Why Freedom of Speech?

Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter dismays the left and elates the right. Why? Because of the expectation that Twitter will henceforth stop censoring “misinformation”, that is, facts and arguments that subvert the tenets of wokeism. Chief among those tenets are:

  • Gender fluidity (e.g., the beliefs that “men” can bear children and that sex is “assigned” at birth)
  • Climate change as mainly a human-caused “problem”
  • The dictatorship of “science” (when certain “scientists” proclaim “truths” favored by the woke, such as the aforementioned commitment to human-caused warming as a “scientific fact”, which it isn’t)
  • Conservatism and constitutionalism as fascistic (a classic case of psychological projection)
  • Blacks as oppressed victims of whites, who are all racists (despite strong evidence that blacks earn less than whites, have less wealth than whites, and commit crimes more often than whites because of innate differences in intelligence and cultural reinforcement of dysfunctional behavior).

There’s much more (see this, for example), but you get the idea.

Imagine what the worlds of politics, journalism, entertainment, advertising, and employment would be like if conservatives had been as successful at suppressing the ideas of wokeism as wokeists have been successful at suppressing their ideological opponents’ views. If you liked the 1950s, you’d love the absence of wokeism.

Wokeism has succeeded largely because of the mistaken idea, held by many on the right. that absolute freedom of speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Absolute freedom of speech is the devil’s playground. It fosters the operation of an intellectual version of Gresham’s law: Bad ideas drive out good ones. This perversion of the “marketplace of ideas” is reinforced by the government’s (i.e., the left’s) command of public education indoctrination; the legalistic trick (known as section 230 of the Communications Decency Act) that allows leftist information brokers to suppress conservative views; and the removal of all constraints on what the left-dominated media may present as “entertainment” and “news”. The latter two instruments of left-wing subversion were and are enabled by free-speech absolutists on the right.

I have elsewhere and at length (e.g., here and here) explained and explored the wrongness and consequences of free-speech absolutism. Here, I will focus on the question posed by the title of this post: Why freedom of speech, that is, what is the good of it?

Has it ever occurred to you that there is no such thing as “free speech”? Think of the many times you that have held back or softened your views out of consideration for the feelings of others, out of fear that you couldn’t adequately defend your views, or because you feared the repercussions of candidly stating your views (e.g., derision, outrage, ostracism, and violence)?

Free speech — speaking one’s mind without restraint at all times and in all places — is the province of innocents and madmen. For most human beings, speech approaches (and sometimes attains) openness and candor only among intimates. Even then — when marriages, romances, and friendships fail — the limitations of openness and candor (“free speech”) become apparent.

Even among academics who work in fields that are supposedly objective (e.g., the “hard sciences” and mathematics) there are rivalries, jealousies, and political differences that stand in the way of openness and candor. It’s not that academics don’t say what they really think; they are notorious for doing so. It’s that the purported objective of free speech — the pursuit of truth through the competition of ideas — is unlikely to be attained when hypotheses and facts are skewed by academicians’ biases. A leading example of this phenomenon is the scientific consensus group-think about “climate change“, which is a shining example of a hypothesis that has been disproved by evidence but survives and thrives on ignorance and emotionalism. (As do many other ruinous manifestations of “free speech”, such as recycling, “green” energy, anti-COVID masking, the innocence of Trayvon Martin, and the saintliness of George Floyd.)

Freedom of speech, at bottom, is really the freedom to express an opinion (or emotion), however wrong-headed and socially acceptable that opinion may be. And, to reiterate, there is no guarantee that the mythical “marketplace of ideas” will favor opinions that foster social comity or scientific truth. To the contrary, given the left’s dominance of the “marketplace of ideas”, favored opinions will be (and are) those that foster social discord and hysterical attachments to pseudo-scientific fraudulence.

Freedom of speech therefore favors irrationality and emotionalism. It does not — as evidenced by the current state of America — favor truth, justice, or the general well-being of the citizenry.

What is the alternative? It is certainly not Biden’s disinformation czardom ministry of truth, which will only make things worse.

Stay tuned …

A National Divorce Is the Only Solution

Chuck DeVore wanders through the tumultuous history of the U.S. in the 1780s and 1790s in search of evidence to buttress his view that a national divorce is a bad idea. Specifically,

Breaking up is hard enough — creating a new government that can both secure liberty and survive is even harder.

No one who writes seriously about a national divorce (a.k.a., voluntary partition) would claim that it would be easily accomplished, or that the aftermath would be smooth sailing. But the prospect of turbulence shouldn’t deter those of us who believe that a national divorce is the only peaceful way to secure something like liberty for the citizens of a majority of the disunited States of America.

In any event, DeVore focuses on the wrong period of American history. The relevant period is the 1770s, when the political leaders of the thirteen colonies (“the united States of America”) declared that

when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

That, dear readers, is the relevant historical parallel.

DeVore veers from irrelevant history to an irrelevant prescription for undoing the long train of abuses and susurpations that has issued from Washington for more than a century:

[L]et us strive to repair the nation we have.

Returning to the Constitution would be a great first step. The surest route to doing that would be to end federal primacy over state power via restoring the original meaning of the Commerce Clause, while forcing Congress to legislate rather than hiding behind unelected bureaucrats by rediscovering the nondelegation doctrine.

This is nonsense upon stilts, to apply Bentham’s diagnosis to a somewhat different political perversion. The last thing that the abusers and usurpers of the real Constitution will allow is a return to it and to its many limits on the central government (the real Commerce Clause being just one of them).

The only solution, for lovers of liberty, is a national divorce, which could be accomplished without bloodshed. To do that, however, requires concerted action by the top elected officials of a significant number of States. What is a significant number in this case? Republicans have complete control of the governorships and legislatures of 23 States. A coalition of two-thirds to three-fourths of those States (i.e., 16 or more) would be a significant fraction (about one-third of the number of States in the present disunion).

How would such a coalition proceed to declare its independence of the presently constituted United States of America? The details are here (scroll down to F. Secession).

Would the central government try to prevent secession by 16 or more States? Almost certainly, but not through all-out war — at first. The most likely counter-strategy would be to take the matter to the Supreme Court, where a majority of justices would rule that secession is unconstitutional, despite strong arguments to the contrary (see F. Secession at the link above). Further, the central government would have manufacture “evidence” that the governments of the seceding States are not “republican”, giving the Court another straw to grasp in its eagerness not to incur the wrath of Congress (and suffer the indignity of being “stacked”). So the Court’s ruling would not only invalidate secession but also declare the governments of the seceding States to be illegitimate.

With such a ruling in hand, the central government would recognize provisional governments for the seceding States, governments whose executives and legislatures consist of dissenting citizens of the seceding States. Resistance by a seceding State to the installation of a provisional government would give the central government an excuse to use force to install that government and enforce its edicts. (The president would invoke the Insurrection Act.) Capitulation by one or two seceding States would discourage the rest, and the central government would reassert itself as the de facto government of every State, as it is now for all practical purposes.

How, then, could secession be made to work? The next time there is a Republican president and the GOP has a firm grip on Congress, which could come as soon as 2025, the central government should stand aside while the secession movement plays out. The GOP-controlled States, by the same token, must act vigorously to set themselves up under a new (i.e., old) Constitution so that their independence is secured the next time the pendulum swings back to the Democrat party. And the pendulum would surely swing back in succeeding elections, given the absence of a large number of GOP-controlled States from the diminished union.

But so what? The deed would have been done and a significant fraction of Americans would be living in something more like liberty. Half a loaf, in this case especially, is vastly superior to none.

What about the citizens of GOP-controlled States of the old union that didn’t secede when given the opportunity to do so unopposed? And what about the citizens of Blue States who chafe under leftist dictatorships? They might well be stuck in the old union — which is likely to be more oppressive than ever. But that won’t preclude the new union from welcoming immigrants from the old one — if they pass rigorous ideological background checks. (Why repeat the experience of once-conservative Southern States, like Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia, which succumbed to the allure of economic growth and were inundated by carpetbaggers, or Texas, which is always on the verge of succumbing?)

What about the common defense and trade between the old and new unions, which are the only aspects of disunion that might be problematic? (The new union can print enough money to provide Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid for those who are already dependent on such things, or soon will be, and give due notice the everyone else that the feeding trough won’t be refilled after a date certain.) I would expect the government of the old union to act foolishly and spitefully by (a) drastically reducing its defense spending and (b) erecting onerous trade barriers between the two Americas, including strict controls on the exportation of computer technology, products, and services to the new union.

The good news is that the creation of a new union means that its government could make a fresh start on defense and trade.

Meaning no disrespect to the members of today’s armed forces, I must say that those forces are mainly irrelevant to the defense of Americans and their overseas interests. This is a subject that deserves a long blog post devoted to it, and perhaps I will someday publish such a post. For now, I’ll just say that America’s defense forces ought to exploit America’s technological superiority and become far less focused on the relics of the past: huge ships, heavily armored army divisions, supersonic aircraft, and amphibious forces. For a lot less money, America could confound its enemies — near and far — in ways that Israel is exploring.

Trade is a two-way street (in fact, a multi-dimensional street that carries traffic in many directions). If the leaders of the old union want to curtail trade with the new union and make their citizens even worse off than they will become by tilting at the “climate change” windmill, so be it. The entrepreneurial spirit and know-how of the new America will readily take up the slack of diminished trade with the old regime. Computer technology, products, and services are easily replicated, to the extent that they need replication. (The States of the new union, “elite” opinion to the contrary notwithstanding, will have their share of people who are quite as capable as the geeks of Washington State and California.)

So, unlike Chuck DeVore, I say this about a national divorce: Bring it on! If I’m not on the right side of the divide when it happens, I will try my damnedest to get there before I’m too old to move again.

What Happened to America?

Theodore Dalrymple, in a typically brilliant column, “First Slowly, Then Quickly“, traces the corruption of language and values pertaining to the subject of sex; for example:

In a publication aimed at dermatologists, the Dermatology Times, we read in an article devoted to the treatment of the skin in transgender patients the following:

Patients of reproductive potential who are not…abstinent with penis-containing partners, 2 forms of contraception are required.

In other words, women who would like to be men but still have their ovaries and wombs can become pregnant by sexual intercourse with fertile men, the latter now being known as “penis-containing” persons….

At the same time as we are enjoined to think of biological sex as unimportant to the point of nonexistence, and to believe that men who can have babies by penis-containers are men in precisely the same sense that Tarzan was a man….

There are several wider cultural trends discernible in the current agitation over transsexualism, or whatever name one wishes to give it…

The first cultural trend is an increasing reluctance to accept any limitation whatsoever to the satisfaction of one’s desires that are placed by circumstances beyond one’s control, that is to say an exaggerated or exacerbated Prometheanism: You can be anything you want, without limitation, and therefore you do not have to accept anything you were born with as ineluctable….

The second trend is to magical thinking, despite the supposed rationality of our age and its vaunted defeat of superstition. We believe that we can change reality by means of mere verbal incantations…. Thus, if we go on saying long enough that women who take male hormones are men, and outlaw the opposite proposition, such women will become men.

