Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Can We Act Before It's Too Late?

Is it possible to Do Something about the federal budget mess before the nation goes over the cliff?  Probably not.  Writes Victor Davis Hanson about the Roman budget crisis:
The Roman satirist Juvenal lamented the ill effects of free food and free entertainment for the masses (“bread and circuses”) in part because he knew there was no remedy for the pathology in sight — and thus only a slow decline toward fiscal insolvency or riots were on the horizon.
Nothing changes.  The teachers of Wisconsin rioted against budget-balancing that made them contribute just a little more for their pensions.  And the Greeks are rioting against the reduction in their benefits from the state.  And these are regime supporters, people who support the idea of big government, people who should be all in favor of the government living within its means.

The irony is, as President Obama provokes the mob into rage against "the rich," that big-ticket thinkers of left and right agree that big government is a problem.  Conservatism was born in Edmund Burke as a reaction to the first hint of big government.  But it took the rise of fascism and pogroms against the Jews to get Jewish lefties like Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno to agree that the instrumental reason of the Enlightenment leads directly to domination and oppression: "what men want to learn from nature is how to dominate it and other men."

So you get lefties like Juergen Habermas differentiating between the strategic action of the governmental bureaucracy or the corporate bureaucracy and the communicative action of shared meaning in language.  The rational plan of the government or the corporation is domination, any way you look at it.  But the essential social nature of humans is expressed in language and consensus.  Of course, when it comes to facing up to the truth that your social consensus is transformed into strategic instrumental reason the moment you translate your consensus into a government program, the lefties go AWOL.  But at least they have begun to face the truth of their cruel and unjust system.

Meanwhile conservatives have insisted that community and society and compassion start with the face-to-face community.  Why?  Because it is at the face-to-face community that the basic social problem can be solved, getting people "to bide by the social contract [rather] than to pretend to bide by it", as Roger Scruton writes.  It is at the local level that people can judge whether their fellows are pulling their weight or freeloading.  But when the question of freeloading is obscured by "social justice" and a government program--for who is the freeloader, the businessman or the disabled on a pension--then people start to act like Sgt. Bilko.  They see all the free stuff passing by and figure, why not get my share and cash in?

Perhaps there is a silver lining to this cloud.  Maybe today in America the mass of people are frightened more by the collapse of government finances in a budget crisis than by suffering a reduction in their benefits in a budget deal.  After all, middle-class people depend on the system continuing to work for them.  They are not like the proletariat with "nothing left to lose."

But don't bet on it.  The strategy of President Obama is clear.  He will put off spending cuts until the moment of collapse.  And in that moment of collapse, of course, the people will be willing to agree to anything, from sovereign debt default to tax increases on the middle class.

Voila!  Problem solved.

1 comment:

  1. I'm betting on it. I'm sorry to be from 1959 but I'm betting on Americans. Oh they got some serious learning to do as every word of your statement is true. But they will. They must. We who see things as they really are must not be patient any longer; we gotta be brave and loud. We must educate and cajole on a constant basis. Force every contact we have to be aware in some way and get involved. Then send them to me. I'm going to get it done peacefully and with little cost to anyone by using my country's population to heal it. cmon. its gonna be epic. www.letschuckasickie.com

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