Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Vote or Die

In a series of articles last week at his personal website, Mark Steyn provided the closing argument on the high stakes surrounding today's election in the United States. Don't tell Jim Oberstar or Tarryl Clark, but Steyn's a foreigner too, from north of the border. Maybe that's what enables him to provide the clinical perspective on our problems, which are bigger than any of our leaders care to admit. Excerpts below, but Steyn's the hardest writer in the world to expert, since it's all good stuff. Read the whole thing.

Part 1, It Starts with the Money:
... within a decade, the United States will be spending more on interest payments on the federal debt than it does on the military – and that’s not because the Pentagon is such a great bargain. In 2009, the United States accounted for over 43 per cent of the world’s military expenditures. So, within a few years, America will be spending more on debt interest than China, Britain, France, Russia, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, India, Italy, South Korea, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Spain, Turkey and Israel spend on their militaries combined. The superpower will have evolved from a nation of aircraft carriers to a nation of debt carriers.

What does that mean? In 2009, the US spent about $665 billion on its military, the Chinese about $99 billion. If Beijing continues to buy American debt at the rate it has in recent times, then within a few years US interest payments on that debt will be covering the entire cost of the Chinese military. This summer, the Pentagon issued an alarming report to Congress on Beijing’s massive military build-up, including new missiles, upgraded bombers, and an aircraft-carrier R&D program intended to challenge US dominance in the Pacific. What the report didn’t mention is who’s paying for it. Answer: Mr and Mrs America.

In the 18 months after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, over seven million Americans lost their jobs, yet the percentage of federal bureaucrats earning $100,000 or more went up from 14 per cent to 19 per cent: An economic downturn for you, but not for them. They’re upturn girls living in a downturn world. At the start of the “downturn” the Department of Transportation had just one employee earning more than $170,000 per year. Eighteen months later, it had 1,690.In the year after the passage of Obama’s “stimulus”, the private sector lost 2.5 million jobs, but the federal government gained 416,000 jobs. Even if one accepts the government’s ludicrous concept of “creating or saving” jobs, by its own figures four out of every five jobs “created or saved” were government jobs. “Stimulus” stimulates government, not the economy. It’s part of the remorseless governmentalization of American life.

An America comprised of therapeutic statists, regulatory enforcers, multigenerational dependents, identity-group rent-seekers, undocumented laborers, stimulus grantwriting liaison coordinators, six-figure community organizers, millionaire diversity-outreach consultants, billionaire carbon-offset traders, a diversionary-leisure “knowledge sector”, John Edwards’ anti-poverty consultancy, John Kerry’s vintner, and Al Gore’s holistic masseuse will still offer many opportunities, but not for that outmoded American archetype, the self-reliant citizen seeking to nourish his family through the fruits of his labor. And nor for millions of others just struggling to stay afloat. A statist America won’t be a large Sweden – unimportant but prosperous – but something closer to the Third World, corrupt and chaotic, broke and brutish – for all but a privileged few.

When the law says that it’s illegal for a storekeeper to offer his customer a cup of coffee, you should be proud to be in non-compliance. What the hell did you guys bother holding a revolution for? George III didn’t care what complimentary liquid refreshments a village blacksmith shared with his clientele. Say what you like about the Boston Tea Party, but nobody attempted to prosecute them for unlicensed handling of beverage items in a public place.

This is the reality of small business in America today. You don’t make the rules, you don’t vote for people who make the rules. But you have to work harder, pay more taxes, buy more permits, fill in more paperwork, contribute to the growth of an ever less favorable business environment and prostrate yourself before the Commissar of Community Services – all for the privilege of taking home less and less money.

And eventually you wake up and find, as in California, that your state is all hole and no doughnut. Just as gun control is not about guns but control, so doughnut control is likewise not about doughnuts, but about ever more total control. Big Government won’t make the coffee, or the doughnuts. It just regulates them. All it makes is small citizens.

