When electroshock revives a heart attack victim, nobody pretends the resuscitation has cured the patient, it has only prevented him from dying. The heart attack may have been caused by overeating, smoking, stress, drinking, or lack of exercise. The physician will prescribe various drugs, but a true cure requires dramatic lifestyle changes and perhaps counseling to understand why the patient engages in self-destructive behavior.
A good portion of the American electorate wants to administer electroshock to a bloated, sclerotic government. A smaller percentage recognize that the patient’s symptoms will be terminal absent drastic and immediate changes. A relative handful are interested in diagnosing the philosophical and intellectual root causes responsible for the morbid deterioration.
Hillary Clinton is the embodiment of the disease, the obese grotesquerie who fills two trays at the all-you-can-eat buffet and goes back for seconds, thirds, desserts, and multiple refills of the Diet Coke. She has never met a domestic program or a foreign war she didn’t embrace, and the chance that she would shrink the government’s girth and power is infinitesimal. The corpulent state has made her and her husband quite wealthy and rewarded their cronies. Hillary and her party stand for nothing more than more: government, power, and corruption. Any noises she might make about curbing the government are just that—noise—the Diet Coke washing down the feast.
That’s not to say that the other party is any less committed to more government. While it has bloviated for decades about entitlement and welfare reform, such spending—even during years it controlled Congress and the presidency—has risen without interruption. The welfare and warfare states are the apples of Democrats’ and Republicans’ eyes, respectively, but in grand “bipartisanship,” or more correctly unipartyism, both branches support each other’s profligate pandering, prevarication, and payola.
Supposed flame thrower Donald Trump has already pledged not to cut Social Security, which is now the largest item in the federal budget, pays out more than it takes in, and will suck up an additional $60 billion every year as the baby boomers reach their golden years. Where, the Cato Institute asks, will the money come from? “Pointing only to ‘waste, fraud, and abuse,” as Trump does, wastes our time, abuses our intelligence, and is a fraudulent story line to peddle,” is its derisive reply. Has there been an election the last 50 years where candidates have not promised to fund their promises by eliminating that unholy trinity? Has the unholy trinity done anything but grow?
This election’s “solutions” to symptoms of American decay and decline are palliatives that fail to identify even immediate causes, much less philosophical defaults. Immigration is Donald Trump’s signature issue. (Hillary Clinton does not have a signature issue, other than the necessity for a woman president.) A rational immigration policy would welcome capable immigrants with valuable skills, including entrepreneurial know-how, and exclude people most likely to soak up benefits, commit crimes, or wreak terrorist havoc. The US does not have a rational policy, and Trump has made political hay highlighting some of its deficiencies.
However, a wall on the Mexican border and prohibiting Muslim entry into the US are bandaids, and neither Trump nor any of the other remaining candidates have detailed the reasons for unwanted immigration. Hand out freebies and both citizens and immigrants—some of whom have entered the country illegally—will line up. If you fight never-ending wars against drugs and terror that turn foreign lands into hellholes you shouldn’t be too surprised when immigrants from those lands show up on your doorstep. Some of them may not appreciate the justice of your cause, or may consider you an infidel, or may have arrived with the express purpose of destroying your way of life, and may take subversive or violent actions against you.
If Trump wants to dispel his image as a shoot-from-the-hip intellectual lightweight and really inflame the powers that be, he should question the welfare state and the wars on drugs and terror, not just on practical but philosophical grounds. On the practical side, they are bankrupting the country and destroying the economy. None of the candidates are talking much about the US’s $19 trillion plus stated debt, or its somewhere between $100 and $200 trillion in unfunded pension and medical liabilities, even as Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Puerto Rico et al. provide previews of coming attractions. None of them are pointing out the obvious: debt has become a millstone dragging down the US, and global, economy. Instead, all of the candidates’ proposals would add to government’s debt. They have their fingers crossed, hoping that the Federal Reserve perpetual-motion exchange of it’s thin air debt for the government’s will somehow delay the reckoning for their eight years.
It won’t; it probably won’t delay it for the eight months before the election. When it arrives, bandaids won’t work. Somebody is going to have to do the intellectual heavy lifting, addressing the issue: what should a government do? That entails philosophic toil, and the correct answers rest on a foundation of reason, individual rights, and subordinated, limited government. If some are to be robbed to provide for others, then there are no individual, equal rights: we can’t all claim a “right” to be supported. Liberty is a dead letter when a government intervenes in every aspect of its people’s lives, including what they put in their own bodies, and employs bribery, espionage, subversion, and warfare to reorder the rest of the world according to its dictates. Civil liberties and rights cannot coexist with mass surveillance and suppression of expression deemed politically incorrect. There is no such thing as “minority rights” that justifiably infringe individual rights; the smallest minority is one, the individual.
To the best of their reasoning powers, the founding fathers wrestled with questions of individual rights and the design of a government that would protect them. None of this campaign’s candidates are going beyond bromides and slogans, superficially addressing problems while not considering even the first order reasons for those problems. They are not within nuclear blast range of the underlying philosophical decay and neglect that has put the nation in extremis.
Saying you will make America great again, or that America is still great, means nothing if you have no idea what actually made America great in the first place. It had nothing to do with “more” or cradle-to-grave, the American Imperium, democratic socialism, time for a woman, or the art of the deal. If this is to be a campaign of slogans, it would at least offer a measure of solace if baseball hats read: Get the Hell Out of Our Way!, Leave Us Alone!, or Don’t Tread on Me! Unfortunately, such truly revolutionary sentiments are not on display, much less a truly revolutionary philosophy. Anyone expecting revolutionary results will be sorely disappointed.
WHAT DID MAKE AMERICA GREAT?