Friday, December 18, 2015

The Flood

     A great many persons have written to ask my opinion of the most recent trends in politics and economics. Apparently, the omnibus bill that just passed the House of Representatives has agitated a lot of folks on the Right. They seek reassurance. Though I know only the outlines of that bill, from here it looks like they have good reasons to worry.


The Rich arrived in pairs
And also in Rolls Royces;
They talked of their affairs
In loud and strident voices.

(The Husbands and the Wives
Of this select society
Lead independent lives
Of infinite variety.)

The Poor arrived in Fords,
Whose features they resembled,
They laughed to see so many Lords
And Ladies all assembled.

The People in Between
Looked underdone and harassed,
And out of place and mean,
And horribly embarrassed.

For the hoary social curse
Gets hoarier and hoarier,
And it stinks a trifle worse
Than in the days of Queen Victoria, when

They married and gave in marriage,
They danced at the County Hall,
And some of them kept a carriage.
AND THE FLOOD DESTROYED THEM ALL.

[Hilaire Belloc, “The Garden Party”]

     Few men of his stature are known as asymmetrically as Joseph Hilaire Pierre RenĂ© Belloc. Today he’s remembered mainly for his children’s verse and stories, while his extensive work in politics, economics, and moral theory is the precious possession of a fortunate few. In particular, he was a scathing critic of Twentieth-Century Anglo-European society, which he viewed as foredoomed by its own successes.

     Perhaps Belloc was fortunate to be ignored by the powerful of his time. Others who were not ignored sometimes suffered badly for it. The highly placed of Europe, had they given adequate attention to The Servile State, would have striven to exterminate him for “giving the game away.”

     Belloc’s politico-economic insight was unique in that while he clearly saw how corporatist capitalism would be suborned by political infiltration, he avoided the great mistake of Marx and similar socialist thinkers, who imagined that corporatism’s fatal flaw could be corrected by destroying the rights of private property. However, to be fair his Distributism, though it found favor with C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton, was not a solution either, for it was as susceptible to political subornation as the guild system of medieval Europe, whose principles it embedded.

     There’s an irony here, for Belloc’s great strength lay in his ability to spot the dynamic flaws in popular systems and nostrums. He was eager to get off the corporatist road to Mishnory, for he saw clearly where its terminus lay: in a shrinking circle of plutocrats and hyper-rich organizations collared and chained by The State. He could see that the socialist path leads there just as inexorably as the corporatist one. What he failed to see was the perniciousness of coercive power once it’s been allowed to operate on the economy.

     All the same, it’s right to honor Belloc. He tried his best to show his contemporaries where they were headed; other, more widely known and applauded thinkers did far less. Though he failed, his foresight and clarity continue to be valuable.


Maybe you think, a lot like me
Of those who live beside the sea
Who feel so free, so I surmise
With their comfortable homes, with wives
Who end up drinking tea together
In the afternoon of their lives.

They build their homes upon the seashore
The quicksand castles of their dreams
Yet take no notice of the North wind
Which tears their building at the seams.

In their dismay and blind confusion
The weeping widows clutch their shawls
While as the sea mist ever deepens
The sailors hear the sirens' calls.

And in the maelstrom sea which follows
Their lifeboat sinks without a trace
And yet there still remain survivors
To bear the shame of their disgrace.

[David Cousins, “Down By The Sea”]

     If we accept Man for what he is, there are probably no perfect solutions. We are fallen creatures. The best men must fight down innumerable temptations every day of their lives...and even they succumb now and then. The worst temptations bedevil the best of the best: the brightest, most generous and idealistically inclined. Power dazzles them from afar, and they reach for it, thinking that if only I can master this gem, its power would at last be put to the service of the Good. Few indeed are those who realize, as Tolkien did, that just as power over others crushes all it subjugates, it consumes all who embrace it, without regard for the nobility of their intentions.

     The seductive glow of power cannot be extinguished. The very best men will seize it to keep it out of anyone else’s hands, blind to power’s slipperiness, to its growth dynamic, and to the finity of their lives. From them it might pass to merely good men, who hope to use it for good. Eventually it always arrives in the hands of a Stalin or a Mao, just as Hayek has told us. There is no escape from the progression.

     They who tether their fortunes to power believe they have made an alliance of equals. In point of fact, their “ally” holds their chains. The flood will destroy them both.


     In his last post before his current hiatus, a valued colleague expressed an opinion I share:

     Like many of my compatriots, I have come to understand that there is no political or social solution for the problems that face our nation. We are caught in a hurricane-force gale of lies and tyranny, and being sucked into a maelstrom of slow-motion economic collapse, while normalcy bias whispers from every quarter, "Peace, all is well!"

     But it is not well.

