Belmont Club

The Lordlings

Peggy Noonan adopts a meme that has been sweeping the blogs of late, the idea that America’s elite is broken; so broken she says, that it doesn’t know it’s broken. In a WSJ article, she describes the current and disastrous reign of “callous children”; people who have “never seen things go dark” and are leading their nation into the abyss.  For the first time, she says, the national mood is one of despondency. There are no solutions because the problems come from within. The heirs have grown strange and wayward. They have gone off into the dark to return at whiles speaking in odd voices.  Noonan describes the sense of loss she feels in the current economic and political crisis.

Everyone had a path through.

Now they don’t. The most sophisticated Americans, experienced in how the country works on the ground, can’t figure a way out. Have you heard, “If only we follow Obama and the Democrats, it will all get better”? Or, “If only we follow the Republicans, they’ll make it all work again”? I bet you haven’t, or not much.

This is historic. This is something new in modern political history, and I’m not sure we’re fully noticing it. Americans are starting to think the problems we are facing cannot be solved … from the White House through Congress, and so many state and local governments … they are not offering a new path, they are only offering old paths—spend more, regulate more, tax more in an attempt to make us more healthy locally and nationally. …

Rep. Barney Frank had just said on some cable show that the Democrats of the White House and Congress “are trying on every front to increase the role of government in the regulatory area.” The executive [Noonan spoke to] said of Washington: “They don’t understand that people can just stop, get out. I have friends and colleagues who’ve said to me ‘I’m done.’ ” He spoke of his own increasing tax burden and said, “They don’t understand that if they start to tax me so that I’m paying 60%, 55%, I’ll stop.”

The bipartisan urge to tax and spend has become an addiction. And amazingly enough, the addicted think the music will never stop. Those words: “I’ll stop” are a phrase that the people in power — “the children” in Noonan’s words — never thought to hear. What? Stop? How can you stop? How can you say there’s no more money? Where have you hidden the money? Those in power think there’ll always be more money, Noonan believes, because there’s always been money. All they had to do was cry louder to make it come.  They’ve come to imagine they’ve come into possession of a magic orange. All you have to do is squeeze harder and the juice keeps flowing out.  She continues:

When I see those in government, both locally and in Washington, spend and tax and come up each day with new ways to spend and tax—health care, cap and trade, etc.—I think: Why aren’t they worried about the impact of what they’re doing? Why do they think America is so strong it can take endless abuse? I think I know part of the answer. It is that they’ve never seen things go dark. …

they don’t feel anxious, because they never had anything to be anxious about. They grew up in an America surrounded by phrases—”strongest nation in the world,” “indispensable nation,” “unipolar power,” “highest standard of living”—and are not bright enough, or serious enough, to imagine that they can damage that, hurt it, even fatally.

We are governed at all levels by America’s luckiest children, sons and daughters of the abundance, and they call themselves optimists but they’re not optimists—they’re unimaginative. They don’t have faith, they’ve just never been foreclosed on. They are stupid and they are callous, and they don’t mind it when people become disheartened. They don’t even notice.

“They don’t even notice.” But in the end, they must. The one thing no generation of parents can protect their children from is reality. No inheritance can withstand the foolishness of heirs. The harsh arithmetic on the frontier, the terrible outflow of dollars and cents, the gradual and then sudden loss of credibility as people see they are dealing not with serious people but with gilded fools cumulate their irresistible effects. In the end the gay parade of capering children enters a dark cavern and the entrance shuts behind them. Those who don’t want to join in this cavalcade have two duties.

The first is to survive; to have the wit to realize that if something can’t go on, then it won’t. The administration is touting “green shoots”. Others might use the phrase “pushing up daisies”. People who can tell the difference have got to rig for depth charges and evade worst; but be ready to take aggressive productive action where they can.

But the second duty is more important. Those unentranced by the magic flute have an obligation to remember what happened; to keep the history books free of revisionism so that by shame and memory those pied pipers who led a generation astray can never return unchallenged to sound their witching tune again. But for the children already lost to the dark we can only wish that wherever they have gone, they’ve found what they were looking for.

The mayor sent East, West, North and South,
To offer the Piper, by word of mouth,
Wherever it was men’s lot to find him,
Silver and gold to his heart’s content,
If he’d only return the way he went,
And bring the children behind him.
But when they saw ’twas a lost endeavour,
And Piper and dancers were gone for ever,
They made a decree that lawyers never
Should think their records dated duly
If, after the day of the month and year,
These words did not as well appear,
“And so long after what happened here
“On the Twenty-second of July,
“Thirteen hundred and seventy-six:”
And the better in memory to fix
The place of the children’s last retreat,
They called it, the Pied Piper’s Street —
Where any one playing on pipe or tabor,
Was sure for the future to lose his labour.
Nor suffered they hostelry or tavern
To shock with mirth a street so solemn;
But opposite the place of the cavern
They wrote the story on a column,
And on the great church-window painted
The same, to make the world acquainted
How their children were stolen away,
And there it stands to this very day.

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