America: Leadership, at the break with the past

Things have already changed.

Politics may not be beanbag, but electoral politics is also not the game of basics that America needs today.  It is no longer realistic to speak of trying to win elections by means of dismissing basic issues like what liberty means, and whether government has grown so big that we really do have to transform it fundamentally.  There can be no such thing now as Republicans winning a national election by speaking as if we can remain on our current course without making major changes.

To speak so is to speak on the Democrats’ terms.  For all their talk of attacking the status quo, the Democrats are, today, the party of the status quo of law and government in America.  The status quo involves keeping the people trapped in a vise of regulation, taxes, and carefully calibrated “benefits.”  It involves funneling every problem of human life through government – but more than that, it involves making up fake problems in order to increase the power of government.  In today’s status quo, moreover, the federal government is as closely involved in local and personal issues as state and local governments are; there is no working principle that the federal government’s armed power should be kept separate from intricate economic regulation and moral law.

Radicalism, demonstrated

Examples of radicalism and corruption in government abound.  President Obama, in his second term, has taken off the mask of moderation and now speaks about many issues in the most radical terms – and using the most radical methods.  His climate-change speech was delivered to a hand-picked audience – and was not open to the public – at Georgetown University on 25 June.  This is a favorite tactic of despots the world over.  Castigating those who are skeptical of climate alarmism as a “Flat Earth Society” is also a radical tactic, especially for a head of state: it is typical of fascists and communists, but not of most American presidents, to speak in such intemperate language of those who disagree with them.

It is also typical of despots to promise to take action in spite of a recalcitrant legislature, as Obama did in his climate speech.  At no time has it been politically moderate to promise sweeping action – action that would destroy an industry, kill jobs across the economy, and impoverish the people – on the authority of the executive alone.  When presented as an antidote to a heel-dragging legislature, it is the type of measure propounded by dictators and aspiring dictators, on the model of Hugo Chavez.

From Fast & Furious to the scandal of IRS bias against conservative and pro-Israel groups, corrupt use of the federal government’s power has mushroomed.  The most banal form of corruption – taxpayer money being used as a slush fund for the Obama administration’s political backers – has been enshrined in everything from the 2009 federal Stimulus to actions like cash support to failing “green energy” companies, the bailouts of GM and Chrysler, and the passage of the Obamacare law, which pays “community” groups to sign citizens up for the state insurance exchanges.  The “Gang of 8” immigration bill, which just passed the Senate, sets up the same kind of slush fund for community groups, which will administer the “path to citizenship” for today’s illegal aliens.

But the slush-fund aspect of the funding for community organizations is not even the most damaging.  More dangerous still is putting the administration of federal programs in their hands.  The community groups are unelected; they are not even appointed, nor are their operations managed through the nominally accountable federal bureaucracy; and once their participation is written in law, they cannot be removed from power through the defeat of their political patrons at the polls.  Only if the law itself is changed can their taxpayer-funded fiefdoms be touched.

Betsey McCaughey has compared the anointing of community groups to do the government’s work with the Bolshevik campaign to create “soviets” – worker collectives – to effectively take over the political space of Russia in conjunction with the 1917 revolution.  This comparison has merit, but it is also useful to compare the legislation favoring community groups with the well-documented patterns of political “bossism” in American cities like Boston and Chicago, or states like Louisiana.  Political predators use different pretexts in different times and places, but the patterns of cronyism, ward-tending, and services-brokering are very, very old.  In most of the world, they have always and inevitably fostered tremendous corruption and brutality.

The political forms set up in the U.S. Constitution were intended to prevent the federal government from having a reason to get involved with them.  The federal government was to be a recourse for the people, in extremis, if they were being mistreated by local governments.

But Obamacare creates a permanent vehicle for federal “bossism.”  By instituting the bossism in the state insurance exchanges, it also ensures that the states will be fully aligned with the federal “boss.”  There will be no level of appeal or protection for the people above the level of the “boss.”  This situation will be far worse than it has ever been in Chicago, even during the worst days of the Daley machine.