The third trend is the worship of power. The object of deliberate language change is not to improve the state of the world, or even anyone’s state of mind, but the exertion and consolidation of power for its own sake….

The fourth trend is centralization of the marginal; that is to say, a marginal phenomenon such as transsexualism comes to occupy the center of intellectual attention. To employ a different metaphor, the tail wags the dog.

The fifth trend is to the increasing spinelessness or cowardice of much of the intelligentsia, who in this case have proved themselves astonishingly easy to intimidate, a pack of intellectual Neville Chamberlains (but Chamberlain had more excuse, for he had lived through the horror of the First World War, which he did not want to repeat). Nothing has proved too absurd for this intelligentsia to swallow; indeed, the swallowing of absurdity is easier for the intelligentsia than others, for rationalization is their métier. There is no point in being an intellectual if you think only what everyone else thinks.

Which leads to this:

The most important question is, What next?—for there will be a next, because transgressive reform is what gives meaning to life in the absence of any other meaning. My money is on incest, against which there is no rational argument these days, given the availability of birth control and abortion and the moral authority of mutual consent.

Dalrymple’s answer applies only to matters sexual. But his observations have broader implications for the fate of the West. The alarming reluctance among “wokesters” to accept natural limitations, magical thinking, centralization of the marginal, and spinelessness have burrowed into the social and economic fabric of the West. And encourage its subjugation by enemies who scoff at such “woke” delusions as transgenderism, “climate change”, “equity”, and the rest of the left’s “woke” agenda.

In America, these delusions have been accumulating since the onset of the so-called Progressive Era in the 1890s. That naissance (it was nothing like a renaissance) occurred on the (figurative) eve of my maternal grandparents’ marriage. My maternal grandmother was born in 1880 and lived to the age of 96. I was close to her from my early childhood until her death in 1977, when I was 36 years old..

She was a typical American woman of her generation, and of at least one generation to follow. She worked at a menial job until her marriage, bore and raised ten children, never traveled more than 150 miles from her home (until a late-life trip to visit a son in Florida), cooked on a wood-burning stove and lived without indoor plumbing until she was 70, never owned a TV set, and never drove a car. (For more about Grandma and her progeny, see this, this, and this.)

No thanks to the Progressive Era and all that it unleashed, the America of today isn’t my grandmother’s America. Nor is it my mother’s America. Nor is it the America that I grew up in.

What is it? And what happened to make it the way that it is?

Before I try to describe the America of today and explain how it came to be, I must try to describe what it was for most Americans in the first five decades of the twentieth century:

Life, for a significant fraction of the populace — a fraction that dwindled, swelled in the 1930s, and then dwindled sharply — was a fragile thing. It was threatened by disease, malnutrition, injury, lack of adequate shelter, and much else that (as of now) has been “conquered” by economic and scientific progress. (Economic progress occurred in spite of government action — see, for example, this, this, this, and this. Scientific progress has become regress, witness the government-funded plague known as Covid-19 and the wholesale hysteria known as “climate change”.)

Physical labor was central to life and fraught with dangers that were taken in stride.

Family ties were crucial because of the foregoing.

Religious belief was taken for granted and the central tenets of the Judeo-Christian tradition guided behavior (with the usual lapses that are endemic to human nature).

The vicissitudes of life and shared religious beliefs made community (but not communism) a real thing (not a faux construct fostered by “social” media).

Social life centered on family, church, and community.

Entertainment was largely home-made and wholesome.

One’s income and wealth were one’s own responsibility.

The super-rich promoted the arts, not thought control.

Immigrants entered the country legally and studied America’s Constitution and history to become citizens. (They weren’t allowed in the back door and released into the general population to burden taxpayers.)

Fairness was striking a deal and sticking to it (not claiming to be “owed” something because of one’s color, creed, or gender-confusion).

Sex was a fact of life, and there were only two sexes.

Homosexuality was an aberration that undercut the social fabric and was accordingly viewed as something to be shunned.

Race and racial differences (cultural, economic, criminal) were facts of life, not a “social construct”.

Crime was punished, quickly and with all due severity.

College was a privilege for the brightest, not a “right” to be thrown at millions who were unfit for it.

Politicians, despite their tendency toward mendacity and venality, were by-and-large to be trusted, as long as their power was circumscribed.

Washington was a far-off place (metaphorically if not geographically) that had little to do with daily life.

What’s wrong with that list? Nothing, as far as I can see. It’s anchored in reality.

How, then, did America come to be run by a cabal of super-rich “oligarchs”, politicians, bureaucrats, academics, and “journalists” who sneer at the list and reject it, in deed if not in word?

It happened one step backward at a time. America’s old culture, along with much of its liberty and (less visibly) its prosperity, was lost step by step through a combination of chicanery (by the left) and compromise (by “centrists” and conservative dupes). The process — the culmination of which is “wokeness” — has a long history and deep roots. Those roots are not in Marxism, socialism, atheism, or any of the other left-wing “isms” (appalling and dangerous they may be). They are, as I explain here, in (classical) liberalism, the supposed bulwark of liberty and prosperity.

An “ism” is only as effective as its adherents. The adherents of (classical) liberalism are especially ineffective in the defense of liberty because they are blinded by their own rhetoric. Take Deirdre McCloskey, for example, whom Arnold Kling quotes approvingly in a piece that I eviscerated recently:

The quality of life you personally lead, dear reader, is better than the lives of your thirty-two great-great-great-great grandparents. I’ll speak for myself. An Irish peasant woman digging pratties in her lazybed in 1805 or a Norwegian farmer of thirty acres of rock soil in Dimmelsvik in 1800 or the American daughter of poor English people in 1795 had brutish and short lives. Many of them could not read. Their horizons were narrow. Their lives were toilsome and bitter….

Richer and more urban people, contrary to what the magazines of opinion sometimes suggest, are less materialistic, less violent, less superficial than poor and rural people. Because people in capitalist countries already possess the material, they are less attached to their possessions than people in poor countries. And because they have more to lose from a society of violence, they resist it.

… The richer, more urban, more bourgeois people… have larger, not smaller, spiritual lives than their ancestors of the pastoral. They have more, not fewer, real friends than their great-great-great-great grandparents in “closed-corporate” villages. They have broader, not narrower, choices of identity than the one imposed on them by the country, custom, language, and religion of their birth. They have deeper, not shallower, contacts with the transcendent of art or science or God, and sometimes even of nature, than the superstitious peasants and haunted hunter-gatherers from whom we all descend.4

That drips with smugness and condescension. And it wildly mischaracterizes the wealthy “elites” who have taken charge in the West. As I will discuss, there is noting spiritual about them.

McCloskey, who is an economist of some note, should know better than to make what amounts to interpersonal utility comparisons. She writes as if she were able to evaluate the “utility” of the dead and weigh it against the “utility” of the living. No such evaluation is possible, even for the living. The dead are beyond reach, of course, but they certainly weren’t able to weigh their circumstances against the unpredictable circumstances of their descendants and find themselves wanting — materially or spiritually — relative to those as-yet-unborn descendants.

All that McCloskey has told is is that she (formerly he) views his/her way of life as superior to that of the unwashed masses, living and dead. Further, holding that view — which is typical of liberals classical and modern (i.e., statists) — he/she obviously believes that the superior way of life should be adopted by the unwashed — for their own good, of course. (If this isn’t to be accomplished by force, as statists would prefer, then by education and example. This would include, but not be limited to, choosing a new sexual identity if one is deluded enough to believe that he/she was “assigned” the wrong one at birth.)

It is hard to tell McCloskey’s attitude from that of a member of the “woke” elite, though he/she undoubtedly deny being such a person. I am willing to bet, however, that most of McCloskey’s ilk (if not he/she him/herself) voted enthusiastically for “moderate” Joe Biden because rude, crude Donald Trump offended their tender sensibilities (and threatened their statist agenda). And they did so knowing that Biden, despite his self-proclaimed “moderation”, was and is allied with leftists whose statist ambitions for the United States are an affront to every tenet of classical liberalism, not the least of which is freedom of speech. Shallowness, thy name is (classical) liberalism (when it is not never-Trump “conservativism”.)

What is a “wokester”, then? A “wokester” is someone with an anti-American agenda has become impatient with such trifles as freedom of speech and due process of law for those who oppose that agenda. Here is Bari Weiss on the subject:

Let me offer the briefest overview of the core beliefs of the Woke Revolution, which are abundantly clear to anyone willing to look past the hashtags and the jargon.

It begins by stipulating that the forces of justice and progress are in a war against backwardness and tyranny. And in a war, the normal rules of the game must be suspended. Indeed, this ideology would argue that those rules are not just obstacles to justice, but tools of oppression. They are the master’s tools.  And the master’s tools cannot dismantle the master’s house.

So the tools themselves are not just replaced but repudiated. And in so doing, persuasion—the purpose of argument—is replaced with public shaming. Moral complexity is replaced with moral certainty. Facts are replaced with feelings.

Ideas are replaced with identity. Forgiveness is replaced with punishment. Debate is replaced with de-platforming. Diversity is replaced with homogeneity of thought. Inclusion, with exclusion.

In this ideology, speech is violence. But violence, when carried out by the right people in pursuit of a just cause, is not violence at all. In this ideology, bullying is wrong, unless you are bullying the right people, in which case it’s very, very good. In this ideology, education is not about teaching people how to think, it’s about reeducating them in what to think. In this ideology, the need to feel safe trumps the need to speak truthfully.

In this ideology, if you do not tweet the right tweet or share the right slogan, your whole life can be ruined. Just ask Tiffany Riley, a Vermont school principal who was fired—fired—because she said she supports black lives but not the organization Black Lives Matter.

In this ideology, the past cannot be understood on its own terms, but must be judged through the morals and mores of the present. It is why statues of Grant and Washington are being torn down. And it is why William Peris, a UCLA lecturer and an Air Force veteran, was investigated for reading Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” out loud in class.

In this ideology, intentions don’t matter. That is why Emmanuel Cafferty, a Hispanic utility worker at San Diego Gas and Electric, was fired for making what someone said he thought was a white-supremacist hand gesture—when in fact he was cracking his knuckles out of his car window.

In this ideology, the equality of opportunity is replaced with equality of outcome as a measure of fairness. If everyone doesn’t finish the race at the same time, the course must have been defective. Thus, the argument to get rid of the SAT. Or the admissions tests for public schools like Stuyvesant in New York or Lowell in San Francisco.

In this ideology, you are guilty for the sins of your fathers. In other words: You are not you. You are only a mere avatar of your race or your religion or your class. That is why third-graders in Cupertino, California, were asked to rate themselves in terms of their power and privilege. In third grade.

In this system, we are all placed neatly on a spectrum of “privileged” to “oppressed.” We are ranked somewhere on this spectrum in different categories: race, gender, sexual orientation, and class. Then we are given an overall score, based on the sum of these rankings. Having privilege means that your character and your ideas are tainted. This is why, one high-schooler in New York tells me, students in his school are told, “If you are white and male, you are second in line to speak.” This is considered a normal and necessary redistribution of power.

