Thursday, January 8, 2015

Muddling Along with the Islam Question

What do we do about Islam? That's the question in all our minds after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris on January 7, 2015.

My short answer, frankly, is: Nothing.

That's because I don't think we are at a moment where we can gather the western world into a unified political, military, economic and ideological response.

It is clear that the Bush response after 9/11 didn't work. Sure, the US could throw Afghanistan into a mess, and remove the revolting Saddam Hussein from power. But then what?

On the other hand, we conservatives wring our hands over the center-left ruling class response. The one thing our ruling class knows is that fascism is the worst thing in the world and that the European people will turn into brownshirts and blackshirts the moment that "our" educated evolved backs are turned. So they are terrified by "islamophobia" and a return to the politics of 1935.

Maybe. But my take on the danger of fascism and right-wing extremism is that 20th century fascism was a response to the failure of the European ruling class.

All any ruling class needs to do is provide the political and economic basis for ordinary people to make a decent living. No wars, no inflations, no depressions. Failing that, it's Katy bar the door.

The trouble is that sensible economic policy and politics requires a ruling class that thinks less about its power and more about its service. And the record of history is that this is too much to ask of a ruling class, because people get into politics because they like to fight and they want to acquire power. So it gets into the most frightful messes. And then the people lose faith in their leadership and look for alternatives.

Let's back off and indulge in a Chris Chantrill tour d'horizon. That's French for the view from 30,000 feet.

We humans are in the latter stages of the greatest transformation that humans have ever seen. The people of the earth are giving up life as farmers and taking up life as city dwellers. People used to live on farms and mostly grow food for their own consumption. They also exchanged the fruits of their labor for products and services, but not much.

Today we live in cities and almost all our life is lived in the exchange economy where we exchange our labor for money, and money for everything in our lives from food and shelter to the myriad of consumer goods.

As is the way of revolutionary change, we were right in the middle of it before people woke up and said: What's going on here! Attitudes changed from the chap in 1688 who wrote that the new manufacturing could make us all ten times richer, to the revolutionaries of 1848 who said that the world was coming to an end because everyone would be immiserated to a bare existence by the pitiless actions of the market.

You could say that there have been three responses to the industrial revolution in the West. The first, what we might call the Protestant Ethic, is to adapt our lives and our culture to the demands of the new city exchange economy. We might call this the "get with the program" response. The second, the revolutionary response, is to damn the leaders of the exchange economy, the bourgeois bankers and industrialists, to hell for exploiting the workers and to fundamentally transform politics and economics to remove the devil in our midst. The third, the "little darling" response, is to treat the folks struggling to make it in the city as helpless children, and soften their lives with a government safety net and a welfare state.

My own response is contained in my ebook, The Road to the Middle Class. I argue that the best way to thrive in the city is to get evangelical Christianity and become a responsible individual, get an education, get involved in mutual aid associations, and learn how to live under law. But there is a problem with this approach. It lacks a leading role for the ruling class, and that is a very big deal.

Today's ruling class in the west is a mixture of would-be revolutionaries like President Obama that believe in "fundamental transformation" and would-be mommies that want to keep their "little darlings" safe in a patronage-clientage relation with the political elite. The problem is that both approaches are founded on the idea that it is not the new arrivals to the city that need to change; it is the "system."

So it was that for a century the ruling class babied the working class, giving their labor unions extraordinary monopoly powers so that they killed their host corporations, and instead of teaching the working class how to save against a rainy day and for retirement with the magic of compound interest bought their votes with government pensions paid for out of taxes, not out of saving and investment.

When the ruling class tired of the working class they found new victims and "little darlings:" blacks, Hispanics, well-born women and well-born gays.

The latest group to arrive in the city are the Muslims from North Africa and the Middle East, and naturally they are having a rough time adapting to the revolutionary difference between life in the country and life in the city. In a country like France with a full-blown welfare state it is very hard for the new immigrants to break into the urban economy. Government regulation of the labor market makes it extremely expensive to hire people, especially untutored, un-acculturated Muslims. So the Muslims fester in the banlieux of Paris on welfare and their assimilation and acculturation to the exchange economy of the city is hampered and delayed.

Life for immigrants to the city is extremely frustrating, and none more than young immigrant males. They typically form gangs and terrify the previous generations of immigrants to the city who now have figured out how to live and thrive in the city. In the end, they seem to get with the program.

In my view, the number one job of human society is the socialization of young males.

Ever since the dawn of agriculture we have tried to socialize young males away from their instincts, which is to conduct dawn raids on the neighboring village, and teach them to be disciplined and dependable workers and husbands. It was hard enough to do in the agricultural village; it's a bigger challenge in the city with its anonymity.

Now it is my recent assertion that the two gods of the modern era, freedom for the right and liberation for the left, are false idols. Let me tell you why. The fact is that, in the city exchange economy, there is no freedom; there cannot be. We cannot do what we want; we are all fettered, chained to the market system. We must toil day by day to serve our fellow citizens and there is no escape. Nor is there liberation; liberation in the city is a fantasy. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) inadvertently told us that when she said that Obamacare would let artists and writers quit their day jobs. (Oh yeah! You try it!) Wrong! The truth is that there is no liberation from the market economy. Oh sure, the market economy has poured a bounty of wealth into our laps. But that bounty comes at a price, and the price is that we are all "caged" into the exchange economy and there is no way out.

But what about the Muslim terrorists? The answer is simple. The modern economy cannot endure such a challenge to its regime of peaceful cooperation in the city. If the Muslim terrorists succeed they will destroy the city exchange economy, and we will see a collapse in the global economy that will make the collapses in the Little Ice Age look like a walk in the park.

There is only one way forward. The young Muslims attracted to the age old culture of the "dawn raid" must be socialized to the life of the city. They must be tamed, just like all the other young men that immigrated to the city before them.

Unfortunately, our ruling class, both its revolutionary adepts and its "little darling" adepts, aren't yet ready to see that. So things will have to get worse before they get better.

1 comment:

  1. "we will see a collapse in the global economy that will make the collapses in the Little Ice Age look like a walk in the park."

    But another little ice age is coming. Google David Archibald.