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Political Decay
The Return of History?
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  • dwk67

    This is why they say that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Not that history is all that important to those we pay to instruct our children in school either. Sadly they’ll all have to learn the hard way….

  • QET

    People value what they are taught to value. In the last half century all primary institutions in Western societies–government, education, media–have been colonized by people who, whether they are aware of it or not, see as their mission the promotion of a “pedagogy of the oppressed” to use Paolo Freire’s formulation. The Western values and traditions responsible for lifting billions of people out of abject poverty and oppression evolved out of societies where poverty and oppression were the order of the day. They were solutions and civilizational advances, and used to be inculcated and venerated as such. Now, children are instructed that those values and traditions are the source of whatever poverty and oppression remains, and that in fact people overcame historical oppression and poverty in spite of, and not because of, those values.

    “Tolerance,” “inclusion” and “diversity are not values, they cannot substitute for the values that have been, not just lost, but kicked out. They are like carbon monoxide–they bind to the hemoglobin, tricking it (so to speak) to make it believe it is oxygen, and their toxicity kills the organism. Tolerance, inclusion and diversity are doing what you are told by people claiming the authority to tell you how you must think, feel, act and live. They are anti-values, they are no more than predicates for authoritarianism. But they are incessantly drummed into the heads of youth as values superior to the old values.

    The entire educational curriculum in the West has been refashioned to purposely suppress all positive achievement of Western history and to emphasize–through fictions invented for the purpose if need be–that Western civilization has been catastrophic for humanity. Into the resulting intellectual and moral chaos have stepped people who claim to be tribunes, who claim to represent the “ordinary voters” and know best what they want and need. Two generations of people have been deliberately stripped of the intellectual and moral tools by which they could independently assess these new Jacobins for who and what they are and mount an effective political resistance to their depredations.

    • Dale Fayda

      An excellent comment, one among many of yours. Thank you.

      • QET

        Thank you, that is very kind.

      • Bruno_Behrend

        Not only that, but the best comment of the month (or more) anywhere on the internet.

        I’m going to post it fully on my Facebook page.

        • FriendlyGoat

          Your Facebook page will be more enhanced if you take time to actually articulate in detail what the “old values” were—-something QET sorta skipped over. Yes, we already know about “honesty and hard work”, so there is supposed to be more—–a lot more—–since there are plenty of honest people working hard in jobs which do not and cannot support a “Western” family in even the most thrifty fashion.
          The “good old days” were always old, but not always good. If someone with some credibility would come along and explain exactly how to go BACK to something both old and good, most people in this country would want to hear it. But it has to have some specificity and some real detail to cope with actual realities. Making fun of tolerance and inclusion just doesn’t fill the void.
          So, I hope your Facebook page will include something thoughtful and helpful from YOU as an individual. That is what Facebook is for, or so I am told.

          • QET

            It’s a fair point, FG. However, such an articulation cannot meaningfully be made in a blog comment space. True values cannot be presented in a bullet-point list. At least, not in my opinion. An excellent example of this truth is found in the article by the Providence College professor which Anthony linked to, in his discussion of what the single-word sign “diversity” means and, more importantly, does not mean.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I noticed in your original comment that you linked “tolerance” and “inclusion” together with “diversity”——as being “like carbon monoxide”. While some of the 2016 meanings of the word “diversity” indeed might be debatable, there has never really been a time when tolerance or inclusion should have been considered questionable at all.

    • Anthony
      • QET

        Thanks, yes, of great interest. I sometimes wonder whether it wouldn’t be better to collect the handful of remaining professors still of sound mind into a few colleges, where, concentrated, they could preserve the good traditions and curricula until the bankruptcy of modern progressive thought finally becomes apparent to all and people want to learn to think again. Kind of like that seed bank in Norway.

        • Josephbleau

          It’s worse than that, it’s time to place the works of Plato and Euclid into monasteries in the Himalayas to be recopied by hand until the end of the next dark age.