Racism has been redefined. It is no longer about discrimination based on the color of someone’s skin. Racism is any system that allows for disparate outcomes between racial groups. If disparity is present, as the high priest of this ideology, Ibram X. Kendi, has explained, racism is present. According to this totalizing new view, we are all either racist or anti-racist. To be a Good Person and not a Bad Person, you must be an “anti-racist.” There is no neutrality. There is no such thing as “not racist.”

Most important: In this revolution, skeptics of any part of this radical ideology are recast as heretics. Those who do not abide by every single aspect of its creed are tarnished as bigots, subjected to boycotts and their work to political litmus tests. The Enlightenment, as the critic Edward Rothstein has put it, has been replaced by the exorcism.

What we call “cancel culture” is really the justice system of this revolution. And the goal of the cancellations is not merely to punish the person being cancelled. The goal is to send a message to everyone else: Step out of line and you are next.

And:

It has worked. A recent CATO study found that 62 percent of Americans are afraid to voice their true views. Nearly a quarter of American academics endorse ousting a colleague for having a wrong opinion about hot-button issues such as immigration or gender differences.

It has worked because it is the culmination of a decades of indoctrination in public schools and universities — indoctrination that derides and denies the America that I described earlier. It has worked because wealthy “elites” in positions of power — academic power, corporate power, media power, and governmental power — are among the indoctrinated are able to make it work. And if they are not indoctrinated, they are willing and able to make it work for their own enrichment and power.

Why would they do that? For the perquisites of being in power and being allied with the all-powerful state. Here, for example, is Theodore Dalyrmple, writing about Britain (though he could just as well be writing about America or another other rich Western nation):

Britain has pioneered and is now a world leader in a phenomenon that might be called legalized corruption or corruption without breaking the law. This allows private looting of funds raised by taxation and government borrowing on an unprecedented scale. Combined with the moral and intellectual corruption of such services as the police, who indulge in para-police activities such as eliminating hatred from the human breast while ignoring burglaries, arson, and assault, value for money has become a concept without meaning or application….

The state, said Bastiat, is the means by which everybody seeks to live at everyone else’s expense. (You need not believe that this is the only function of the state to see the truth, or strong element of truth, in Bastiat’s dictum.) But in the past what most people wanted from the state was a secure living and a decent pension rather than a pharaonic scale of living. In Britain, at least, Mrs. Thatcher opened the Pandora’s box of bureaucratic ambition, and out flew all those soi-disant chief executives, directors of operations, deputy directors of business development, etc., and now they will never return where they belong.

Seen in this light, the recent shindig or orgy [“climate change” conference] in Glasgow becomes rather more intelligible. There were 400 private jets said to have landed, like a swarm of bees (or is it vultures?) at Glasgow airport, for this event. It would be instructive to know how many of the owners of those jets owed their wealth in large part to favors done them by governments. Not all, probably, but many. We do not live in a liberal order, at least not liberal in the classical economic sense, but in a corporatist one, or one rather like the apartheid regime in South Africa, with its socialism and positive discrimination for one race. No doubt corporatism is to some extent inevitable because of the complexity of modern technology, which we cannot, or do not wish to, do without, but at least let us get our terminology right.

Michael Rectenwald goes beyond venality into dystopia:

According to Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chair of the World Economic Forum (WEF), the 4-IR [fourth Industrial Revolution] follows the first, second, and third Industrial Revolutions—the mechanical, electrical, and digital, respectively. The 4-IR builds on the digital revolution, but Schwab sees the 4-IR as an exponential takeoff and convergence of existing and emerging fields, including Big Data; artificial intelligence; machine learning; quantum computing; and genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics. The consequence is the merging of the physical, digital, and biological worlds. The blurring of these categories ultimately challenges the very ontologies by which we understand ourselves and the world, including “what it means to be human.”5….

[I]f existing 4-IR developments are any indication of the future, then Schwab’s enthusiasm is misplaced, and the 4-IR is misrepresented. These developments already include internet algorithms that feed users prescribed news and advertisements and downrank or exclude banned content; algorithms that censor social media content and consign “dangerous” individuals and organizations to digital gulags; apps that track and trace covid suspects and report violators to the police; robot police with QR code scanners to identify and round up dissenters; and smart cities where everyone is a digital entity to be monitored, surveilled, and recorded, while data on their every move is collected, collated, stored, and attached to a digital identity and social credit score….

Many positive developments may come from the 4-IR, but unless it is taken out of the hands of the corporate-socialist technocrats, it will constitute a virtual prison.

Under the Great Reset governance model, states and favored corporations form “public-private partnerships” in control of governance. The configuration yields a corporate-state hybrid largely unaccountable to the constituents of national governments….

In Google Archipelago, I argued that leftist authoritarianism is the political ideology and modus operandi of what I call Big Digital, and that Big Digital is the leading edge of an emerging world system. Big Digital is the communications, ideological, and technological arm of an emerging corporate socialism. The Great Reset is the name that has since been given to the project of establishing this world system.

Just as Klaus Schwab and the WEF hoped, the covid crisis has accelerated the development of the Great Reset’s corporate-socialist statism. Developments advancing the Great Reset agenda include the Federal Reserve’s unrestrained printing of money, the subsequent inflation, the increasing taxation on everything imaginable, the increased dependence on the state, the supply chain crisis, the restrictions and job losses due to vaccine mandates, and the prospect of personal carbon allowances.10 Altogether, these and other such policies constitute a coordinated attack on the majority. Ironically, they also represent the “fairness” aspect of the Great Reset—if we properly understand fairness to mean leveling the economic status of the “average American” with those in less “privileged” regions. And this is one of the functions of woke ideology11—to make the majority in developed countries feel unworthy of their “privileged” lifestyles and consumption patterns, which the elite are in the process of resetting to a reduced and static new normal.

Over the past twenty-one months, the response to the covid-19 scourge has consolidated the monopolistic corporations’ grip on the economy on top, while advancing “actually-existing socialism” below. In partnership with Big Tech, Big Pharma, the legacy media, national and international health agencies, and compliant populations, hitherto “democratic” Western states are increasingly being transformed into totalitarian regimes modeled after China, seemingly overnight. I need not provide a litany of the tyranny and abuses. You can read about them on alternative news sites—until you can no longer read about them even there.12

The Great Reset, then, is not merely a conspiracy theory; it is an open, avowed, and planned project, and it is well underway.

As Rahm Emanuel infamously said, never let a serious crisis go to waste. In other words, exploit it to the hilt in order to increase the power and scope of government.

Therein lies the story of the dissolution of America (and the West). Trust in government, whether sincere or cynical, has displaced personal responsibility, which was — with other aspects of virtue — the mainspring of the American character. The mainspring wore down under the pressure of Progressivism, the crisis that was the Great Depression, the growth of government spawned by that crisis, the false sense of security generated by the welfare state, and — paradoxically — just enough prosperity (for which proponents of the welfare state falsely claim credit) to make Americans (figuratively and too often literally) fat, dumb, and happy.

Economic security — or the illusion of it — is an enemy of liberty. And the failure of liberty eventually brings about the failure of economic security because “Big Brother” destroys the initiative (springing from personal responsibility) that makes possible true prosperity, which the printing of money cannot sustain.

“Big Brother” not only destroys personal responsibility, he also destroys the communal esprit that is animated by mutual trust, respect, and beneficial cooperation. In other words “Big Brother” destroys the essence of liberty. And, to that end, “Big Brother” has become the manservant of “wokeness”.


Other related posts:

Social Norms and Liberty
Facets of Liberty
1963: The Year Zero
Turning Points
Election 2020: Liberty Is at Stake
“We Believe”
Thinking about Thinking and Other Things — Beliefs, Herds, and Oppression
Centrism:The Path to Dystopia

Does Liberalism Destroy Liberty?

That’s the title question of an essay by Arnold Kling, a sensible economist with whom I usually agree. Not this time, however.

Kling begins with Patrick Dineen’s Why Liberalism Failed. In Kling’s account of Dineen’s argument, modern liberalism (state-interventionism) is an outgrowth of classical liberalism (individualism). Evidently, Dineen takes that view because classical liberralism doesn’t account for civic virtue, and it is a lack of civic virtue (i.e., community) that invites statism.Near the end of the essay, Kling says that

I would not concede that liberalism has failed. But it certainly seems to be going through a rough patch, and we can still wonder why this is the case.

Kling is wrong — the “rough patch” is nothing less than the death of liberalism at the hands of its natural enemies: statists. But liberalism bore the seeds of its own destruction, as Dineen evidently believes, and as I will argue in what follows.

Civic virtue, to my way of thinking, is really just an aspect virtue: general adherence to widely accepted social norms (including religious ones). Adherence to those norms, among other things, binds a community in mutual trust, respect, and beneficial cooperation. That, by the way, is liberty, which isn’t a free-floating essence that can be attained by putting words on paper but a modus vivendi that can only be attained by continued adherence to social norms.

Anyway, here is Kling, commenting on and quoting Dineen:

According to Deneen, classical philosophers focused on the importance of virtue. Individuals must have the virtue of self-restraint to function well in personal realms. They must have civic virtue to have thriving communities.

Liberalism, Deneen argues, disregards this need for virtue.

The classical and Christian emphasis upon virtue and the cultivation of self-limitation and self-rule relied upon reinforcing norms and social structures arrayed extensively throughout political, social, religious, economic, and familial life. What were viewed as the essential supports for a training in virtue—and hence, preconditions for liberty from tyranny—came to be viewed as sources of oppression, arbitrariness, and limitation. (page 25)

Instead, he says,

A succession of thinkers in subsequent decades and centuries [have been] redefining liberty as the liberation of humans from established authority, emancipation from arbitrary culture and tradition, and the expansion of human power and dominion over nature through advancing scientific inquiry and economic prosperity. (page 27)

Deneen says that liberalism departed from classical and Christian values.

What was new is that the default basis for evaluating institutions, society, affiliations, memberships and even personal relationships became dominated by considerations of individual choice based on the calculation of self-interest, and without broader consideration of the impact of one’s choices upon the community, one’s obligations to the created order, and ultimately to God. (pages 33-34)

In Deneen’s view, liberalism’s faith in the free market, constitutional government, and science led us to tolerate and even to encourage purely self-interested behavior on the part of individuals. We trust that economic cohesiveness will come from the incentives that operate in the free market. Political cohesiveness we believe will be ensured by checks and balances embedded in an electoral process that functions under a constitution. Challenges posed by our natural environment we think will be met by scientific discovery and technology. But Deneen thinks we’re wrong.

And you (liberals) are wrong because markets, constitutions, and science are amoral formalisms. What’s “good” is what works, or seems to work. The shallowness of that conceit can be seen in the contrast between prostitution (a market transaction) and marriage (a non-market commitment for the vast majority of Westerners). If prostitution were to become a substitute for marriage, what would happen to the emotional bonds and moral commitments that (for the most part) typify marriages and families? What would the loss of those bonds commitments mean for economic and social relations between people generally?

Well, we are seeing the answer unfold before our eyes, as marriage becomes rarer and the bearing of children becomes an inconvenience to be prevented murderous means.

