The Decline of Rational Self-Interest and The Collapse of Western Civilization
When a civilization fails to preserve itself from threats arising from within, which can be physical, material, or ideological in nature, it is at risk of collapse. This collapse is typically followed by anarchy, and ultimately tyranny; which can be of the mind or by the sword. When a civilization fails to defend itself from threats arising from without, they can be infiltrated or invaded. The civilization can be corrupted, subjugated, absorbed, or destroyed.
Civilizations rise and fall, usually because they become ideologically corrupted. Civilizations are cultural traditions that provide the ideals that city-states, societies, colonies, states, nations, and other polities hold aloft as the guiding light for greatness. They define good and evil, right and wrong, and virtue and vice.
The ancient Greeks had a double-edged word for revolution and stagnation termed stasis. Stasis is that state when an existent polity has stopped believing in fundamental ideals necessary for societal cohesion and order; it is a state of fugue and entropy that disorients the citizenry by removing the institutional, cultural, and traditional framework that gives rise to a relatively predictable, stable, and orderly life. Stasis produces a mental state of aimlessness and desperation for strong leadership; it can give rise to tyranny, military adventurism, and hubris.
Which brings us to the United States, the lynchpin of Western Civilization, and the embodiment of its highest ideals. The United States took the great political and economic ideals of the Enlightenment and with self-awareness and reflection applied them to found a new nation that would shine like a beacon of light into the world. It is important to note that the subsequent rise of Western Civilization did not emerge from a utopian vision of mankind, but one which sees man as a political and vain animal that must be given the opportunity to compete with others for power and wealth, without holding out the possibility of political or economic domination. Thus the Madisonian idea, derived from the Baron de Montesquieu, of divided powers and checks and balances.
Specifically, what we know now as Western Civilization sprung out of ravaging religious wars, a replenishment of neoclassical wisdom, and a rebellion against monarchic domination. It was erected on the foundation of the Enlightenment, with it pillars of Reason and Freedom, which holds that the self-guided approach to truth is the path to societal progress. The philosophies of the Enlightenment hold out the promise of a better, more peaceful and prosperous world by acknowledging that men are capable of knowing their own self-interest and pursuing it, while allowing others the opportunity to do the same. If reasonable men can agree to these rules, then society can become prosperous and enjoyable. If they reject them, then man is locked into a constant political war for resources.
These ideas and ideals can be categorized as “rational self-interest” and extended to imply not only political but also economic principles. Rational self-interest entails mutual cooperation and trade of the fruits of one’s freely chosen labor so that people in a just societal order can pursue happiness of their own accord and allow others to do likewise. The proper and dignified life for man is one of personal challenge and triumph over obstacles, and the laissez-faire economic order provides all but the most helpless, clueless, and lazy the opportunity to eventually succeed. This is not to say that we cannot help one another, but help must be freely given, not coerced by exploitative politicians and their parasitical clients. Which brings us to another aspect of the Enlightenment, economic freedom built on the premise of private property.
Private property is indispensable to freedom, because without private property, one is vulnerable to the whims of the state or the collective. Without private property, one lacks the mental security and the sense of self-determination necessary to work in the confidence that the fruits of one’s labor will not be seized. Furthermore, one must be allowed to own and pursue wealth not only because it is key to freedom and prosperity, but also because it is conducive to peace. When one has the freedom of opportunity to pursue wealth and ascend in social esteem and influence, then one has an alternative to the unabashed struggle for political power, which alternatively would imply economic control. History teaches that when a small group of elites have political and economic control, men are enslaved, persecuted, and oppressed in order for the elites to perpetuate their privileged status in society. Yet many fail to take such a hard-won historical lesson seriously. They fail to understand the historical struggle against tyranny that gave birth to the founding principles of life, liberty, and property.
