Thursday, February 07, 2008

Thoughts in the Gloaming

With Romney quitting, it's down to McCain and Huckabee (which means it's down to McCain). Isn't it remarkable that, aside from Ron Paul, the two worst candidates are the last ones standing? I'm reminded of a chapter in Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, "Why the Worst Get on Top."

The next President will be Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or John McCain. The next step toward totalitarianism that we have long feared, which has been abstract all our life, now has one of those names. The beast was a hazy hulk, far off in the fog, but now we see the scales on his hide, the horns on his head.

It seems like we're at the start of a new era -- a era of increasing decline, where you can see the edges of civilization and freedom begin to fray. I'll probably be dead before things really get bad, but I look at young people and wince when I think of what the future holds for them.

And it is maddening that the worst damage from the encroaching state will be all the things that could have been but we'll never see. Just think if the $3 trillion our government spends were left in private hands! Just think of all the marvels we would know in our lifetime, all the diseases that would be cured, the science fictional inventions that would become a reality, the capital that would be invested, the wealth created, the rise in standard of living we would see, the arts that would be funded. We'll never see it because people like Hillary Clinton and George Bush steal the money from taxpayers and buy power with it. This is the great unknown tragedy of our time. If people ever understood this abstraction the way they perceive a truck rumbling at them in the street, to use Dr. Peikoff's image, there would be a revolution in the streets of Washington, D.C. and the gods would have blood.

In the 21st century I would not be surprised to see a rise in the popularity of Hellenic philosophy -- stoicism, epicureanism and neo-platonism. Our century seems much like that time period to me, a time of insecurity and fear as things get worse. People will look to such philosophies for ways to live in an uncertain time. The answers they will find will be false, for those philosophies teach a passive acceptance of one's condition; they teach people to be content without achieving or striving for values.

This political season has been a concretization of Ayn Rand's statement, it's earlier than you think. We're seeing that it's too early for political solutions. Political parties, after all, must win elections to survive. If either party were to adopt laissez-faire capitalist policies, with today's electorate, it would mean party suicide.

It's too early for good politicians to succeed. Look at the three Presidential candidates left standing. The American character is not what it was 35 years ago when McGovern was defeated. America is now so ignorant, corrupted and weak that people expect to be taken care of by the state. And in countries with voting, the people tend to get the kind of government they deserve.

Our only hope is the spread of a better philosophy than the ones I speculate about above. Only the spread of Objectivism, with its defense of the morality of self-interest, will turn around the decline. And this is the great difference between us and the Hellenic Age: they were philosophically helpless before bad ideas; we are armed. The solution is known -- but not widely enough. Not nearly enough.

UPDATE: I made a mistake above. Ron Paul is still in the race, although his cause is hopeless. So the three remaining Republican candidates are the three worst. All Democrats are pure statists, so it's hard to tell which of them is the worst.


Richard said...

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softwareNerd said...

Tactically, I think shorter-run political-advocacy should turn toward health-care. All three possible presidents are likely to take us down the wrong path. Woe betide us if government health-care gets as entrenched as government schooling.

Jim May said...

Beginning to fray?

The situation we are in is best described not in terms of how low we've sunk, or how close by the enemy is. Rather, what is happening is that the impediments to tyranny are all eroding away -- and when those in control realize that not only is there nothing left to stop them, but the people are *asking* them to take over -- they will. And when that happens, it will happen very quickly. Freedom will go from "frayed" to gone within a decade.

Imagine that we are protected from a huge, raging monster by chains. Nobody is maintaining the chains any more, so they are falling apart.

The monster itself does not specifically want to escape yet; it thinks that it is being a good monster. Unfortunately, he is as drunk as a skunk, and in thrashing around he is snapping more and more of the chains when they get in his way (McCain-Feingold took out a BIG section of them, for example.)

There will come a day when the chains are gone -- and then the only thing preventing the monster from rushing us and eating us is keeping him drunk -- i.e. subject to "democracy", the randomized drunken wandering of pressure-group warfare. On the day that the monster realizes his chains are gone, we'll go from semi-free to tyrant mulch in no time flat.

Those of us watching those chains forged in the Enlightenment erode, will not be surprised. But everyone else -- conservatives and Leftists alike -- will be.