Lynch mobs and hit lists

You already know how I feel about the George Zimmerman – Trayvon Martin affair and the Obama Administration and its lap dog-media sycophants ginning up a lynching party to “get” Zimmerman and a few random white people to fill the role pending trial. Zimmerman’s guilt has already been decided in the media’s public square.

Now, via the Wall Street Journal‘s inestimable Kimberly Strassel, comes news that Administration is, in the words of Washington beltway attorney Ted Olson, putting up the names of major Romney donors on “wanted posters” in government offices, releasing their names to the public, and libeling their reputations.

“The message from the man who controls the Justice Department (which can indict you), the SEC (which can fine you), and the IRS (which can audit you), is clear: You made a mistake donating that money”, writes Strassel.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304723304577368280604524916.html?mod=WSJ_article_comments#articleTabs%3Darticle

I don’t know if you can access this article without a subscription, but Strassel’s “The President Has a List: Barack Obama attempts to intimidate contributors to Mitt Romney’s campaign” article in today’s WSJ points out a litany of presidential abuses of power by the Obama regime, including:

  • Making individual citizens the object of his vitriol.
  • Personal attacks on corporations and industry segments.
  • Legal assaults on constitutional rights of free speech by corporations.
Add to that list the looting of American taxpayers through government policy-driven largesse to Democrat crony capitalists and political insiders. For an excellent review on one way how this is done, I highly recommend reading entrepreneur Jerome J. Schmitt’s excellent insights in today’s American Thinker:

We continue our slouch into the serfdom of Liberal Fascism. Sad to say, I suspect that the large segments of the population that are not cheering these developments are either yawning in general ennui or too glued to the mindless drivel of videoworld to realize how our /their wealth and freedoms are irrevocably slip, slip, slipping away.

How dare a private organization spend its money the way it wants to? Liberals opine about ObamaCare and the Susan G. Komen Foundation

In the past week, two decisions came out regarding the way in which private organizations spend their money.  The first decision was the Obama administration’s announcement that businesses in America must provide their employees with insurance that covers birth control, sterilization, and abortifacients.  The only exception was for businesses that had no employees other than those dedicated to a core religious mission (i.e., a convent that doesn’t employ any janitorial or gardening staff, but only nuns, who serve in all capacities, both religious and non-religious).

One year from now, by government diktat, religious organizations that are doctrinally opposed to any forms of birth control, abortion, or sterilization must nevertheless fund these activities.  This will affect every religiously run school, health care center, or other charity in America, of which there are many.  It will also affect most parishes, to the extent that the only employees aren’t priests and nuns.

The other decision that hit the news regarding the way in which private entities can spend their money came, not from the government, but from an actual private entity.  The Susan G. Komen foundation, which is dedicated to finding a cure for breast cancer, announced that it will cut its ties to Planned Parenthood.  As an aside, Susan G. Komen is privately funded; Planned Parenthood, of course, receives substantial monies from the government.

Komen claimed that it cut funding because Planned Parenthood is running afoul of Congress, a problem that makes it impossible for Komen, under its charter, to provide funding.  Planned Parenthood claims that Komen, under the leadership of one of Sarah Palin’s friends, is punishing Planned Parenthood for providing abortions and abortion counseling.

In the conservative world view, those stories are bass ackward.  When it comes to the Church, the government should not be telling religious institutions to spend their money on activities antithetical to their core doctrines.  And with regard to business, conservatives believe that private foundations have the perfect right to withhold funds from organizations that engage in activities they find offensive.  It’s very different in liberal land.

My insight into liberal land comes through my “real me” Facebook account.  Because I’ve spent most of my life in the Bay Area, I’d say that roughly 90% of my Facebook friends are liberal leaning.  I therefore get to see what energizes them (and why), as well as what they ignore completely.

I can tell you that what my friends ignored completely was the Obama administration’s assault on religious freedom.  Not a single person I know commented upon the fact that the Catholic Church is outraged, and on the move, because of the requirement that it fund birth control and abortions.  As far as my friends were concerned, this was a non-issue.

