I recently found myself on a long plane ride with too much time to think. This is what happened.
Good Government requires Good People.
It seems like this would be obvious, and yet it escapes most of us. PJ O’Rourke pointed out in his 1997 book “Eat the Rich” that Sweden had prospered in the past by having both good government and good people: “The government must be good, and not decide that what Sweden really needs to do is invade Denmark. The people must be good too, and not decide to support that government in return for wedges of looted Jarlsberg.” Good government and good people led Sweden to years of peace and prosperity.
Unfortunately, as O’Rourke goes on to point out, “history is not full of good governments, or good people either.” And America is a lot less full of good government and good people than it used to be.
“A State cannot be constituted from any chance body of persons, or in any chance period of time. Most of the states which have admitted persons of another stock, either at the time of their foundation or later, have been troubled by sedition.” --- Aristotle, Politics
Just who is “America” these days? Hard to tell. We’ve let in quite a few “other groups”, both at the time of our founding and after. And we’re paying for it now.
“Viva La Raza” (“Long Live the Race”) chant the Mexicans, both legal and illegal, who crowd and riot throughout Southern California (or Aztlan, as they call it).
“Reparations!” is the cry of black people, even if they got here last Thursday from someplace like Trinidad or Sudan.
“Respect our religion!” Muslims shout, while they show no respect for their host country’s religion – or anything else about their host country, or anybody else’s anything anywhere, for that matter.
From this, can we build a great country, a bright future and a peaceful, happy society?
What went wrong? Glad you asked. Our country’s broken. And it wasn’t by accident.
The most cogent explanation I have found was in Patrick Buchanan’s 2002 book “Death of the West.” It goes roughly as follows: From the 1920s to the 1960s, forces on the Left began a coherent, if not centrally controlled campaign to destroy Western Civilization, thinking (as Jean-Jacques Rosseau did) that it was the cause of all our problems. This "revolution" reached a crescendo in the 1960s and then crashed, with everything (apparently) returning to normal. But it wasn't so. Many people on the Right thought that the Left’s war on American culture ended, or became unimportant anyway, with the end of “the Sixties,” a period roughly defined as from 1963 through 1974. Universities weren’t in flames anymore, so who cared? As James F. Cooper put it in 1990 (quoted by Buchanan):
“Conservatives returned to money-making and Cold War strategies, straightened out their George Stubbs engravings of English Thoroughbred horses on their office walls, and forgot about the whole matter. After all, they reasoned, how important is culture anyway?”
But culture was important, and we are seeing the results of a fractured culture now.
While the Right was busy with the commerce of America, the Left was conquering academia, the arts, the media, and the government bureaucracy. Elections be damned, governments are mostly run by the faceless functionaries whose names we never can find out – and they know it.
Why is this a problem? I refer you to the above quote from Aristotle. “Sedition” is a rather tepid word for having riots in your streets. “Chaos” or “Anarchy” might be a better one. Two thousand years ago, Aristotle was able to bluntly and directly point out that you can’t put dogs and cats (or lions and lambs) together in the same space and expect good results (especially for the lambs).
Want some more recent, scientific evidence? Robert Putnam (author of the bestselling “Bowling Alone”) researched the effect of ethnic diversity in America in 2000. What he found shocked him so much that he hid the results for six years, until 2006. Asked why in a Financial Times interview, he said he hid the results “until he could develop proposals to compensate for the negative effects of diversity.”
What were these shocking results and negative effects? Diversity kills community. Let me say that again: The more diversity you have, the less people are going to participate in your community. Remember back in the 1950’s? (Kids, ask your Grandpa or Grandma.) We had church socials, bowling leagues, after work groups, Elks Lodges, American Legion, Shriners, Masons, all manner of “community” activities. People knew their neighbors. What’s more, they gave a damn about their neighbors. What we didn’t have was “diversity.” There was a white community, a black community (look it up), women were home with the kids, gays were over in the closet doing something we didn’t really want to know about, and that was that.
Then “the Sixties” happened. Social norms went out the window as “Do Your Own Thing” arrived. Often talked about as a “civil rights” movement, what happened was actually more along the lines of an iconoclastic, institution-smashing meltdown – any country with a youth bulge like the Baby Boomers was susceptible to them. Germany had one in the early 1900s, right before World War 1 (what a coincidence!) Many Arab countries are in the midst of one now, and look at the fun they’re having. We got one with a vengeance. Raised largely to plenty, privilege, and a sense of destiny, the hippy generation smashed the institutions of the country that had given it birth. Not only that, having smashed all these institutions, they then demanded that the goodness those institutions had produced (no thanks to them) be shared, gratis, with everyone – essentially, with the whole world.