        • Anthony

          The seed bank in Norway continues to generate (I think) but let’s not limit thought to progressive overlay (which depending on definition and who’s labeling means different things to different people). Still, I’m quite familiar with your general sentiments. The professoriate (generally referencing) as well as components of our culture has a crisis in values, we can agree on that! And you’re welcome as it is my pleasure.

    • Johnathan Swift Jr.

      Vey well put Sir. An excellent articulation of some of the issues. I added my take above. As Siskel and Ebert used to say, two thumbs up, way up, though I only have both of my own.

  • Blackbeard

    There is always a temptation to imagine that history has a direction and that it is, at least generally, towards improvement. Wrong. People are generally lazy, ignorant and foolish and grinding poverty and oppression, at least for the masses, is the normal condition of humankind. The Enlightenment, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, etc., were a brief flowering of hope but we will soon return to normal. Too bad for our grandchildren but perhaps the Chinese will do better when they take over.

    • Johnathan Swift Jr.

      This is the essence of the left/right divide, the way that we view the world. In general, the left sees history as the march of progress, a sequential and progressive evolution of mankind. Marx of course had this theory of history, which his followers saw as inevitable stages.

      On the right, while we may see progress in many areas, the Industrial Revolution for example, unleashed human potential and inventiveness. We saw the use of energy, those evil fossil fuels were used for light and power, which helped mankind progress in material ways and made a series technological revolutions possible.

      But, in the main, people on the right see man as flawed, born flawed, so when we find a political system that offers liberty and opportunity for the vast majority of its people, allowing them to each pursue their individual happiness, we want to preserve and conserve it, to improve it incrementally, not toss it on the ash heap of history in the headlong pursuit of a perfect system, which chances are will not simply be a chimaera, but lead to tyranny, because this pursuit of perfection always comes with the idea putting power into fewer and fewer hands, the hands of course of “experts.”

  • Anthony

    Referencing the United States specifically, its been about two generations since “civics/social studies/history” has been rigorously taught in our Common (Public) Schools. So, lack of appreciation and understanding of liberal democracy at some levels ought not be surprising. Ideally, the purpose of government – an agreement among members of a society to form and recognize governing norms and institutions for that society – escapes the rudimentary level of many of our citizenry in a terribly distracted country. Yes, we have politics but little idea about its true nature (who will lead, how will democracy operate, what is nature and substance of its political decisions, etc.) in a democracy and the requirements to keep it vital.

    Secondarily, implied in Post is that America is one among a number of the world’s democracies experiencing governing tensions. But facile comparisons may overlook differences in governing framework while acknowledging similarities (populism per se) That is though present liberal democracies may exhibit value fraying, the political cultures (values and beliefs) differ in many respects.

    Nevertheless, Francis Fukuyama offers what may be signal commonality: “from the days of Aristotle, thinkers have believed that stable democracy would have to rest on a broad middle class; societies with extremes of wealth and poverty are susceptible to oligarchic domination or to populist revolution – the emergence of middle-class societies also increased the legitimacy of liberal democracy as a political system.” Indeed, could there be a remote connection to the underpinning norms referenced in first paragraph of Post and Fukuyama’s insight?

  • Boritz

    Congratulations are in order to the education system and those who made it everything it is today. I don’t agree with your goals, but you know what you’re doing.

  • Josephbleau

    I actually think that 30% of the population would agree with anything, so this does not concern me. A lot of the old Roosevelt supporters were likely supporters of a permanent strong man.

  • JR

    They want only one thing and that is freedom from responsibility. My sentiment is expressed by this song. At least I hope my kids generations will do something good.

  • FriendlyGoat

    “In almost every region, the rich are now more likely than the poor to express approval for ‘having the army rule.”
    When the rich in your country are going mean, stupid or both, who do you blame for that?

    • JR

      We just need to tax them at confiscatory rates once they earned enough money as decided by us. That should solve the problem.

      • FriendlyGoat

        Well, it might have, if we had maintained a more progressive tax structure in the 80’s, 90’s, and since——but “confiscatory” is your word, not mine. I prefer “stabilizing” and “preventative” (of some of the problems we now have). You’ve got to admit (though you likely won’t) that there is something totally weird about any well-to-do people believing we would be as well or better off with “the army” in control of the country.

