Two articles, one by Christopher Booker describing the impending bankruptcy of the UK and another by Victor Davis Hanson describing the catatonic walk over the financial edge by California are united by a single theme: the power of denial.
Britain is broke, says Booker, but none of its major parties want to admit it because it would force them to run on a platform of belt-tightening, welfare cutbacks and sacrifice. But since a public long conditioned to hearing comforting lies would never accept the truth, nothing will be mentioned until the final smash. Until then the voters will be beguiled with soap opera causes, celebrity news and public-relations sleight of hand.
Until recently the difference between the First and Third Worlds was a that the Western future was real. The Western tomorrow was a definite quantity; loans would mature at a certain date, elections would be held at scheduled times and the pension check would arrive in the mail every 15th and 30th of the month. By contrast the Third World timescale had only the present. Tomorrow was ink on a calendar. Only things you could touch, take or use now were real. Checks in the future were as unreal as rocket ships and rayguns.
What a whole generation of Western political leaders have done is abolish the future. Comprehensively and perhaps irretrievably. And since that hasn’t happened in two generations, very few can even come to terms with it. Victor Davis Hanson describes the bewilderment of Californians who find that, for the first time in living memory, tomorrow isn’t coming. It’s so absurd people treat the fact with disbelief. People continue to act rich even though they’re poor. They live as if that check will arrive tomorrow even though no one can give a reason why it should.
The last seven days I tried to jot down what I saw in some slices of America in recession. … There is a new beggar. I see him on the intersections now on major urban boulevards. They are never illegal aliens, rarely African-Americans, but almost all white males. … A new cohort between 21 and 30 is becoming a lost generation — and with good reason. They don’t seem to be working full-time or have good jobs with secure futures. Instead, from construction to teaching, there are far fewer sustainable careers for young people. But given family ties, they can live at home, postpone marriage, find part-time work, and rely on essentials like rent and food from the old embryo, while using what little is made for discretionary spending — allowing the veneer of middle class opulence to continue. …
Because tomorrow’s going to come, right? Those who really know the score refuse to challenge the lie. It’s easier to simply ignore it. The least confrontational way of dealing with political lunacy is to pretend to comply with it until its back has turned. Hanson observes that Utopia eventually morphs into a place-name for a trailer park.
As a rough estimate from this week’s travel, I would guess that there are thousands of illegal aliens living in garages in rural California, or in beached inoperative trailers. Almost one of two rural farmhouses has some sort of Winnebago-like vehicle hooked up to electrical service. In Selma and Caruthers, there are lots of garages that seemed to have morphed into rentals. In other words, in one of the most highly regulated, highly taxed regions in America, noncompliance at every level seems the norm. …
The end-point of a cancerous public culture is total alienation not complete togetherness. Things lead to their opposites. Political correctness becomes coded speech; over-regulation leads to black-markets; unrealistic human rights standards lead to rendition. Lies make everything unreal. Finally people forget who they are and even where things come from. VDH continues:
So I am as worried about the elite upscale yuppie as the poor illegal alien. The former have lost almost all connection with physical labor, the physical world, or the ordeal that civilization endures to elevate us from the savagery of nature.
While many were fit, and seem to work out, bike, ski, and hike, none understood the mechanics that lie beneath the veneer of the good life — the chain-sawing, hammering, drain-unplugging, tractor-driving, irrigating, and welding that allows a pleasant afternoon Greek salad and cappuccino on University Avenue — the disconnect between those Pennsylvania “clingers” and Obama’s arugula-eating crowd.
But maybe with a little more Keynesian stimulus and a little more borrowing we’ll turn the corner. Turn it because the corner has always been turned. Wrong. According to Christopher Booker, Britain, at least, is not coming up for air. Blighty’s tomorrows have arrived. And there’s no check in the mail. Its public indebtedness has reached the point where interest charges alone are unsustainable. Like Jefferson County, the UK can’t pay the interest charges let alone the principal.