The shallowness of the conceit that what is “good is what works can be seen more generally in a correct understanding of liberalism as it was defined by one of its leading proponents, John Stuart Mill. I have written about Mill’s philosophical folly many times. (There is a list of links at the end of this post.) The following is based from my first essay about Mill, “On Liberty“.

Mill, in On Liberty (1869), offers a definition of liberty which has nothing to do with the real thing (see above):

It comprises, first, the inward domain of consciousness; demanding liberty of conscience, in the most comprehensive sense; liberty of thought and feeling; absolute freedom of opinion and sentiment on all subjects, practical or speculative, scientific, moral, or theological. The liberty of expressing and publishing opinions may seem to fall under a different principle, since it belongs to that part of the conduct of an individual which concerns other people; but, being almost of as much importance as the liberty of thought itself, and resting in great part on the same reasons, is practically inseparable from it. Secondly, the principle requires liberty of tastes and pursuits; of framing the plan of our life to suit our own character; of doing as we like, subject to such consequences as may follow: without impediment from our fellow-creatures, so long as what we do does not harm them, even though they should think our conduct foolish, perverse, or wrong. Thirdly, from this liberty of each individual, follows the liberty, within the same limits, of combination among individuals; freedom to unite, for any purpose not involving harm to others: the persons combining being supposed to be of full age, and not forced or deceived.[1]

That description, strangely, follows Mill’s prescription for the realization of liberty, which is his “harm principle” beloved of both libertarians and modern liberals. It is as if Mill began with the harm principle in mind, then concocted a description of liberty to justify it.

In any event, the source of liberalism’s failure can be found in the harm principle:

That principle is [according to Mill], that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.

Given the individualistic thrust of this passage and the surrounding text, the only plausible interpretation of the harm principle is as follows: An individual may do as he pleases, as long as he does not believe that he is causing harm to others. That is Mill’s prescription for liberty. It is, in fact, an invitation to license and anarchy.

Libertarians and liberals, even those who claim to reject license and anarchy, embrace the harm principle, for all of its simple-mindedness.

Enter Theodore Dalrymple, writing in his In Praise of Prejudice:
The Necessity of Preconceived Ideas:

It has long been an objection to Mill that, except for the anchorite in the Syrian desert who subsists on honey and locusts, no man is an island (and even an anchorite may have a mother who is disappointed by her son’s choice of career); and therefore that the smallest of his acts may have some impact or consequences for others. If one amends the [harm] principle to take that part of a man’s conduct that concerns principally himself, rather than only himself, one will be left with endless and insoluble disputes as to which part of his conduct that is….

But, as the great historian Lord Acton said, “Ideas have a radiation and development, an ancestry and posterity of their own, in which men play the part of godfathers and godmothers more than that of legitimate parents.” Who can doubt that many people have forgotten, for very obvious reasons, Mill’s qualifications of personal sovereignty, namely that it applies to conduct that “merely concerns himself”?

The main appeal of On Liberty to libertarians and modern liberals is Mill’s defense of conduct that (in his view) only offends social norms:

Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practises a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough: there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence: and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism.

Thus Mill rejects the enforcement of social norms, “except [in] a few of the most obvious cases,” by either the state or “society.” Lest anyone mistake Mill’s position, he expands on it a few paragraphs later:

These are good reasons for remonstrating with [a person who acts contrary to social custom], or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil [including social censure] in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him, must be calculated to produce evil to some one else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

In Mill’s usage, “calculated” means “intended.” By that logic, which is implicit throughout On Liberty, an individual is (except in “a few of the most obvious cases”) a law unto himself, and may do as he pleases as long as he believes (or claims to believe) that his conduct is not harmful to others.

Mill’s bias against the enforcement of social norms, in all but a few “obvious cases” (murder? theft? rape?), ignores the civilizing influence of those norms. That influence is of no account to Mill, as Dalrymple explains:

For Mill, custom is an evil that is the principle obstruction to progress and moral improvement, and its group on society is so strong that originality, unconventionality, and rebellion against it are goods in themselves, irrespective of their actual content. The man who flouts a convention ipso facto raises society from its torpor and lets everyone know that there are different, and better, ways of doing things. The more such people there are, the greater the likelihood of progress….

Of radical evil, in which the [twentieth] century was to abound, [Mill] has nothing to say, and therefore he had no idea that a mania for progress could result in its very antithesis, or that some defense against such radical evil, of which the commission was not possible without the co-operation and participation of many men, was necessary. The abandonment of customary restraint and inverted moral prejudice was not necessarily followed by improvement.[9]

There is a high price to be paid for the blind rejection of long-standing social norms, whether by individuals, organized groups, legislatures, or courts wishing to “do their own thing”, exact “social justice”, make life “fair”, or just “shake things up” for the sake of doing so. The price is liberty; that is, the destruction of social norms that make it possible for people to live in mutual trust, respect, and beneficial cooperation.

So, yes, liberalism — even of the antique kind that was preached by Mill and his ilk, and more or less supported by Western governments until statist “isms” began to hold sway — does destroy liberty. It does so by undermining social norms, which then requires an ever-enlarged state to do what strong communities could do for themselves. States inevitable fail, but statists are clever arguers for the proposition that failure requires more state action. And so it goes until true community — and thus true liberty — has been ground under the heel of the state.

How Two Wrongs (Do Not) Make a Right

The essential aim of Black Lives Matter and its many allies in the woke-o-sphere is to serve a hot, heaping dish of revenge to whites who meet certain specifications (non-woke, straight, white, male, conservatives of European descent) and to anyone else who doesn’t grovel at the altar of wokeism.

Why revenge? Because, in the world of wokeism, two wrongs do make a right. The wrongs of slavery and Jim Crow weren’t wrongs because they denied fundamental rights to persons of a certain class (i.e., most blacks in the South). If that were the case, wokesters would believe that it’s wrong to deny fundamental rights (e.g., freedom of speech) to certain whites just because of their whiteness or the views that they hold about wokeism.

But wokesters evidently don’t believe that its wrong to deny fundamental rights to persons. Their actions demonstrate this belief: It’s wrong to deny fundamental rights to blacks, but the rest of the world can go to hell.

That this belief exemplifies racism, tribalism, and other isms decried by wokesters is evident to non-wokesters. Thus the backlash against wokeism and its various manifestations — critical race theory being the most obvious and pernicious of the lot.

Liberty vs. Security

An esteemed correspondent makes some good points in the following message (which I have edited lightly):

Our country is in more dire straits than it has been at any time in my lifetime [he is 85]. Maybe not as bad as when a Vice-President shot and killed a former Secretary of the Treasury or when there was an armed insurrection and each faction tried to take the other’s seat-of-government by force. I think our current divisions and divisiveness are detrimental to the continuation of the “greatest nation the world has ever known”; and I don’t think they can be fixed.

Liberty and security pull in opposite directions. More of one, less of the other. History and common-sense tells us that is so.

I’d like to start with Benjamin Franklin’s saying that is often misinterpreted. He said that our form of government is a republic, if you can keep it. That has been misinterpreted, repeatedly and emphatically by the current speaker-of-the-house to mean that Franklin was warning against a strong executive emulating a monarch. I think he was warning against the opposite, which he had witnessed in France. He also was fearful of our becoming a pure democracy with a people’s parliament becoming a law unto itself. This is similar to the tradeoffs between liberty and security. Either extreme is undesirable.

The geniuses who designed our government provided a number of checks and balances to try to keep things sort of in the middle. We are a federated democratic republic, not a democracy as is so often misstated. The Framers of the Constitution designed a government, but they neglected to explain the relationship of the government to those that were being governed. It took the first ten amendments to the Constitution to make that explicit. Those ten amendments delineate the limits that the federal government has over individuals. The 14th amendment essentially extends that to state governments. I especially like the tenth amendment. It is simply worded and says in plain English, any rights and authorities not specifically given to the federal government in this document belong to the people and/or the states.

Two constitutional issues were settled by the Civil War: slavery was no longer legal anywhere; and secondly, it was not permissible for states to secede from the union. It took later amendments to confirm that Blacks were not property; they are human beings with all rights of other human beings. Unfortunately that didn’t sit well with many Americans and we are still trying to sort out that issue in practice.

I don’t think that our current problems can be solved by appealing to the consent of the governed to be governed, namely by voting. Nor do I think secession (breakup) is feasible.

Voting: A significant fraction of those that voted in the November 2020 election think the the “results” are not honest. You can dismiss that view, but it is necessary to have a buy-in to the results of an election to have an election that conveys the consent of the governed. To me it is beside the point whether there is any evidence of “stealing an election” or not. There were enough irregularities that a demagogue can and did stir up doubts. Elections need to appear incorruptible, and today they are not. Could that be fixed? Not in our polarized society.

Furthermore, and this is more important, there isn’t balanced news coverage leading up to our elections or in analyzing the results. When there is overwhelming bias in the media, or there is no fair representation of both sides of the coin, we don’t have an environment for fair elections. Today one political party and the media are indistinguishable. The “media” is totally biased and deceitful in reporting “facts”. Remember Hamilton and Jefferson, who were arch political enemies. Each funded media that parroted his version of “truth”. But there were two sides. Add to the mix today’s “social media”, controlled by those favoring security over liberty. So the voices of liberty over security are relegated to fringe “nuts”. [The last bit is a gross error on the writer’s part, unless the millions who take my position on the matter are all on the fringe.]

Maybe even more importantly and indicative of a long-term fundamental change in America is the influence of “educators”. Uniformly, from those teaching young minds to the teachers of those teachers, in the formulators of “correct” history they favor security at the expense of liberty and are militant about spreading the “gospel”. They are children of the 1970s. Many grew up at a college their parents paid for and they didn’t have to work when they got out of college. They didn’t have any useful skills and of course the remedy for that is the old saying, “Those who can’t do, teach”.

So I don’t think there is any chance of “voting” to obtain the consent of the governed for their government is achievable. The influences wielded by the media and the educational system can’t be alleviated. There is only one perspective instead of a balance between liberty and security. I have avoided using the words liberal or conservative, or republican or democrat. I think that liberty and security are the two concepts that should be discussed more often as the heart of the country’s differences.

Secession: The possibility of secession, peaceful of not, was foreclosed by the Civil War. Since then the entanglements between the federal entity, the state entities, and the states themselves rule out out any practical solution those bindings.

Bottom Line: We’ll muck around for quite some time until it is realized that our system with all its faults is better than any feasible alternative. If and when it happens, I’ll be long gone.

I responded at length, in two epistles. Here’s the first one:

Your analysis of the present situation in the U.S. is spot-on. And, as you say, it’s not going to get any better on its own. There really are two Americas and they are irreconcilable. There are a lot of Americans — me included — who will not stand for “mucking around” that legitimates the present state of affairs or its ultimate destination: an imperial central government that is beholden to and effectively run by ultra-rich oligarchs and their lackeys and enablers in the bureaucracies, public schools, universities, information-technology companies, and media.

