Monday, December 2, 2013

Pre-Funeral Eulogies

There's a sadness descending upon the Dextrosphere. Consider this, from Oleg at The People's Cube:

I have seen the future and ran away.

At first the move to America from the former USSR made me feel as though I had made a jump in time, from the stagnant depraved past into a distant dynamic future.

There was an abundance of commonly available futuristic contraptions, machines, and appliances that made everyday existence easier and more enjoyable. Less obvious but just as exciting was the media's openness: I no longer needed to read between the lines to know what was happening.

Most importantly, there was honesty, dignity, and respect in relations among people.

Today I'm feeling like a time traveler again.

Only this time the productive, honest and self-reliant America is vanishing in the past, as we are quickly approaching the all too familiar future.

It is the future of equal poverty, one-party rule, media mooching, government looting, bureaucratic corruption, rigged elections, underground literature, half-whispered jokes, and the useful habit of looking over your shoulder.

It was nice living in America before it changed the course and followed Obama's direction "Forward," which, according to my compass, is pointing backward.

All of a sudden I find myself playing the role of a comrade from the future, helping my new compatriots to navigate the quagmire ahead of us.

Oleg isn't alone. Far from it:

Whom do you trust?...

The article below states that two-thirds of Americans cannot be trusted. This is no surprise to anyone with a moral character. Add the percentage of people who voted for Obama, all government workers and people collecting a government entitlement. Remove the intersecting population and we have at least two-thirds of the country.

The article David cites:

WASHINGTON (AP) - You can take our word for it. Americans don't trust each other anymore.

We're not talking about the loss of faith in big institutions such as the government, the church or Wall Street, which fluctuates with events. For four decades, a gut-level ingredient of democracy - trust in the other fellow - has been quietly draining away.

These days, only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first asked the question.

Forty years later, a record high of nearly two-thirds say "you can't be too careful" in dealing with people.

An AP-GfK poll conducted last month found that Americans are suspicious of each other in everyday encounters. Less than one-third expressed a lot of trust in clerks who swipe their credit cards, drivers on the road, or people they meet when traveling.

Let that sink in for a moment while I hunt up an old favorite quote.

There is no need in human life so great as that men should trust one another and should trust their government, should believe in promises, and should keep promises in order that future promises may be believed in and in order that confident cooperation may be possible. Good faith -- personal, national, and international -- is the first prerequisite of decent living, of the steady going on of industry, of governmental financial strength, and of international peace. -- Benjamin M. Anderson, Economics and the Public Welfare: A Financial and Economic History of the United States, 1914 -- 1946

Trust is one of the social assets we seldom stop to appreciate until it's gone.

America was once a land in which trust was near to universal. Men trusted women. Customers trusted merchants. Even strangers encountering one another on the street trusted one another, at least in modest things. And why not? This is was America, where talent and effort were everything, where your word was your bond, where you learned right and wrong at your mother's knee. Besides, word got around. You simply couldn't get very far if you short-weighted someone or misdirected him to his loss and your gain.

The conditions of life in these United States made duplicitousness a losing strategy. It wasn't that we were "all in it together;" it was that the existing structure of incentives and penalties made lying, cheating, and stealing unprofitable in the long term. As another favorite quote puts it:

A thousand truths do not mark a man as a truth-teller, but a single lie marks him as a damned liar....Lying to other people is your business, but I tell you this: once a man gets a reputation as a liar, he might as well be struck dumb, for people do not listen to the wind. [Robert A. Heinlein, Citizen Of The Galaxy]

Trust must be accumulated over a long interval of honest dealing. It can be lost with a single lapse into venality. Therefore, when the incentives reward honest dealing better than fraud and theft, people generally will gradually accumulate trust while the few "dissenters" are forced to society's margins. Society will slowly embed a default assumption of honesty among men.

Today's incentive structure does the opposite.

It's difficult to be precise about the influences that bear on a miasmic affliction such as the diminution of trust. Some of them are right out in front of us:

  • The size of the rewards for betrayal and deceit;
  • The size of the rewards that go to the beneficiaries of litigation and chance;
  • Loss of confidence in the punishment of the untrustworthy, formally or otherwise;
  • The obvious duplicity of persons in government;
  • The anti-ethic of moral relativism.

Each of these things makes the honest man question his own behavior. "I work hard; I give value for value; I stand behind my statements and my products. I stay within the lines. And where has it gotten me? Look at this clown who just hit the lottery, and that one who collected millions from a defamation suit, and that other one who managed to patent something he didn't invent. Which of us knows better what it really takes to get ahead?"

Actually, it's even worse than that:

While what little remains of America's middle class is happy and eager to put in its 9-to-5 each-and-every day, an increasing number of Americans - those record 91.5 million who are no longer part of the labor force - are perfectly happy to benefit from the ever more generous hand outs of the welfare state. Prepare yourself before listening to this... calling on her self-admitted Obamaphone, Texas welfare recipient Lucy, 32, explains why "taxpayers are the fools"...

