Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Should We Update the Fourth?

Today, the Fourth of July, many conservative outlets are running traditional restatements of the Fourth of July and the Declaration of Independence. Typical is this piece from Powerline, that quotes President Coolidge.
If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final, If governments derive their powers from the consent of the governed, that is final.
But it is just that iinality that our lefty friends contest. If it is true that all men (and women and LGBT) are created equal then how come men are still overrepresented as senators and corporate CEOs? If they are endowed with inalienable rights, then how come transgendered still aren't allowed in the US military? If governments derive their powers from the consent of the governed, what about the undocumented workers that do not get to give their consent?

The point is that for 200 years or so the left has been driving a coach and horses through the principles of the American founding and has turned the educated and the marginalized against it.

In fact the whole 200 year history of the left is a reflection of the fact that the ideas of the Founding are not the last word in human social relations and identity.

I came to this realization years ago reading F.S.C Northrop. He writes in The Meeting of East and West,
The primary thing to keep in mind about German and Russian thought since 1800 is that it takes for granted that the Cartesian, Lockean or Humean scientific and philosophical conception of man and nature... has been shown by indisputable evidence to be inadequate.
 What does this mean? Well, in the German case, it means the whole Romantic movement, and Herder's contribution to German nationalism, and Kant's transcendentalism, and Hegel's dialectic -- the notion that reasoning and reality are not quite as simple as you might think.  Then came the middle-class Marx deciding that the bourgeoisie was no better than the feudal lords that the Enlightenment was supposed to throw on the dust-heap of history. In other words, the Declaration of Independence might be final for me, a upper-middle-class immigrant from Britain, but what about an illegal lesbian immigrant from Honduras?

In 1776 the Declaration of Independence was a statement of fighting words against the world of the absolute monarch, and its "final" words were directed against King George and his aristocratic supporters in Britain.

But now we are engaged in a climactic struggle against the new ideology, the ideology that comes out of the French Enlightenment and German Romanticism. Listen: they had a point! John Locke is not the last word in political philosophy!

But now, I argue, you have to be a blithering idiot or a superstitious lefty not to see that the cure has been worse than the disease. Yes, American constitutionalism assumes that you are a middle-class individual. Not good enough. But treating everyone like helpless victims, oppressed and exploited by a racist, sexist, society, and developing huge administrative programs to minister to those making the transition from agricultural idiocy to urban competence, has in the worst case birthed the most evil killer regimes in human history, and in the best case provoked a demoralizing dependency on big government where in the bottom third of society the men don't work much and the women don't marry much.

And while we have been having this argument over the last two hundred years something amazing has been happening. It is what economist Deirdre McCloskey calls "The Great Enrichment." We are talking about an increase in real income in the US from $3 per capita per day to the current US $144 per capita per day. As McCloskey writes, there has never been anything like it in history ever. Hey, we are talking about a 30-times increase in human prosperity. Almost two orders of magnitude!

Stop right there. Do you realize how utterly amazing that is?

Being a dull sort of person, it took me until a couple months ago to realize that I have the data on the Great Enrichment, right here on usgovernmentspending.com for the US, and ukpublicspending.co.uk for the Brits. Imagine! So I wrote about it here. No really, take a look at the data.

It is amazing, and the most amazing thing is that the Brit version shows that per capita income in the UK was going down in the UK until after the end of what I call the Second Hundred Years War between Britain and France on the battlefield of Waterloo. In other words, the Great Enrichment for the Brits might have started earlier but for the fact that its ruling class was fighting a jolly old war against the French.

The point is this. Our lefty friends have been spending the last 200 years telling us that it is the worst of times and the truth is that it is the very best of times. In fact there never was another time in history of such amazing prosperity, not just for kings and their feudal supporters and rich bankers, and not just for the middle class, but for workers all over the world.

Here is the clincher. In the Soviet Union and China, and also in India, the rulers that kicked out the Czars and the Sons of Heaven started out believing that the lefty gospel was true, that centralized administrative control of the economy was the way to material abundance, not to mention material equality. So we had a scientific experiment on the Great Enrichment, as near as that is possible with actual humans and actual economies and actual governments.

And the verdict is clear, as clear as things ever can be in human affairs. China started an amazing increase in human prosperity starting the day after it abandoned Maoist economics in 1979 under Deng Xiaoping and allowed capitalism to bloom. India started an less startling but still remarkable increase in economic prosperity starting in the 1990s after it abandoned the Fabian socialism that its leaders had learned from the Deep State of their British colonial masters. It is perfectly obvious that leftist economic thinking has nothing to do with the case in the economic miracles of China and India.

Yes, but what do we do? If the ideas of the American Founding, good as they are, do not persuade the average dull lefty then what?

Thank you senator, I'm glad you asked. The answer is my "In this School of Life, We Learn" yard sign.

I go through each item, line by line, at the American Thinker.

But the crux of my thinking is this. Every time that liberals come up with another plan for a big government program, the question to ask is this:

If government is force, and politics is division, then are things really so bad that the only solution is to divide Americans one from another in a new political battle, and is it really a matter of life and death, for surely that is the only warrant for another government program of force is that millions will die unless we force Americans into ranks and files to contribute to and to submit their lives to this new increment of systematic domination.

You will notice that the warrant for the global trillion dollar per year climate program is that it is "saving the planet." You will notice that the reaction of Democrats and #TheResistance to reform of Obamacare is that "millions will die."

Am I right or am I right? The only warrant for government force is that the alternative is the end of the world.

Now I am a dull sort of chap, and I don't pretend that I have come up with anything new with this. I am just parroting back what I have learned through my extensive reading. Some day some young genius will come and make these ideas dance.

But meanwhile this is all we have.

GOVERNMENT IS FORCE. I got that from a crazy libertarian.

POLITICS IS DIVISION. I don't remember where that came from.

SYSTEM IS DOMINATION. I got that from Frankfurt School lefties Horkheimer and Adorno.

Onwards and upwards, and God Bless the United States of America, the last best hope of freedom.

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