Now, after that sharing is done, we have diversity – and nothing else. There is no “community” anymore. Do you know your neighbors’ names and family stories? All of them? Any of them? How many of them would you trust alone with your children? That used to be a cultural baseline. Now it’s a sign of “bad parenting,” or even insanity.
Our culture, such as remains of it, is decried as “racist” and is expelled wherever it is found. (In 1988, Stanford students protesting the university’s Western Culture classes chanted “hey, hey, ho, ho, Western Culture’s got to go.” Supposedly they were just talking about classes, but they might as well have been talking about the whole enchilada - all of Western Civilization.)
And the future, far from looking brighter than the past, now looks like a one-way ticket to the third world.
The Seventies brought an influx of newly “liberated” women into the workforce, effectively doubling the amount of available labor. This had the “unexpected” but completely predictable effect of depressing wages for the next forty years. They were joined by millions of new immigrants as a result of the 1965 Immigration Act. Teddy Kennedy stood in the Senate in 1964 and assured us that “millions of foreign workers will not come flooding into the cities to take your jobs.” Of course, that’s exactly what happened. This, too, depressed wages.
The eighties brought more foreign workers as yet another “Immigration Control” act was passed, giving amnesty to 4.5 million illegal aliens. (Only 4.5 million? Ah, the good old days.) Naturally, all these new would-be workers that couldn’t get jobs needed government benefits until some jobs came along, and up went the government’s budgets – and up went crime rates, too. As Radley Balko points out in his excellent book “Rise of the Warrior Cop,” suddenly SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) wasn’t just a popular TV show, it was in your neighborhood, kicking in peoples’ doors. Get on the floor, citizen, and don’t make any sudden moves.
The 80s also saw the rise of the “grievance industry” where trial attorneys sued large corporations for any offense, real or imagined, objective or subjective, winning eye-popping “damage” awards for clients who claimed to have been denied something – anything – on the grounds of “discrimination.”
(Research Note: I was around during that time and remember it, but I’m too lazy to look up a bunch of statistics and put them in a graph for you, and besides, none of the online sources I found go back before 1990. I guess numbers weren’t invented back then. Do your own research. You know where Google is.)
Companies got the message. Tired of being repeatedly kneed in the wallet/groin, they saw to it that barriers of all kinds – to anything – were swiftly removed. Quotas were put in place, and harsh penalties for not meeting them were enforced. Your skin and genitals would now determine whether you got the job. Whether you could actually DO the job was a secondary consideration. American society was now under attack from inside and outside, from the top and from the bottom.
Suddenly, America, a country famously tolerant (for centuries) as the “land of opportunity” – found herself abandoned by all sectors of polite society as “racist”, “patriarchal”, “homophobic”, “islamophobic” and less printable slurs. Our society, painstakingly built on self-reliance, community, national pride and a common, shared culture, came apart at the seams.
I realize some people, particularly on the “PC Right,” may be cynically laughing at my description of America as a “famously tolerant” country throughout history. But let me point out that when people all around the world genuinely wanted opportunity… they didn’t go to France. Or Tunisia. Or Zaire. Or Ghana. Brazil is not world-famous as a destination for the “tired, hungry, poor, stupid, yearning” masses. Neither is Russia or China. Nobody is swarming over the borders of Bangladesh or Burma expecting three hots and a cot. This country, throughout history, has been more welcoming than any other of human beings in need. We even were able to come to terms with some famously unintelligent, uneducated, chronically violent and fast-breeding groups - like the Irish. But that’s because they wanted to assimilate. They wanted to be “Americans.” People don’t want that anymore.
Is it any wonder our country is unraveling? After the past fifty years, no one even pretends to believe that America’s future is brighter than her past. The only question now is how far down we are going to fall, and how hard we will hit bottom.
If we look at Europe we see one ugly part of our future. Youth unemployment hovers around 25% in some places. Kids will be living with their parents, not till the get a job, but until they retire or die. Stagnant, falling wages combined with rising prices and rising unemployment are showing the Europeans that there’s no free lunch. You can no longer use your German Mastercard to pay off your Greek Visa bill. Socially, native Europeans are now strangers (unwelcome strangers) in their own lands. They are targeted for street crimes and hate crimes, and when they report it to police too often the answer is an accusation of “racism” - against the victim, not the perpetrator. Jews, who once fled Europe because of Hitler’s exterminative policies, are now fleeing again because of rising violence coming from Muslim immigrants.
If we look at Iraq with its multi-way ethnic slaughter, we see the even uglier side of our future – less and less peace to go with our lessened prosperity. Already there are occasional riots among Somalis in Minneapolis-St. Paul, sometimes for no reason at all – just spontaneous outbursts of pointless violence.
