Decline Is in the Mind

Your choice, not mine

Yet all this is optional. For a number of years, I have written x-number of columns explaining that decline is a choice, not a destiny. Decline compared to what? China with its warped demography and rendezvous with environmental cleanup and social disorder? Europe and Japan with fossilized populations and statist economies? India with insidious layers of the old caste system and 1940s socialism still to be displaced? The kleptocratic, shrinking state of Russia? The Arab world — with endemic tribalism, gender apartheid, religious intolerance and suspicion of science and its repercussions?

The tragedy, reader, is that any of us in 2-3 minutes can see how it could all be reversed — a full-fledged effort to develop all our energy resources, from nuclear to natural gas, radical cuts in public spending, closed borders, fiscal sanity and pay-as-you-go legislation, a return to merit instead of situational pleading. Given our wealth and talent, in four years we could balance the budget, slash energy imports, and make schools work far better with fewer dollars.

No, decline is a state of mind, and proceeds so often from the dreams of utopianism, or the creed that a new generation can change human nature, eliminate war, legislate peace, end inequality, and enforce an equality of result — alone through state power wielded by enlightened despots and philosopher kings amid imposed “civility.” In response, the productive, highly taxed, upper-middle classes become alienated, convinced that their efforts will not lead to their own self-interested advancement. So they adopt "quietism," a sort of psychological hibernation from society, a disconnect where they virtually drop or hide out from popular culture — a theme as old as characters in Plato, Sophocles and Euripides, authors who at times focused on those so resistant to the redistributive Athenian state.

But it is not easy to turn us into Belgium

In America’s case, these are choices, not fate. The Constitution is still here should we wish to follow it. Our ancestors left us freeways, airports, and universities and a rich infrastructure. Napa Valley, Silicon Valley, and Central Valley agriculture here in bankrupt California are still sources of amazing ingenuity and enormous wealth creation. Even with 9.6% unemployment, millions rise at 6 a.m. to go to work; millions work the night shift. So to nullify that dynamism, well, that takes work. It requires constant sloganeering about inequality. It demands massive social engineering to create huge public work forces to administer redistributive entitlements. It must entice a new privileged elite to go over to the side of crony capitalism and insider favoritism of the GE sort. It encourages a demonized “them” and a deified “us,”,the abyss say somewhere around the Obama’s $250,000 line of annual income. It requires an ideology of envy and jealously and the exit of moral responsibility for self. It dictates that most personal unhappiness emanates from not having what someone else supposedly does, and can be rectified by state action rather than personal improvement. Yet that is all hard to do quickly in America.

Just say no

So because statist utopianism is both against innate human nature and without any historical record of success, it is not inevitable. The sane can stop it by daily, no hourly, saying no to the utopian narcotic, even (or especially) in its most seemingly mundane and innocuous manifestations (Dear Mrs. Obama, those who buy expensive baby formula surely have enough money for a breast pump if they so chose, and the latest federal concern over why some women do not nurse should at least start with addressing their own thinking and attitudes, not funding someone or something to root out a third party’s supposed coercion and oppression). If we speak "truth" to power and ignore the incoming salvos of “mean, greedy, selfish, privileged, racist, nativist, sexist, homophobe, Tea-bagger, and yokel,” decline can stop. It really is a state of mind — the choice not to brush off opportunistic rust from hard steel after a very brief rain.