Liberal pundits are equally unable to see why this matters.  Megan McArdle hones in on the liberal argument supporting the administration’s mandate, which is that if religious institutions are going to go into business (i.e., healthcare or education, both of which are activities in which they’ve engaged for millennia), they need to play by big boy rules, which translates to bowing down to government diktats that touch upon doctrinal issues.  If they don’t want to play by those rules, they shouldn’t be doing anything more than administering the sacrament:

[From the liberal viewpoint] the regulations seem to have nothing to do with whether the Catholic hospitals or other charities take public money; rather, it’s the fact that they provide services to the public, rather than having an explicitly religious mission.

I’ve seen several versions of Kevin’s complaint on the interwebs, and everyone makes it seems to assume that we’re doing the Catholic Church a big old favor by allowing them to provide health care and other social services to a needy public.  Why, we’re really coddling them, and it’s about time they started acting a little grateful for everything we’ve done for them!

McArdle shreds this argument with a little real world logic:

In the universe where I live, some of the best charity care is provided by religious groups–in part because they have extremely strong fundraising capabilities, in part because they often have access to an extremely deep and motivated pool of volunteers, and in part because they are often able to generate significant returns to scale and longevity. And of course, the comparative discretion and decentralization of private charity, religious or secular, makes it much more effective in many (not all ways) than government entitlements.

In this world, I had been under the impression that we were providing Catholic charities with federal funds mostly because this was the most cost-effective way of delivering services to needy groups.

Simply put, the religious organizations that run charitable programs are doing the government a favor, not vice versa.  Nevertheless, the Obama government has just decided to bite the hand that feeds it — not that my Facebook friends care.

What my Facebook friends do care about, deeply, is Komen’s decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood.  They are outraged and are furiously sharing Facebook links from Planned Parenthood and other pro-Choice advocacy groups that find it morally wrong that a private entity, offended by Planned Parenthood’s approach to a core moral issue, might have rethought its charitable outreach.  Some examples:

Tell the board of Susan G. Komen: Don’t throw Planned Parenthood under the bus!
act.credoaction.com
The Republican plan to defund Planned Parenthood is working — but if we take action now we may be able to stop the latest attack on women’s right to health care. It was just announced that Susan G. Komen for a Cure will no longer fund free or low-cost breast cancer screenings for millions of women.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure: Don’t Succumb to Right Wing Attacks. Restore Planned Parenthood Relatio
signon.org
I just signed a petition to Nancy G. Brinker, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Susan G. Komen for the Cure: Stand firm for women and restore your relationship with Planned Parenthood immediately.

Women’s lives vs. politics
pol.moveon.org
Susan G. Komen for the Cure just bowed to anti-choice pressure and eliminated breast health funding for Planned Parenthood, even though this means thousands of women could be denied the screening and early detection that saves lives. Tell them to put women’s lives ahead of politics.

Most of my Facebook friends, in posting these links, announce that they’ll never give money to Komen again, but are at that very minute cutting a check to Planned Parenthood.  In other words, they understand how the marketplace works; they just don’t like it.

What I especially love about all the comments I’ve seen is the moralizing:  “Breast cancer isn’t pro-choice or anti-choice.”  “It’s immoral to stop funding breast cancer research.”  “How can Komen put politics ahead of morality?”  In making these arguments, my friends are oblivious to two pertinent points.

First of all, Komen isn’t stopping its funding for breast cancer research.  It’s simply finding a new partner with which to work, either because its current partner is corrupt and in trouble with Congress (the official Komen line) or because its current partner engages in acts that the Komen organization finds morally wrong.  By making breast cancer screening available through a morally corrupt entity, Komen understands that it is essentially funding that corruption, a nuance that eludes the liberals.

Second, it’s the Komen Foundation’s own money.  Last I heard, and despite the Obama administration’s most recent assault on the Church, in America people (and corporations) have a Constitutional right to spend their money (or not spend their money) as they please.

People should think long and hard about the pairing of the ObamaCare/Catholic Church battle, and the Planned Parenthood/Komen battle, because these two fights perfectly represent two sides of the same coin:  namely, the liberal belief that there is nothing, including the Constitution, to stop the government and the liberal elites from dictating how individuals and private entities should spend their money.

Wendell Romney

Does history repeat itself? I fervently hope not.

