We’re libertarians, big-L and small, and so we know what it means to be the tiniest of minorities. We lose, because we don’t deliver the goods to our constituents, nor do we want to. The very idea appalls us. But the high-speed gravy train is beginning to derail. We’re sitting on $16,000,000,000,000 of existing debt, we’re adding another trillion every 12 months, entitlements are exploding, our job-creation machine has been broken, and when that train derails it’s going to take the nation with it.
Some of you are nodding your heads at this, with a grim approval. I know, because I’ve done it, too. We have this phoenix fantasy, that after the Federal Leviathan comes crashing down, it will be we, the libertarians, who pick up the pieces. Our predictions of disaster will have come true, we will have been vindicated, and a better America will emerge from the ashes.
It’s a theme that dates back at least to Atlas Shrugged, but it’s become a recurring theme in popular speculative fiction. Think of John Ringo’s The Last Centurion or John Birmingham’s Without Warning, and others too numerous to count. In each, some terrible apocalypse befalls America and/or the world, and then we somehow put the pieces back together to form a more perfect union, in harmony with our founding principles.
Only I don’t see it that way.
Let’s look at France. Late in the 18th century, the monarchy was overthrown, and a republic established. The French Republic succumbed to the temptation of empire, but then the emperor was overthrown and the monarchy restored. France has had two republics, just since the end of the Second World War. Take away the kings, you still have France. Take away the emperor, and France is still there. Put in a president, and the French are still French.
In just the last hundred years, Germany has had a kaiser, a republic, a Nazi dictatorship, two Germanys (one drearily Communist), and now a unified Federal Republic. Through it all, the Germans remained German because they’re German.
Most nation-states are built on a common culture, language, and ethnicity. This gives them a simple, hardy core of commonality, from which cohesion emerges naturally. Governments, entire political systems, may come and go, but the people are always there.
America has none of those things.