     He coupled it to a sentiment any good man must endorse:

     All I and my family can do now is try to weather the storm the best we can.

     Those are the words of a man who sees the onrushing flood. He’s tried his best, like so many others, to call out a warning, but has concluded that the waters are too great, and too near, to be held back much longer.

     The election of a new president will not hold back the waters.
     Neither will a rebound in the economy.
     Neither, as much as we’d like it, would a return to the Constitution.

     The implications of “a century of socialism and war” (Herbert Spencer) must be played out. Many will suffer terribly. If there remains hope, it lies in God’s mercy toward those who turn their faces toward Him.

Last night I lay in bed
And held myself
Trying to remember
How it once was with you
How your hands were softer.

Yesterday I found myself
Staring into space
Rather like the sailor
In my own home surroundings
I'm not sure I know me.

If you were me what would you do
Don't tell me I don't need you to
It won't help me now.

[David Cousins, Ibid.]

6 comments:

  1. comment on Liberty's Torch

    The "system" that is taking us down the rabbit-hole of fascistic socialism is a positive feedback loop. Fighting it is difficult, if not impossible, as it has closed almost every avenue for correction. "Checks and balances" are no longer in effect, and the Federal courts leading to any hope that SCOTUS might make a correction have been stuffed with over three hundred Obama appointees.

    We can't vote our way out of it, because 1) our votes will probably not be counted - I fear elections are shams these days, 2) our "one-party" government works only in one direction - further into socialism, and 3) even if we were allowed to vote into office someone who would actually do everything he was able to do to turn the tide, Congress would fight him, SCOTUS would rule against him, and the entrenched bureaucracy (think EPA and IRS) would ignore him and fight him every step of the way. Just as Obama has ignored SCOTUS when he didn't like their answers, and the EPA has "snuck" around roadblocks Congress has placed in its way to continue to damage the economy and destroy the value of private property.

    I realize I tend to be a pessimist, especially where our government and liberty are concerned, but when even the little bit of truth about how completely the Left and the elites control our country peeks through, it gives cause for feeling it will end badly for us. I think if we knew the full extent of how bad it _truly_ is, we would all be heading for the hills, and preparing to defend ourselves as best we can. OR heading into DC to put an end to those in government who have enabled the plans of the elites, those who have transformed our country into the hell it may soon to become.

    ReplyDelete
  2. How did the 1776+ revolutionaries do it? Against what enemies internal and external?
    How did Gandhi do it, and against what odds internal and external?
    What resolve, perseverance, organization, and pain led to success?
    Was it worth the effort?
    Force of arms requires force of spirit; sometimes force of spirit was enough when men took a stand.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Howard,
    Many people have written about the fact that, for all of King George's abuses, and those of the men who represented him here in the colonies, the citizens of the thirteen colonies knew more freedom than we do.

    I never said we should give up, I'm simply saying that we will never win from within the system. If you believe "force of spirit" would win the day today _within_ the system, I'm afraid we will have to agree to disagree. In full rebellion, I think we would have a chance, just as the IRA held the British Empire at bay for years, as Afghanistan fought the Soviets to a standstill.

    The revolutionaries of 1776 _stopped_ trying to work within the system, to "vote" their way out of that mess. They took up arms instead, and persevered. Hence my very last sentence.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I don't vote because I think it makes any difference.
    I vote because:
    1) Heroes died so I could, and I refuse to waste their sacrifice.
    2) The value of my vote is 1 over infinity, but that's MY infinitescimal.
    3) Those who don't vote have no right to complain.
    4) When the time comes (and it is fast approaching) to vote with muzzle energy I can do so in good conscience knowing I tried to do it the "right" way. Better to perish in the struggle for freedom than survive to see defeat. Freiheit uber Alles!
    _revjen45

    ReplyDelete
  5. Revjen, live as you please, which includes your decision to vote, but:

    -- Those who don't vote have no right to complain. --

    is purest horseshit. There's always a right to complain, and when there's no effective difference between the parties or their candidates when given power, not only ought the complaints to be especially loud and angry, the vote totals should plummet to zero: their true objective value.

    In the past, I've said nothing when people have spouted nonsense such as "Those who don't vote have no right to complain." I regret not telling them exactly what I just told you. If you're smart enough to comprehend the posts here, you should be smart enough not to emit such obvious drivel.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Je suis d'accord, Fran. Even beyond the First Amendment, no one has a

    I just received an email request from Reince Priebus for a donation. I told him (his staff who actually might read it) that I'd rather vote for Hillary than a Republican that has betrayed us (not that I'd ever vote for Hillary). I also responded that I hoped Trump would be nominated as the Republican candidate, because that would make the RINOs fill their diapers, or hold their breath and stomp their little feet.

    ReplyDelete

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