As for secession, the Civil War settled nothing — Justice Scalia to the contrary notwithstanding — except to underscore the fact that the North was able to muster superior forces thanks to its larger (free) population and industrial strength. If you have the time, read my analysis of the Court’s infamous ruling in Texas v. White, on which Scalia founded his baseless dictum: https://politicsandprosperity.com/constitution-myths-and-realities/. Scroll down to Section VI.F. for the bottom line about the legality of secession.

I also discuss in another section the practicality of secession or, rather, its impracticality. But there is another way to skin the cat. It is the nullification of federal edicts by the States. I refer to a new kind of nullification, which — unlike the kind attempted by South Carolina in the early 1830s — doesn’t involve formal declarations by State legislatures and governors. Rather, it involves non-compliance, acts of defiance, and foot-dragging. We saw some of that during Trump’s years, as States and cities declared themselves “sanctuaries” for illegal immigrants and refused to cooperate with ICE. We are beginning to see it from the other side as GOP-controlled States bring suit after suit against various federal actions (e.g., Keystone pipeline, Biden’s immigration fiasco), and GOP-controlled cities and counties declare themselves pro-life and gun-rights “sanctuaries”. This could be the wave of the future, with effective diminution of the central government through non-compliance with federal edicts. Federal courts have no power to enforce the edicts, and must rely on the federal government for enforcement. How many brushfires can the federal government put out? Would it resort to force against a state? I don’t know the answers, but it’s not clear that the federal government will come out on top, especially if it tries to enforce things that are wildly unpopular in some States and regions, such as abortion, strict gun-control measures, vaccine passports, or (the coming big thing) climate lockdowns.

So, unlike the earlier secession and its violent conclusion, there could be a non-violent kind of secession. It wouldn’t involve the formal breakup of the U.S., just a new modus vivendi between the States and the central government. Or, rather, a return to the modus vivendi that was intended by the Framers, enshrined in the 10th amendment, and then frittered away by the central government’s “mission creep”.

There is another, complementary, possibility. It is that Americans in the center turn their backs on the radical direction the country seems to be taking. (Resistance to CRT is a good case in point.) If enough of them do it, the GOP will retake Congress. And if in 2024 the GOP were to nominate someone more like Reagan than Trump, the Democrats could be kept out of power for a while — at least until they come to their senses. In the meantime, the Supreme Court could, without fear of being packed, make some libertarian rulings. A key one would be to find that Big Tech is s state actor (because of its immunity under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act), and therefore acts illegally when it censors views on the pretext that they are “hate speech” or “anti-science”, etc. In the way of the world, such an electoral and judicial turn of events could trigger a “cascade” in the direction opposite the one in which the country has been heading. And so, the “mucking around” might come to a better end than the one foreseen by you.

Here’s the second one:

A further thought about the tension between liberty and security.

It is really a tension between left and right, which is a deep psychological divide, as I discuss here: https://politicsandprosperity.com/2018/05/03/can-left-and-right-be-reconciled/. (The missing figure, which I will have to reconstruct, is derived from polling results that support the point made in the text.)

A point that I don’t make explicitly, but which should be obvious, is that compromise invites further compromise, to the detriment of liberty. The ransomware attacks, for instance, wouldn’t be happening if the U.S. hadn’t long ago abandoned the principle of unconditional surrender by the enemy. The track record of the U.S. government since the Korean War invites aggression. China and Russia know that and are playing the long game while Biden is tilting at global-warming windmills and (overtly and tacitly) endorsing a leftist agenda that will drive the U.S. economy to its knees while ensuring that the U.S. remains irreconcilably divided.

The end result of “mucking around” may well be not the kind of “social democracy” that keeps Eurpeoans fat, dumb, and happy. It may well be something far worse than that. You have been warned.

And I have been among the warning voices for many years.


Related reading on polarization: John Sexton, “The CRT Backlash and Progressives’ Big Lie about the Culture War“, Hot Air, July 8, 2021

Where It All Went Wrong

When the usual suspects were rioting, looting, and destroying their own habitat last summer (and many previous summers), did you wonder what happened to the Riot Act? Said act, in its original (British) form, provides that

if any persons to the number of twelve or more, being unlawfully, riotously, and tumultuously assembled together, to the disturbance of the publick peace, at any time after the last day of July in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and fifteen, and being required or commanded by any one or more justice or justices of the peace, or by the sheriff of the county, or his under-sheriff, or by the mayor, bailiff or bailiffs, or other head-officer, or justice of the peace of any city or town corporate, where such assembly shall be, by proclamation to be made in the King’s name, in the form herin after directed, to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart to their habitations, or to their lawful business, shall, to the number of twelve or more (notwithstanding such proclamation made) unlawfully, riotously, and tumultuously remain or continue together by the space of one hour after such command or request made by proclamation, that then such continuing together to the number of twelve or more, after such command or request made by proclamation, shall be adjudged felony without benefit of clergy, and the offenders therein shall be adjudged felons, and shall suffer death as in a case of felony without benefit of clergy.

Would that it were so in these times.

But it isn’t so because the sob-sisters, bleeding-hearts and weeping-willies — who have always been with us — have for centuries (if not millennia) chipped away at the protections that keep the bad guys more or less in line. They have likewise chipped away at standards of performance.

The effective abolition of the death penalty in this country is just the tip of the melting iceberg of punishment.

Awards for showing up are symptomatic of the erosion of standards.

The two phenomena have been conjoined in the left’s treatment of law-enforcement. There are too many felons running loose because pre-felonious crimes aren’t punished harshly enough (a failure that is often justified by the demographic characteristics of offenders); felonies aren’t punished harshly enough; paroles are too easily granted; police (those who are still on the force) are increasingly edgy about “mistreating” suspects who resist arrest; and affirmative action has ensured that law-enforcers are no longer as strong or quick-witted as they were in the past.

What did happen to the Riot Act (British version)? This:

The death penalty created by sections one, four and five of the act was reduced to transportation for life by section one of the Punishment of Offences Act 1837.

The Riot Act eventually drifted into disuse. The last time it was definitely read in England was in Birkenhead, Cheshire, on 3 August 1919, during the second police strike, when large numbers of police officers from Birkenhead, Liverpool and Bootle joined the strike. Troops were called in to deal with the rioting and looting that had begun, and a magistrate read out the Riot Act. None of the rioters subsequently faced the charge of a statutory felony. Earlier in the same year, at the battle of George Square on 31 January, in Glasgow, the city’s sheriff was in the process of reading the Riot Act to a crowd of 20-25,000 – when the sheet of paper he was reading from was ripped out of his hands by one of the rioters.

The last time it was read in the Scotland was by the deputy town clerk James Gildea in Airdrie in 1971

The act was repealed on 18 July 1973 for the United Kingdom by the Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1973, by which time riot was no longer punishable by death.

There is still a riot act in the United States, and it is sometimes used. Its use by President Trump during the Antifa-BLM riots of 2020 provoked the usual reactions: “Trump is a racist.” “Trump is Hitler.” And the left’s allies in the media simply refused to acknowledge the riots or, when they couldn’t be tossed down the memory hole, insisted on referring to them as “protests” (“mostly peaceful”, of course).

But the history of the Riot Act in Britain, which died from disuse long before it died officially, tells the sad tale of how sob-sisters, bleeding-hearts, and weeping-willies — and leftists — have undermined the rule of law and made the world a less-civilized and less-safe place for the vast majority of its denizens.

None of this would have happened if God had smitten Adam and Eve for their transgression. Perhaps that’s where it all went wrong.

Seriously, though, it all went wrong in the way that most good things go bad. Just a little tweak here to make someone happier and a little tweak there to make someone else happier, and the next thing you know: the think is all tweaked out of shape. It’s like making a mountain out of a molehill: a shovelful at a time over a long period of time will do the trick.


Related posts: Most of the posts listed here.

The Four Americas

Arnold Kling’s latest post is somewhat related to the one on which I commented yesterday. The new post recaps and assesses George Packer’s thesis that there are four American mindsets:

Free America, Smart America, Real America, and Just America. Free America means the libertarians who favor limited government. Smart America means the management elites who favor economic and technological progress. Real America means the blue-collar Americans who favor dignity and patriotism. Just America means the progressive “woke” who favor economic equality and moral rectitude.

Kling, toward the end of his post, writes: “Real America takes distrust of elites too far. It resists hard truths (about the pandemic, for example). It puts too much faith in Donald Trump.”

I object. The distrust of elites and faith in Trump are reactions to the egregious overstepping by the elites who populate the other three Americas. The overstepping dates back to the anti-war (anti-American) antics of collegians, academics, media types, and politicians in the 1960s (and since). If the elites were somehow tamed or made irrelevant, the passions stirred in Real Americans would subside and they would revert to the kind of moderate behavior that they exhibited in the 1950s.

A reversion to the 1950s would be a welcome relief. The main accomplishment of the libertarians who later came on the scene has been to encourage and abet the breakdown of civilizing moral codes (think abortion-on-demand and homosexual “marriage”). The main accomplishment of Smart America has been to pursue economic growth for its own sake, regardless of the effect on Real America (think off-shoring and globalization). And the main accomplishment of Just America has been to foment discord and discontent for the sake of virtue-signaling. A pox on their houses (think urban riots, the encouragement of homelessness by subsidizing in, and the demonization of straight white males of European descent).


Related post: 1963: The Year Zero

Is Optimism Possible?

I have been, for many years, pessimistic about the future of liberty and prosperity in America (e.g., here). I am not alone, of course. The estimable Arnold Kling isn’t as openly pessimistic, but it isn’t hard to read between the lines of his many posts about the present state of affairs. Take this one, for example, in which he writes about

some possible outcomes for the future:

1. The “good left” ([Jonathan] Rauch and others) overpowers the illiberal Woke left. p = .05

2. The illiberal Woke left suffers a catastrophic electoral defeat at the hands of a non-populist right. p = .05

3. The illiberal Woke left and the populist right continue to dominate political dynamics, with today’s level of discomfort or more. p = .40

4. The U.S. experiences an era of Woke totalitarianism that lasts for a couple of decades, but which eventually collapses into something else (not necessarily good) p = .25

5. Academia, journalism, traditional media, and government become empty battlegrounds, as technological change results in very different forms of social organization (call this the Balaji scenario, if you will). p = .25

There is a sixth possibility, or perhaps it’s a combination of Kling’s #1, #2, and #5, with a higher probability that Kling assigns to them.

People, except for a small but loud minority, will simply quit caring about ideology and just get on with living their lives and engaging personally with people who matter to them. This turn of events won’t be obvious at first, but it will begin to show in such ways as the declining use of social media. Astute politicians who have been too quick to embrace “wokeness” will sense the turning tide and begin to moderate their positions in the hope of appealing to a broader electoral base. As things go in politics, this new moderation will catch on. The illiberal left won’t shrink in numbers or volume, but the moderate (i.e., more liberal) left will grow in influence. And there will be much more common ground for the empowered moderate left to share with the sane liberal right (i.e., actual conservatives as opposed to attitudinal zealots). A new center will form around deeply shared values (defense of life, liberty, and property) as opposed to fatuous slogans (defund the police, all whites are racist, etc.). The media, in turn, will embrace this new zeitgeist and quit antagonizing viewers with daily injections of wokeness. And so it will go, until something line the zeitgeist of the 1950s has been restored.