… in the judicial branch as well

America is menaced not only by the measures of law and by overreach from the executive, however.  As Justice Scalia observed in his scathing dissent from the SCOTUS opinion on U.S. v. Windsor, in which DOMA was struck down, the five justices in the majority wrote their opinion not from principles of law but from a very particular, and emotionally expressed, political perspective.  They purported to know the motives of those who voted for the DOMA law, and they excoriated its proponents for supposed “hatred.”

This is not the language of jurisprudence.  It is the language of demagoguery.  Scalia is right about that, and he is right to be concerned that five justices of our highest court felt free – indeed, felt compelled – to couch their opinion in these terms.  Sound jurisprudence is not a dispensable art; it is a pillar of ordered liberty, and if we cannot expect to have it under today’s political arrangements, then the serious question arises whether the arrangements are worth keeping.

As with Obama in his second term, this display from the Court really amounts not to a new radicalism, but to a mask coming off.  The Supreme Court has strayed from narrow, constitution-oriented jurisprudence for decades. Like the other patterns now threatening our liberties, this one has been growing through several generations.  Each pattern has hacked away at the limits the Framers imposed on the scope and power of the federal government.

In fact, it is the slow encroachment of government that has brought us to where we are today, in terms of our economy and our expectations.  It is because of government that people can’t find jobs, that businesses aren’t being started, that wages aren’t increasing, that the poor find it harder and harder to improve their lot.  For decades, government regulation has been fostering conditions that will ultimately make radical “solutions” seem necessary.  None of this has happened overnight.  It is the end result of long processes that began in the 1970s (the EPA, health-care regulatory “reform”), the 1960s (Medicare, the Great Society), and on back through the New Deal of the 1930s to the Wilsonian progressivism of the 1910s, and the creation of the federal income tax, the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Labor, and the Food and Fuel Administrations.

If Barack Obama had been elected president in 1908 instead of 2008, he would have had at his disposal almost none of the federal departments or agencies through which his administration has undermined accountable government and sought to place burdens on the people.  But it did not take the radicalism of the Obama administration to make us and our economy as vulnerable as we now are to regulatory subversion.  Creating the vulnerability has been accomplished mostly through actions that seemed, to most people at the time, measured and incremental.

Because the preservation of liberty was not our top priority, we have ended up with a network of governmental arrangements in which our liberties are incontrovertibly a lower priority than partisan agendas.  We do not live in the America envisioned by our Founders.  In terms of the mandates imposed on us by our federal government, today’s America is much more like the late-colonial period presided over by King George III and a distant, dictatorial, unresponsive Parliament.

Like us, the American colonists were free, for the most part, to write and speak in dissent from the policies of the British crown.  But they had no power to get those policies changed through protest or vote.  And the policies themselves were remarkably similar to the ones Americans object to today:  policies that coerced, limited, and taxed the colonists to keep them as a submissive economic resource for the government in London.

Our options have changed

Perhaps we did not recognize before Obama’s election how vulnerable we had become to this level of coercion.  But more and more Americans are seeing it now.  Merely electing a different president will not correct our problem.  It’s not just the four-odd years of the Obama administration that have to be undone.  It’s the 100 years of dismantling the protections for our liberties that we have to address.

Given only the changes made by the Obama administration, however, the truth now is that there is no such option as trying to elect a Republican in 2016 without having the fundamental debate about liberty, law, and government.  The federal government, even without the state governments considered, has the powers it needs to demonize Americans for partisan reasons, and hurt them economically.  It has the powers, and the Obama administration has made it very clear that presidents and their appointees will use those powers.  This bell can’t be unrung.  To pretend that every encroachment on liberty – every misuse of government – is not an issue for our elections is to participate in a lie, one that will be fatal to liberty and prosperity.

We can no longer ignore or downplay what our government has the power to do to us, nor can we pretend that things haven’t changed so dramatically that our priorities ought to change as well.  The break with our republican past is upon us.  We are living it today.  We do not have the option of restoring the conditions of 2008, or 1992, or 1960 – no matter whom we elect.  Simply electing a Republican to the White House is not a panacea for our ills.  But failing to address the encroachment of statism on our lives will guarantee that we never get our liberties back peacefully.