Ok, I have grudgingly thrown my support behind Mitt Romney. It’s not that I am excited about Romney as a candidate, but I am genuinely excited about the need to get Obama out of office before he does irreversible damage to this country. But, here is where I see a problem:

In one corner, we have a radical Marxist/Progressive, with little to no understanding of human nature and economics, who is on a tear to totally transform society to fit a bankrupt utopian ideology. In the process, he destroys jobs, strips companies of investment capital, destroys human capital, demonizes success, romanticizes failure, takes command of and promptly ruins entire segments of the economy, undermines the Constitution, blatantly disregards the law and does his very best to bankrupt the country while redefining entire segments of the population as dependent wards of the state.

In the other corner, we have a square-jawed, well-coiffed, highly intelligent, erudite and successful businessman who made his mark in an industry demonized and under constant assault by the President. Formerly a Liberal, he now claims to be a Conservative, although large swaths of the Republican party refuse to accept his supposed conversion to conservatism as sincere. He is a nice, rational man who believes in using soft-spoken discourse to sway people and find common ground. Rather than go on a blistering attack in support of the capitalist, free-enterprise economy, he ends up trying to placate the population with his moderation and management credentials, while fending off internal strife within the Republican Party between those that promote strong advocacy of conservative principles and those seeking an accommodationist “middle way”. In many ways, he remains tone deaf to how others perceive him to be and how they react to his awkward choices of words.

This man of whom I speak was Wendell Willkie. He ran against FDR in 1940 and got creamed by 5 million votes. Now, I realize there are many differences between then and now, but take a look at these photos below and please tell me they don’t suggest a spooky echo of the past.

Wendell Willkie

Mitt Romney

“Keynes” and other back-pats

Here’s a Robert Samuelson article, “bye bye Keynes” that should give us all pause: the arguments he uses to write Keynes’ obituary are arguments that we all posited in our own excoriation of Keynes in years past, in response to a string of commentators, ranging from A to Z.

I’ve been reviewing our last few years at Bookworm Room and I think that we all deserve a round of huzzas and raised beer mugs or wine glasses, whatever is at hand. We’ve been so right about so many issues, be it “Keynesian”economics; anthropogenic global warming; the Islamist threat; U.S. fossil fuel reserves; “green” energy; Iraq; Obama; the EU’s collapse…and on and on und so weiter.  Sometimes, our prescience has preceded events on the ground by years.

To all of you Bookworm guests and, especially, to Bookworm, our hostess: I’m so d*** proud to know you! I am so much smarter for having enjoyed the many experiences of your insights and commentary.

Slouching into slavery

What the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protestors don’t realize (yet) is that they have been suckered into becoming the agents of their own enslavement.

Orwell had it so right in defining the Left because he was a man of the Left. The term “Orwellian” now refers to the Left’s use of terms to mean the direct opposite of the intention of an idea or act (“war is peace”, for example). Orwell also noted the need for the State to invent enemies as a means of deflecting attention away from its own actions. It’s all about deflection away from true agendas.

Let me explain. Granted that the OWS movement is defined by many grievances, one underlying theme of  the OWS protests is the onerous debt assumed by students. I have sympathy for this because, as many commentators have already pointed out, these students were sold a bill of goods. The idea was that, whether qualified or motivated or not, kids could simply participate in the university experience, supported with “generous” (i.e., taxpayer-funded) government aid, and exit with a paper degree and guaranteed, high-paying job bereft of drudgery. This is the siren song that led to the inevitable crash upon the rocks of debt slavery.

Universities, those bastions of entitlement, have made out like bandits, taking the students money in exchange for worthless promises and worthless degrees. The government financed this process using “free” taxpayers’ monies and, in the end, developed a class of dependents that will spend the rest of their lives working their way out of indentured servitude at the behest their government masters (the Golden Rule is those that own the gold, rule!). For, as these students are slowly realizing, government debt and dependency is forever…there is no escaping their obligations.

It used to be that students could tap loans from private lending institutions that assumed the risk of a student borrower’s success or failure. If the student went bankrupt, the bank suffered. That is how capitalism and free markets should work. Not so with Liberal government. When the Obama administration took over these lending services, it took away failure as an option. Today, neither students nor their parents can escape their student debt obligations and the total student debt outstanding has been estimated to approach $1.0 trillion.