Street violence in Southern California doesn’t even make the news anymore. In Los Angeles there is an epidemic of hit-and-run driving, over 4,000 injury and death cases a year. The police don’t even look for suspects any more. There are just too many. How long will it be before drivers start settling disputes with machine guns or grenades? I don’t know. My guess is, not long. At least it will make for exciting traffic reports!
“Government grows because, like zygotes and suburban lawns, it is designed to do nothing else.” - PJ O’Rourke, “Parliament of Whores”
Of course, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, in society no less than in physics. As our social networks have unwound, been abandoned or been deliberately smashed as “discriminatory” or “non-inclusive,” other things have had to step up to take their place. Primarily this has meant more government, particularly at the Federal level. The Federal Government of the USA is not only the largest government on earth, it’s probably the largest anything of any kind anywhere in history. It consumes, in real terms, almost a quarter of the US GDP every year, probably more after all the budget bullshit is figured in or taken out. That’s a significant fraction of everything produced or consumed on earth, being sent to Washington DC as tribute. Washington, DC, recently passed New York as the richest city in the United States. For those of you that didn’t pay attention in history class, that’s a really bad sign.
“Every nation gets the government it deserves.” -- Joseph de Maistre (1811)
Many people don’t care that our government has bloated up to monster-movie size, able to crush us all. We love bigger government – most of us, anyway. Services that used to be seen as the domain of parents (child education, healthcare, nutrition, medical care, general welfare, even babysitting) are now the responsibility of giant federal agencies, either as regulator or provider.
Transportation is a good example. Starting in 2017, in addition to the current airbags, crash bumpers, running lights, ABS brakes and other mandated goodies (such as emission controls), all new cars must come with backup cameras whether you want one or use one or not. We all pay for it. Why? Shut up, the government explained.
The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution (“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”), passed on December 15, 1791, was effectively killed by the 1942 Wickard V. Filburn decision in which the Supreme Court decided that even growing your own food affected “interstate commerce” and was therefore under the control of the Federal Government. Seriously. Food. Seriously? Yes.
The Federal government now controls your food, water, travel, housing, communication, banking, employment, retirement planning, medical care, child-bearing and rearing, estate planning and basically everything else in your life. Thanks to the NSA, the government is probably watching me write these words, and probably watching you read them.
“The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.” - Publius Cornelius Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome (approximately 117 AD)
The Federal Government can throw you in prison any time it wants. Most people don’t realize this, or prefer not to think about it, but Federal regulations are now so numerous, overlapping and contradictory that it is virtually impossible to get through the day without violating some Federal law. Attorney Harvey Silverglate’s 2011 book “Three Felonies a Day” is named after the number of crimes the average American now (unwittingly) commits every day. You are a criminal whether you want to be or not, and whether you know it or not. Welcome to the “USSA”, comrade. We’ve been expecting you. The line for the gulag forms on the left.
Of course, now that the government is doing more, it needs more muscle to do it. To get back to Radley Balko’s book “Rise of the Warrior Cop” for a moment, a central argument he makes is that our domestic police forces are basically a standing army (which may be unconstitutional, but don’t hold your breath waiting for the Supremes to overrule it.) Police and soldiers now carry the same weapons, armor, radios and other battle gear. Police forces all over America – Federal, state, county and city – are a growth industry. In 1974, SWAT teams didn’t exist – today virtually every municipality has one. The FBI alone has 56 separate SWAT teams. Something like 100-plus Federal agencies now have their own “armed response” units, including the US Department of Fish & Game. You never know when you’ll run into a violent, heavily armed trout, I guess.
When the Justice Department raided Gibson Guitar, it didn’t send a guy with a clipboard saying “I’ll need to look at your paperwork.” SWAT commandos rolled up in force, and threw the employees on the ground at gunpoint while they ransacked the offices. Gibson eventually paid a $300,000 fine just to make them stop, because fighting them in court would have been worse – more painful, more raids, more money. And that’s even if you win.
Equipment coming back from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is being “repurposed” into police departments all over the country – big cities and small towns alike. So when that tank comes through your bedroom wall at 3 AM, remember – your taxes paid for it!
“If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” -- Herbert Stein, American Enterprise Institute
With the combination of ever-growing government growing ever-worse, and the plague of “diversity” eating away at our once great and now shattered society, I don’t think we’ll have these problems very much longer. I don’t think America can go on like this. Therefore, sooner or later, it will stop. I hope I’m somewhere else when it happens, because I don’t think it will be pretty.
Is there an answer to any of this? Can the “raveled sleeve” of our country be “knit back up?” I don’t know. I am open to suggestions. Absent that, good luck to all of us, because we’ll probably need it.