Sunday, October 16, 2016

America’s Civilizational Paralysis

From VDH, at the Hoover Institution:
The Greek city-states in the fourth-century BC, fifth-century AD Rome, and the Western European democracies after World War I all knew they could not continue as usual with their fiscal, social, political, and economic behavior. But all these states and societies feared far more the self-imposed sacrifices that might have saved them.

Mid-fifteenth-century Byzantium was facing endemic corruption, a radically declining birthrate and shrinking population, and the end of civic militarism—all the last-gasp symptoms of an irreversible decline. Its affluent ruling and religious orders and expansive government services could no longer be supported by disappearing agrarians and the overtaxed mercantile middle class. Returning to the values of the Emperor Justinian’s sixth-century empire that had once ensured a vibrant Byzantine culture of stability and prosperity throughout the old Roman east remained a nostalgic daydream. Given the hardship and sacrifice that would have been required to change the late Byzantine mindset, most residents of Constantinople plodded on to their rendezvous with oblivion in 1453.

We seem to be reaching that point of stasis in postmodern America. Once simple and logical solutions to our fiscal and social problems are now seen as too radical even to discuss. Consider the $20-trillion national debt. Most Americans accept that current annual $500 billion budget deficits are not sustainable—but they also see them as less extreme than the recently more normal $1 trillion in annual red ink. Americans also accept that the Obama administration doubled the national debt on the expectation of permanent near-zero interest rates, which cannot continue. When interest rates return to more normal historical levels of 4-5% per annum, the costs of servicing the debt—along with unsustainable Social Security and Medicare entitlement costs—will begin to undermine the entire budget.

Count up current local, state and federal income taxes, payroll taxes, property and sales taxes, and new health care taxes, and it will be hard to find the necessary additional revenue from a strapped and overtaxed middle class, much less from the forty-seven percent of Americans who currently pay no federal income taxes. The Obama administration has tried to reduce the budget by issuing defense cuts and tax hikes—but it has refused to touch entitlement spending, where the real gains could be made. The result is more debt, even as, paradoxically, our military was weakened, taxes rose, revenue increased, and economic growth remained anemic at well below 2% per annum.

Illegal immigration poses a similar dilemma. No nation can remain stable when 10-20 million foreign nationals have crashed through what has become an open border and reside unlawfully in the United States—any more than a homeowner can have neighbors traipsing through and camping in his unfenced yard.

Likewise, there are few multiracial societies of the past that have avoided descending into destructive ethnic chauvinism and tribalism once assimilation and integration were replaced by salad-bowl identity politics. Common words and phrases such as “illegal alien” or “deportation” are now considered taboo, while “sanctuary city” is a euphemism for a neo-Confederate nullification of federal immigration laws by renegade states and municipalities.

Illegal immigration, like the deficits, must cease, but stopping it would be too politically incorrect and painful even to ponder. The mess in Europe—millions of indigent and illegal immigrants who have fled their own failed states to become dependent on the largess of their generous adopted countries, but without any desire to embrace their hosts’ culture—is apparently America’s future.
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