Many of these OWS students are now answerable to their government masters for the foreseeable future and during their most formative years… a period when they should be free to work toward satisfying careers, saving to purchase their own homes, preparing to raise families and, eventually, achieving financial independence. Instead, as long as the government holds their debt, it can now dictate how these students will lead their lives in service to their government’s regime goals (as in, “we will forgive x-amount of your debt if you “agree” to work in only certain prescribed professions or government-approved public works programs under certain given conditions dictated by us, your master) Or, let’s try the Chicago Way: “as long as we hold your debt, you will only believe certain things, work for certain causes, and vote in certain ways” . Their indentured servitude has taken away their freedom to think, to act and to build their own futures. Even more sadly, for many of these students, their expensive college educations amounted to little more than indoctrination whereby to accept these circumstances as a good thing: witness the large number whose goal in life is simply to work for “non-profits”.

The especially egregious aspect of this is that it is poorer students that have so been hooked into government dependency. But then, that has pretty much been par for the course for Liberal government, hasn’t it? Government did this before, with poor blacks and the War on Poverty. Government programs enslave the poor through indentured dependency.  Rich or talented kids don’t have to worry about this: they have parents, scholarships or trust funds to ensure that they never become indentured government debt pawns. The especially pathetic part of these events is that these indebted students and graduates have been led to believe, through Orwellian deflection, that the agents of their servitude are banks, conservatism, political and economic liberty, and capitalism – the very agents that could yet free them – rather than the government and academia that shackled them.

I suspect that, deep down in their hearts, many of the OWS protestors are slowly coming to realize their predicament. They’ve been had. Eventually, I expect, they will come to learn the truth about their servitude. I hope that they will still have the strength to resist.

I think that it is safe to say that slavery, not democracy, has been a defining condition for the great majority of human history. This may not be a point stressed in the Orwellian halls of academia that groomed this new government slave class at these students’ own expense, but it is a historical truism, none the less. It would truly be sad if what we are observing at the various OWS rallies around the country and world is simply an age-old historical evil reasserting itself in modern drag. What we are now seeing as the product of the college experience is the emergence of two classes: a wealthy, highly educated ruling class and a subservient, dependent, servant class that got suckered into paying the Liberal/Left ruling class to deprive it of intellectual and economic choices under the Orwellian guise of “freedom”. The Liberal/Left has done a bang-up job of severely crippling a generation of our children. I would be hard-pressed to conceive of  a more gross corruption of the American ideal.

I hope that I am wrong. What do you think?

 

Greed is so good that it might just save America — if Veruca Salt doesn’t kill us first

Maybe it’s Americans’ innate capitalist instinct — the need to commercialize everything — that is our true bulwark against a Russian or French style revolution. Sadly, though, it’s that same acquisitive quality, the one that sees most American young people grow up as Veruca Salt, that encourages the temporary ravages and inconveniences of publicly staged adolescent temper tantrums. The only bulwark against those tantrums is a culture that actually requires young people to grow up.

Work as contribution

A short time ago, my priest gave a sermon that addressed the deep sorrow and sense of worthlessness internalized by our parishioners that were unemployed. The point of the sermon, actually, was how the unemployed felt “useless” and demeaned for being unable to provide for their families, but that nobody in God’s family should ever feel useless or demeaned. Fine sentiments.

It struck me, though, that we miss a big part of what work represents: contribution. We work to contribute to our society. The value of that contribution to society is often measured by the money we make (profit is a measure of value creation). Whether you design a new i-gizmo, manage a postal delivery room, mop floors or serve-up burgers at the big-M, you are contributing and, as such, your work is noble. A mind game that I like to play when people speak of certain work being beneath them is to ask, what if that job just disappeared: no ditch diggers, no burger flippers, no cleaning people, no garbage collectors (oops, “sanitation engineers)? Not a pretty picture, is it?

I once reminded my kids of this when they made fun of fast-food service workers. Both ended up working as restaurant help (my son worked at Taco Bell). It was good for them.

I suspect that much of the angst and ennuie that we see among the unemployed, trust-fund babies and the badly-employed (i.e., those that knowingly cause damage to society) is a deep seated awareness that they are not contributing. This leads to anger, antisocial behaviors and tantrums. In many case, not only they not contributing, but they feed off the productivity of the contributors. That certainly doesn’t contribute to self-esteem. On the other hand, if you contribute, you don’t need to feel bad about yourself. I am at an age where my peers love nothing more than to mentor younger employees and pass on the knowledge they have accumulated over their careers. There is a wonderful light in the eyes of these veterans – they are contributing!

