Friday, June 27, 2014

What Went Wrong: Collective Mind or Collective Mindlessness?

We've been looking at what went wrong, pre and post Obama, at the tactical and strategic political level.  (Beginning of series here.) Now let's look at the decisive point: do we believe in collective mind or collective mindlessness?

The decisive character of humans when compared against the rest of Nature is that we can understand and practice barter and exchange.  We have the instinct to exchange something we value for something we value more.  From this simple idea comes the whole impossibly complex market economy and global exchange system.  Ships are sailing the seas, trains are rumbling over the fruited plan, people are working away, and nobody is in charge.  The whole thing works because people are willing to exchange.  They are willing to exchange a particular good for money, their time for money, and their money for food and shelter and products and services.  There is a name for this amazing phenomenon: the collective mind.

But government is different.  Government is mechanics.  Government is a Newtonian opposition of forces not an exchange of voluntary services.  Government is the seizing of wealth and income as the price of defending people against enemies.  Government says you must pay payroll taxes if you want to work at a job; government says you must not get on an airplane without submitting to government's security theater.  You could say that there is a word for this phenomenon: collectivism, but really it is collective mindlessness, the thuggery of the clunking fist.

You can see now where we have been going wrong, and where the Obama administration has been going wrong in spades.  We have been steadily increasing the amount of government in America and reducing the amount of free cooperative exchange.  We have been increasing the amount of collective mindlessness at the cost of shrinking the collective mind.  And for what?  To make the ruling class feel good about itself.

So we must change, and we must start to change today.  But there is a problem.  Nobody wants to give up a dime of their free stuff.  Grandmothers say things like: “'they' better not cut my Medicare.”  Seniors say: “I paid for my Social Security with my taxes.”  And so politicians dare not touch the sacred “entitlements,” the third rail of American politics.  Probably we cannot reform entitlements short of total government meltdown.  We should not be hard on our fellow citizens for their dog-in-the-manger attitude; our problem is not just a question of selfish freeloaders wanting to keep their free stuff.  The modern welfare state panders to the eternal yearning in every human heart to escape the contingency of human life, to obtain if not eternal life, at least a job for life, or a pension for life, or health-care for life.  But, of course, the person that wants politicians to give him a pension for life is not looking at the fact that he is exchanging his birthright for a mess of pottage.  He does not understand that he is putting his hands within the hands of his liege lord and surrendering his freedom and his dignity as a free person for three squares a day, as the English peasant could do a millennium ago.

The freeloader forgets that when he places his hands within the hands of his liege lord, whether warrior noble or The One who will bring Hope and Change, he is transferring the ownership of risk in his life, for good or ill, from himself to his lord.  And that risk has a price, not just in money but in human freedom and dignity.

Not everyone wants a life of subservience and serfdom.  Some people say: I don't want that deal.  I don't want to live in subordination to a lordly liberal ruling class, and I wouldn't want it even if liberals were really as sensitive and compassionate as they imagine themselves to be.  I want freedom and the responsibility that goes with it.  I want the monkey on my back, not on the government's back.  I want the right to choose how to make my own contribution to society and take the consequences rather than dutifully follow the dictates of my bureaucratic supervisor or my precinct captain who, I've noticed, isn't very sharp at anything except currying favor with his political bosses and playing favorites with his subordinates.

But is there any way that the responsible individuals can influence our politics, or are they doomed, doomed to be overrun by freeloaders and corporate looters?  See the next installment in this series.

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