What we should be doing, here at the break, is looking forward to the America we want to have.  There is no going back.  The condition of a relatively quiescent, not-yet-corrupted America in which liberties were not prioritized, while government programs and constituency-tending were, was never a sustainable condition to begin with.  It has been familiar to most of today’s adults, to be sure.  But we cannot go back to it.

We literally cannot go back:  the use of this America to enrich radical partisans has already been demonstrated, and that bell, to invoke the metaphor again, cannot be unrung.  If we think that by electing a Republican we are going back to the comfort of a big-government, pre-corruption America, we will only be deceiving ourselves.  We either navigate forward to a new and deliberately established compact for protecting our liberties, or we succumb to the despotic fate of all previous republics.

Looking ahead

The good news is that our founding documents give us the best possible blueprint for this new endeavor.  It is more good news that with its mask off, we can see clearly the radicalism of our current government, and understand that the liberties we prize cannot coexist with it.  The Obama administration is not business as usual; it is business as inevitable, when government has become so big and all-encompassing.  We are being granted today a unique opportunity to see that, without blinders or self-deception, and to make our decisions accordingly.

It cannot be emphasized enough: nothing will change for the better, but everything will change for the worse, if we prioritize an outdated view of electoral politics over the diligent clarification of what government ought to be.  It won’t achieve the intended purpose.  There is no option to paper over the misuses and abuses of government in order to gain an electoral majority.  To argue for such an option is to paint a chimera.  Papering over reality will not gain Republicans an electoral majority, even if it were possible that a president elected on such a basis might actually roll back the size and scope of government.

The world in which Karl Rove’s approach to electoral politics is an effective prescription is gone.  Today, our ideas must be different, and they must start with the definition of liberty, and how it ought to be prioritized and protected in law.  We must avoid embracing “litmus-test” forms of libertarianism, which – like all litmus-test politics, left or right – are situational and particular.  But we must not fear to address every issue that is important.  The only way to establish what is important – what we agree on – is through robust dialogue.

Fear sits on us like a communicable disease when we are afraid to take on things that must be reformed, like Social Security, or that must be rethought altogether, like the federal Department of Education.  We need have no fear that bloated government will suddenly begin to work, openly and accountably, and thus make our concerns look foolish.  Everything will perform more and more poorly in the days ahead.  It would be the most backward-looking approach possible, to think that we must not associate ourselves with a vision for change.  We are at the break.  We cannot stop it.  There will be no alternative to change in the next few years.  We either lead, with a time-tested vision of ordered liberty, or we will get steamrolled with everything else.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard online. She also writes for the new blog Liberty Unyielding.

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15 thoughts on “America: Leadership, at the break with the past”

  1. I have to agree with Victor Davis Hanson on this one. The United States of America looks very much like the Roman Empire circa 200-300 AD…

    The leadership is hopelessly corrupt, even functionally insane. The social institutions are being torn apart, slowly and imperceptibly to most of the society as a whole. Religious and philosophical beliefs are being challenged, subverted, and undermined even as they proceed as if nothing is happening.

    The society is mollified by cheap entertainment, and basic sustenance by the government. The entire edifice is supported by decelerating social momentum built on past success, and slave labor.

    We have devolved from a melting pot into a conglomerate where not enough mortar is available as binder… the mix is weak, and the melting pot is cool.

    We are riven by regional division. The big cities have all become net consumers, bleeding their respective states of wealth and talent, while delivering only dependence and indolence. The balance between the countryside and the city has been destroyed, and given the disappearance of manufacturing is unlikely to ever improve. The big cities are destroying us.

    American culture is lost… our children have been raised by proxy, using the state as primary benefactor. Children have lost religion, innocence, and love. Because of that, they reach out for lost and misplaced parental affection by sexual adventurism, tribal grouping (from insular social groups to gangs – and everything in between).

    Men are rapidly becoming superfluous, and the sneering disdain for masculinity and fatherhood was the first and most pervasive destroyer of the building block of any successful society; the nuclear and extended marital family.