Unfortunately, I sense that our society has been drifting away from this. Work is seen by too many as something that one is forced to do in order to survive, a necessary drudgery. Wage slaves. It’s so unfair!  Too many people choose professions because they want to make money, rather than by their sense of how they will contribute. I have known many such people, some very wealthy, most of whom were profoundly unhappy.

That’s too bad. I suspect that one big reason our country is in decline is because we measure tend to measure our lives by the material things we obtain rather than by how we contribute to society.

I suggest that one way we can really help our country is to re-ennoble the value of work by, as Book mentioned so eloquently in an earlier post, reframing its meaning. I don’t care what kind of work somebody does…just as long as they contribute, it is noble, it is good.

If you disagree with me, let me know. If you agree, then go let’s go and find some young kids and explain to them the nobility of work as a contribution to society. Don’t ask people what they do for a living, ask them how they “contribute”. I suggest that we could spread around quite a bit of happiness and self worth that way.

That’s just my two cents, of course.

 

Managing businesses (badly): This is precisely what government — Big Government — does

My mother, who gets a lot of her news from the MSM, is nevertheless slowly becoming aware of the Solyndra scandal — not just the fact that a big solar panel company went bankrupt, but that it went bankrupt at great cost to her, because the Obama administration had bet the farm (or should I say, the taxpayer’s farm) on Solyndra.  “That’s not what government is supposed to do,” she said.

Au contraire, Mama,” I replied.  “This is precisely what Obama-style Leftist government is supposed to do.”

I went further than that.  The Obama approach to business is precisely like the Nazi approach to business.  And before anyone gets all hot and sweaty here, and despite Obama’s disgraceful attitude to Israel, I am not likening Obama to Hitler or trying to say that the Progressives are Nazis.  I am making, instead, a very specific point about American-style socialism, which is very different from Soviet, or North Korean, or Cuban style socialism.

When people think of socialism, they think in terms of government doing away with private industry entirely in favor of total nationalization.  That’s why, when you remind people that the fascists were socialists (i.e., Leftists), they’ll always deny it.  “That can’t be true.  Hitler didn’t take over private business.”

While it’s true that Hitler left ostensible corporate ownership in private hands, the practical reality was that the Nazis made the big decisions.  Baron von This and That and Herr So and So got to call the corporation their own, and got all the glamor that went with being rich industrialists, but the practical reality was that they looked to the Reichstag for direction and, because the Nazi Party conferred significant economic benefits on them, they supported it in word and deed.  One could say that German businesses, although nominally private, were in fact subsidiaries of the Nazi government.

That fascist approach, which sees businesses retain their status as “private,” even while being completely answerable to the government, is the Obama model.  He doesn’t want to nationalize companies, he just wants to direct them.  American businesses, in his mind, should be subsidiaries of the Obama White House.  That’s why Obama happily took over GM, and that’s why he and his Chicago cronies saw no problem with using taxpayer money to prop up an already failing solar company.

This same attitude permeates ObamaCare.  We conservatives sometimes forget that the hardcore Left hates the individual mandate as much as we on the conservative side do.  We hate it because it decreases individual freedom.  The Left hates it because the insurance companies will continue to thrive and, indeed, can profit mightily.  The Left cannot understand how their man in the White House could betray them that way.  They forget that Obama, although a socialist, is not a Communist.  He is an economic fascist, and merely wants to manage American business, which will keep a steady stream of money flowing from those same businesses right back to him.

In theory, it’s a lovely solution for both the government and the businesses.  In practice, as Solyndra shows, Obama is a disastrously bad business manager.  It’s also worth remembering, as the Germans learned to their great cost, that while power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.  It’s one thing for business to have a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” relationship with government.  That’s the nature of power.  It’s another thing entirely when a government simply co-opts a nation’s business.

Of course corporations are people

Romney, when he said “corporations are people” was correct in two ways:  (1) As a matter of law, corporations are considered people, an approach that justifies taxing them.  (2) Corporations are agglomerations of people:  they are owned by people, run by people and provide goods benefiting people.  It’s a Marxist delusion to pretend that something that has a legal identification to improve functionality and accountability is entirely divorced from humanity.  No people, no corporations.  No corporations, dramatically less in the way of wealth, innovation, services, health care, roads . . . indeed, anything that adds quality to our lives today.

Thank goodness for corporations.  They should be policed so that their aggregation of human power — and with that human power, wealth — does not allow them to avoid or break rules to the detriment of people’s health and immediate well-being, but they are one of the gifts of our modern era, and we should be grateful, not resentful.