        • JR

          Well, sorry. But try as I might I could not find an actual hard number you are willing to put on what level will sate your thirst for my money. How much is enough? In some US jurisdictions people in highest brackets pay more than half their income to income taxes alone. We will conveniently skip sky high property and sales taxes for now. So 50% as is stands now is not enough. Socialist France experimented and ultimately rejected 75% tax as it was seen punitive, unconstitutional and ultimately counter-productive. So let’s say 75% is too high even for French socialists. What number do you propose? 60%? 72%? We live in quantitative world. Until you start putting numbers on happy talk, that’s all it is, happy talk, a fantasy of what might have been only if you controlled the universe.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Tell me what Donald Trump’s income and related tax have been in each of the last 10 years and we’ll talk about what was “excessive” taxation.

          • JR

            Once again, try as I might I fail to see a number in your response. What you are doing is classical, almost textbook definition of shifting the goalposts. We are talking about your plan, not Donald Trump. Don’t bring him in, what has he got to do with what ideal taxation rate will be to keep you satisfied that it is sufficiently progressive? Imagine Donald Trump doesn’t exist. Quantify your Utopian tax code. Let me keep my hard-won naiveté a little bit longer.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I’ll stop worrying about Donald Trump when he is NOT elected. Because his tax plan is a 15% Corporate rate, 25% top individual rate, 20% tops on capital gains and dividends, elimination of AMT and estate tax altogether. These are not sufficient, period.
            Life is not a matter of MY hypotheticals. Life is a matter of defeating these kinds of real errors in real elections.
            Meanwhile, we all deserve to know Donald’s personal tax stats before we entertain his proposals. With a little luck, his stonewall approach will simply end with his candidacy going down the tubes.

          • JR

            Again. You appear to be stuck on your talking points. We are not talking about Donald. I want to talk about your plan. The fact that you are weaseling out of that conversation is hilarious. You think if you just mention Trump enough times, your inability to answer how much your ideal state takes in is all I need to know about how serious you are. So get out of the way if you can’t lend a hand, ’cause the times, they’re a-changin’……

          • FriendlyGoat

            JR, you are like Wile E. Coyote trying to set a new trap with a new bomb on a new cliff every day. I don’t jump in them.

            You’re the guy defending a party and candidate with a PLAN. It’s the one we will all be talking about until November.

            “Beep, beep!”

          • CosmotKat

            I think JR, is asking you to explain yourself and you can’t.

          • JR

            He just won’t admit that his ideal tax rate above a certain random limit is 100%. Which is what it always is with people like him. This ain’t the first time I talked with a Marxist over the Internet.

          • CosmotKat

            The goat is one of the more hyper partisan and dishonest posters on this site. He generally bloviates when challenged.

          • JR

            His claim is that he is a moderate. Therefore, he cannot let it slip that his ideal tax rate is 100%. So instead he obfuscates because Donald Trump. After Donald Trump, it will be something else. There is always something else. I have these debates not do convince him of the error of his ways. It is rather for others to see behind the veneer of socialism and realize that there is just no there there. I lived under socialism, I would know….

          • FriendlyGoat

            I actually am one of the few people with the patience and willingness to debate conservatives in places such as this. Most people would not give you nutcases the time of day. I, at least, pay some attention to you.

          • CosmotKat

            Says the self-righteous nut case. Patience and willingness is not your style, but rather the enjoyment from the juvenile smear.

          • JR

            So to summarize, you ducked the direct question. We both know why. You are unable to formulate what your own paradise will look like. Therefore, your point of view is irrelevant. Even you won’t defend it.

            But we both know that’s not what is actually going on. We both know that your ideal tax rate is 100%. You just want to take it all away and distribute in a way that you like. You are a really scary Statist. That’s why I make fun of you because humor is the best way to show just how idiotically unsustainable your plan is.

            Once again, I repeat into the void. What is your progressive tax structure that you pine about? You are yet to put a single number to your ramblings.

          • Johnathan Swift Jr.

