WHY YOU CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS

You don’t want them badly enough

 

You want your own decent-sized, reasonably priced house, with a yard big enough for the kids to play, and a bit of space at the back for a garden, or maybe even a pool. You want a neighborhood where the houses are built in a pretty vernacular style, not too close together, and there are sidewalks and lots of trees, and good schools and shops and offices and parks are just a short distance, perhaps even biking or walking distance, away.

You want your neighborhood to be inherently safe—the kind of place where people leave their doors unlocked at night and nothing bad happens. That means you want to be able to trust your neighbors. More than that, you want to have a sense of community and shared identity and culture with them. That in turn means you want them, the vast majority of them anyway, to share at least broadly your own deep roots in the USA and deeper roots in the Old World. You want that sense of shared roots, shared upbringing, shared values and goals, as a reminder and an encouragement, if only a subconscious one, of your collective enterprise as resident citizens, stewards of your children’s future—your nation’s future.

You want smaller, less burdensome government at all levels, and having shared roots and a shared culture would mean that you and your neighbors, and the wider community, could safely have a smaller government—could safely dispense with the Leviathan state that is required to keep a semblance of order in diversity-dogma countries.

Your policing needs, for example, might be very modest, on the order of what small American towns used to have in the 1950s. For welfare, you in your tightly knit communities would be able to find most solutions from families, churches, and philanthropists, rather than government bureaucracies. You would not encourage, or even tolerate, chronic welfare dependency among those capable of earning for themselves. Smaller government would in turn mean lower and perhaps greatly simplified taxation, reducing the cost of living and of running businesses, and in general removing considerable stress and uncertainty from economic life.

You want executive branches of government that are not only smaller in general but also more tightly focused on important things that cannot be done effectively through private means. Similarly, you want legislative systems at all levels, federal on down, that are much more limited in the changes they can make to the laws and social structures—systems that can therefore easily withstand the harmful thought-contagions that now and then sweep the populace, and can protect important traditions that are necessary for the health of society. You might well favor, for example, a federal congress or parliament that meets for only a few months every year, as the first USA Congress did in 1789.

In keeping with the same goal, you want a more limited and more inherently conservative electorate: citizens of relatively mature age with deep roots in the country, perhaps also with property and children enough to qualify them as having “skin in the game.”

You want neither rightist-socialism (fascism) nor leftist-socialism (communism). You want a traditional, pro-family, moderately pro-business culture that builds up and celebrates Western civilization instead of constantly and acidly trying to dissolve it. In other words, while you want the ordinary, traditional Western freedom to “pursue happiness” in your own way by building a business or professional career, creating wealth for your descendants, etc. you also recognize the need to develop communal spirit, including that high-level communal spirit we call nationalism, through pursuits that are not rooted in mere self-interest. So you would favor, among other measures, some form of national service for young men and women—perhaps two years of military training and service for the former, and two years in non-military service (e.g., charity hospitals, elder care, national parks) for the latter.

On the whole you want bold and imaginative policies and initiatives that retain or reinstate the best of your civilization’s traditions, while also realizing the best possibilities thrown up by rapid technological advances. Should you be building more highways—to take but one example—when flying cars are already flitting about on the horizon? Should you be importing cheap foreign labor when you could automate instead? Should you be investing billions in vast solar- and wind-power farms if fusion-power is just around the corner?

I could go on and on with my own idiosyncratic desiderata: I want medieval-style walled towns in a re-wilded continent where the buffalo, and maybe their indigenous hunters, can once again roam, even as Jetson-style flying cars pepper the airspace. I want education achievement and assessment to be centered on objective standardized tests, not on subjective grades at subjectively ranked and usually overpriced schools. I want insurance mostly banned in the healthcare industry, to let the free market do its thing in this very important, yet very broken, realm of American life. I want the decadent, stupid, dangerous American elites—the political class, their media camp-followers, and Big Business execs, who are effectively one of the greatest gangs of villains in human history considering the civilizational damage they’ve done—to be cast down and punished in the most exemplary ways.

My main point here, though, is just the simple one that Americans, while they have lots of nice things and a wide range of choices when it comes to goods, services, careers, and even the sexual/mating marketplace, cannot have nice things—and are in fact afflicted with a growing helplessness and a sense of creeping dystopia—when it comes to their politics, government, and culture. Their politico-cultural system feels hopelessly broken, much in the way that a family you can’t choose can feel broken. It isn’t always much better in other countries, but the contrast in the USA between its potential and its outlook, between the traditional virtues that built it and the perverse, corrosive mindset of its current managerial class, is starker than in any other country with which I’m familiar.

Elites, Population Expansion, and Diversity

This American managerial or “elite” class, now heavily feminized and febrile with wokeism, acts with delusional, totalist conviction in some areas, and with cynicism in others—but the net impact is almost always to benefit itself, in terms of money and power, while making things worse for everyone else.

Safe neighborhoods, good schools, and social harmony? Can’t have those—not if the elites are to succeed in their grand project of assembling a perma-rule electoral coalition from white-loathing nonwhites and self-loathing whites.

Nicely designed, nicely integrated residential and commercial areas in our towns? Oh no! That would disrupt the standard business models of developers and other Big Business types, on whose donations the ruling elites depend.