"...To all you workers out there preaching morality about those of us who live on welfare... can you really blame us? I get to sit around all day, visit my friends, smoke weed.. and we are still gonna get paid, on time every month..."

She intends to stay on welfare her entire life, if possible, just like her parents (and expects her kids to do the same). As we vociferously concluded previously, the tragedy of America's welfare state is that work is punished.

Perhaps the quoted welfare recipient doesn't live quite as well as you or I. It's plain that she's happy with her bargain. By accepting a modestly lower level of income, she's achieved a life of idleness and dissolution: things that are apparently valuable enough to her and her husband that they're willing to forgo whatever satisfactions there are in working and earning somewhat more.

Imagine encountering such a person on the street knowingly. Would you trust her? Now, with the incentive structures at work on Americans today producing persons like her in ever increasing numbers, what becomes of your general attitude toward random encounters, where the ethics of the other person are unknown to you?

Sanity was once called the ability to swim in waters not entirely familiar: to recognize shifts in the currents and to adapt as they occur. Sanity, viewed thus, is closely related to competence: the ability to "get it done" regardless of prevailing conditions.

Does it begin to appear to you, Gentle Reader, that to be a trusting and trustworthy person, in these concluding days of the Republic, is no longer inarguably sane? Just how much ability and resilience is required of such a person? How much self-respect and ethical armor? How greatly does all of it depend upon his locale and the specific identities of his associates? And how long will he and those who depend upon him last should his habits of honesty and reliability vanish utterly from the world around him?

O my people, O my city!


agraves said...

I agree with all of the above but would add one thing: many suburban whites have a very vague feeling this is true but are too busy maintaining their SUVs, lawns, retirement plans, etc. If you try to engage them with say, "what the hell is going on with the Knockout game"? they say it doesn't affect them so they don't care. Mostly they do not want to be made uncomfortable. This adds to my frustration with socalled conservative whites, they don't want any trouble. But the trouble will find them eventually. Alex

Magnus said...

Just to add to what @agraves said above. I was eating lunch with some middle-age coworkers the other day, and I gently brought up the subject of immigration and the fact that around 2040 to 2050, "Americans of European-descent" (my gentle, non-offensive word for "whites") were to be the minority. I said it with no malice and no crazy look in my eye. There's no way they could be offended by my tone. But they were still incredibly uncomfortable with the topic (you could see the their discomfort on their faces), and they just didn't seem to care. Not one little bit.

God help us.

Weetabix said...

Father said in the homily yesterday that to live a Christian life was to live counter-culturally.

"Just how much ability and resilience is required of such a person? How much self-respect and ethical armor? How greatly does all of it depend upon his locale and the specific identities of his associates?"

It doesn't take much strength on my part - I'm doing it because I fully believe that God wants me to live that way, because I have faith in Him, and because I love Him.

I just put $40,000 into a home refinance. I might have had a good chance of getting it free with some work because the loan had been through the MERS robosigning mill. But the fact is, I contracted to pay for this house, and the money was paid by the various loan holders even if they didn't dot the i's and cross the t's. I contracted to pay for this house, and even if I could get it free on a technicality, it wouldn't be right. $40k isn't enough to buy my integrity.

Keep the faith, make promises, and keep them. Even if others don't.

lineman said...

As long as the taxpayer puts up with it....It will continue to grow and evil will flourish...Then one day it will reach a tipping point and that phrase kill them all and let God sort them out might come into play....

christian soldier said...

Detroit (massive welfare) is the bench mark for your scenario--beware my fellow Americans--

Historian said...

My comment on this sort of behaviour is: "Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind."

emdfl said...

The day is coming when those who are paying the bills will get to the age where they no longer GAS; gotta wonder who's going to pay the bill when that happens...

Paul X said...

Good post, Fran; although one has to question how naively trusting people really were "back then". Trust really works better in small, non-mobile communities, where reputation comes into play. If people are constantly moving around, there is no such thing as reputation.

But for the rest of it, it's true there is little external benefit for being virtuous - now. But when things go to shit, the virtues will reappear as social pressures again point in that direction. If you are a lowlife, you won't eat; or you probably will quickly be killed if you don't starve.

"But they were still incredibly uncomfortable with the topic..."

That's because people are nervous around collectivist loons.

GallowsJudge said...

to agraves and magnus - perhaps the greatest evangelical christian philospher was Francis Schaeffer. One of his themes was that after WWII the meme of the west was "personal peace and affluence". This pursuit has brought about the leviathan state. These were the idols that have destroyed our western civilization, among many other idols.

Magnus said...

"That's because people are nervous around collectivist loons." - Paul X

Collectivist? Please enlighten me how wanting to conserve Traditional America is collectivist.