The American Dream does not actually require a red, white and blue flag or a dream. What it requires is a willingness to accept messiness.
Messiness is another word for chaos. And no one likes chaos. Chaos means that in the richest country in the world some people will be illiterate, others will be homeless and some will accidentally set themselves on fire because the fireworks don’t come with enough safety warnings.
Those aren’t good things. They’re not things that governments and the squeaky wheels who make governments what they are think should be tolerated. They’re messy.
Messy is all those things that people say someone should do something about, by which they don’t mean themselves. What they really mean is that we should be living in a more orderly society. And an orderly society is one where things don’t just happen. You have to file eight forms, duck six committees and debate four non-profits to have any chance of getting things done. And even then you probably won’t.
Orderly societies have nailed down all the loose ends. There are fewer homeless people, mainly because they are now living in sixty thousand dollar per inmate shelters designed by progressive architects, but there are also fewer errand boys becoming Andrew Carnegie. What is really being lost is social mobility. The ladder up.
Meritocracy requires chaos. An orderly society isn’t chaotic, it’s stratified. The power has been parceled out to all the people who should have it. And there’s only so much to go around. Newness is a threat because new things are unpredictable. They’re chaotic. They disrupt the power structure.
The liberal argument is largely an argument for a society consolidated around government in service to progressive ideals. It’s a tidy world in which governments and non-profits consume an always increasing share of everything else until there isn’t anything else because it’s been consolidated. The end result of that process however isn’t progressive. It’s tribal.
Power naturally consolidates along personal lines, not political lines. A society may begin by consolidating power so that all the non-profits can help the homeless and the people who can’t read fireworks instructions, but, in a peculiar phenomenon, the homeless never seem to get helped much and fireworks accidents keep happening.
The phenomenon isn’t really peculiar at all. Humanitarian work is a job that exists to eliminate itself. The only way to keep a job dedicated to solving the problem is to perpetuate the problem. Or to redefine the problem on a larger scale. All that is familiar enough from any number of non-profits and government agencies that exist to remind people to care about a problem that they don’t care about.
Redefining the problem on a larger scale means more money, more power and more control. Any problem, whether it’s homelessness, illiteracy or crime is a social problem and can only be solved by taking a holistic approach to everything. A city, a country and a world become a giant puzzle that can only be solved by manipulating all the pieces into place in the right order. The only way to solve the problems that never get solved is through total control over every human being on earth.
Power can only be consolidated ideologically for so long. Both the Russian and Chinese Communist revolutions eventually collapsed into familial profiteering. China’s Princes and Russia’s KGB clans brought down Communism in both countries and resurrected it as profiteering oligarchies eager to live the good life.
To some measure, Capitalism beat Communism, but more accurately tribalism beat internationalism, powerful men built systems that lock in privileges for their friends and families while tossing out the lefty ideologies that allowed their grandfathers to get close to those privileges. It’s an old story and it’s how the progressive experiments in the ideological consolidation of power will end here.
Power is personal. As is wealth. A system that consolidates enough power turns tribal as fathers look to pass on their privileges to their children until, like so many social services agencies, the system exists for the sake of the system.
Tribal systems are not meritocracies. They aren’t interested in talent, but in a sense of order that derives from the consolidation of power. Their idea of civilization does not lie in their arts or sciences, only in the orderliness of power. Only when chaos assails them, is talent released out into the wild where unpredictable things happen. But the chaotic period passes and the old patterns assert themselves again strangling the wildness and consolidating it.
Despite the proliferation of wild communications technologies, our society is becoming more medieval. We have guilds, a secular clergy and a population too fragmented for nationalism. Republics are giving way to feudalism as people value being cared for more than opportunity. Even the old religious wars are returning with the special forces as our knights, the skyscrapers as our castles and the dole keeping the peasants on the urban voting farm.