The United States is in danger today because many have ignored the lessons of the past, which show that civilizations fail when people are no longer able to perceive ideological and existential threats to their political, economic, and social order. America is threatened from within by a socialist ideology and fascistic methodology that sees a merging of the economic and the political. It is also threatened from without by illegal immigrants, who not only do not share America’s language and culture, but impose their cultural and economic demands on the already overburdened taxpaying American citizens; as well as by Islamic fundamentalists, who would not only destroy us physically, but would put us on bended knee to serve their God Allah.
Why do millions of Americans refuse to acknowledge or react to the dire threats to our nation? While many citizens are alarmed at the unchecked growth of government, there are still millions of apathetic, ill-informed, ignorant, parasitical, moderate, or progressive Americans who are unable or unwilling to see the dangers mounting from such growth. They cannot see that the increase of government power is directly related to the multiplication and exacerbation of our problems, which are economic, social, and national security-related. This is because a nation becomes most vulnerable when the majority of people become removed from objective reality through the subversion and perversion of rational self-interest; this is how people’s ability to perceive threats is disabled.
The government uses a number of tactics to disarm people’s willingness or mental awareness to oppose the threat that comes from the growth of its power. It makes government power appear to these people as harmless, compassionate, or even desirable. It uses the false appearance of self-interest to “jujitsu” the system to collapse; it mainly does this by issuing paper money, which appears to be money, but it is not real money (Austrian School economist Ludwig von Mises defined money as a “store of wealth”). Since there is a “deal of ruin” in a nation, as Adam Smith put it, entire generations of Americans can live at the expense of future generations. The industrial base as gutted as people transfer into education, civil service, or bureaucratic jobs, who serve a growing number of clients of the welfare state. Meanwhile, the real economic base that underpins the wealth and success of a nation is eroded, while the central bank continues to flood the country with phony currency. The inevitable result is hyper-inflation, which leads to desperation, chaos, martial law, and tyranny. Thus the clients of the state are living an illusion; they are pursuing an irrational self-interest or are deluding themselves into believing in altruism, the ethic of self-sacrifice for the collective. Those people whose sense of rational self-interest has been corrupted or co-opted by the state, I will classify below:
Bureaucrats and civil servants have a direct stake in the maintenance of the status quo, since their livelihoods depend on it. Growing government does not concern them for two reasons. First of all, because their self-interest appears to be served through expanding government power and influence. Yet their very existence is predicated on the existence of actual producers. This effectively makes them parasitical on society; especially since their services are not necessarily needed or desired. The method to test needs and desires in a free society is in a market, which is just a place where people willingly trade goods and services using sound currency. Second of all, the growth of government increases their power, influence, and job security. Thus they see the need to “produce” never-ending regulations, which themselves create problems, and self-servingly, which “require” more bureaucrats to solve. This is not rational self-interest, which does not lead to the destruction of a political order of freedom and sustained prosperity, but rather a predatory self-interest, which is a violation of the laws and spirit of Western Civilization.
Ignorant and apathetic people from the working class and the middle class are typically a product of a lifestyle of struggling for existence. They are overtaxed, through every kind of tax imaginable; there are taxes for merely working and supporting oneself, known as an “income” tax (“income” used to be defined as “profit”); taxes merely for owning property; taxes for buying goods; taxes for the unfortunate event of death; and apparently there will be taxes merely for exhaling carbon dioxide. Additionally, there is the “hidden tax” of inflation, which is purposefully caused by the Federal Reserve System, a consortium of private banks who profit simply by issuing currency. The currency the working class pursues to make ends meet is constantly declining in value, this can easily be seen by comparing the dollar against gold or a basket of commodities over the last century. Many people work hard just to survive, and therefore desire undiluted entertainment in their free time. This causes them to tune out anything that pierces their bubble of alternate reality, which is a life carried out inside a fantasy world of visual, audio, and interactive fiction. These people are not rational, because they do not “live in truth.”
Parasitical people from the lower class typically have no problem exploiting the system for whatever they can get from it, and they blame their inability to achieve success on those who produce and pay their bills. These people may also be ignorant and apathetic, and typically have poor educations due to a culture that does not prize learning (free libraries being in no short supply in this country). They believe that they can receive “free money” without consequence, but of course are self-deluded and destructive to the society that patronizes them. These people are not rational, because they do not seek the truth; nor are they self-interested because they do not struggle to personally succeed.