What prevents the “state popular” from declining into a “state despotic”? As Tocqueville saw it, what mattered was the strength of the intermediary institutions between the sovereign and the individual. In France, the revolution abolished everything, and subordinated all institutions to the rule of central authority. The New World was more fortunate: “The principle and lifeblood of American liberty” was, according to Tocqueville, municipal independence.

Does that distinction still hold? In the 20th century the intermediary institutions were belatedly hacked away—not just self-government at town, county, and state level, but other independent pillars: church, civic associations, and not least (as the demographic profile of Dillon indicates) the basic building block of functioning society, the family. After the diminution of every intervening institution, very little stands between the central authority and the individual, which is why the former now assumes the right to insert himself into every aspect of daily life and why schoolgirls in Dillon, South Carolina think it entirely normal to beseech the Sovereign in Barackingham Palace to do something about classroom maintenance.

The object is to reduce and eventually eliminate alternatives – to subsume everything within the Big Government monopoly. Statists prefer national one-size-fits all – and ultimately planet-wide one-size-fits-all. Borders create the nearest thing to a free market in government – as the elite well understand when they seek to avoid the burdens they impose on you. John Kerry, a Big Tax senator from a Big Tax state, preferred to register his yacht in Rhode Island to avoid half-a-million bucks in cockamamie Massachusetts “boat sales and use” tax. Howard Metzenbaum, the pro-Death Tax senator from Ohio, adjusted his legal residency just before he died from Ohio to Florida, because the former had an estate tax and the latter didn’t. This is federalism at work: States compete, and, when they get as rapacious as Massachusetts, even their own pro-tax princelings start looking for the workarounds.

Bazillionaire senators will always have workarounds – for their land, for their yachts, for their health care. You won’t.

In California, the people can pass a ballot proposition, but a single activist judge overrules them. In Arizona, the people’s representatives vote to uphold the people’s laws, but a pliant judge strikes them down at Washington’s behest. It is surely only a matter of time before some federal judge finds the constitution unconstitutional. It is never a good idea to send the message, as the political class now does consistently, that there are no democratic means by which the people can restrain their rulers. As Pat Cadell points out, the logic of that is “pre-revolutionary”.

What Judge Bolton in Arizona and Judge Walker in California have in common and share with Mayor Bloomberg’s observations on opposition to the Ground Zero mosque is a contempt for the people. The rationale for reversing the popular will in all three cases is that the sovereign people are bigots. In Arizona, they’re xenophobic. In California, they’re homophobic. In New York, they’re Islamophobic. Popular sovereignty may be fine in theory but not when the people are so obviously in need of “re-education” by their betters. Over in London, the transportation department has a bureaucrat whose very title sums up our rulers’ general disposition toward us: “Head of Behavior Change.”

Perhaps re-education camp will work, and Californians and New Yorkers will shrug and decline to take to the ramparts for gay marriage or minarets over Ground Zero. But it’s harder to ask Arizonans to live with the dissolution of the national border. To the enlighted coastal progressives, “undocumented immigrants” are the unseen servant class who mow your lawn while you’re at work and clean your office while you’re at home. The TV celebrity Joy Behar provided a near parodic example the other day when she taunted Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle about her views on illegal immigration: “I’d like to see her do this ad in the South Bronx,” said Miss Behar. “Come here, bitch, come to New York and do it.”

The bitch doesn’t need come to New York. Sharron Angle and her fellow Nevadans live on the front line of America’s evaporating sovereignty, where immigration means more than remembering to tip your Honduran busboy. In border states illegal immigration is life and death.
Bracing stuff, especially for anyone wavering on whether or not they should vote, or wondering who to vote for. This call to action reminds me of a line from the great general's speech to the 3rd Army at the beginning of Patton:

When you put your hand into a bunch of goo that a moment before was your best friend's face, you'll know what to do.

America would be that best friend. Voters, you know what to do.