Why America Doesn't Work
politics makes the "other" into an enemy
If you want to know why America doesn’t work the reason is simple. Its ruling class has imposed a culture, a politics, and a government upon us that does not work.
But what do humans do when engaged upon a project that does not work? You know as well as I do. Think about that well-known river in Egypt.
But even successful projects go through periods when it looks like it’s going to end in failure. So we humans are programmed to suck it in when the going gets tough.
And blame someone else. I like to quote Mircea Eliade from The Myth of the Eternal Return.
The primitive... cannot conceive of an unprovoked suffering; it arises from a personal fault... or from his neighbor's malevolence... but there is always a fault at the bottom of it[.]
So when do humans quit? Not until we run out of money. Or soldiers. Or ammunition. Or food. Or life.
And when we finally give up, who do we blame? Usually the neighbor, or the employer, or the capitalists, or the greedy bankers. Or the racists, the sexists, the homophobes.
You will notice that one of the oddities of the Christian religion is that, through the concept of Sin, it encourages its believers to think that the problem is not the malevolent neighbor but themselves. So maybe one of the ways we humans make things work is occasionally thinking that we, ourselves, are to blame.
However, you will also notice that the concept of Sin is never applied by politicians to themselves. In the French Revolution, the Jacobins decided that the Girondists were the problem. In Stalin’s failed Five Year Plan it was the “saboteurs and wreckers” that were to blame. After Mao’s Great Leap Forward and subsequent famine it was the Four Olds that were to blame.
Our present rulers in the US have a project. That project is to bring justice to the world. Why? They believe that God (or Gaia) has chosen them to bring justice to the world. In other words they have a religious faith that their ideas, translated in to cultural and political power, will redeem the world.
But suppose they are wrong?
Actually, most ideas are half-baked and wrong, and end in failure. The Census Bureau says that 4 million businesses are started each year in the US. About 20 percent fail in one year, and about 45 percent fail after four years.
No doubt the same is true about government programs. But government programs are funded by taxes and borrowing, so it is not that obvious when things are going wrong.
And politicians — from Robespierre to Stalin to Mao to Xi to our liberal friends — never admit they are wrong.
This is not a particular fault in politicians. The political, wrote Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt, is the distinction between friend and enemy. Thus politics is always a war on the enemy. Do you just give up and accept defeat when fighting an enemy? Obviously not. And what do you do when you have defeated your enemy? You reward your valiant soldiers with plunder taken from the enemy.
Do you see that this makes politics rather problematic when dealing with our fellow citizens. Because if you are in politics there is always a temptation to regard disagreement as enemy action. And there is always the temptation to promote an anodyne government program into a fight against an existential peril.
Is climate change a problem? Maybe, but you aren’t going to get trillions of dollars for “green energy” unless you assert that we are all going to die unless we “fight climate change.”
Is racism a problem? Maybe, but you aren’t going to get anywhere unless you demonize anyone that disagrees with you as a racist-sexist-homophobe.
I am not arguing whether climate change or systemic racism is a problem. I am saying that once you make a political issue out of climate change or racism then it becomes an existential struggle for which defeat is not an option.
Schmitt says that the political is the distinction between friend and enemy. What is the difference? Well, we cooperate and work with our friends; we fight with the enemy. I’d say we need to think long and hard before we decide that some “other” is the enemy.
Obviously to build such a culture, that really hesitates before declaring a political opponent an enemy, you need an ideology that discourages politics-with-everything. You need people, influential people, that broadcast the idea that politics-with-everything is a bad idea. My man for that is Michael Novak in his Spirit of Democratic Capitalism where he differentiates the world into three sectors, the political, the economic, and the moral/cultural and argues that we humans need to keep them separate. When you combine them, he argues, you get totalitarianism.
I call his idea the Greater Separation of Powers, that goes beyond the separation of powers in government between the executive, the legislative, and the judicial, and keeps a separation in society outside government between the political, the economic, and the moral/cultural.
You will notice that our liberal friends collapse everything into the political. In fact their ESG (environmental, social, governance) notion for business is part of their mania for politics with everything.
Right now, we see our liberal friends obsessed with the idea of their opponents as the enemy. That’s what the Twitter Files is revealing. That’s what Biden’s Red Speech calling out half the nation as ultra-MAGE enemies was all about. That’s what the abuse of the FBI to attack Trump and censor social media is all about.
If you are a regime liberal you see things going wrong. But the last thing you a likely to do is blame your ideas and your programs as the cause of our national problems. No. It must be the MAGA enemy.
In a way, what is remarkable at the present moment is that, despite the dominance of the liberal world view everywhere from government to education to media to the corporate world, the nation is politically pretty evenly divided, and has been for a decade or more. How could that be when liberals are educating our kiddies and beating up Christian bakers and censoring conservative voices on social media?
Of course it is. My three layer theory that we are composed of Subordinate Clients, Responsible Commoners, and Educated Creatives would suggest that Responsible Commoners are likely to be very unhappy with the current woke America, because it doesn’t respect their instinctive culture of obeying the law, going to work, and following the rules.
So it makes sense that our liberal friends are piling on the cancel culture, passing gigantic trillion-dollar spending bills to shovel money at their supporters and pull the FBI in to censor social media. Things are going wrong, and it must be the racist-sexist-homophobe-climate-deniers to blame.
If we get an inflationary recession in the next year on Biden’s watch, things are likely to change. The new division is not likely to be in the middle.
What we don’t yet know is how far our liberal friends will go to blame “saboteurs and wreckers and racists” for their problems.
But the next regime has got to get away from Politics with Everything.