Much of the progressive infrastructure exists to eliminate competition. Jobs and higher education are assigned by race, gender, orientation union membership and political affiliation. Starting a business grows harder each year without political connections. Success has less to do with the marketplace, than with the political picture.
The entire “You Didn’t Build That” platform is about the end of competition. Policy statements like that lay out the proper place of the individual. Success doesn’t come from competition, but from the decisions made by the government. If the decisions are wise, then competition is unnecessary. If they are unwise, then competition is futile.
The merit in meritocracy doesn’t come from individual striving tested against the real world, but from the decision making process of political leaders. Merit is redefined, not in terms relevant to the field, but to the bigger political picture. It’s not a matter of the best engineer, businessman or architect, but the engineer, businessman or architect whose identity and vision are harmonious with the big picture.
Holistic think global and act local politics of that nature is very orderly, in that it has no room for the individual. It is too concerned with the forest to care about a tree, let alone the lumberjack or the family that needs an affordable home. And the outcome of that mass dehumanization is a politics in which only the people in the inner circle of power are truly human and truly matter.
China and the Soviet Union killed millions for ideas and then finally for personal power. The end of a system that dehumanizes millions for a collective is a system that dehumanizes millions for the few who run it, the few who really matter and the few whose decisions build everything. Once you reduce the worth of a society to the few philosopher-kings, the commissars of correctness and the technocratic czars, then it becomes very easy to dump all the ideas that got them there and fall back on the old notions that some people are better than others.
Progressivism is about the management of chaos through the impersonal means of government authority. Eliminate enough of the chaos and what remains is a stultifying order that is not based on reason, but on power. The more power is consolidated in the name of something, the more institutions are mobilized to achieve its goals and the more every aspect of life is centralized, the less room there is for the wild creative chaos that moves societies forward through great leaps and bounds.
Civilization is haunted by the old industrial utopian idea that a rational society will be completely managed from the top down. Every progressive goal depends on a rigid system of authority that answers to calls from some civilian non-profits run by community organizers playing the role of the old soviets. The soviets were an illusion. A country was never going to be run by them. It was going to be run by powerful men like Lenin or Stalin who took control of the revolutionary chaos and imposed their own murderous order.
The progressive state is not going to be run by people who want more homeless shelters or more illegal immigration or more abortions. Those people are useful for putting the system into place by giving it the illusion of popular will, but they are unwanted once that has taken place. Once the power has been consolidated, the flimsy coalitions of activists who got it there quickly become a nuisance.
The trouble with all this isn’t humanitarianism. It’s not wrong to care about others. It is wrong to pass that caring off to an impersonal bureaucracy or to set up a system of mandatory caring or to disrupt the lives of others on a massive scale out of spiteful self-righteousness because they don’t care enough. That is why studies show that while conservatives give charity, liberals give government.
A rational view of society begins with accepting an imperfect world. A demand for a rational society however is the irrational belief that government can perfect people. But how can government perfect people when it is made up of imperfect people? Consolidate power under a small number of people and their ranks will grow smaller and they will act no differently than every pharaoh, king and czar throughout history.
Worse than the tyranny is the death of so much of the energy that makes the next step possible. The managed chaos, the thin line between government intervention and anarchy based on a few documents, common sense and a national ethos is what made the American Dream possible. That dream is being strangled by the bureaucratic collectivism of liberal technocrats who imagine that piling one more institution, one more level of regulation and one more set of rules will produce only pros without the cons, product without pollution, wealth without poverty and good without evil.
The progressive consolidation imagines that organization can contain the messier side of man. Mostly it cannot. Instead organizations consolidate power in the hands of men who are worse than average in the name of improving mankind.
The end of competition is the beginning of tyranny.
Originally published at Sultan Knish.
About the Author: Daniel Greenfield is an Israeli born blogger and columnist, and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. His work covers American, European and Israeli politics as well as the War on Terror. His writing can be found at http://sultanknish.blogspot.com/. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press.
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