Belmont Club

Childhood's End

Mark Steyn, reflecting on Europe in general and Greece in particular, comes to the rueful conclusion that “culture trumps economics”. Perhaps he meant that economics grows from culture. But no matter, you get the idea, once eloquently expressed by the Russian wife of a dear friend to me: “anyone who works is stupid”.

 

Yep, that’s one way to put it. The other way to say it is to slightly change the words from the Field of Dreams. “If you earn it, they will come”.

Since Obama took office, it’s been fashionable to quote Mrs. Thatcher’s great line: “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” But we’re way beyond that. That’s a droll quip when you’re on mid-20th-century European fertility rates, but we’ve advanced to the next stage: We’ve run out of other people, period. Hyper-rationalist technocrats introduced at remarkable speed a range of transformative innovations — welfare, feminism, mass college education, abortion — whose cumulative effect a few decades on is that the developed world has developed to breaking point: Not enough people do not enough work for not enough of their lives. In the course of so doing, they have fewer children later. And the few they do have leave childhood ever later — Obamacare’s much heralded “right” for a 26-year old to remain on his parents’ health insurance being merely a belated attempt to catch up with the Europeans, and one sure to be bid up further.

A society of 25-year-old “children” whiling away the years till early middle age in desultory pseudo-education has no desire to fund its prolonged adolescence by any kind of physical labor, so huge numbers of unskilled Third World immigrants from the swollen favelas of Latin America or (in Europe) the shanty megalopolises of the Muslim world are imported to cook, clean, wash, build, do. …

The social capital of a nation is built up over centuries but squandered in a generation or two. With blithe self-confidence, the post-war West changed too much too fast. We changed everything, and yet we’ll still wonder why everything’s changed.

Social capital is one of those things that no government bureau of statistics keeps track of it. It notionally measures the ability of a culture to get things done, but important though it was, it was left unattended, like an old family heirloom in a corner: valuable, but in the charge of no one in particular and protected only by tradition.

One of the unintended side effects of the rise of secularism and the growth of the public educational bureaucracy in the West was to place the existing social capital, in a fit of absentmindedness, in the hands of “educators” whose avowed goal was to destroy it. Unsurprisingly, they did. And why not? it was nothing but an accumulation of bigotry and backward thinking, which in their minds the sooner we were rid of, the better. Tradition did not protect it, but rather made its custodians more eager to strike. But the results, as Mark Steyn has noted, has filled even the fans of the new social capital with surprise.

I had a faintly surreal conversation with two Hollywood liberal pals not so long ago: One moment they were bemoaning all those right-wing racists like Pat Buchanan who’d made such a big deal about the crowd cheering for the Mexican team and booing the Americans at a U.S.–Mexico soccer match in Pasadena, and deploring the way the U.S. goalie had complained that the post-match ceremony was conducted entirely in Spanish. Ten minutes later they were sighing that nothing in Los Angeles seemed to work quite as well as it did when they first came out west over 40 years ago.

And it never occurred to them that these two conversational topics might somehow be connected.

Meanwhile, at Redwood Heights Elementary in Oakland, Californian kindergartners are put through “Gender Spectrum Diversity Training” in order to teach them that there are “more than two genders.”

But I think Steyn is wrong when he says that nobody believes the “two conversational topics might somehow be connected”. For social engineers whose ideas are rooted in the 60s, the economic collapse of the West and the state of social capital are intimately connected.  But the problem, as they may see it, is that the old ways have not been sufficiently destroyed. Their remaining vestiges, like infected tissue in a healing wound, have not yet been sufficiently expunged. One day, after society has received enough of the “treatment” things will get better. When the Moon is in the Seventh House And Jupiter aligns with Mars then Peace will guide the planets and Hope and Change will steer the stars. Only when we’ve run out of other people’s bigotry can progress come again.

 

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