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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Edge of the Spending New Frontier

The debt ceiling debate is less about spending than it is about the purpose of government. Under the impact of an economic recession, the train of the Great Society is approaching the edge of the New Frontier. Both sides are still trying to work out a New Deal, but another cuts and spending formula is not the solution. What we need is a serious and earnest discussion about why we are compulsively spending money.

A cocaine addict who runs out of money doesn't have a spending problem, he has a drug problem. Telling him to cut back on how much money he spends on cocaine, or to shop around for cheaper cocaine isn't the solution. It's not about how much he's spending, but about why. The problem isn't in the math, it's in the mindset.

Our cocaine is social justice. Like most junkies who are willing to sell anything and everything to keep the supply coming, Obama's position in the budget debate is take everything-- especially the military, but leave the social justice and the big government that administers it on the table. And also like most junkies, he has an endless supply of self-righteous speeches denouncing the people who just want him to stop.

In the rush of words, he postures, conflates compromise with confrontation, threatens and urges everyone to work together. There is no consistent message, only egotistical aggression and defensive need. Strip away the verbiage and you come away with a chorus of, "Mine, My Way, Mine".

With all addictions, it is important to look for the root cause. The psychological weakness that allows the chemical rush to take over and become the defining principle of life. In this case it is a basic split over the purpose of government.

These competing visions of government are rival philosophies with differing views on human nature. They cannot even agree on what the nature of "fair" is and that makes reconciling on a national agenda nearly impossible. Is fairness socially determined or self-determined. Is it the function of government to spread the wealth or to protect a system where wealth acquisition is accessible. Is the economy a function of individual choices or organizational mandates.

Government as the caretaker of the system and of Big Aunty who uses the system to make society fairer. Both claim populist allegiances but any system that sets out to remake society is doomed to an elitist and totalitarian nature. The only authentic populists are protesting in reaction to Big Aunty and her nanny state.

The functional state is clashing with the utopian state. The functionalists want to trim back the utopian programs of the state and pare it back down to its vital functions. But the utopians don't even recognize the economy as something apart from the dictates of the state. Spending never has to be regulated, because it is only a micro-function of their system whose negative effects can be nullified through other programs. Or, "Why cut spending when you can just print more money."

The economic solipsism of the left may be irresponsible lunacy, but it is part and parcel of their approach to everything. Their utopian state and its philosopher-czars are given the power to alter everything without a single ray of light allowed to penetrate the gloom of their dogma.

In the utopian mandate, it is irresponsible to have power and then not to use it to improve the country, just as having wealth without employing it for the betterment of mankind makes you a selfish person. They cannot conceive of reasons not to use power and so their only function becomes total control. Any position or office that they gain is immediately dedicated to the cause.

The functionalists and even many ordinary people see this behavior as frighteningly totalitarian. But the utopians view themselves as reformers, it never occurs to them that the era when they were reformers is long past, and that it is they who are in need of reform.

The New Deal, the New Frontier and the Great Society turned on the motor of social justice. And nothing has managed to shut it off. But we are approaching the point where its spending levels are becoming unsustainable. The debate is no longer philosophical or moral, but a simple question of economic survival.

The Utopian system is approaching a crunch point. Like every leftist experiment before it, its economic solipsism has put it on a collision course with reality. But the philosopher-czars are not about to take their feet off the gas pedal.

A political philosophy that claims to explain everything is like a blindfold. When everything is political, then there is no reality outside the definitions of dogma. Nothing to see "out there" that you cannot find in a politically approved text on the subject. The only way to recognize that something is wrong, is to poke your heads outside. And that is a blasphemous heresy.

So the utopians drive ahead immersed in a detailed subjective reality masquerading as objective reality. But the subjective reality is entirely of their creation. Every element of it, from the media to the economics to the grass roots organizations, is manipulated by them. And this reality appears to be absolutely perfect to them, until elements from the outside world intrude on it.

When those elements intrude, a race is on to explain their appearance in a politically correct manner. "The sky isn't falling, it's just a natural phenomena. Just as we predicted."

The left fails at economics so often because there is so much theory to it, but also an inescapable reality. While they get lost building their castles of air in the upper stories, the reality of the marketplace inevitably catches up to them. Then like most utopians they are forced to realize that control is never total, that the human factor is individualistic and chaotic. That controlling the government, the press and even the clergy is not the same as absolute power.

The left exists only in two phases, as governments and anti-governments. The Nanny State and the anarchist. Both are two sides of the same coin. Either governments are completely just or completely unjust. The self-definition purely in terms of authority, as either for or against, makes it difficult for it to break with its own impulse toward power. And the absolutism is totalitarian in its irreconcilability and its primally dangerous ruthlessness.