            The above discussion of tax rates – how much of someone else’s income the all-knowing, all-seeing, beneficent state is entitled to – is one I have engaged in many times, both online and in person. It seems impossible for a leftist to 1) Explain what the maximum tax rate would be in their ideal system and 2) How high the tax rate has to be for them to cure the inequality that keeps them up at night.

            We now have the most progressive President in history, yet after almost eight years on the job, the inequality spread is getting wider, not narrower, despite record tax revenues, transfer payments, Obamacare and more people than ever on government programs.

            So, since inequality has been on steroids under this President, since his economy has awarded Wall Street and massive corporations while it has punished small banks and Main Street what proof do we have that their policies will “cure” the inequality problem and make things better for the middle class, let alone the poor?

          • JR

            That’s because there is no limit to their avarice. The number is 100%, but they just know that slavery will be a-OK as long as they are in charge of distributing the goodies.

          • Johnathan Swift Jr.

            Agreed. “Survey says 100%!” as the late Richard Dawson would say. One of my mentors used to say that the Graduated Income Tax was the worst single thing to befall this nation. When it was being debated, they talked of how no one could imagine it ever soaring to 15% or something like that and by the end of World War I (which was a terrible calamity for liberty) it was – if memory serves – up to 72%, then of course 94% during World War II. Many economists believe that one of the reasons why the Great Depression became the Great Depression and remained the Great Depression was because confiscatory tax rates kept investment money on the sidelines and away from investment which would have allowed the economy to start growing again.

        • CosmotKat

          Goat, you know those well-to-do who feel that control by Army would make us better off are Democrats. You do know that, right?

          • FriendlyGoat

            No, I regard that as your preferred assumption.

          • CosmotKat

            poor goat the truth is not an assumption, it’s a fact.

    • CosmotKat

      The progressive mind and it’s fantasy ideology for a start.

  • Frank Natoli

    Why is this a surprise? The fundamental premise of all government run by Democrats is tyrannical. Humorously, “the people” insisted on the tyrant doing what was “necessary” for the country, you know, like the Germans in 1933.

  • J K Brown

    or more than seventy years the German professors of political science, history, law, geography and philosophy eagerly imbued their disciples with a hysterical hatred of capitalism, and preached the war of “liberation” against the capitalistic West. The German “socialists of the chair,” much admired in all foreign countries, were the pacemakers of the two World Wars. At the turn of the century the immense majority of the Germans were already radical supporters of socialism and aggressive nationalism. They were then already firmly committed to the principles of Nazism. What was lacking and was added later was only a new term to signify their doctrine.

    –Mises, Ludwig von (1947) Planned Chaos

    The American and European professors have continued this work. True, they were horrified at the logical application of their advocacy for human eugenics. However, after the War, they continued their advocacy for the German pattern of socialism, the “compulsory economy”. Of course, such socialism was the end goal of the New Deal interventionism and was basis of the much advocated wartime economy. But even with the minor pushback that pulled the US and Britain out of the malaise of the 1970s, the increasing intervention into the economy continues.

    This intervention promotes the dissolution of liberty and democracy and its advocacy in schools has continued the work attributed to the German professors by Mises as well as the return to the servile ideology.

    The passionate endeavors to eliminate the classical studies from the curriculum of the liberal education and thus virtually to destroy its very character were one of the major manifestations of the revival of the servile ideology.

    Mises, Ludwig von, The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality, 1956

    • Johnathan Swift Jr.

      One interesting note is the prescience of the German poet Heinrich Heine, who wrote the first critique of Romanticism. He almost predicted National Socialism. When most of us think of romantic ideals, of poetry and literature, we don’t see any dark side to it, but it seems like one of the ideas that was at the core of it was the idea of perfectibility, of the evolution of mankind as a march of progress.

      Isiah Berlin:
      Over a hundred years ago, the German poet Heine warned the French not to underestimate the power of ideas: philosophical concepts nurtured in the stillness of a professor’s study could destroy a civilization. He spoke of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason as the sword with which European deism had been decapitated, and described the works of Rousseau as the blood-stained weapon which, in the hands of Robespierre, had destroyed the old régime; and prophesied that the romantic faith of Fichte and Schilling would one day be turned, with terrible effect, by their fanatical German followers, against the liberal culture of the West.