The Business of China and U.S.

Given this blog’s recent flogging of the China versus U.S. (“us”) question, here is  a primary example of how China may surpass the U.S. by becoming more business friendly as it decentralizes while the U.S. risks having to learn the lessons of socialist history all over again as our over-regulated economy grinds down to a slow crawl.

In this linked article at the American Spectator, an entrepreneur compares and contrasts the difficulties of and disincentives for creating new businesses in our country, under our increasingly socialist, statist form of governance.

http://spectator.org/archives/2011/05/10/killing-manufacturing

Money quote: “Now, this is China so the government and the state share 30% of your business, but considering the ease of entry, increased in-country sales and helpful attitude, this is a small price to pay, especially considering America’s 35% plus corporate tax rates.”

Here, the author makes an excellent point: when the State demands 35% of a company’s earnings (I believe that Mafia shake-down artists usually demand a smaller percentage in protection money, but I may be wrong), the State de facto owns a 35% equity interest in the company…with only one major difference: it shares 0% of the risk borne by shareholders.

Is America on the road to becoming a socialist paradise like, say, Europe’s former Soviet Block during the 1960s? Naaah…don’t think so! Our future will not be one of mythical straight-line Progessive projections.

I predict instead that, given American individual initiative and creativity, our trajectory will be more like that of an Argentina – once a leading economic jewel, now a pathetic, tired, broke 3rd-world backwater. In such economic environs, two groups will prosper: the government-sanctioned nomenklatura and those clever and adept enough to profit from the inevitable underground economy.

Sad story!

Wrongly conflating socialism with generosity

I read someone today who said that Jesus must have been a socialist, because he didn’t seek profit, which is the hallmark of capitalism.  Instead, gave away his time, energy and skills to those who could not pay.  Since he didn’t have a profit motive, he must have been a capitalist.  QED.  It was a classic case of conflating socialism with generosity.

Socialism is, in fact, the opposite of generosity because it removes human morality and decency from the equation.  There’s a reason study after study shows that liberals donate less to charity than conservatives do.  The liberals have placed themselves entirely in government’s hands:  the problem of the poor has become someone else’s problem.  The fact that we all pay taxes, which the government uses to fund the poor, isn’t charity, it’s central planning predicated on wealth redistribution.

The Victorians, who were wellsprings of one sentence wisdom, used to say “charity begins at home.”  The giving impulse of charity must start within us, as it did within Jesus.  In a totalitarian, or even semi-totalitarian (i.e., socialist) state, nothing is allowed to come from within.  All goes to and flows from the government.

In a capitalist society, people have the wherewithal to give.  And in a healthy capitalist society, they have the moral impulse to give.  Jesus wasn’t a socialist.  When he said “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s,” he fully understood the separation between our spiritual and moral impulses on the one hand, and the dictates of a state on the other hand.  Ideally, the people’s adherence to both Caesar and God is a mutually beneficially system, with a humane state allowing humans to go about their business, and a social and moral structure that encourages those with the most to reach out, without state coercion, to help those with the least.

The Bookworm Turns : A Secret Conservative in Liberal Land,
available in e-format for $4.99 at Amazon or Smashwords.

Democratic Exhaustion

Is our democracy germinating the seeds of its own destruction?

Alexis de Toqueville warned, “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” That day has come. It is not yet gone.

Democracy  in ancient Athens lasted about 250 years. We in the United States are at about that same point in our history today. In Europe, alas, democracy came but as a short, brief whimper in time. Now, post-Lisbon, it is gone…at a national scale and, very soon, at the local level, too.  EUro democracy – so ancien regime! In EUrope, the new aristocracy is already taking form, with power centered in Brussels and Strasbourg. In America, our own Washington, DC-centered aristocrat wannabees remain diffuse and riven by competing factions, but they are there and waiting.

What went wrong? I propose that the primary seed of our destruction lies in our own human nature. It is the “tragedy of the commons” writ large. The tragedy of the commons, formulated by ecologist Garrett Hardin in the 1960s, describes the dynamic whereby individuals and other animals, when confronted with limited resources, have a self-interest in expropriating the maximum amount of those resource for themselves while they can, thereby hastening the resource’s destruction. The tragedy of the commons is neatly summarized by Illinois’ de facto state motto, “where’s mine?” (with a respectful hat tip to Chicago Tribune editorialist John Kass).

