It is definitively necessary in our post-religious, post Constitutional and post-educational milieu to consider what we have made in the light, not only of today’s events, but also of what we have done before. A work in progress must await its future for final evaluation; the results of the past are fixed in place for examination. And our government remains as it has been from its beginning, while events are pressing great change upon the world, a work in progress.
We started with an intentionally circumscribed, small government that couldn’t take care of anybody and wasn’t supposed to; states could do that if they wished. Our industrialization and Civil War produced a lot of poor people, who helped elect politicians and grow government to take care of them. Our technology gave us female contraception; our women abandoned religion and restraint and went off to replace men, at least in life style and definition of responsibility. Our brave men stood around with their thumbs…well, watching. Neither the churches nor the Constitution could stand under these assaults; both are headed toward irrelevancy. And technology marches on, as does government, which now attacks churches and ignores the Constitution at need. The last conditions obtain in Europe too and of course, always have in more authoritarian places.
A current news item is the NSA practice of eavesdropping and recording our electronic communications without judicial permission. It turns out, there is judicial permission, from a special court that operates secretly, eleven smiling judges whose decisions are redacted, saying: “Trust Me!”. As fallout from this, we learned that the U.S. Postal Service is copying and storing the outside of all the envelopes we mail for future use by the police. The Eurofolk projected indignation over these since they are not excluded but we now hear that France does it too and our program included Germany as a partner. Government now wants access to the chips that operate our cars, so we can be located or the engines shut off when desired. The airport TSA security feel-you-uppers have been testing not only operating in bus and railroad terminals but also using highway roadblock inspection points. The President claims the power to kill whomever he decides is a threat; Congress has provided him the power to secretly and indefinitely imprison anyone without review on the same basis, using our military. We aren’t in your grandfather’s America, Toto, let alone Kansas.
Comparing the governments of say, 1800, 1900 and 2000, there has inarguably been a revolution in American government. Whether it has been an improvement is argued; I’ll leave that to you. But there is no doubt that the government has more power and you have less immunity. You also have received more goodies: retirement, disability, welfare, food stamps, healthcare, unemployment benefits and higher wages to name a few. There is a price for that; you must accept a lower average living standard, comparable to say, Sweden if you wish to live that way. That’s what our present government debt and deficits tell us. As does the President’s recent comment that we can’t have a car, air conditioning and a big house without boiling the planet. I reserve my opinion on the planet part, but must agree we can’t have all those plus the government goodies; someone has to pay for them and to date, nobody has that much money.
Our government has reached the point of no return: it is paying more for the goodies it has promised plus those it wants for itself, than the taxpayers have earned. Hence the debt and deficits burdening the economy today. But our politicians are afraid to reduce the goodies; they play fantastic games instead. Economics plods along in reality not recognizing fantasies, so when enough of us catch the drift to plunge the stock market again, we’ll be back in financial 2008 without bailouts but with an all-knowing, omniscient government that has become the most powerful on earth. That will provide us three choices forward:
- We can imitate Egypt in our own version, with our Progressives duking it out with the relics of the Ancien Regime Constitutionalists amidst street politics, something that perhaps our governors are half-expecting. A mess.
- We can see our government dig in, brutally restore order and do as it pleases thereafter.
- We can elect politicians who will act as adults, restoring common sense and financial reality. Canada managed that and paid down its debt in the late nineties; Sweden has done it recently.
My crystal ball needs polishing; it’s cloudy but a few things are visible. One thing is, the ongoing revolution in our government didn’t start there; the government simply followed the voters as politicians ride the waves of public attitudes. Another is that we are split into two incompatible publics, one of irreligious, government-centric moral relativists and the other Judeo-Christian valued Constitutionalists. One or the other must prevail; both cannot shape the same society for long. The Swedes who fired their spendthrift Social Democrats and replaced them with financial conservatives are a more cohesive bunch than Americans seem to be today.
The Jews lost their kingdom as much because they couldn’t govern themselves as because the Romans came. Rome went under because it lost its internal cohesion, not because it was overwhelmed by barbarians; it couldn’t govern itself. The same pattern may be what is showing up in America with its self-destructive, paralyzed government. Our species is always changing things, progressing until the changes bring down the house and we have to start over. Nothing new here, the Greeks (who weren’t famous for governing themselves) prefigured the idea with their Phoenix and even better, the Jews have given us the Old Testament tale of the Tower of Babel. We’re still doing it, maybe it’s in our DNA?