      “Philosophical concepts nurtured in the stillness of a professor’s study can destroy a civilization.”
      Heinrich Heine

      Condorcet thought man was on a march to perfection as well, even though when he wrote this he was in hiding from the Revolutionary authorities:

  • PierrePendre

    The combined efforts of the the British establishment, the leftist media (which includes the taxpayer funded BBC) and some young Londoners (with time on their hands to stage street protests) to have the result of the recent Brexit referendum ignored were a perfect example of how conflicted many people seem to be about democracy. Nor is it a new phenomenon. In 1987, after Britain’s Labour party had lost three elections in a row to Thatcher, there were rumblings that the election system was thwartng the true wishes of the people and “something” needed to be done. The “something” it was implied, could be violent. The justification: Labour’s self-induced belief that whatever the result, it had won the argument. Naturally,there were no grumbles from Labour when it won a landslide under Blair 10 years later. The fairness or unfairness of democracy as a principle depends, it seems, entirely on whether one likes the result.

    I assume Tom Friedman was joking when he said he wanted the US to have Chinese government for a day since he certainly wouldn’t want it if Trump happened to be president at the time. The fact is that despite humanity having egalitariansm as its default, it constantly chafes at the restraints and disadvantages of democracy as a political system. Politicians who claim to be (small d) democrats will go to any length to free themselves of democratic constraints as the tricks used to pass Obamacare showed.

    The views of young people don’t matter very much because they don’t know very much and are too young to compare democratic and undemocratic political systems at work. The views of the rich probably don’t mean much either because they have purchased the right to live amorally with impunity.

    What is worrying is when the real stewards of democracy, the workaday politicians, try to exempt themselves from accountability as is happening in the United States and has already happened in the European Union. Peter Mandelson, one of the strategists behind Blair’s New Labour, mused15 years ago that we were witnessing the gradual end of representative government. We see it happening before our eyes with the relentless empowerment of the bureaucratic EU Commission and in the United States with the acquisition of a legislative function by the supreme court with the complicity of congress which is thereby enabled to escape electorally difficult decisions.

    No one is going to overturn US or European democracy from one day to the next in a coup; as Mandelson predicted, it will slip away from we the people gradually and imperceptibly unless we become more active on its behalf.

  • Bruno_Behrend

    The writer equates “social tolerance” as a “democratic strength?”

    The two are completely separable, and often in opposition.

  • Andrew Allison

    Could it be that “the broad-based erosion in support for democratic institutions across the Western world” has something to do with the decay of said institutions? In the US, for example, gerrymandering ensures that 95% of the time the incumbent or their chosen successor will remain in power indefinitely, and thus has no obligation to actually represent the interests of their constituents. The member states of the EU have surrendered much of their sovereignty to an unelected “government” in Brussels which ignores the will of the people. Etc.

  • WesDallas

    It’s quite likely the new generations of voters will get their wish, to be ruled by an all powerful leader. History teaches that rarely, if ever, is such a person good to his subjects. I only regret not being able to come back, if only for a day, when today’s Millenials are under the thumb of some Supreme Leader, Mullah, Party Chairman, or another type of secular potentate, so I can ask them “How do you like it now”, and do so with a big smile on my face.

  • Alexandros Nortune

    I’ve got bad news for you, your one “bright spot” of High levels of social tolerance among the young isn’t a hopeful sign but merely a sign of successful indoctrination. But it should be pointed out, the vaunted Millennial “tolerance” is merely skin deep, They’ll tolerate all shapes colors, sizes, and orientations as long as you think like them, talk like them, act like them, and vote like them. If you don’t you’re worse than dead to them, you’re an unperson who doesn’t even have the right to live.

    Whatever, this is what my generation, and the ones after it have been taught by our educators.

  • Stephen

    Veneration of meritocracy? Aren’t all regimes meritocracies? Not everyone accepts the measure of merit used, but a measure is used.

