Monday, February 23, 2009

Manic Monday Apocalypso: But, Hey, It's Not Boring

Loudon Wainwright, whom I frequently quote here, has a song called "Talkin' Big Apple '75" where he talks about New York City in a Dylan-esque sing-speak w/harmonica. At the end of the song, he lists all these terrible things about New York--and it's a long list--but then ends with "But, hey! It's not boring!"

Which brings us to this week's MMA: The End Of The World As We Know It. Instapundit linked two apocalyptic scenarios last week (the Global Weimar and yet more about America losing its superpower status, which I can't find, dangit), and of course, a lot of us are a tad agitated about the biggest spending bill in history at a time when we can hardly afford it.

And yet.

The Weimar guy demolishes his own credibility by suggesting "green" companies are going to come out on top. Companies that use resources wisely and not wastefully may come out on top, of course, but I think history favors the rapacious. All out "green"? Unlikely: If you start from an arbitrary and illogical premise, your chances of advancing very far are remote.

The Russian-American guy who write about the end of the USA as a superpower looks at the macro-similarities between the USA and the USSR. And maybe he's right, but a few things bugged me about this essay.

One being, why would we care? The USA has a strong isolationist streak. We, the People, never really wanted to be a superpower in the first place. That's why it's so difficult for us to wage war: We have to get riled up. For most of its history the US has not been a superpower, and has really not cared to be a superpower. (A lot of people think our serious troubles began when we started down that path after WWII.)

But the more important one is a micro-level issue, and it's one that makes me generally optimistic for the future, and not overly concerned with India or China or Russia. It's a matter of freedom.

Not to get all William Wallace here, but America is still the freest country in the world. If you look at regulation and taxation, you might find that we're not, on the books, as free as some other places, depending on the metric used. But as a people, freedom is part of our character.

That is, we expect to not be inhibited from social and economic movement. Can the Indians say that? We expect to not be geographically or politically constrained. Can the Russians and Chinese say that?

Not the governments: They'll happily lie about how free the people are. But can the people--do the people say that? And do they believe it? Is it part of their makeup?

One thing I believe is radically different between today and the Great Depression of 80 years ago: American entrepreneurship is vastly higher than it used to be. It doesn't matter nearly as much as it used to if a big company goes under.

I know that some are constantly fretting about the divide between rich and poor, but the real issue is: Who thinks they can create wealth? Alongside of our saturation of sexual imagery, and food options, and diet options, there's an undercurrent of "Anyone willing to work smart and put some effort into it can make some money, maybe even big money."

The ennui in Europe is characterized by workers striking because the government isn't expansive enough. Here in America, we get upset when the government expands too much. Europe's democracies belie its monarchial history. They want the king to take care of them.

Of course we have that here, as something we've imported and something we inculcate through the schools--how can any government be expected to not do so?--but at our core, we're insulted by the notion. (I'll bet this is something big-state progressives never consider: One reason some conservatives oppose welfare is that it implies that we can take care of our own, or that the government can do it better.)

In my Best of 2008 post, I talk about Defiance, and in the comments you can see that it's basically about a historical apocalypse for the Jews. But their culture survives, and they survive, which is something fairly unique to Judaism.

Whatever happens, I think the culture of freedom can survive as well.

And, hey, whatever happens: it won't be boring.

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