    Our roles as men and women have become confused and misdirected. The pop culture image of a woman despises being a woman, despises men, and despises the society they are convinced was created by men. Men, bludgeoned and ridiculed are withdrawing from marriage and fatherhood… it is just no longer worth the risk, the potential costs are too great.

    So we have arrived at an end. Like Rome, the end will come at its own pace… 300 or so years for Rome, likely much faster for us. This situation is not sustainable at any level. We have much farther to fall and the difference between 18th century Malthusian subsistence and that of the early 21st century is massive. The impact from the fall from the heights is likely to be catastrophic.

    As I have said in the past; using the car driven off the cliff analogy. We went off the cliff in the Summer of 2008. We are in free fall, but the ground rush is just starting.

    It didn’t have to be this way. We are sitting on seas of oil and natural gas. We have mastered metallurgical recycling, and have harnessed the atom. What we never seemed to accomplish, though is to successfully ablate the need of some humans to rule over others, and for the vast majority of those others to be satisfied being dominated.

    A sad end to a noble enterprise. Hopefully the next one learns some lessons and is better for it.


    1. Beautifully written, both your comment and Jennifer’s blog. And there’s no better perveyor of the dismal status quo than Victor Davis Hansen. As CA has fallen from first in education to 45th in math and 47th in science (our of the 48 states that took the test), we are doomed. The left controls the media, education at all levels and entertainment; if we don’t figure out a way to sell our principles and showing how our prescriptions can benefit each individual, family and community, we have no chance to ever reclaim this great country.

    2. In support of TMF’s analysis, I would offer NYC; This is a nation, whose largest city is well on its way to knowingly electing, as its Major, a man who sends strangers pictures of his genitals.

    1. “taking the human element out of warfare has serious moral and ethical implications for the nation that have yet to be examined.”

      It is indeed true that the moral and ethical implications of robotic warfare have yet to be examined. Yet it is not taking the “human element out of warfare” wherein the heart of the matter lies.

      Robotic warfare systems are tools, no less than a bomb dropped from an airplane upon an unseen enemy.

      A hammer is just a tool. In the hands of a tradesman, it assists in his work. In the hands of a homicidal madman, a hammer can be a deadly, deadly weapon.

      It is not the tool but the hands that wield that tool, that determine whether the ‘human element’ remains. And, in today’s world, the Americans that direct the use of that tool are more likely to be liberal, than conservative.

      The inimitable Selwyn Duke speaks to the consequence:

      “The most basic difference between the people we today call liberals and traditionalists isn’t the apparent ideological divide. It is that the latter tend to believe in [objective] Moral Truth whereas liberals are almost universally, moral relativists”.

      This is nothing less than an issue of operating in two completely different universes of reality. When you believe in Truth, morality is something objectively real to you, like matter itself. And most significantly, you view it as what it is: unchanging. This means that your yardstick for morality is the same whether convenient or inconvenient, whether you’re out of power – or in power. It is unbending and non-negotiable.

      Oh, this doesn’t mean absolutists can’t betray their principles; man is weak and we all falter. But in the aggregate, it serves, to quote Edmund Burke, as a “controlling power upon will and appetite” and thus mitigates man’s do-what-thou-wilt default.

      But what happens when a person doesn’t believe in Truth? What then will be his yardstick for behavior? Well, if what we call right and wrong isn’t determined by anything above man, then man himself is its author. But will it ultimately be a function of his intellect? Consider that the intellect’s job is to use reason, a quality that the relativistic left ostensibly values. What is reason, however? It’s not an answer, but a method by which answers may be found. But if there’s no Truth, there can be no answers to moral questions; hence, there then is no reason for reason.

      This is why following relativism out leads us to a striking conclusion: Since we can’t say that anything is objectively right or wrong, better or worse, the only yardstick we have left for behavior is feelings. Truth is a tale, faith is fancy, but emotion is certainly real. We can feel it – deeply. And, oh, how seductive is that siren of anger, envy or any passion? Just think how readily emotion inspires action.

