America Ripped Asunder
Regis NicollRegis Nicoll's weblog
- 2010 Sep 10
"Look at the society we have become: We are a bi-polar nation, a bureaucratic, centralised state that presides dysfunctionally over an increasingly fragmented, disempowered and isolated citizenry." Phillip Blond, quoted by David Brooks
The United States is breaking apart. That, according to a bracing piece earlier this year by New York Times columnist David Brooks. As Brooks tells it, public disdain for politicians and widespread cynicism about the political process have combined to tear at an already enfeebled social fabric.
It began with two revolutions from opposite ends of the ideological spectrum. Brooks writes,
"First, there was a revolution from the left: a cultural revolution that displaced traditional manners and mores; a legal revolution that emphasized individual rights instead of responsibilities; a welfare revolution in which social workers displaced mutual aid societies and self-organized associations.
"Then there was the market revolution from the right. In the age of deregulation, giant chains like Wal-Mart decimated local shop owners. Global financial markets took over small banks, so that the local knowledge of a town banker was replaced by a manic herd of traders thousands of miles away."
The first created a welfare state and the second a market state. Together they displaced small, local businesses, "weakened families, increased out-of-wedlock births and turned neighbors into strangers," all which required a gargantuan government to administer programs and audit the market. Ironically, both revolutions, which were aimed at increasing personal freedoms, ended up putting the individual under greater state control. Of course.
Once traditional morality is jettisoned, so is moral duty, leaving only legal rights and a litigious society overseen by a Leviathan state to adjudicate disputes between competing interests.
Whether of the right or the left, libertarianism, removed from external moral standards, atomizes society into self-interested individuals alienated from each other, fearing that any loss of personal autonomy will result in a little death to self.
Great Britain is a case in point. Phillip Blond, director of British think tank ResPublica, notes that in Britain, these two revolutions have led to a bloated centralized government and a country with "rising crime" and "four million security cameras." His solution? In a nutshell, "subsidiarity." Continue reading