  • BillyTalley2016

    I met a young woman from Singapore, traveling on vacation today. I asked about life in her city, she said that the people didn’t like the soft dictatorship there. So, there’s that.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Leftist politics have degraded Western Culture and ideals of the “Enlightenment” necessary for the existence of Modern Civilization. If this continues in the same direction, eventually Modern Civilization will end, this is known as “Bad Luck”.

  • Johnathan Swift Jr.

    I wonder whether the West is losing or has lost its collective soul? Since the cultural elite and much of the intelligentsia is contemptuous of religion, forgetting of course that Western Christendom gave us the world we live in, younger people are increasingly irreligious. While the communists and leftists see religion as “the opiate of the people,” they of course formed their new faiths with all the elements of the ancien one, except they coupled it with a faith far more preposterous than the “Flying Spaghetti Monster” they so disdain. But since not all the young people has been converted into the mash-up of Marxism, Fascism, Anti-Racism, Socialism, Multiculturalism, and stage-managed corporatism that the leftist elite seems to have adopted, many of them believe in nothing beyond the week’s end. A belief in nothing of course, is little defense against someone else who really believes in something, say fundamentalist Islam for example, a realization that is beginning to dawn on even Richard Dawkins.

    Since the nuclear family is also disdained and motherhood is looked upon by many with repugnance, a task that can even be ordered out and the widespread belief that mankind is a sort of parasitic scourge on Mother Gaia, the family is no longer a haven in an often heartless world. Relations between men and women have been poisoned by the open misandry of the radical feminists who terrorize the campuses and the internet alike with young men cowering in fear before them. Well adjusted men increasingly off-shore their romance, looking eastward and westward in the hopes of finding a mate who has not swallowed the bitter pill of social justice.

    Then of course, the cultural elite of each nation have brought their young people up to hate not only themselves, but their own culture. Everything about the Western Democracies, the wealthiest, freest, healthiest places the world has ever known, is apparently bad, so bad in fact, that the populations need to be replaced by a much better model and that model is to come from the third world. When the bewildered residents are fortunate, their dose of multiculturalism only comes from a population that is poor and often poorly educated, but when they are not, they get a good dose of third world superiority from fundamentalist Islam, which is more than willing to replace the host culture with its back-to-the-future approach, a 7th century future. If there is a bit of rape and a few blokes blowing themselves and everyone else up that comes with multiculturalism, well, so much the better.

    Increasingly, younger people have only consumerism and diversions to excite them. So, because their lives increasingly have little meaning, an unstable family and little hope of a fulfilling romance, they turn to turning on, hooking up and dropping into the diversions of watching, listening, dressing up and playing, often living a fuller existence in the virtual world than the real one. In Secondhand Time, her epic memoir of the wreckage of the Soviet Union and its former citizens as they cope with Putinism, Svetlana Alexievich divides former Soviets between those who came out the other side with some sort of moral order and those who simply emerged empty, some who are ruthless and grasping, while others fill up their soullessness with Vodka. With the lives that the elite want them to have, meaningless, perhaps with only politics to fill them up, a series of stock phrases and shibboleths about social justice and diversity and multiculturalism and global warming, none of which have a greater depth than a bumper sticker, perhaps the West too is running on empty.

  • Arun

    OK, here is Wave 5 data (after eliminating records where the importance of democracy question was not asked or not answered).

    question is: “How important is it for you to live in a country that is
    governed democratically? On this scale where 1 means it is “not at all
    important” and 10 means “absolutely important” what position would you
    choose? ”

    Decade of birth is derived from year of birth by replacing the last digit with 0.

    Decade of birth|Number of responses|average score|std deviation
    Do not know|57|8.50877|2.54863
    Missing; Not asked by the interviewer|66|8.5|1.88495
    No answer|319|7.73041|2.17626
    Not asked|2868|7.86402|2.44086

    So, e.g., the last line is – year of birth was not asked, 2868 such cases, average score = 7.86402, standard deviation 2.44086.

    Just fyi, per their own documentation, the overall average is 8.58 and standard deviation 1.96.
    WVS Database
    World Values Survey Data-Archive Online Survey analysis website

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