      So, ultimately, relativism boils “morality” down to taste. This is why that guide “If it feels good, do it” really does make more sense in the modern liberal universe than anything else. But whose feelings should hold sway? Well, we may to an extent defer to those of the collective, but, ultimately, you’re just another mortal, same as I. Why should I subordinate my feelings to yours, especially since mine are the only ones truly real to me? This is, mind you, what contributes to the deification of the self. Liberals’ feelings do for them what God does for people of faith. They tell them how to behave.

      And this is why liberals will often do anything for victory. When the Truth lies at the center of your world view, it will, in its immutable and infallible way, define what’s right. But nature abhors a vacuum; thus, when a person’s core is bereft of Truth, an emotion-derived agenda takes its place. It then defines what’s “right.” And that will be whatever advances that agenda at the moment, be it vote fraud, targeting opponents with the IRS or, when power is sufficiently solidified, perhaps killing 25 million “capitalists.” And the lesson, dear voters, is that it really does matter what master your leaders serve.”

      “Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” George Washington

      Dostoevsky understood Washington’s premise; “If there is no God, everything is permitted”.

      Mr Duke understands it as well; “if what we call right and wrong isn’t determined by anything above man, then man himself is its author.”

      And when Man is the author of what is right and wrong, then the State becomes the arbiter of morality and our ‘unalienable rights’ are whatever the current whim of the mob dictates, ‘the State’ being simply the organized will of the mob.

    2. It could be a good treatment of a vexed topic, CM. I am troubled by the implications of drone warfare, not because enemy combatants may be killed, but because what brings opponents to the point of killing can be morally different from what has brought us to it in the past.

      MERELY killing has never been the point of warfare waged as state policy. Forcing the enemy to relinquish his purpose, as Clausewitz framed it for our modern age, has not been principally about killing the enemy, but about putting him in a position from which he has no hope of achieving his goal. In great land battles, there is a lot of killing required to impose that condition on him. But modern warfare has actually reduced dramatically the amount of killing necessary to decisively alter the enemy’s position.

      Killing terrorists and potential terrorists with drones is not a method of warfare on this model. It manifestly does NOT put a non-centralized, poorly organized enemy in the position of being unable to achieve his goals. All it does is kill. Where it is done in retaliation for specific acts of terrorism, there is a legitimate question whether it is extra-judicial execution.

      The reason for that is that there is no analogy to this practice in traditional warfare, responsibly waged. We do NOT, in fact, “retaliate” for attacks by the enemy, on the “eye for an eye” model. It is not considered responsible or moral to do so, a position laid out in elements of the Law of Armed Conflict. States have the sovereign right to decide how they will respond, but the practice of the Western nations in the modern age — since at least the mid-18th century — is to conduct deliberate counterattacks for strategic purposes: purposes that are intended ultimately to bring conflict to an end. This form of response is called, in the language of armed conflict, a “reprisal.”

      This was exactly the reasoning that underlay the regime-change of Afghanistan in 2001, which we undertook rather than simply hunting down and killing terrorists. The latter would have been the eye-for-an-eye response. The former was the strategically-purposed “reprisal” response.

      Some of our key responses throughout US history have been on the reprisal model. When we were attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor, we didn’t retaliate in kind; we declared war on the entire Axis and landed troops in Africa in order to open a flanking front against Hitler and cut off his oil supplies. When our shipping was sunk by Imperial German U-boats during WWI, we didn’t retaliate by sinking German boats; we landed troops on the Continent and punched Germany’s lights out.

      There is also the strategic perspective on these two forms of response. Reprisal is about seizing back the initiative and waging war on our terms. Retaliation cedes the initiative and the terms to the enemy. Good examples of more retaliation-oriented responses are the War of 1812 and Vietnam. The Spanish-American War of 1898 is another example of a reprisal-type response.

      Killing terrorists with drones, as a method, has no hope of bringing conflict to an end. It is a strategically useless way of waging war. If killing potential terrorists is to be thought of as a method of waging WAR — a political project intended to reduce the enemy’s will — then something much more massive and indiscriminate would be required. Why not just slaughter all Arab and South Asian Muslim men under the age of 50? Every one of them is a potential terrorist. Indeed, in terms of suicide bombing, all the women are potential terrorists as well.

      Yet we obviously will not choose to do that, for the clearest of moral reasons.

