middle of reading The Myth of America’s Decline by Josef Joffre at the moment, and all of the hype about our decline in various areas seems to be mostly created in order to “sell” us something, or get us to give someone else power over the situation. I’ll have more to say about it in a week or so when I post a review on my site.

    • I recall an argument along that line, made so long ago that the USA was still worrying about Japan’s economy surpassing us (funny — their proposed solution, a boys’ band centrally planned national industrial policy, is the same solution they’re offering for global cooling warming climate change.)

      When they surveyed any single metric — automobile production, computer technology, steel manufacture, agriculture — the USA was struggling to stay in the top two or three and an argument could be made for intervention by effete ivory-towered intellectual twits the government to promote that industry.

      But when you looked at the top-twenty areas you noticed that the USA was the only nation competitive in more than just a few — in fact, all twenty — metrics. Think of it like the Olympics: the Fins may beat the Russians at hockey, the Dutch may take the gold in speed skating, the (I dunno? French may win the figure skating, the Swedes may be dominant in downhill, but the USA is pushing them in each and every one of those events, and many others besides.

      It only seems like decline if you look at selected areas; overall we’re kicking butt in pretty good shape.

  18. About 20 years ago, a well-respected software industry expert wrote a book titled “The Decline and Fall of the American Programmer”. He predicted that unless American programmers changed the way they worked, they’d be rendered obsolete by foreign competition.

    Less than five years later he wrote “The Rise and Resurrection of the American Programmer”, which was part 2nd edition, part self-rebuttal. What changed, he said, was something he hadn’t anticipated — the American programmers didn’t *JUST* change how they worked, they invented whole new areas of work! For example, when he wrote the first book, the WWW was limited to a few university sites and light use by businesses — by the time the second one was written, well, I was one of a dozen people employed building websites at a single small company in Cincinnati.

    I still think that dynamic is possible — that we’ll not just do better, we’ll do new things in new ways no one considered before — but what worries me is, well, the wannabe tyrants get ANGRY over the merest sign of anything thriving without cutting them in. You’ll pay them — either “voluntarily” to buy protection or involuntarily through lawsuits, taxes, fines, and anything else they can find.

  19. You reminded me of a little piece I wrote a while ago. I hope it’s appropriate to post here.

    O Say Can You See
    by Mike Barker (420 words)

    That Fourth of July, we had gone out with friends to sit in the park by the Charles River, on the Boston side. Just a few friends, and the other thousands who throng there for the free music and fireworks.

    We found a place and settled in on our plastic spread. We enjoyed eating our picnic dinner, then sitting and talking. Listening to the Boston Pops performance was excellent, as usual.

    But then the first fireworks whistled into the darkening sky. Around us, people jumped to their feet, and charged forward in a rush, not paying very much attention to where they stampeded. We grabbed our belongings, rolled up the plastic spread, and huddled together where we had been sitting. We stood there, as the crowd pushed and shoved to see.

    I’m 5’8″ tall. Not very tall for an American, and our friends that day were Japanese, shorter than I am. So standing in the crowd of tall Americans who had overrun our picnic spot, I wasn’t surprised to realize that I couldn’t see anything, and my friends were also standing in the shadows.

    As I glanced around, trying to find where all my friends were, and see whether they wanted to leave, I heard a voice. Somewhere off to my right, a plaintive young child’s voice said, “Mom? I can’t see anything.”

    It had gotten dark enough that I was really looking at silhouettes. Still, looking to my right, I could see an adult figure, with at least two small children. I took a step towards them, and said, “Ma’am? If it’s all right, I could lift her up?”

    I doubt that mother could have seen me any more than I could see her. Still, after a moment, she nodded and said, “All right.”

    So I kneeled down and reached out. Then I lifted a small figure over my head, and sat her on my shoulders. I turned back towards where I knew the fireworks must be.

    I still didn’t see any of the fireworks that night. But from the “oohs” and “aahs” that came from my shoulders, I knew someone could. I stood tall as she watched.

    And when the show was finished, and I lowered a small figure back to the ground again… there was enough background light for me to see two bright eyes shining.

    A small voice said, “Thank you” and they disappeared into the crowd.

    Still, those fireworks that I saw in those eyes had to be some of the best I have ever seen.

    The End

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