A lot of history would have to be overcome, including (but far from limited to) decades of leftist indoctrination in public schools and universities, massive dependency on big government, political and bureaucratic inertia, and the degree to which key institutions (e.g., schools and media) have become locked in to wokeness. But if history teaches us anything, it is that the tides of human affairs do turn.

I don’t expect to see the tide turn (by very much) in what remains of my lifetime. But I still hold out hope that it will, for the sake of my children and grandchildren and on down the line.

What Do Wokesters Want?

I am using “wokesters” as a convenient handle for persons who subscribe to a range of closely related movements, which include but are not limited to wokeness, racial justice, equity, gender equality, transgenderism, social justice, cancel culture, environmental justice, and climate-change activism. It is fair to say that the following views, which might be associated with one or another of the movements, are held widely by members of all the movements (despite the truths noted parenthetically):

Race is a social construct. (Despite strong scientific evidence to the contrary.)

Racism is a foundational and systemic aspect of American history. (Which is a convenient excuse for much of what follows.)

Racism explains every bad thing that has befallen people of color in America. (Ditto.)

America’s history must be repudiated by eradicating all vestiges of it that glorify straight white males of European descent. (Because wokesters are intolerant of brilliance and success of it comes from straight white males of European descent.)

The central government (when it is run by wokesters and their political pawns) should be the sole arbiter of human relations. (Replacing smaller units of government, voluntary contractual arrangements, families, churches, clubs, and other elements of civil society through which essential services are provided, economic wants are satisfied efficiently, and civilizing norms are inculcated and enforced), except for those institutions that are dominated by wokesters or their proteges, of course.)

[You name it] is a human right. (Which — unlike true rights, which all can enjoy without cost to others — must be provided at cost to others.)

Economics is a zero-sum game; the rich get rich at the expense of the poor. (Though the economic history of the United States — and the Western world — says otherwise. The rich get rich — often rising from poverty and middling circumstances — by dint of effort risk-taking, and in the process produce things of value for others while also enabling them to advance economically.)

Profit is a dirty word. (But I — the elite lefty who makes seven figures a year, thank you, deserve every penny of my hard-earned income.)

Sex gender is assigned arbitrarily at birth. (Ludicrous).

Men can bear children. (Ditto.)

Women can have penises. (Ditto.)

Gender dysphoria in some children proves the preceding poiXXXX

Children can have two mommies, two daddies, or any combination of parents in any number and any gender. And, no, they won’t grow up anti-social for lack of traditional father (male) and mother (female) parents. (Just ask blacks who are unemployed for lack of education and serving prison time after having been raised without bread-winning fathers.)

Blacks, on average, are at the bottom of income and wealth distributions and at the top of the incarceration distribution — despite affirmative action, subsidized housing, welfare payments, etc. — because of racism. (Not because blacks, on average, are at the bottom of the intelligence distribution and have in many black communities adopted and enforced a culture the promotes violence and denigrates education?)

Black lives matter. (More than other lives? Despite the facts adduced above?)

Police are racist Nazis and ought to be de-funded. (So that law abiding blacks and other Americans can become easier targets for rape, murder, and theft.)

Grades, advanced placement courses, aptitude tests, and intelligence tests are racist devices. (Which happen to enable the best and brightest — regardless of race, sex, or socioeconomic class — to lead the country forward scientifically and economically, to the benefit of all.)

The warming of the planet by a couple of degrees in the past half-century (for reasons that aren’t well understood but which are attributed by latter-day Puritans to human activity) is a sign of things to come: Earth will warm to the point that it becomes almost uninhabitable. (Which is a case of undue extrapolation from demonstrably erroneous models and a failure to credit the ability of capitalism — gasp! — to adapt successfully to truly significant climatic changes.)

Science is real. (Though we don’t know what science is, and believe things that are labeled scientific if we agree with them. We don’t understand, or care, that science is a process that sometimes yields useful knowledge, or that the “knowledge” is always provisional, always in doubt, and sometimes wrong. We support the movement of recent decades to label some things as scientific that are really driven by a puritanical, anti-humanistic agenda, and which don’t hold up against rigorous, scientific examination, such as the debunked “science” of “climate change”; the essential equality of the races and sexes, despite their scientifically demonstrable differences; and the belief that a man can become a woman, and vice versa.)

Illegal immigrants migrants are just seeking a better life and should be allowed free entry into the United States. (Because borders are arbitrary — except when it comes to my property — and it doesn’t matter if the unfettered enty ro illegal immigrants burdens tax-paying Americans and takes jobs from working-class Americans.)

The United States spends too much on national defense because (a) borders are arbitrary (except when they delineate my property), (b) there’s no real threat to this country (except for cyberattacks and terrorism sponsored by other states, and growing Chinese and Russian aggression that imperils the economic interests of Americans), (c) America is the aggressor (except in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Gulf War I, the terrorist attacks on 9/11, and in the future if America significantly reduces its defense forces), and (d) peace is preferable to war (except that it is preparedness for war that ensures peace, either through deterrence or victory).

What wokesters want is to see that these views, and many others of their ilk, are enforced by the central government. To that end, steps will be taken to ensure that the Democrat Party is permanently in control of the central government and is able to control most State governments. Accordingly, voting laws will be “reformed” to enable everyone, regardless of citizenship status or other qualification (perhaps excepting age, or perhaps not) to receive a mail-in ballot that will be harvested and cast for Democrat candidates; the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico (with their iron-clad Democrat super-majorities) will be added to the Union; the filibuster will be abolished; the Supreme Court and lower courts will be expanded and new seats will be filled by Democrat nominees; and on, and on.

Why do wokesters want what they want? Here’s my take:

  • They reject personal responsibility.
  • They don’t like the sense of real community that is represented in the traditional institutions of civil society.
  • They don’t like the truth if it contradicts their view of what the world should be like.
  • They are devoid of true compassion.
  • They are — in sum — alienated, hate-filled nihilists, the produce of decades of left-wing indoctrination by public schools, universities, and the media.

What will wokesters (and all of us) get?

At best, what they will get is a European Union on steroids, a Kafka-esque existence in a world run by bureaucratic whims from which entrepreneurial initiative and deeply rooted, socially binding cultures have been erased.

Somewhere between best and worst, they will get an impoverished, violent, drug-addled dystopia which is effectively a police state run for the benefit of cosseted political-media-corprate-academic elites.

At worst (as if it could get worse), what they will get is life under the hob-nailed boots of Russia and China:; for example:

Russians are building a military focused on killing people and breaking things. We’re apparently building a military focused on being capable of explaining microaggressions and critical race theory to Afghan Tribesmen.

A country whose political leaders oppose the execution of murderers, support riots and looting by BLM, will not back Israel in it’s life-or-death struggle with Islamic terrorists, and use the military to advance “wokeism” isn’t a country that you can count on to face down Russia and China.

Wokesters are nothing but useful idiots to the Russians and Chinese. And if wokesterst succeed in weakening the U.S. to the point that it becomes a Sino-Soviet vassal, they will be among the first to learn what life under an all-powerful central government is really like. Though, useful idiots that they are, they won’t survive long enough to savor the biter fruits of their labors.

The Vatican Goes All-Out Democrat

Politico has the story:

The head of the Vatican’s doctrine office is warning U.S. bishops to deliberate carefully and minimize divisions before proceeding with a possible plan to rebuke Roman Catholic politicians such as President Joe Biden for receiving Communion even though they support abortion rights.

The strong words of caution came in a letter from Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, addressed to Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The USCCB will convene for a national meeting June 16, with plans to vote on drafting a document on the Communion issue….

Ladaria, in his letter, said any new policy “requires that dialogue occurs in two stages: first among the bishops themselves, and then between bishops and Catholic pro-choice politicians within their jurisdictions.”

Even then, Ladaria advised, the bishops should seek unanimous support within their ranks for any national policy, lest it become “a source of discord rather than unity within the episcopate and the larger church in the United States.”

Ladaria made several other points that could complicate the plans of bishops pressing for tough action: — He said any new statement should not be limited to Catholic political leaders but broadened to encompass all churchgoing Catholics in regard to their worthiness to receive Communion.

— He questioned the USCCB policy identifying abortion as “the preeminent” moral issue, saying it would be misleading if any new document “were to give the impression that abortion and euthanasia alone constitute the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching that demand the fullest accountability on the part of Catholics.”

— He said that if the U.S. bishops pursue a new policy, they should confer with bishops’ conferences in other countries “both to learn from one another and to preserve unity in the universal church.”

— He said any new policy could not override the authority of individual bishops to make decisions on who can receive Communion in their dioceses. Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., has made clear that Biden is welcome to receive Communion at churches in the archdiocese.

In other words, don’t embarrass Joe Biden (or Nancy Pelosi or any other nominally Catholic but pro-abortion politician). Doing so would upset the Pope, who has fully embraced their leftist views on abortion, “climate change”, income redistribution, etc., etc., etc. Cardinal Gregory obviously shares the Pope’s willingness to shape his religion to fit his political views.

And Cardinal Ladaria, a Jesuit, has given us a master class in Jesuitical casuistry.

Playing with Numbers

Stephen Moore asks a rhetorical question in “Why Did Biden’s Census Bureau Add 2.5 Million Residents to Blue-State Population Count?”. The obvious answer is: To reduce the loss of House seats to Red States, as Moore says:

The original projections for Census reapportionment had New York losing two seats, Rhode Island losing a seat, and Illinois perhaps losing two seats. Instead, New York and Illinois only lost one seat, and Rhode Island lost no seats. Meanwhile, Texas was expected to gain three seats, Florida two seats, and Arizona one seat. Instead, Texas gained only two seats, Florida only one, and Arizona none.

Was the Census Bureau count rigged? Was it manipulated by the Biden team to hand more seats to the Democrats and to get more money—federal spending is often allocated based on population—for the blue states?

The evidence is now only circumstantial, but when errors or revisions are almost all only in one direction, the alarm bells appropriately go off.

The same was true of Election 2020. There is ample evidence that the election was stolen from Trump and handed to Biden by chicanery in at least five States: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

But did the courts give a hoot? No, they looked the other way. And the same thing will happen when the Census Bureau’s fudged figures are challenged.

Democrats have a near-lock on electoral fraud. And (to change the metaphor) they need it because their “wokeness” is  is swimming against the tide of popular opinion.

Is a Reckoning at Hand?

If it is, it will arrive on two fronts: political and economic.

On the political front, Conrad Black and Victor Davis Hanson are (sort of) optimistic that the left’s audacious power-grab will fail. A recent op-ed by Black at Epoch Times ends with this:

But we are almost at the point where this administration’s attempt to revolutionize American elections by practically abolishing any verification process for ballots and turning election day into a weeks-long orgy of ballot-harvesting, while packing the Senate and the Supreme Court and gagging congressional minorities, will collide with public opposition to all of these measures.

In those circumstances, the Supreme Court, its attempt at appeasement of the Democrats by abdicating as head of a co-equal third branch of government having failed, might also reassert the legitimacy of the Constitution.