      It’s a big question. Ultimately, I would be willing to dispense with drone killings entirely, if the tradeoff were to wage war against Islamist terrorism more effectively by other means. Using drones is reverting to a least-effort defensive model, one that has no hope of reducing the enemy’s will and ending the war.

      But the strongest thing we could do is be confident and powerful as a society, demonstrating the superiority of our philosophy about God, man, and the state. We’re in the middle of a big crisis in that regard. Until we come out of it, we can expect to persist in morally questionable, least-effort methods — for a lot of things.

    3. This may be a little sci-fi.

      Since the last time we brought up drones awhile ago, something got stuck in my head. I’m concerned that tactics utilizing formations of air and sea robotic weapons/platforms en masse, are dangerous, and will make the use of nuclear weapons more likely.

      For example. In a future conflict, a formation of pilotless fighter-bombers (read X-47B) carrying out operations, is detected in mid flight, over open water, let’s say a safe distance from the carrier or land base. What’s to prevent the enemy from using nuke-tipped SAM’s to eliminate the threat? No human casualties, but the nuclear-use threshold has been crossed.

      Same applies for robotic missile attack vessels (of any displacement), tac-nuke the whole formation or solitary vessel. Threat eliminated, again no human casualties.

      Could we define the use of nuclear weapons in the above cases as disproportional, an escalation, or immoral? It does open a big can of worms, doesn’t it. Would we be within the rules if we retaliated with nuclear weapons against manned targets? since the criteria is the use of nuclear weapons and not the fact that there are no casualties? If we did, obviously that opens us up to retaliation on our manned targets.

      Any ideas to help me out on this folks?

  2. Thanks for writing on subjects that so few are willing to address, or even acknowledge.

    If you want a graphic illustration of the path we are on, go to a law library and look at your state’s entire statutes from 100 or 150 years ago. Now compare that modest collection to the thousands of pages and dozens of volumes needed to contain your current code. Unfortunately, most folks when faced with such a stark contrast will only ask themselves, “How on earth did those poor folks survive with so few laws and regulations?” Indeed. How did they get by without state licensing laws for music therapists?

    Most people do not know, and fewer care, that the states are now beholden to the Federal government. It would be hard to find a state agency whose budget is not dependent on federal money, and whose practices are not substantially dictated by federal laws and regulations. The state’s dancers are prancing to the malevolent federal tunes being piped in at taxpayer expense. And, yes, thank you for pointing out it didn’t start with Obama. He is just the predictable acme of federal tyranny.

  3. As a foreign policy hawk, I am not on the same page with Rand Paul when it comes to *his* foreign policy. But as for prospective 2016 Republican presidential candidates, I may well be inclined to vote for him because as of now he seems the most inclined to take a sledgehammer to existing order of excessive statism where others are too likely to merely tinker around the edges. Under less dire circumstances I may be more inclined for a Paul Ryan or a Jeb Bush. But it’s looking to me more and more like the domestic patient is going to need Randian type shock therapy. He alone won’t be able to cure the patient of course, but his election, like probably no other, would at least put us on a path where individual liberty is once again prime. And we’d have to hope that the consequences of his foreign policy isolationism would be outweighed by the advance of liberty at home.

    1. That’s how I kind of felt about Ron Paul. For all of his own peculiarities and wacky naivety, I considered voting for him merely to break the status quo and reset our clock, as it were by a few decades. What we definitely don’t need are tinkering at the edges as we are too far gone. That Mitt, Jeb and some of the others couldn’t see that only points to their own myopia regarding liberty and the fruits thereof. It is NOT up to the Feds to give/grant us stuff, just protect our liberties and the rest will take care of itself.

      Unfortunately, the days of “managing” government is long, long gone, as in so 60s-80s.

    2. I think you have a good point here, RE. It has become somewhat depressing to watch global events in the last few years, because it is so obvious that the vacuum of American power is altering all the dynamics, and mostly for the worse. For the first time in my life, I think there is a legitimate concern about the general safety of Americans abroad, in even the most Western and allied of nations. Unfortunately, it is likely that it’s only a matter of time before some kind of “Iranian hostage” type situation erupts to leave us twisting in the geopolitical wind for months or even years.