This is now growing so fast that it is difficult to find ways of bringing home how stupendous it has become. The Taxpayers’ Alliance has tried to do it by pointing out that public debt is rising by £447,575,342 – virtually half a billion pounds – every day. With the Government’s own projections showing that within four years the National Debt will have doubled to £1.4 trillion. …
The implications of Gordon Brown’s doubling of public spending in the past decade are so hard to grasp that it is hardly surprising the parties don’t want to talk about it, because none of them really has the faintest idea what to do about it. The utter unreality of this debate was illustrated last week by the Tories’ claim that they could cut spending by £12 billion, when it is now rising by that figure every month. Meanwhile Labours boasts that, having trebled spending on the NHS, to no great effect, it could save half a billion a year by cutting out NHS waste – when our public debt is now increasing by that amount every day.
Britain is so badly in debt that even draconian measures won’t hack it. Like the man who has maxed out his credit card and maxed out his other cards to pay for his debts, piling interest on interest, it is no longer a question of curbing the spending spree. It’s a question of telling the public it has to work till it drops to pay a political generation’s folly. And that’s not the worst of it. All that tax money has gone to buy junk: one bloated bureaucracy after the other starting from local councils all the way to the EU monster in Brussels. Britain has gone into debt to buy a ball and chain. Who’s going to tell the electorate that? And how do you sell solutions to such monumental problems to an electorate accustomed to being promised ever more comfort, safety and ease? The answer: you can’t. The political system can’t meet the challenge without liquidating itself. Faced with an insoluble problem the political elite marks time by becoming obsessed with trivia. It rearranges the deck chairs on its Titanic. It whistles past its graveyard.
Yet on all these hugely important issues our political class remains virtually silent, because it no longer has any power to decide what happens. All our political nonentities are left to bicker over at election time is that ever shrinking area of policy-making still under our national control: schools and hospitals, crime… that’s about it. …
This flight from reality was never better exemplified than by the 2008 Climate Change Act, committing Britain, uniquely in the world, to reducing its carbon emissions by more than four fifths. Even the Government admits that this will cost us up to £18 billion every year for four decades, making it by far the most costly law in our history. Though its target could only be met by virtually closing down our economy, such is the bubble of unreality in which our political class lives that our MPs voted for this insane law almost unanimously, without having any idea of its practical implications.
When there’s no money left in the till talk inevitably turns to what color of the garbage bins should be or whether Christians should be allowed to wear crucifixes to work. The really important public issues like carbon trading take center stage. Across the Atlantic in California, Victor Davis Hanson was noticing the same obsession with irrelevant forms in a state facing the same challenges as Britain. As the actual poverty rose in California the “socially conscious” turned in upon themselves, living in overpriced, politically correct communities, seeking solace in “ambiance — that is, living among people like themselves … Why? I have a theory. It allows them to be liberal and progressive in the abstract, without having to live the logical consequences of their utopianism, or deal with the underbelly of American life.”
This may explain the strange inverse relationship between shrinking resources and growing promises. When you can’t provide the real then promise the fake. The bleaker the reality the more soaring the vision. The higher the price of oil, the smaller the military budget, the costlier the medical appliances the more grandiose the goals of the administration become. Why aim for incremental environmental improvement when you can make the seas fall. Never mind if one must accept a nuclear Iran; at least we’ll have a world without nuclear weapons! If Israel can give up Jerusalem there’ll be peace in the Middle East at last! Why fix the health care system where it’s broken? Fix it all.
And it’s all going to happen in the future, that wondrous, inexhaustible cornucopia of a place which will lend us everything we want, and roll it over when we can’t pay. It will do it even though its peopled by people that are too much trouble to care for; like the children who should never be born because pregnancy, according to one judicial nominee being considered by the administration, is “involuntary servitude” comparable to slavery. Can you have a future without people, without cheap, abundant and secure energy? Can you have a future without truth? Why sure you can. Just you wait and see.
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