Sensible healthcare system? Certainly not! For that would benefit mainstream Legacy Americans, who tend to vote for the Deplorable Party, while Elite Party voters would lose their free healthcare and the elites would have to scramble to find another way to own their votes. Plus of course, Big Pharma and Big Healthcare, those esteemed members of the elite (and key donors to the Elite Party), have a very good thing going under the current system—they can charge ludicrously high prices for most of their goods and services without fear of competition.

Just in general, of course—ignoring the distorting role of elites—the chances that you as a citizen will get the policies you want in a democracy have much to do with the size and diversity of the electorate. The greater that size and diversity, the greater the range of things that electorate will want—and thus the chance the resulting USA corresponds to your vision, rather than, say, some African-American’s or Indian-American’s or Chinese-American’s, gets ever smaller. The reader may have noticed the resemblance of the USA I described at the top of this essay, a USA with affordable houses, safer neighborhoods and better schools, to the far smaller and far less diverse USA of the 1960s and 70s. In any case, deliberately enlarging and diversifying your electorate through the mass importation of ethnically and culturally distant peoples seems bound to cause broader “why can’t I have what I want” dissatisfaction with the democratic system, and presumably past a certain point will trigger a shift to authoritarianism and/or ethnic cleansing—the only uncertainty being: who ends up on top?

Maybe (as an expatriate) I don’t have enough contact with other Americans who reside in the US. But even in the news and on Twitter I seldom see my countrymen discussing seriously how their system could be reworked so that they can avoid this bad fate, and can recover the possibility of having good choices in politics, or at any rate can have some of the nice things that better government would bring.

That reticence may be due in part to the difficulty many Americans have in letting go of their Greatest Country of All Time mythology, and all the flag-waving and Constitution-worshipping that goes with it. The USA must have contained very basic, very deep flaws if, after a run of only about 70 years as a true Superpower—combining wealth, reach, and might as no other country ever has—it is already falling apart. It might at first have seemed well designed by its vaunted Founders, but clearly its current crop of elites has learned to game its systems for their own selfish, nation-destroying ends. From such obvious conclusions, though, conservative Americans tend to look away. They seem to prefer distracting themselves with florid conspiracy theories, often while retaining a delusional faith in the fundamentals of the existing USA—a distinctly American faith that says, like the narrator at the end of Gatsby, “no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . .”

Among the Americans who are, like me, less optimistic about the country’s fate, there also seems to be a pervasive fear of talking openly about the measures that would be necessary to fix the situation—measures that could include the reversal of much of the past half-century’s immigration flow, the creation of a mostly autonomous homeland for African Americans, the dramatic narrowing of the voting franchise, extensive government regulation of media/cultural content, and a likely interval of authoritarian government during the transition from old USA to new. Even Americans whose vast wealth could never be removed by social cancellation shy from such notions—such realism, I would call it—and talk instead about making grand new worlds somewhere else, e.g., Thiel’s sea-steading and Musk’s Mars-colonization.

There has been some talk, mostly still on the cultural margins and well outside the Overton Window, of splitting the existing USA into two new countries, red and blue—similar to what might have happened peacefully in 1861. To me, that would fix things a little but not nearly enough. I would imagine the resulting red-USA (led by someone like Ron DeSantis or Tucker Carlson) to have only more muted versions of the same set of problems, the same dystopian trends, stemming from the same false premises that have been drummed into Americans for generations.

In principle, if the aim is to give Americans a wide range of choices so that more of them can live in a political culture that suits them, it would be better to split old-USA into dozens of sovereign micro-states (not necessarily corresponding to existing states), each set up to provide a relatively static demographic mix, governmental and political structure, and culture. Another great advantage of this approach is that it would amount to a vast ongoing experiment, continually teaching Americans and the wider world about the comparative desirability and sustainability of different arrangements. It would also, so to speak, up the ante for those who claim that modern Western countries should be a marketplace of contractual nations (not ethno-nations) for the peoples of the world—it would say: yes, let’s make it a real marketplace with real choices, including conservative, pro-family homelands for legacy Americans.

The big disadvantage of the micro-state idea, of course, is that such states are inherently weak and probably could not survive for long in a world where Great Power hegemons like China and Russia are constantly seeking to conquer and expand. Even wokeism and its variants—like so many American faiths before them—are hegemonic creeds, jealous gods bent on conquest.

More generally, Americans today seem disinclined and ill-equipped to think and act to the depth necessary to bring about such rational solutions. Perhaps there aren’t enough recent examples with which Americans can identify—in contrast to 1861 when proponents of secession readily cited the logic of the original American Revolution in justifying their cause. There also seems to be a certain intellectual inertia left over from the Union’s victory in the Civil War. Even the late Antonin Scalia wrote: “If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede.” But of course the right of self-government should be considered an innate and “inalienable” right, not established in or modifiable by any formal agreement—just as the inalienable right of personal liberty should prevent one from contracting legally to be a slave.

In any case, my overall impression (and I think polls generally back this) is that most Americans now would reject the idea even of a simple red/blue split—I guess mostly because of that mental inertia and the thought of the inconvenience. In other words, Americans for now, though they might want a nicer country, just haven’t reached the point where they collectively want it badly enough to make it happen.

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