      No one elected in 2016 can simply pick up, foreign-policy-wise, where we left off in January 2009. Everything has changed. There is no going back to the old order. There will only be cobbling together a new one.

      There was always a limit to America’s power to shape the emerging order (although a different president since 2008 would have made a decisive difference). What the world is getting is a hiatus from American power, and there’s not a darn thing that can be done about it, now that Obama has fully dismantled the Pax Americana — and still has nearly four more years in office.

      This world will be meaner, more brutal, more unstable, and more dangerous than it was five years ago. There will be big blows to US interests. We will suffer economically. But in our current condition, there is no option to respond as we would have under Reagan, the Bushes, or even Clinton. So there is no point in repining over that. We need to focus on cleaning up our act at home.

      What we will find at the end of the tunnel, if we do clean up our act, is a lot of tremendous opportunity in the growing instability. The world is multipolar now: today. No single nation is powerful enough to impose a global order. Because of everyone else, each aspiring hegemon will have to trim his expectations. There is no “Germany” and no prostrate “Europe”; no “Soviet Union” and no “emerging Third World.” The power calculus is too multi-variate and equalized. There will be shooting and bloodshed; there will be losses for America. But we’ll get to 2017 without a new “Hitler” or “Stalin” arising.

      We will find that we do, in fact, have to conceive our national security in terms of keeping Europe and the Far East stable and friendly. We can’t just ignore the rest of the world. But America today is not using the resources WE have, to improve the lot of our own people. We have millions of smart brains and strong backs out of work. We are killing off parts of our energy industry and putting big dents in our agriculture and manufacturing industries. We’re doing our level best to price American labor out of the world market, and tax business into a coma. We’re acting insane right now.

      If we stop it, we’ll come roaring back, and be able to take up some of the slack in our economic fortunes. We’ll get back to beating the world in productivity and prosperity. But we have to do that, if there is to be a point to American leadership. As things stand today, there is no reason for anyone else to want to follow us. We wouldn’t be asking them to follow a Reagan, or even an Eisenhower or a Roosevelt. We’d be asking them to follow Obama. Outside of Western Europe, most of them are already smarter than that.

  4. You and Mark Steyn ( were thinking the same thoughts at the same time –

    “… just another day in the life of the republic: a corrupt bureaucracy dispensing federal gravy to favored clients; a pseudo-legislature passing bills unread by the people’s representatives and uncomprehended by the men who claim to have written them; and a co-regency of jurists torturing an 18th-century document in order to justify what other countries are at least honest enough to recognize as an unprecedented novelty. Whether or not, per Scalia, we should “condemn” the United States Constitution, it might be time to put the poor wee thing out of its misery.”

    – except that you look at the same evidence of governmentism [thanks for introducing that to the lexicon] and see that the Constitution may yet prevail:

    “We need have no fear that bloated government will suddenly begin to work, openly and accountably, and thus make our concerns look foolish. Everything will perform more and more poorly in the days ahead. It would be the most backward-looking approach possible, to think that we must not associate ourselves with a vision for change. We are at the break. We cannot stop it. There will be no alternative to change in the next few years. We either lead, with a time-tested vision of ordered liberty, or we will get steamrolled with everything else.”

    I wonder. If inevitable collapse is the only opportunity to restore Constitutional government [and I believe you are right about that], HOW do we lead that way when the “time-tested vision of ordered liberty” suffers from waning familiarity among the young? Schools are increasingly hostile to that cultural thread that wove the American project, and the other mediating institutions for the transmission of cultural values – churches, civic organizations and, especially, families – are in decline. The political (and economic) organization of a society follows its culture. Ordered liberty (like science and engineering) ultimately rests on premises that truth is objective and knowable. Much of the culture (including “soft” sciences) says otherwise.

    None of that excuses giving up, but time and energy are not limitless, and increasingly people cannot even think, because they have lost the language to think clearly. You are such an important contributor to this effort that I will look forward to your thoughts on how to rebuild the language and the premises for ordered liberty, so that it is not greeted with cognitive dissonance when the time is ripe for its return.

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