The End of Collectivism

Have you apologized for your country today?

Welcome to the brave new post-American America, where our prosperity is a sin that must be atoned for, our military strength is a threat to be contained, and our values are a symbol of ignorance and intolerance.

If, as a conservative, you are feeling discouraged by the thought of more than 1,350 or even 2,700 days of an Obama presidency and Reid-Pelosi Congress, it's certainly understandable. But in fact, it's the progressives that are facing ruin. The intellectual foundation that supports their agenda is collapsing in full view of the world. That foundation is collectivism.

A failed doctrine

Collectivism is the belief that we, as individuals, must put the needs, goals, and desires of society ahead of our own.  It is a particularly frightening mindset because it appeals to virtue yet can be used to justify so much misery.

When most people think of collectivism, they think of communism or socialism. Under these systems the virtue of collective ownership was used to justify the most repressive and brutal environments in the 20th century. But collectivism has many other forms, including fascism, ultra-nationalism, the welfare state, social engineering, political correctness, and internationalism. In each of these varieties, autocrats make and enforce their judgments in the name of the greater good. If these custodians decide that limiting your freedoms or taking your income or savings furthers society's goals, then that is simply the price to be paid for a better world.

But utopia is never reached. The more social objectives the government sets, the more taxes it collects, the more money it spends, and the more laws it passes, the worse the situation becomes. The failure of central authorities to deliver on their noble goals is the ground truth of not only conservatism and libertarianism, but any reputable school of economics, American and world history, political philosophy, or constitutional law.

That's collectivism in four paragraphs. The best sources I have read on the subject lie five decades apart yet are equally effective: Atlas Shrugged and Liberty and Tyranny. And these are just two of the many books that force you to think through the progressive ideological agenda to its inevitable and miserable end.

Post-9/11 Collectivism

Collectivism should have been burned in effigy in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union. At that point, both communism and fascism were completely discredited as viable political systems and just about every country in the world was opening its economy. If collectivism had a last gasp, it should have been stifled in 1993 and 1994 with the defeat of HillaryCare and the Republican Revolution. But 9/11 changed everything.

Herbert Hoover famously observed: "Every collectivist revolution rides in on a Trojan horse of emergency." A bipartisan Congress immediately granted the Bush administration broad powers to deal with the terrorist threat, including two war authorizations and virtually unlimited surveillance, interrogation, and detention authority. This represented a vast expansion of government power, although most fair-minded people would say given what we know now, the president used the authority responsibly. But collectivists are opportunists if nothing else, and while Bush was struggling to defeat al-Qaeda and keep the U.S. from being attacked again, they developed a rapid case of legislative amnesia and started throwing beer bottles from the cheap seats.

Obama campaigned on the naïve promise of de-escalating the war on terror, and the very phrase has been retired from the government lexicon. Sean Hannity may decry the "pre-9/11" mentality, but the effect is that Obama doesn't get to play with the new toys. Imagine the outcry if the Obama administration were found to have interrogated a terrorist or detained an innocent individual.  Instead, the president has to rely on the economic emergency for his march to collectivism. As always, the lofty rhetoric calls for shared sacrifice and promises a better world by way of government leadership. Look behind the oration and it's borrow and boondoggle on a scale never seen before. Not even the Congressional Budget Office's own projections can make the numbers work and put lipstick on his pig.

This emergency procedure won't work because the administration is in a no-win situation. If the economy is still floundering by the end of the summer then it's going to be difficult to tell Americans that more money or regulation is the solution. But if the economy begins to improve, the crisis is over and there's little justification for sweeping economic changes.