A turning in the road is almost at hand.

Hanson’s view complements Black’s:

We are becoming cynical 1980s Eastern Europeans who quietly scoffed at their daily government news. And this is step one to a repudiation of the lies we have been living with—that masks were necessary outdoors even for those fully vaccinated; that derelict, sexual harasser Andrew Cuomo is a noted author, Emmy-winner and national icon rather than a reckless sexual-harasser and responsible for needless death and misery by his unhinged long-term facilities policies; that Oprah, LeBron, and the Obamas are genuine voices of what it is like to be oppressed in America, and all the subsidiary untruths: the “brave” former intelligence officials who signed campaign-sensitive affidavits seconding Joe Biden’s insistence that Hunter’s laptop was a Russian disinformation trick; that Trump scoffed at “proof” that Russians put bounties on Americans in Afghanistan as they were appease;, and that Joe Biden has no cognitive issues and never did, at least of the sort that prompted his predecessor to take cognitive tests and draw the attention of a Yale psychiatry professor to diagnose him as unhinged in absentia.

In sum, the woke movement daily, hourly, second-by-second hinges on untruth, from the 1619 canard to America is systemically racist. And the number who spot the lies is beginning to outnumber the number who lives by them—which means the Revolution is likely to follow the Jacobin rather than Bolshevik fate.

On the economic front, the huge increase in government spending over the past two years — which Biden wants to perpetuate — will bear rotten fruit.

Here is the increase, in perspective:


Derived from Bureau of Economic Affairs, Table 1.1.5 Gross Domestic Product (billions of dollars, seasonally adjusted at annual rates) and Table 3.1. Government Current Receipts and Expenditures (billions of dollars, seasonally adjusted at annual rates)

As I have amply documented, government spending doesn’t “multiply”. If fact, it “divides”; that is, it causes real GDP to decline because government spending (and the regulatory activities funded by it) result in the transfer of resources from productive private uses to unproductive and counterproductive government uses, while also discouraging business expansion and productive investments in capital formation.

The bottom line is that a sustained increase in the share of GDP spent by government from about 33 percent (the average for the 10 years before the recent surge) to about 45 percent (the average for the recent surge) would cause a long-term reduction 4 percent of real GDP. If that doesn’t seem like a lot, consider that it would be the equivalent of a Great Recession that lasts for years on end instead of two or three years.

Voters flocked to the Democrat Party in the 1930s because they believed (mistakenly) that it — and especially FDR’s “New Deal” — would rescue them from the Great Depression. Voters will flock the the GOP in the 2020s if the Democrat Party remains stubbornly “woke” and persists in economic policies that impoverish them.

And if voters fail to switch in droves, it will prove the wisdom of the Framers’ (long-abandoned) Constitution, which was designed to prevent demagogues from pillaging the nation.


Related reading:

Victor Davis Hanson, “Are Americans Becoming Sovietized?“, The Daily Signal, May 6, 2021
Patricia McCarthy, “Aldous Huxley Foresaw Our Despots — Fauci, Gates, and Their Vaccine Crusaders“, American Thinker, May 5, 2021
Jeffrey A. Tucker, “Is the U.S. Economy a Virtual Reality?“, AIER, May 2, 2021

Related post: Turning Points

A 100-Day Scorecard

On January 6, 2021, in “Here We Go … “, I essayed 17 predictions about changes Democrats would attempt to consolidate their grip on America and make it over into a European-style “social democracy” with the added feature of subservience to China and Russia. As I said in the original post, not every item on the list will be adopted, but it won’t be for want of trying.

How are my predictions panning out? Quite well, sadly.

Judge for yourself. Here they are:

1. Abolition of the Senate filibuster.

2. An increase of at least two seats on the U.S. Supreme Court (USSC), though there may be some vacancies to be filled.

3. Adoption of an interstate compact by states controlling a total of at least 270 electoral votes, committing each member state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who compiles the most popular votes nationwide, regardless of the outcome of the popular vote in each state that is a party to the compact. (This may seem unnecessary if Biden wins, but it will be a bit of insurance against the possibility of a Republican victor in a future election.)

4. Statehood for either the District of Columbia or Puerto Rico, or for both of them. (Each would then have two senators and a requisite number of representatives with full voting privileges in their respective bodies. All of them will be Democrats, of course.)

5. Empowerment of the executive branch to do at least three of the following things:

a. Regulate personal and business activity (in new ways) with the expressed aim of reducing CO2 emissions.

b. Commit at least $500 billion in new obligational authority for research into and/or funding of methods of reducing and mitigating CO2 emissions.

c. Issue new kinds of tax rebates and credits to persons/households and businesses that spend money on any item on a list of programs/technologies that are supposed to reduce CO2 emissions.

d. Impose tax penalties on persons/households and businesses for their failure to spend money on any item in the list mentioned above (shades of the Obamacare tax penalty).

e. Impose penalties on persons/households and businesses for failing to adhere to prescribed caps on CO2 emissions.

f. Establish a cap-and-trade program for CO2 emissions (to soften the blow of the previous item). (Needless to say, the overall effect of such initiatives would deal a devastating blow to economic activity – meaning massive job losses and lower real incomes for large swaths of the populace.)

6. Authorization for an agency or agencies of the federal government to define and penalize written or spoken utterances that the agency or agencies declare “unprotected” by the First Amendment, and to require media enforcement of bans on “unprotected” utterances and prosecution of violators (e.g., here). (This can be accomplished by cynically adopting the supportable position that the First Amendment protects only political speech. The purported aim would be to curb so-called hate speech, but when censorship is in full swing — which would take only a few years — it will be illegal to criticize or question, even by implication, such things as illegal immigration, same-sex marriage, transgenderism, anthropogenic global warming, the confiscation of firearms, or the policies of the federal government. Violations will be enforced by fines and prison sentences — the latter sometimes called “sensitivity training”, “citizenship education”, or some other euphemistic term. Candidates for public office will be prime targets of the enforcers, which will suppress open discussion of such matters.)

7. Imposition of requirements for organizations of all kinds — businesses, universities, charitable organizations, clubs, and even churches — to favor anyone who isn’t a straight, white male of European descent. (The “protections” will be enacted, upheld, and enforced vigorously by federal agencies, regardless of their adverse economic and social effects.)

8. Effective nullification of the Second Amendment through orders/regulations/legislation, to enable gun confiscation (though there will be exemptions for private security services used by favored elites).

9. Use of law-enforcement agencies to enforce “hate speech” bans, mandates for reverse discrimination, and gun-confiscation edicts. (These things will happen regardless of the consequences; e.g., a rising crime rate, greater violence against whites and Asians, and flight from the cities and near-in suburbs. The latter will be futile, anyway, because suburban and exurban police departments will also be co-opted.)

10. Criminalization of “sexual misconduct”, as it is defined by the alleged victim, de facto if not de jure. (Investigations and prosecutions will be selective, and aimed mainly at straight, white males of European descent and dissidents who openly criticize this and other measures listed here.)

11. Parallel treatment for the “crimes” of racism, anti-Islamism, nativism, and genderism. (This will be in addition to the measures discussed in #7.)

12. Centralization in the federal government of complete control of all health care and health-care related products and services, such as drug research, accompanied by “Medicare and Medicaid for All” mandates. (Private health care will be forbidden or strictly limited, though — Soviet-style — there will be exceptions for high officials and other favored persons. Drug research – and medical research, generally – will dwindle in quality and quantity. There will be fewer doctors and nurses who are willing to work in a regimented system. The resulting health-care catastrophe that befalls most of the populace will be shrugged off as necessary to ensure equality of treatment, while ignoring the special treatment accorded favored elites.)

13. Revitalization of the regulatory regime (which already imposes a deadweight loss of 10 percent of GDP). A quantitative measure of revitalization is an increase in the number of new rules published annually in the Federal Register by at least 10 percent above the average for 2017-2020.

14. Proposals for at least least two of the following tax-related initiatives:

a. Reversal of the tax-rate cuts enacted during Trump’s administration.

b. Increases in marginal tax rates for the top 2 or 3 income brackets.

c. Imposition of new taxes on wealth.

15. Dramatic enlargement of domestic welfare programs. Specifically, in addition to the creation of “Medicare and Medicaid for All” programs, there would be a “fix” for Social Security that mandates the payment of full benefits in the future, regardless of the status of the Social Security Trust Fund (which will probably be abolished). (Initiatives discussed in #5, #7, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, and #15 would suppress investment in business formation and expansion, and would disincentivize professional education and training, not to mention work itself. All of that would combine to push the real rate of economic growth toward a negative value.)

16. Reduction of the defense budget by at least 25 percent, in constant dollars, by 2031 or sooner. (Eventually, the armed forces will be maintained mainly for the purpose of suppressing domestic uprisings. Russia and China will emerge as superpowers, but won’t threaten the U.S. militarily as long as the U.S. government acquiesces in their increasing dominance and plays by their economic rules.)

17. Legalization of all immigration from south of the border, and the granting of citizenship to new immigrants and the illegals who came before them. (The right to vote, of course, is the right that Democrats most dearly want to bestow because most of the newly-minted citizens can be counted on to vote for Democrats. The permanent Democrat majority will ensure permanent Democrat control of the White House and both houses of Congress.)


If you’re keeping up with the news, you will know that almost all of those actions are underway or clearly telegraphed by official statements. It’s hard to chosse the most chilling of those statements, but the one that clearly reveals Biden’s totalitarian urge is his campaign against “white supremacy as domestic terrorism”. This will morph into the suppression of anyone who dares question the doctrine that blacks are where they are because of white racism, and not because of their generally inferior intelligence and cultural traits, or anyone who questions the justice of racial discrimination when it favors blacks. Stay tuned.

What Is the Point of It All?

If you have read the preceding post you may have surmised that I have surrendered to statism; for example:

This solution [devolution of political power] is superficially appealing. But it omits crucial realities, which are reflected in the state of the world throughout recorded history (and probably for eons before that). Human beings band together in order to accomplish certain ends (e.g., defense against marauders), and the banding together almost always creates leaders and subjects. Thus is a primitive state established. And once it is established, it exerts control over a geographic area (or a roving band), and everyone who lives in that area (or joins the band) becomes a subject of the state. Primitive states then band together — either for self-defense or because of conquest — forming larger and larger states, each of which holds its subjects in thrall. An occasional revolution sometimes leads to the dissolution of a particular state, but the subjects of that state simply become subjects of a successor state or of neighboring states avid to control the territory and subjects of the defunct state.

So it has gone for millennia, and so it will go for millennia to come.

The tide of statism may pause in its rise — and even recede a bit — but the aggrandizement of the state and its power over the people seems inexorable. Or is it?

There are many good reasons to oppose and resist the aggrandizement of the state. And this blog is replete with arguments for devolution. But this blog and the many like it (most of them more widely read and quoted) seem to be as effective in curbing and shrinking big government as aluminum foil is in stopping bullets.

Facts and logic may be on the side of devolution — and they are — but facts and logic have almost nothing to do with the practice of politics. In the end, it comes to down power-lust, rent-seeking, and free-loading.

