Sunday, September 04, 2011

Back to Barbarism

Regnery Publishing makes a pretty penny putting out books written by conservatives which are, judging from the paucity of substantive negative reviews, read almost entirely by the choir. Although the appetite for books of this type appears to be significant, their corresponding value tends to be slight; one's progressive uncle is not going to see the light by reading After America. There's enough Obama bashing that an inattentive reader will be able to conclude that this is simply more political pap, meant to fire up the base for another meaningless election.

This is too bad, because Steyn's book is actually much more than that. Sure, it contains an obligatory plan to roll back Big Government, filled with the sorts of empty promises Republicans have reneged on for nearly a century. But Steyn's heart isn't in it: he tells us that this will prove "difficult", which is a little like explaining that Sisyphus has some hours of work to do.

After America highlights the recklessness of the present administration, but it does so by noting that "Barack Obama is a symptom rather than the problem." If the president does not value life, liberty and limited government, this is equally true of the citizenry that elected him. A government that steals from generations unborn to finance its profligacy and views entrepreneurs as annoying hindrances to the business of government is problematic. Yet it is only a manifestation of a much larger flaw: its citizens no longer value those things which—Steyn argues—have made America so great.

The book is less a defense of things American than it is a critique of the soft socialism typified by Great Britain and Greece. Since FDR at least, the US has sought to shed its Jeffersonian trappings for a Big Government patterned on those of Europe. This trend has only accelerated as of late, not simply under Obama, but also under Bush, the "compassionate conservative" who gave the American people Medicare Part D and the TSA, which now gropes granny lest it be found guilty of profiling.

Greece and Great Britain are both doomed, and for essentially the same reasons. Government debt is overwhelming demographic reality. The people have lost the will to thanklessly perpetuate civilization. Both have middling productive sectors, upon which a large parasitic class feeds. And what feasts! In Greece, public sector employees retire at fifty-eight, whereupon they receive fourteen monthly pay checks until death. That was the plan, anyway. With the Greek birthrate at 1.3 children per couple, the math doesn't work. One can only run a Ponzi scheme if there are ever more suckers from whom to appropriate funds—as the soon to default Greeks are about to realize.

Great Britain may actually be in worse straits: "The United Kingdom has the highest drug use in Europe, the highest incidence of sexually transmitted disease, the highest number of single mothers, the highest abortion rate; marriage is all but defunct, except for toffs, upscale gays and Muslims." And this was before the London riots. Technically this makes Steyn something of a prophet, as does his insistence that America will soon see its credit rating downgraded. The remarkable thing is not that Steyn can point out the obvious consequences of liberalism, but that so many remain oblivious even while its fruits are rotting before our eyes.

The paradox of progressivism is that the creation of a social safety net has rendered man ever more fearful of risk. Instead of starting a business or raising a family, corpulent westerners curl into the fetal position in the gentle hands of government. This is not the way of civilization: it is the path to barbarism, shortly coming to the post-American world near you.

UPDATE: As a commenter from Amazon pointed out, Steyn's publisher is Regnery, not Regency.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An oblique comment on the state of USA culture.

I would suggest that the recent Avatar film was a suitable and necessary parable for our time.

A brief synopsis.

Having already "created" a dying planet and civilization (just like we have), the obviously godless techno-barbarian invaders were compelled by the inexorable logic/momentum of their "culture" of death to invade, plunder, and even destroy if necessary, "virgin" territories (just like we always have).

What was interesting was the response to this film by those on the so called conservative side of the culture wars divide. Including, and especially those that presume to be religious.

They all came out loudly cheering for the techno-barbarians and their "culture" of death.