Behind the Great Society rhetoric is that same polar dogmatism, the unwillingness to accept the morality of a democratic system that is not aimed at enforcing a just society on their terms. Any system that is not power mad must be unjust. A means of protecting the powerful from the redistributive wrath of the graduating class of Evergreen State College.

So the utopians cannot accept the functionalist notion of government as a means of conducting vital functions on behalf of the people, rather than the utopian tool of transforming the people into a great society with seven academic degrees for everyone and recycling at every curb. Such a system is not a moral one to them and they are duty bound to resist it. And the functionalists similarly cannot accept a system that deprives them of agency by overlaying its political code over every aspect of their lives.

But it is the utopians and their economic policies who have forced their own moment to its crisis. Had Obama not won, they would have been able to comfortably sit back and blame Bush era policies for the mess. But their will to power also undid them. It gave them so much power that they are choking on it. With predictable blindness they exploited the crisis for all it was worth and are now left holding the bag. And their policies are now at the center of the debate.

But deeper still is the question of the place of government in the political and economic life of the American. This moment is a wake up call for a country that has been willing to avoid looking too closely at the fine print of the social programs and the total cost of the national debt. And the real question that drifts out of the debates is not about spending cuts, but about the role of government.

The utopian conception of government is not only a freedom deficit, but a functional deficit. The former is obvious, but the latter is often less obvious. The left is often dinged for its controlling ways, but less often for its incompetence. The debt crisis is a moment to speak about the left's philosophy of government as not only an assault on freedom, but the destruction of functional government. The public is more forgiving of tyrants, than they are of idiots. More tolerant of trespasses of power, than of foolish incompetence.

The social justice cocaine that the left is hooked on, and on which it has hooked the Democratic party, is an insidious corruption. And the dysfunctional Nanny State they have created is not only a devouring monster, but a failure at the essentials. At the edge of the new frontier, to look down is to see the iron carcasses of countless leftist trains and trams that have come this way before. And to look up is to behold a towering pile of debt that they cannot account for or resolve without dismantling the functional government and leaving behind nothing but debt creation and debt collection agencies.

The left has proven that it cannot run a functional government and that it is unable to govern from reality, than from their own little red books. The cliff's edge is approaching. It's time for a responsible driver at the wheel.

17 comments:

Lemon said...

No, they can't run a functioning government.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

indeed

mindRider said...

In Europe the approach to social justice into what became you name The Nanny state was in a way different. Speaking about The Netherlands where I live the initial post WWII re-creation of society in the aftermath of the Marshal aid boosted economic revival gave rise to a moderate socialist ruling party that as far as see it truly wanted to take over the system of aid as before was only given by the religious institutions to the poor and needy. The paralel change from a agricultural to a production society also had them include an old age pension in their approach, needed as the elderly did no longer live and fit in (due to migration from the relatively spacious countryside houses to the cramped apartments in the cities) also the means of providing for oneself at older age became more difficult as city apartments lack small patches of edibles producing land. The well meaning socialists (more like expanded church aid and in no way Marxists) also judged the system they created on statistics of longevity of that era where the pension age of 65 meant only a few years of careless life till the average life expectancy of 68 a moderate burden on the tax system. Also unemployment and health care was based on both high employment of the reconstruction- and high moral attitude against misuse of the system of that era. That with the coming of the gay sixties and hangover and radicalisation of the Vietnam war every thing would change was an unexpected surprise and both dramatic increase of life expectancy and drop of moral attitude placed a burden on the system with in it's heyday income tax levels of 72% at for American standards low "highest" incomes. To sustain the expense the Dutch started to import labor first from Italy to expand the tax paying population, a rather good move as the Italians after some hesitance from the locals adapted well and within a generation fit into society. However when in a new "let's import potential tax payers" the Dutch (Europeans) started to import Muslims from North Africa they laid the foundation to a complete destruction of not only the social system but of society itself, due to the long time denied failed integration but also due to the massive misuse of the social system by the second generation of this group in combination of the economic downturn making the burden on the state revenues unsustainable resulting in high premiums for health care and old-age pensions barely sufficient for survival. In short the same what Americans shall be facing if they proceed on this social road not even taking in consideration the fact that what Europeans spend on this excessive social system was spend by America to sustain their world wide military presence.
So you are right: The left shall never, even when they consist of well meaners create a functional government.

fsy said...

"social justice" (in quotes)

Anonymous said...

mindRider, i'm italian and live in the netherlands and fully agree with your analysis - that applies in similar ways to italy too.

Daniel, again a very sharp article. Thanks.

Fed.

Dedicated_Dad said...