So, what is the point of it all — of the incessant if largely ineffective barrage of arguments against the aggrandizement of the state? Well, as long as the minions of the state and the state’s powerful allies are unable to completely suppress dissent from statism, there is at least some hope that totalitarianism can be averted. There is also at least a (dimmer) hope that something will happen to reverse the tide and return to an America that still lives in the memories of many of us: America between the end of World War II and the 1960s.

What might that something be? Who knows? It is impossible to describe the confluence of events that causes a sudden change in the course of history, except in the aftermath of that change. But the change will not occur unless there are pressures that can lead to its occurrence. The Soviet Union, for example, wouldn’t have dissolved were it not for Reagan’s defense buildup, but the defense buildup wouldn’t have made a difference if the Soviet Union hadn’t been economically weak in the first place, and subject to other, internal pressures.

The American state, as it exists today, is an alliance of big-government politicians; their enablers in the academy, the media, and major corporations; and huge blocs of voters who are fueled by greed, envy, anger, and the belief that bigger government will assuage those emotions. This concoction has many potential failure points. By constantly working away at those potential failure points, it is possible — though by no means certain — that one or a few will fail and bring down the entire edifice of the presently constituted American state.

That is the point of it all. To paraphrase Edmund Burke, the only way to avert the triumph of evil is to keep on fighting it.

State Action As Private Action

Anarchists and defenders of non-governmental censorship to the contrary notwithstanding, there is no dividing line between private and state action. I address this point in “Is Anarchy a Viable Concept?“. I elaborate the point here.

Anarchists like to draw a bright line between the state and the private sphere so that they can argue, foolishly, for the replacement of the state by private actors. Defenders of non-governmental censorship (e.g., deletion of tweets by Twitter and deplatforming by Facebook) are simply political theorists in thrall the mistaken belief that the “marketplace of ideas” is self-correcting and eventually yields truth. (Even if it were self-correcting, devastating harm often results before truth emerges.)

I will begin with the futility of drawing a bright line — or any line — between state and private action. Before going any further I should be clear about what I mean by “state”.

A state is defined as “the supreme public power within a sovereign political entity” (4.a.). This definition reflects popular usage, which suggests that a state is some kind of disembodied essence. But a state does not exist unless it is embodied in institutions that are operated by human beings. And the power exercised by those human beings is meant to serve specific (if inchoate) aims that are personal to them or to persons to whom they are beholden; for example, higher-ranking government officials, major campaign contributors, influential voting blocs, or a person or group with whom one wishes to curry favor (e.g., the media). (It is a long-standing custom to refer Queen Elizabeth II as “head of state” of the United Kingdom, but she is no such thing inasmuch as she wields almost no power.)

Government power is exercised through agencies that are usually characterized as legislative, executive, and judicial. But there is a fourth type of agency that operates, much of the time, independently of the other three types. It is the “administrative state”, a conglomeration of executive agencies that usurps legislative and judicial functions. The “deep state” of recent controversy refers to members of the administrative state who strive (often successfully) to thwart the will of the chief of the executive branch through their direct control of the minutiae of government operations. This phenomenon underscores the essentially private nature of state action.

The power of the four types of agency is exercised through a combination of force, fear on the part of the governed, and submission by those among the governed who naively view the state and its edicts as something akin to divinity and divine writ.

The power of government is augmented by its ability to control information and perceptions about governmental activities. Such control, nowadays, is abetted by (most) members of the media when government is controlled by Democrats and undermined by (most) members of the media when government is controlled by Republicans.

The state, thus properly understood, is merely an outlet for private action. In so-called democracies (democratic republics) elections and appointments determine which private interests control the power of the state.

Democracies differ from oligarchies only in that voters in democracies go through the exercise of choosing the oligarchies — the collection of interest groups — that will rule them.

The difference between democracies and dictatorships is one of degree, not of kind. The ruling interests in a democracy are simply somewhat more changeable than the ruling interests in a dictatorship. But in both cases the ruling interests pursue private agendas. Dictatorships are more blatantly oppressive. Democracies hide their fascism behind a friendly face.

The bottom line: The state embodies and implements private action.

Given that the state, in the service of many (and sometimes competing) private agendas, must trample on the lives, liberty, or property of most of its subjects it would seem obviously desirable to devolve political power. And, logically, devolution ought to proceed to the lowest level: the person or a group of persons who choose to be treated as a unit (e.g., the nuclear family).

This solution is superficially appealing. But it omits crucial realities, which are reflected in the state of the world throughout recorded history (and probably for eons before that). Human beings band together in order to accomplish certain ends (e.g., defense against marauders), and the banding together almost always creates leaders and subjects. Thus is a primitive state established. And once it is established, it exerts control over a geographic area (or a roving band), and everyone who lives in that area (or joins the band) becomes a subject of the state. Primitive states then band together — either for self-defense or because of conquest — forming larger and larger states, each of which holds its subjects in thrall. An occasional revolution sometimes leads to the dissolution of a particular state, but the subjects of that state simply become subjects of a successor state or of neighboring states avid to control the territory and subjects of the defunct state.

So it has gone for millennia, and so it will go for millennia to come.

That would be the last word … but the duped defenders of corporate censorship cannot go unanswered. As I once observed, power is power. If government censorship is wrong, why is it right for powerful corporations to censor speech and effectively nullify the First Amendment? To put a point on it, why is it right for powerful corporations whose leaders share the ideologies and interests of a particular political party to act as surrogates for that party, and to suppress and distort opposing views?

The revised bottom line: The state embodies and implements private action, and private actors who do the bidding of state actors are merely minions of the state.


Related posts:

Anarchy: An Empty Concept
The Fatal Naïveté of Anarcho-Libertarianism
A Critique of Extreme Libertarianism
Anarchistic Balderdash
Old America, New America, and Anarchy
Extreme Libertarianism vs. the Accountable State
A Few Thoughts about Anarchy
Anarchy: A Footnote
Another Footnote about Anarchy
Is Anarchy a Viable Concept?

Preemptive (Cold) Civil War
Whence Polarization?
Social Norms, the Left, and Social Disintegration
“Liberalism” and Virtue-Signaling
The Fourth Great Awakening
It’s Them or Us
First They Came For …
Conservatism, Society, and the End of America
The Paradox That Is Western Civilization
Insidious Leftism
Thinking About the Unthinkable
Intellectuals and Authoritarianism
Leninthink and Left-think
Society, Culture, and America’s Future
The Democrats’ Master Plan to Seize America
The Allure of Leftism
Leftism in Summary
Peak Civilization?
A Footnote to “Peak Civilization?”
A Warning Too Late?
FDR’s Fascism, Underscored
Oh, That Deep State
It’s the 1960s Redux
Some People Are More Equal than Others, Illustrated

The Second Coming of Who?

William Butler Yeats’s “The Second Coming” is quoted often these days, especially the line “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold”. And with good reason, given the maelstrom of strife and lunacy in which the nation and the world seem to be swirling.

Science and mathematics are in the grip of irrational forces; that is to say, sadly, the academic-media-information technology-corporate élites who have swallowed “wokeness” hook, line, and sinker. The same élites are responsible for the wholesale violation of immigration laws; the advancement of shiftless, violent, and less-intelligent citizens (and non-citizens) at the expense of blameless others; the risible belief that one’s sex is “assigned at birth”, to justify self-destructive and child-destructive gender-shifting; the repudiation of America’s past (the good with the bad); the destruction of the religious, social, and economic freedoms that have served all Americans well; the blatant theft of a presidential election; and much more that is equally distressing to contemplate.

Yeats wrote “The Second Coming” in 1919, in the aftermath of what was then the world’s most destructive war and in the midst of the pandemic known as the Spanish flu, which was far more lethal than the one from which the world is now emerging. It was a time of moral and physical exhaustion.

What is most remarkable about Yeats’s poem is its prescient second stanza:

Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming!

Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again; but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

And thus did those “rough beasts” Lenin, Hitler, Mussolini, and the Japanese warlords — all “men on horseback” — emerge to take advantage of the moral and physical exhaustion of the time.

No such person is now on the horizon in America (though the élites feared that Trump might be that man). But if the maelstrom continues to swirl, a man on horseback will emerge, either from within or from without. In the latter case, given the feckless leadership in America, the man on horseback is likely to ride out of China, perhaps accompanied by a Russian.

And given a choice between a man or horseback and the élites who have corrupted America and who pamper the rabble, the man on horseback will be welcomed with open arms by those who are suffering at the hands of the élites.

Why Not Confiscate Automobiles?

It is obvious that the aim of “gun control” is the confiscation of all privately owned firearms in the United States. There will be exceptions for private security forces who protect well-heeled leftists, of course.

Why is “gun control” such a visceral issue for leftists? Well, there’s the usual leftist urge to control things, especially “risky” things. This is compounded by leftists’ aversion to things that are associated with masculinity, and which have (male) sexual connotations. (Guns shoot bullets — very Freudian.) Leftists of my acquaintance really do have a visceral aversion to guns. It’s on a par with an aversion to broccoli, which is equally irrational.

Which leaves me with this question: If deaths from gunfire are so horrendous to contemplate, what about deaths from automobile accidents — which claim more lives? (It wouldn’t even be close if suicides by gun weren’t counted — and they shouldn’t be, in this context. We’re talking about people who take the lives of other people.)

Well, in fact the very same leftists who want to confiscate guns also want to force people to use bicycles and public transit. That’s why leftist-controlled cities are rife with bike lanes and light-rail networks (or plans for them). That’s why leftists are so keen on taxes that penalize the ownership and operation of automobiles. (Which doesn’t bother rich leftists, who own fleets of gas-guzzlers.)

So leftists are trying to confiscate automobiles (just not their own).

Some People Are More Equal Than Others, Illustrated

Fox News reports:

On his first day in office last week, Biden signed an executive order to “define equity as the consistent and systemic fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals.” That includes those who “belong to underserved communities such as Black, Latino, Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and other persons of color; LGBTQ+ persons; people with disabilities religious minorities; persons who live in rural areas; and persons otherwise affected by persistent poverty or inequality.”

Shades of George Orwell, who in Animal Farm coined the immortal maxim, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” It is ever thus in the world of the left, where equality or equity always comes with a codicil, which amounts to this: There are groups of persons who must be given special treatment because they are favored by the regime.

The specific enumeration of identity groups (blacks, Latinos, etc.) means that they are deserving of unearned compensation — in the form of cash subsidies, subsidies in kind, jobs, promotions, university admissions — that they “earn” only because of their membership in one of the listed identity groups.

Those privileges — that’s what they are — will be extracted (in money and kind) from persons who can’t claim membership in one of the listed identity groups, despite the fact that almost all of those who are on the paying end cause no harm to members of identity groups. Moreover, vast numbers of persons on the paying end do great good for members of identity groups, by creating jobs for them (directly or through investments), giving to charitable organizations, and paying the already high taxes that are the price of living in a welfare state.

In the end, as economic growth returns to pre-Trumpian stagnation because of the additional burdens placed on those who earn what they get, the burden will be borne disproportionately by members of identity groups, who will find fewer an lower-paying jobs open to them.