As usual, a very interesting essay from Deneen. One juicy excerpt:
First, it was held that modern society should be built around the goal of material prosperity - "the relief of the human estate," in Bacon's phrase, or "commodious living," in Hobbes's articulation. Human ingenuity and the rise of modern science aimed toward maximizing the ability of humans to manipulate and control the natural world, and to extract from it hitherto unimaginable bounties for life.
Second, particularly with arguments posed by John Locke and the Framers, as well as the thought of many thinkers in the Scottish Enlightenment, it was held that political sovereignty rested in the will of the people, and that political systems ultimately derived their legitimacy from the consent of the governed. This basic insight (which had some relationship to medieval theories of constitutionalism, albeit without a concept of "human will" at its core) laid the groundwork for theories of modern democracy, including periodic elections, theories of rights-based individualism, and eventually a form of liberal welfare-statism that would ensure the basic material conditions of life needed for participation in the political and civic order.
The result were two theories in pronounced tension, if not outright contradiction, with one another. The first claim recognized that practical inequality was the likely result: as people's talents and abilities were permitted maximum distinction in an environment of opportunity and progress, some would achieve great rewards, and others would risk too much or accomplish too little. Prosperity with pronounced social inequality and societal instability was the anticipated outcome. The second claim allowed for the full expression of grievances over those unequal outcomes, with the strong possibility that the popular sovereign would demand some form of equalization of outcome.
Deneen then goes on about the utilization of resources (as is his wont) in the US. Well, it's an opinion--not necessarily wrong, not necessarily right.
But his conclusion has cachet:
All the major players knew that the "social contract" between Stratification and Equality was teetering, but that it could be propped up a while longer with further pay-offs. For years these pay-offs had no longer come out of "current use" funds - those funds were becoming too precious, and without prospect for long-term increase - to be used to pay off the demands of Equality. Instead, pay-offs were increasingly made using future funds, the presumed inheritance and legacy of generations not born, all added to a running tab called "the deficit" or (most amusingly) the Social Security "Trust Fund." A massive fiction called "the National Debt" was sold to the rising nation of China, who - for lack of better savings depot - decided to buy out its only real competitor, biding its time for the day when it would own the West. Monetary policy was devised to create a series of oscillating bubbles, each popping ever more closely to the previous, each one indicating a growing frenzy to get what one can while one could. Fearing electoral backlash, the political classes continued to buy enough votes to bring its success in the next election, and the money-masters financed that auction in return for 1,070 blind eyes.
Without the advantage of a crystal ball, I suspect we will be looking at a New World Order within a decade.
Black Helicopters sighted at G'town, folks?
I wager that in 10 years' time, the nation will either have sunk itself beneath the untenable weight of continuing payment of a bribe that could never be sustained - and will look like a third world "banana republic" - or, it will have "successfully" made the transition to another regime, an form of autocratic capitalism in which the State will change the terms of the bribe, paying us with materialist distractions in exchange for our political rights and equality. I daily see signs of both prospects, and can't clearly discern at the moment which will arise. Either way, our culmination is grim, for in either event we will cease in any real sense to be a Republic.
Not exactly a candidate for Optimist Clubman of the Year, eh?
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