MindRider: Europe's ability to implement a full-on utopian welfare-state was largely enabled by our acceptance of all of the responsibility and expense of military defense of damn near the entire CONTINENT .

Sultan: Your eloquence and insight continue to amaze. I cannot FATHOM why you're not drawing the fame and rewards lavished upon innumerable lesser talents...

OTOH, I'm more than grateful for the blessing of being able to enjoy the tremendous fruits of your labors...

May G*d continue to bless you and yours!

Sincerely,

DD

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Thanks Dedicated, I have some success. Plenty of people distribute my articles and find them worthwhile and that's what counts.

If I blogged for attention, sent out my articles to influential bloggers, picked fights and posted bikini photos, I'm sure I'd have more traffic. But I think the way things are is a more useful forum for a serious discussion about what's going on in America and the world.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

mindRider, that's the problem with creating a system without thinking of long term consequences.

Every country does it and the American experience is not altogether dissimilar.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Thanks Fed

Anonymous said...

I think you are wrong in your choice of drugs for the "ruling class" both right and left. I submit to you that a better choice would have been "power", possibly the most powerful aphrodisiac on the planet. Social justice is merely the currency (think "votes") with which it is purchased. The social justice addicts are the ones that supply the votes, like pigs at the trough.

So let's have a paradigm shift in the way we describe the populace. I would add swine to the list. Sheeple, wolves, sheepdogs and now.....swine.

hbbill

"If pigs could vote, the man with the slop bucket would be elected swineherd every time, no matter how much slaughtering he did on the side." ~Orson Scott Card

Anonymous said...

I agree with the gist of the article, and the need to refocus the state away from its 'nanny' self, but lets not also forget that its not only the 'left' that is at due fault, modern Republican policies contribute to this spending addiction.

Besides the usual metrics of extremely large military spending and other republican-favored programs, the core issue goes much deeper. Its largely a societal issue.

Cheap credit, consumerist culture, poor financial education at high school level, and the overall permeation of the idea that "no matter what your income, you can afford to have that new item", these are the primary causes of our financial ruin. Its not simply a 'left/right' issue.

Republicans btw, have been just as atrocious (if not worse) as Democrats when it comes to government spending and debt accumulation.

PeaceAtAllCosts said...

Great article with gobs of insight. The only thing I would like to add is that I am frightened that the current administration seems hell bent on exercising power which could lead to a takeover of the media, confiscation of guns and a wipe out of US capitalism.

We might never have the chance to define that we are addicts.

bobby said...

Good insights, well written. Thank you for sharing this.

Alas, the tyrants in fact - in particular, the Obamites - could read your article and never once see that you've been discussing them.

You've described excesses, and sins of pride and ego and self-regard, and these fighters for social justice will never see such things within themselves, because they are perfectly shielded from such recognition by pride and ego and self-regard. After all, anyone questioning or criticizing a fighter for social justice must, by definition, be against justice, right?

So, when you say " . . . they exploited the crisis for all it was worth and are now left holding the bag . . .", I wonder what bag you mean? Guilt for having caused chaos? "Guilt" is merely acknowledgment of fault, and they are faultless. (I know - they told me so.) A duty to repair? A duty is only as strong as the person accepting it is principled, so forget that one. Public perception of them as the ultimate wreckers? Feh! They don't care what "the masses" think - they know better.

(As a side note, an overly rigid dogmatism can cause us to make critical undervaluations. To reflexively disparage the occasional and tasteful bikini photo . . . . well . . . )

Thomas Jackson said...

What a brillant analysis and article. Great article. You ought to run for Congress.


I'll have to make you daily reading.

Michael of Charlotte said...

This article should be running in every major newspaper in the country. People need to see these words.

Anonymous said...

"Michael of Charlotte said: This article should be running in every major newspaper in the country. People need to see these words."

Too many people will not appreciate these wise words unfortunately. Because:

- most people are happy with the Great Society (TM)

- most people are happy with trading individual freedom for "group rights" and "social justice".

- we are leaving the age of the homo sapiens and entering the age of the homo islamicus leftus submittus.

In other words what the "progressive (TM)" sell as a Great Society (TM) is actually a regression and a step back (or two) in human history.

Fed.

Artruen said...

Wandered in here by link. I appreciate the use of a drug addiction analogy. An addict 'wants to'. There is no consequence in the addicted mind. The edge of the cliff means nothing. The perception of psychological gain excludes all other thought. We will go over the cliff joined at the hip to the addicts. The system has been developed exclusively for the last 80 some years to reward the cokeheads. I do not talk of repubs or dems or leftists or rightists. You are either an individual or you are part of the borg. You either look to yourself for identity or you look to the collective to make yourself feel whole. Live free or die with the needle in your arm.

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