In the rapidly receding 20th century, America finished off the Third Reich and Soviet Communism, only to face updated versions of the same in the 21st. Historian James Kurth relates the dramatic collapse of The American Way of Empire to the implosion of its financial industry in 2007 – 08 and its subsequent consolidation into a plutocracy disdainful of ordinary Americans, domestic industry, and the exceptional nature of American prosperity. The severing of attachment to family, community, nation takes with it the sacred ties that animate collective effort.
Tribal affinity replaces citizenship, while new identity-groups proliferate to take what they can from those who work and pay taxes. Morbid guilt is systematically exploited to inflame inter-group hatred, on any pretext — race, sex, wealth, political party, national origin — whatever might spark riots to terrorize the populace, local officials, and the judiciary, and extract resources from the vulnerable directly, through government agencies, and extorted corporate ‘donations’. Mass surveillance eliminates privacy, while tech-oligarchs routinely censor any mention of facts embarrassing to their favorites, or departures from the party line of the day. Cultural Marxism, a modern version of the old self-destructive ideology, ‘goes viral’ from academia to government, business, science, and lately even the military. Only a moment ago, freedom of speech, expression, enterprise, and worship, national interest, human rights, and privacy were sacred principles in America. Now (2021) these notions are suddenly relics of an earlier era, suppressed and hidden, but nevertheless indispensable elements of any sustainable society.
The predicate to these sweeping changes is what philosopher Roger Scruton called ‘de-sacralization‘, leaving a cultural vacuum from which all the content had been sucked out. America had actually been ‘running on empty’ for a while, referring all matters of business, political, moral, and aesthetic judgment to short-range economics-first thinking. At every level, from individual to societal to global, economic considerations installed themselves in the collective psyche as paramount. Workers even recited the free-trade homilies as their factories were shuttered: ‘I guess we’re not competitive anymore’, meaning they couldn’t compete with slave labor.
Economics-first thinking is what happens to a nation devoid of any other guidance. With religion banished to the periphery, people revert to tribal self-worship, and deification of celebrities, experts, billionaires, media-owners, and politicians. These self-appointed overlords really believe they are entitled to overturn popular choices, ignore the will of the people and elementary human rights, silence heresy and ex-communicate heretics, re-order the natural world to their momentary liking, and in general act without the slightest regard for the common run of humanity. Endowed with riches beyond reckoning, their images plastered on billions of TV screens and computer monitors, puffed-up with algorithmic formulas, or granted dominion over millions of lesser mortals, their sense of entitlement knows no bounds.
Prioritizing economics above all else makes Marxists of all who worship at that shrine. For it was Marx who preached economic determinism. So the captains of industry who know nothing more than the bottom line speak the same language as Communists from BLM to Beijing. No wonder American business was such an easy mark.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sized up the situation accurately and gave the Western capitalists exactly what they longed for — cheap labor, quick profits, Wall Street endorsement, and giddy consumers dumbed-down by education-cum-indoctrination. To the academics and government officials who fed at the CCP trough, the CCP provided money, prestige, and a soupçon of Oriental intrigue. This decades-long strategy is glowingly expounded by a Chinese economics professor in self-praising detail. It is not rocket science, but rather simple bribery, on a massive scale, as revealed in numerous reports suppressed (but not entirely stamped out) by tech-oligarchs.
The CCP merely took advantage of the ongoing de-sacralization of American and Western norms of civilization. As the muses of art and wonder were annihilated by noxious ideologies, the only thing that crawled out of the rubble was a grotesquely misshapen species of numerology. ‘You want to cut your labor costs?’, the CCP asked, ‘We’ll give you slave labor. Can’t get any cheaper than that. What do you say? Move your factory to Shenzhen or Zinjiang’. Steve Jobs, the avatar of woke capitalists, answered the call, along with thousands of other Western business ‘leaders’. He liked calling a factory manager at 3:00 am whenever he had a whim, say, to use beveled glass in his mobile phones. Having gleefully put thousands of American workers out of work, the ironically named Jobs informed an ignorant U.S. president ‘Those jobs are never coming back’. Economists of the free-trade persuasion whined that only a ‘magic wand’ would bring those jobs back. Hopelessness was given an aura of inevitability with the fancy label of ‘secular stagnation‘. Yet factories, jobs, and prosperity did in fact return to America when another U.S. president applied shiatsu-like pressure to rectify the terms of trade.
Somehow the leaders of American business and finance, in their mindless quest for ‘globalization’, failed to notice that their decisions, individually and collectively, destroyed their own firms’ social capital, know-how, corporate memory, technology, and security of supply chain. For the CCP, these American business leaders, and their facilitators in government and academia, played their foreordained part as useful idiots — Lenin’s evocative term for those who contribute to their own demise — by keeping their eyes glued to the bottom line, as if nothing else mattered. For them, nothing else even existed — not nation, not community, not workers, not even their own firms swallowed up by globalization. But some activities contrive to exempt themselves from accountability.
