… versus populism, which is becoming fixed in the argument-ending lexicon, along with the venerable “fascism” and “racism.”
One of the biggest lies our leaders tell us that you can separate economics from everything else that matters. Economics is a topic for public debate. Family and faith and culture, meanwhile, those are personal matters. Both parties believe this.
Members of our educated upper-middle-classes are now the backbone of the Democratic Party who usually describe themselves as fiscally responsible and socially moderate. In other words, functionally libertarian. They don’t care how you live, as long as the bills are paid and the markets function. Somehow, they don’t see a connection between people’s personal lives and the health of our economy, or for that matter, the country’s ability to pay its bills. As far as they’re concerned, these are two totally separate categories.
Social conservatives, meanwhile, come to the debate from the opposite perspective, and yet reach a strikingly similar conclusion. The real problem, you’ll hear them say, is that the American family is collapsing. Nothing can be fixed before we fix that. Yet, like the libertarians they claim to oppose, many social conservatives also consider markets sacrosanct. The idea that families are being crushed by market forces seems never to occur to them. They refuse to consider it. Questioning markets feels like apostasy.
David French condemned Tucker’s “victimhood populism,” urging conservatives to stay the ideological course. The personal, insists David, is not the political.
The problem with populism — and indeed with much of American politics — is that it focuses on the political at the expense of the personal. As I’ve argued many times, there are wounds that public policy can’t heal. But populism too often pretends otherwise. It tells a fundamentally false story about Americans as victims of a heartless elite and their “worship” of market economics rather than the true story of America as a flawed society that still grants its citizens access to tremendous opportunity.
Now this is correct and reasonable, so far as it goes. The best retirement plan is not Social Security; it’s to have several kids and stay on good terms with them. Avoiding poverty is above all adherence to the three No’s: no dropping out of high school, no children out of wedlock, and no children or marriage before a firm footing in adulthood. But getting people to that point of healthy, stable families should at least include removing active barriers to family formation. Housing and education (both in acquiring credentials and that Holy Grail of parenthood, the “Good School District”) are formidable obstacles, and the government footprint in both is enormous. If anybody requires more examples of actively toxic government policy, there are entire books full of them.
The Z-Man has a good treatment of these issues, riffing off the government’s bass-ackwards regulation of telemarketers. One might think that the default should be businesses cannot just program computers or hire desperate nobodies to cold-call people. But instead, you have to go out of your way to keep these pests off your telephone, which you paid for.
This small little incident I’m describing is a microcosm of what’s wrong in the country. The FTC website should not exist. There’s no need for a do-not-call registry. The government could simply make the telephone companies responsible for the abuse that goes on with telemarketers. The phone companies would then demand the government pass laws that discourage these scams. The phone system operators would then aggressively police their networks and turn the scammers over to the state.
That does not happen, of course. The idea of the government doing things to make daily life easier on the citizens is so alien to us now, that the very suggestion of it is met with howls of protest. That is, after all, what happened when Tucker Carlson suggested the people in charge start worrying about the happiness of the public. The shrieking and gasping at such blasphemy around the Imperial Capital was deafening. No one in the ruling class, or their attendants, thinks the government owes us anything.
To people like David French, this state of affairs is not objectionable because after all, the United States is not a particular people nor even a particular place. America is a Proposition nation where we are free to fail, and the people are expected to make their own way. And certainly they should, if the people could say Fuck You and light out for the open frontier, and the government did not collect trillions of dollars in taxes, issue trillions of dollars in bonds, bail out obscenely wealthy corporations, blow people up, warp the entire culture into feminized co-dependency, and on and on.
America is so obviously not an idea or proposition I’m surprised I still hear it. After all, if America were just a proposition we could write the proposition down on a piece of paper and mail it to everybody. Geopolitics as we know would cease as everyone, swayed by our impeccable logic, just became Americans. (There’s actually a hilariously unironic alt-history story where the US and the British Empire avert World War Two by threatening to destroy France, Germany, and Russia, and everybody agrees to global rule by the Anglo-American commonwealth).
The hour, as Saruman said, is later than we think, and even later than Donald Trump and probably Tucker Carlson and certainly David French think. We tell people to vote but California, New York, New Jersey, or any other State can sign up for refugee resettlement, declare sanctuary cities, enact motor-voter laws, and the extant vote will be completely diluted. Los Angeles County is already bigger than 40 of the States–they will not agree to a Red State veto forever. Or, you can vote for whatever policy you want, but if Jeff Bezos is on the other side of it, a single phone call from his lobbyists to your governor or city council will override any mere voting majority. Most poignantly, the average citizen has absolutely nothing to bid against his own displacement and destruction of his socio-economic standing, when political and monied interests stand to gain so much from more commercial churn and more serfs on the tax farm. After all, the Nation is just a Proposition–any people will do.
Against this tsunami, this moving megalith of electoral doom and cultural decimation, the ideological conservative remains steadfast, sanguine in the conviction that while the Left may kill him, ravage his wife and daughters, make his sons into strangers in their own lands and send them off to die for ungrateful foreigners, they can never kill the Constitution!