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Monday, 4 June 2012

Downgrade of the West


Recent news from the West (US, UK and Western Europe) has not been encouraging. The level of weirdness is up, and a strange silence has fallen over the biggest issues.
Part of this is the election year, some of it is Euro-zone collapse jitters, but underneath all of these surface manifestations there’s a darker fear. That fear is that our nations have undergone
Across the industrialized West, there’s a sensation that this recession is not a momentary blip but a permanent adjustment by which our economies shrink in size and value. We fear that our futures will never be as bright as they were before 2009.
2009 showed us the culmination of the policies of the past two centuries and possibly longer, since what happened in the last two centuries took millennia to distill to a focal point as happened in 1789. But with the egalitarian revolution in Europe, based on the idea that all people and their choices have equal validity in rejection of natural selection and consequences of our actions being important, we embarked upon a new course in the West.
This course went through many permutations. At first, it was regulated with strong leadership and capitalism, but starting in the 1930s, it hybridized right and left to make a new people’s party that embraced both consumerism and a welfare state. This was its perfected form, like the final stage of a deep and fatal infection.
However, as of this decade, we have run out of ways to modify our new beast. We can go communist, try the Swedish social welfare model, or try to go right, but these options are known and not inspiring. We’re out of maneuvering room. This is why 2009 is the year when we recognized that the structure of liberalism, and not just the methods we were using to achieve it, was unstable.
In the meantime however the damage is done. Our economies are not worth what they once were, and our national standings are no longer what they could have been. In addition, we’ve depleted our standing with the following policies:
  • Entitlement spending: conservative economics emphasizes putting money into motion in the economy at levels where it can be spread quickly, such as in the hands of the middle classes who disproportionately own small businesses and can jump-start local economies. The new logic is instead to give this money to end-use consumers, like the poor or retired, who spend it on a narrow range of services in which there is not much competition, thus an economic dead end.
  • The sexual revolution: thanks to the wonders of The Pill, women are having more sexual partners, getting more burnt out, and “settling” for marriage later in life and having fewer kids. This is a subset of the “Me generation” outlook on life as a whole, where people no longer act in a way that is sensible according to social norms, but take their equally-valid perspective on it as fundamentalist gospel and do whatever seems to them to be personally most desirable. As a result the West is in demographic free-fall.
  • Population replacement: as a result, our nations have started importing a random mix of people from the third world. The ethnic groups and races are not the problem, but (a) diversity itself and (b) third-world status are. Diversity divides a society against itself by preventing any cultural consensus from forming, which leaves only mass commerce and a strong government in control. Also, third world countries tend to be burned-out remnants of once-great civilizations. The people there are by definition, with a few exceptions, not the ones who can help make a great society. In addition, this mixing destroys our sense of self and clarity about shared purpose, and to others makes us look like a random shopping mall instead of powerful nations with proud histories and culture.
  • No goals: where we were once empires, we are now facilitative states that hope to be places where individuals can make their dreams come true. The problem is that individual dreams are often selfish, and lead to a society constantly fighting itself over how permissive it should be. To outsiders, it looks like brats fighting over who got the imperceptibly bigger or smaller slice of cake.
  • We don’t make stuff: our new economy is a circular one, in which we develop products to sell to ourselves and hope this will magically make value. This reshuffling of the deck, and re-making of our economy into a market for the re-sale and re-configuration of existing properties instead of invention and creation of new ones, doesn’t look like a good investment to others. Are Facebook and Google really products, or just services that are temporarily so overvalued that they are created an apocalyptic hole in our economy? Did anyone feel this way about all those great ARM loans we forced our banks to make available to minorities to boost our statistics on home ownership?
  • Instability: from looking at our public debates, outsiders see a society of relatively rich people who are squabbling over how they look in public. People try to outdo each other with the outlandish, vying for attention. Others try to compete on the basis of how much they give away, especially of other peoples’ money. The voters sit in the middle, generally inert but easily manipulated with promies of free things.
When we talk about a permanent downgrade, this is the nature of the beast: a society that was once worth real money because it had its act together and was going somewhere, thanks to two centuries of liberalism, now is worth less because it has no goal other than infighting, internal plunder and eventual collapse.
The People(tm) were for centuries happy to be bought off with bread and circuses. Now the bill is due, and it has converted liberalism from “the fresh new way” into the old, calcified, unresponsive and cancerous order that drags us into the past.
For this reason, although the downgrade is painful, it serves a positive purpose. We know what did not work, and we know that we need to cut ourselves free from it if we are to ever gain altitude again.