James Bennett and Michael Lotus’ vision of a remade America is a nice idea but it is likely to be a pipedream.
Just the other day one of my correspondents sent me the text of an opinion column by Messrs Bennett and Lotus on a pending remaking of America. They start with a plausible premise and give us an historical timeline beginning with America’s agrarian origins as America 1.0. This is followed by the industrialized society that developed following the War Between the States as America 2.
As these authors see it, America is now in a transition period similar to that which began during the 1850’s. Admittedly, such transitions are frequently quite difficult. The social fabric is torn, emplaced economic factors are uprooted and societal strife erupts as at no other time. An excellent illustration occurs in the writings of Charles Dickens who detailed the effects of industrialization in England. The social strife in America was different, in part because American society was much less class based than English. Instead we fought a war that had at its roots issues of the past vs. the future. Even first Confederate President Jefferson Davis stated, shortly after taking office that the biggest question facing the Confederate States was how to eliminate slavery. It was a social practice of the past, and needed to go, not only because it violated basic human rights, but because it was an atavism, incompatible with the pending industrial age.
In a sense, Bennett and Lotus are correct in that America, and many other nations, are in, or on the edge, of a period of transition. The past, symbolized by the industrial society is changing toward a future based on information and electronics. The directions that the expansion of technology will take us are impossible to determine at this time, just as they were 50 years ago. When I attended the 1962 World’s Fair, themed “The 21st Century” technology was a major focus. But while the fair did predict some of our new technology the predictions took different courses. Pocket sized smart phones were not an exhibit at Bell Labs.
But as important to the future as technology is social trends may be equally so and social trends in America today present a significant problem. I refer specifically to the social malaise and apathy that has swept so much of the American population. Less than half of eligible citizens vote. Interest in public affairs and government takes a back seat to televised “reality shows.” People accept authoritative pronouncements without doing any analysis or investigation. They believe what appeals to their emotions and ignore common sense. When things don’t work out as advertised they blame “the system” or opponents of their emotional favorites, regardless of what common sense would tell them if they listened.
Meanwhile, we see political policies branded as new and revolutionary when they are, in fact, dinosaurs of the industrial age; policies based on gigantic, expensive, inflexible and dysfunctional agencies built on a foundation of self enlargement and self preservation instead of customer service. The so called “affordable care act” is just one such, based on a false paradigm that the American medical care system was broken. It wasn’t broken; it just needed a few minor tweaks, but instead of tweaking the powers that be opted for a total overhaul; an overhaul of a sort which assured that the medical system would be broken afterward. It also assured that the government would be able to use the medical industry as a tool for social control. Add this to the internal surveillance that is underway, other steps being taken to consolidate power while destroying the middle class and you can see a vastly different future than that predicted by these authors.
What differentiates today’s world from that of 1860 is that there are now mechanisms in place that enable governments, power oriented institutions, or individuals who work within them to control populations as never before. To make matters worse, much of society has accepted it. Real activism for individual responsibility and self-determination is branded as reactionary, bigoted, or anti-social. Ennui and reliance on government replace the way of life that made America great.
The primary issue that exists in the way of these writers’ vision is that unless significant change occurs to transform the current social trends a new and better America cannot happen. Something must force government and its allied institutions take the “big hair cut” that the authors assert will happen. What stands in the way is government’s unwillingness to admit that anything is wrong. This is allied with what has become a governmental / financial complex; government allied with Wall St. against the common man. They operate within the belief that when a big blowup occurs they will survive and the rest of society can take the consequences. Big government Democrats such as Obama, Pelosi, and Reid, and Republicans such as McCain, Graham and Boehner don’t give a damn if they benefit and we take the cost.
Too many social institutions have taken extraordinary efforts to undermine the idea that society can and will survive without an aristocracy to run things. When the media hammered out a message that “the health care system is broken” not enough people stood against it. Now when opposition to Obamacare appears it is criticized because no alternative big government solution is proposed. The assertion is that you must either accept one big government solution or another. No third option is permitted.
Admitting that the nation is in trouble would be an admission of decades of malfeasance. No one is likely to do it. Thus, the budget will not be trimmed; abusive regulation will not be rolled back. A free society is not around the corner when people who want to become dictators have the power to achieve it and a population that is willing to accept it.
Now, I could be wrong. A majority of Americans could come to their senses. They could put away their mindless distractions and return to founding principles. Washington and Jefferson could once again be taught on the public schools. But when it gets in the way of those who want to be worshipped it is unlikely. When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who should be on the cutting edge of societal change, supports government gigantism as a viable means of solving modern problems one has to wonder what is going on. After all, when a guy who made his fortune with cutting edge technology becomes part of the outdated, monolithic establishment that is supposedly on the way out, it makes things look as if that establishment isn’t really on the way out.