Precisely where economic discipline is most needed to restrain value-fantasies, it is abruptly abandoned. Thus stopping the climate from changing is deemed to be of such paramount value that mere cost-calculation is beside the point. ‘We’ll do it whatever the cost’, say its advocates, who are even proposing dimming the sun with clouds of chalk, seeking effects similar to those of large-scale volcanic eruptions or nuclear winter. Ditto for other programs like inducing self-effacing diffidence in white males, forking over public and corporate funds to Communists attacking citizens and burning down cities, emptying out jails to let murderers and rapists loose on the public, promoting genital mutilation of children, and teaching students to hate their country and all its history. These programs remain untouched by considerations of economic consequences, or any consequences for that matter; though Sweden finally cancelled its earlier planned participation in the sun-dimming project.
Nor is there any accounting for the contracting-out of bio-weapon ‘gain-of-function’ research to the Wuhan Virology Institute. In bio-warfare, unlike nuclear research, offensive and defensive efforts are indistinguishable. Bio-warfare scientists can claim and believe they are helping to counter enemy threats, while an enemy is using the same research to develop bio-weapons, or exploiting the lethality and virulence of a discovery to wreak havoc on other nations. For a mere seven million dollars of U.S. taxpayers’ funds given to the Wuhan Virology Institute bio-weapons laboratory, CDC career bureaucrat Anthony Fauci gained immunity from U.S. oversight of what some scientists at the time knew was insanely risky research. So the research was off-shored, laundering the money through a U.S. cutout posing as the contractor. The CCP, which took over the Wuhan lab soon after its aggressive potential was realized, gained a weapon of immense power and quasi-plausible deniability.
The CCP’s SARS-CoV2 plague killed millions of people, cost trillions of dollars, and inflicted long-term damage on Western social democracy. Like Marx turning Hegel on his head, the Chinese Communists turned that biz-school staple, Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage, on its head, with their strategy of comparative disadvantage. Curtailing domestic travel during January 2020 minimized Chinese losses, while continuing international travel, knowingly and intentionally maximized losses in the rest of the world. The CCP then proceeded to hoard supplies of protective equipment and dribbled out defective versions of them to rest-of-world as ‘gifts’ to enhance virus effects. Now the Faucis and their cronies in medical and bio-research, having demonstrated mind-boggling naivete in trusting CCP scientists, ask us to ‘follow the science’. What can one say? The Tao that can be named is not the Tao.
No one witnessing the tragically inept response of public health authorities to a global plague can wish to abolish scientific or economic judgment. We rely on science to tell us how Nature works, and on economics to distinguish worthwhile from worthless activities. Until recently, these disciplines operated within and subordinate to over-arching precepts of civilization, art, culture, and religion. Absent the guidance provided by these sources of inspiration and restraint, scientists conduct mad experiments to transform the earth and all its inhabitants, merely because taxpayers have placed the technical means at their disposal. An informed public fortified against the inevitable howls of ‘anti-science’ can withdraw this support, at least until a consensus is reached on whether such research as is likely to release a global plague, or damage global food supply, should be done at all.
Those who obtain dominion over us, by whatever means they use — fraud, violence, bribery, demagoguery, virtue-signaling, mass-misinformation, the whole panoply of techniques to buy office and incite the populace against itself — are installed as secular deities. They wield the power to blow up the world, take the means of livelihood from one group and give it to others, bestow honors and titles, determine the fate of industries and enterprises, enable prosperity or impoverishment, bring forth waves of human migration, prod or restrain the forces of civil conflict, and encourage or suppress freedom.
Yet these awesome powers exist only with ‘the consent of the governed’. They are nothing more than the collective will of hundreds of millions of people concentrated in one tightly enclosed nucleus. Unpacking this nucleus without an explosion is the work at hand. Efforts are already underway to redistribute effective common-sense governance to those best equipped to realize it — the people themselves, not a political party, nor a race-based ‘movement’, nor any of the ersatz ‘identities’ littering the social landscape. Business enterprise has great, though seldom-recognized, potential as a system of common-sense governance, as Tom Veblen notes in Imagining a World Governed by Common Sense. Engaging in rewarding and innovative enterprises of merit offers what may be the best chance of undoing the desecration wrought by a frenzy of self-destruction. Organized along sacred principles of association, as all enduring social ties have something of the sacred in them, these working societies in their millions will over time exercise the powers that really belong to them.
We need not ‘run scared’ if we recognize something sacred as the real source of authority in human affairs. I do not refer here to any particular faith — that is up to each person. Whether it is the civic religion inherited from the ancient Greeks and Romans, personal experience of a higher power, faith in a traditional deity, the intuition realized from meditation or prayer, or some other source of inspiration, that is what gives us the courage to act. And it is from such sources that a free society gains strength.