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Trying to develop a democracy before order prevails is like trying to furnish a house before the roof and walls are constructed. And before those walls are built, the foundations must be laid. Within the foreign policy establishment, these things no longer seem to be understood.
Absent civic order, a strong central power is probably the essential starting point. Then that power may be gradually relaxed and decentralized, and the country may reach a stage where law, property, and perhaps even an independent judiciary evolve. Popular voting — with the franchise suitably restricted, as it once was both here and in Britain — may well be necessary, but it is not sufficient. Elections should be thought of as the late-arriving furnishings that add to our comfort, but are not something that can just be put out into the open air in the hope that they will spur the development of sewer lines, water hookups, and tract housing.
It is the delusion of liberals and neoconservatives alike that we can go from the ever-encroaching chaos of Islamization to democracy as we know it by the simple expedient of setting up polling stations. If we really want Iraq to remain as one country, then a dictator surely will be needed to hold it together. That’s where we came in, of course, and we didn’t like what we saw.
The Americans are certainly not up to the task, and sooner or later those in authority in Washington will ask why a country (Iraq) that was created by one great power (Britain after World War I) has to be held together by another (the United States) at a time when colonialism, once admired, is now despised. Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, the best of this year’s Democratic candidates, did say something like that but it did him no good.
CHINA, TO ITS CREDIT, seems to have grasped the idea of sequential development, and so far is managing a successful transition to a market economy, just as Britain once did. But Britain later forgot its own path to prosperity, and after World War II allowed its former colonies in Africa to sink into the mire of socialist planning and expropriation. They have not recovered to this day.
One depressing thought is that national lessons once learned and understood sooner or later are forgotten. Or they are regarded as primitive stages that can be skipped in a more enlightened age. American elites who set forth to save the world these day never did understand their own history. Amazingly, they have even allowed pop singers like the idiotic Bono to show them the way.
I mentioned that the open socialist attack on property has now been replaced by an indirect war in the name of the environment. A deeply rooted antagonism to private property has remained a constant throughout, but it’s worth noting the huge intellectual shift that has taken place.
If Communism was ever to succeed, human nature itself had to be reformed. That the early socialists did understand. But they were filled with an unwarranted confidence that, because they yearned for such a transformation, it would soon happen. Human nature was like “putty,” said a delighted George Bernard Shaw. Lenin was pleased to hear that.
Man was malleable. That was the great socialist faith of the 19th century, shared by Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, and many others. It was a false faith, and after many struggles it died in the gulags and death camps of the 20th century. Mankind, in short, proved to be a huge disappointment to the socialist dreamers.
So much the worse for the human race, then.
THAT IS THE MESSAGE that we now hear — it’s the new anti-faith. To the progressive mind, humans went from being pliable and reformable to stubborn and abominable; driven only by greed, selfishness and avarice. We polluted the environment and despoiled our natural Eden. In short, an absurd, unwarranted optimism was replaced by an extreme pessimism. So disappointing a creature must therefore be dealt with severely: restrained, regulated, contracepted, euthanized, aborted: perhaps even zeroed out.
The title of a recent book discloses the new ideal: The World Without Us. The author, Alan Weisman, doesn’t actually recommend our abolition, but he tells us what a marvelous place the world would be without us. The book’s enthusiastic reception shows the astonishing level of nihilism that surrounds today’s Green movement.
One critic said that Weisman has found that “theoretically wiping humans off the face of the earth intrigues rather than frightens people.” It is “one of the grandest thought experiments of our time,” wrote the dotty Bill McKibben. Alan Weisman said: “There is a secret longing that people have, saying ‘Let’s give it up. What a mess we’ve made just by being alive.’ We’ve redefined original sin.” Eden is reinvented — without Adam and Eve.
Rousseau in the 18th century imagined harmonious societies without property, but they lay in the past. The Communists imagined the same — in the future. In this new godless fantasy there certainly won’t be any property because there won’t be any people at all.
Who finds that intriguing? Not me.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?