I suspect that, deep down, many serious people in America’s contending factions (Left, conservative, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian) believe that we are now in the end game and that we are thus witnessing a mad, vicious scramble by traditional Democrat constituencies (e.g., public sector unions) to secure to themselves as much wealth and political power as possible before the inevitable financial collapse. The primal screams and vile demagoguery harmonized by the howling mobs of Wisconsin, Greece, France and Britain (or from our Commander in Chief, for that matter) are but the beginning of this process. Change can be ugly when people lose hope!

“Where’s mine?”

It still remains incredible for me to contemplate how we in the West, endowed with the richest standards of living every conceived in human history, still could not find satisfaction from living within our means. The wails and tribulations of the Left notwithstanding, all groups in America are living far better material standards of living than they did 25, 50 or 100 years ago or than the vast majority of our world enjoys today. How could we not find it within ourselves to be grateful for and respectful of what our forebears built and accumulated as their legacy for us. Indeed, our unparalleled wealth and quality of life appears only to have fueled resentment of “the other” in tandem with an exponential growth in our appetites and expectations. Thus have we now come to the point of destroying ourselves and our inheritors through impossible debt obligations, gained in our quest for ever more lucre and comfort gained on other peoples’ dimes.

“Where’s mine?”

So today, confronted with hard choices on whether to cut back on our expectations and regenerate the wealth that we have lost on one hand (the Paul Ryan plan) and a mad scramble to secure our own selfish claims upon the commons before its dissolution, our country confronts the fork in the road that, as Yogi Berra put it, must be taken.

Why do I suspect that earlier in our democracy, when government was not expected to fulfill everyone’s economic and social needs, a national belt-tightening to confront an existential crisis would hardly have been considered controversial. A split electorate today, unfortunately, does not bode well for constructive solutions. From my limited perspective, I suspect that 25% of our population seems committed to the conviction that the government’s largesse can continue forever and another 25% (public employee unions, Liberals, Democrat politicians) cynically manipulates events to amass all it can before the inevitable collapse.

“Where’s mine?”

I propose, however, that these manipulators on the Left and their followers are fundamentally mistaken in the following ways:

One is to believe that whatever political and financial power they accumulate in these days will translate into power and wealth in the future. I don’t think so. You can’t, for example, pay pensions on the back of a collapsed market economy. You can’t fund ObamaCare promises through foreign largesse. Princely union boss salaries will be worthless when union members inevitably catch on to their betrayal and they, too, ultimately depend upon a healthy private sector economy.

Two, we can never really predict the future.  Revolutions lead to unpredictable ends and often end-up eating their own. Anarchists and Democrats can try to collapse the system, perhaps, but nobody can know what will replace it.

Three, the real threat to our society today is not our debt but the destruction of our debt capacity. Debt capacity refers to our ability to absorb more debt in response to crises: for me, for example, debt capacity is represented by my home equity line of credit, to be drawn upon in emergencies. We can be guaranteed that our Western civilization will face serious crises that will threaten our very existence. With our home equity line exhausted, from whence will we find the capital resources to fund our survival? How will we build back from the rubble?

When FDR embarked on his wildly irresponsible debt-financed financial adventures, our country’s ability to absorb debt was still great by the time WWII arrived. We survived and, as a result, thrived. I am not so certain that we could do so today. Not to veer too far off path, but does anyone else get the sense that the ineffectual flounderings of the U.S. and our NATO allies in Libya, a misbegotten economic and military backwater of 6.5 million people, hardly reflect the actions of robust democracies?

I sense that our Western democracies have reached a point of exhaustion. Perhaps this reflects the natural lifespan of democracies. I hope not. The Ryan blueprint presents our 50:50 nation with an existential fork in the road. We shall soon discover the true strength of our national fiber. Will we tighten our belts, retrench and expand the national and global commons as we have in the past…or will we intensify our mad struggles to secure dwindling remnants thereof to ourselves? If the latter, then our democratic experiment will truly be at an end. And that would be a tragedy.

I do not say that democracy has been more pernicious on the whole, and in the long run, than monarchy or aristocracy. Democracy has never been and never can be so durable as aristocracy or monarchy; but while it lasts, it is more bloody than either. … Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never.

- John Adams