The ill-informed are those better “educated” individuals who see prevailing wisdom as emanating directly from the fount of academia and the dominant news media. These people confuse intelligence with expert consensus, and vicariously situate themselves as among the elites, by virtue of education or occupation. They do not rationally challenge the ideas that have been ingrained in them through the government-run education system. Many do not even believe in truth, only the narratives that they perceive are desirable to propagate. These people are the opposite of rational, because they do not seek or even acknowledge truth.
Moderate Americans equate sensibility with easy-goingness. Nothing the government does seems to bother them unless it seems “mean” or “aggressive” toward other people. These people hold that a nation is a collective where people get along at all costs; they thus hold bi-partisanship, compromise, and decorum are the highest virtues a people can have. These “go along to get along” are not rationally self-interested, because they abrogate their opinions to consensus, and believe that rational decisions are made according to deliberation, and are not dictated by truth, logic, and the facts.
Progressives are those who knowingly fuel government expansion, commonly for the reason that they think government can solve most, if not all, the nation’s problems. Such people tend to have no historical perspective and think that whatever happens in the future is necessarily “progressive.” More insidiously, there are those who see America’s past as a dark age, which we should flee as expediently as possible. These people, typically those in academia and in the upper echelons of government, may even purposefully promote policies that are destructive of America’s cultures, traditions, and institution, because limited government provides a barrier to their power.
The underlying ideology of many progressives is altruism, which provides the justification for huge bureaucratic entitlement programs and the provision of grants for non-government organizations (NGOs). Progressives typically cannot survive in a marketplace, which is the mutual trade of goods and services, assuming the self-interest of all parties. Progressives, who are effectively accomplices of the inherently coercive state, look to undermine the free market system by appealing to people’s emotions. The most effective tactic historically has been to persuade people that a self-abrogating altruism is the path to either social grace or eternal nirvana, while rational self-interest means ruthless theft and rapine.
The American government thus over time has created a host of problems by serving people the lie that it is “compassionate” to subsidize failure, thereby prolonging it. Over time, such a dysfunctional and defeatist view of mankind has demoralized the nation and persuaded many people that the “system” is the problem, which in our country is monolithically labeled “capitalism” and given eternal existential status as a scapegoat. Never mind that the U.S. long ago abandoned any semblance of respecting basic principles of a market capitalism, such as private property and sound currency.
The ultimate result of the corruption of rational self-interest is the collapse of the American system of ordered liberty, and, due to the ignoble state of all of Europe, the demise of Western Civilization. If America is lost, a great beacon of light on the world would be snuffed out.
The main source of corruption in the United States and Western Civilization as a whole is not socialism but nihilism, which begat both moral relativism and pragmatism. This nihilism opens people’s minds up to explore all sorts of possibilities for radically “transforming” the country (including socialism; both on the slow path and the fast track), which essentially entails destroying the country, not “reforming” it. (See Edmund Burke’s “Reflections on the Revolution in France” for why this is dangerous.)
Reinforcing both pessimism and desperation, the distant past (and as the discontents become more radical, even the recent past) is steeped in revisionist mythology that places undue emphasis on societal foibles and errors so that the nation’s history appears unrelentingly bad, and surely a brighter future lies ahead nearly no matter what we do, as long as it is “change.”
Well, the politicians do seek “change,” from the free and prosperous country people have taken for granted, to tyranny and despotism, cloaked in the wooly maternalistic parlance that many are are mentally unequipped to pierce. Specifically, this is not because all of them are inherently stupid or even ignorant, but because they apparently lack the critical faculties of self-interest and judgment, and this is by the statist’s designs.
Who knows how many years the majority of us are taught everything opposite from those philosophical truths conducive to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, reinforced by the news media, Hollywood, friends, possibly family? Or even worse, that there is no such thing as “truth”? But there is truth in life, and it can only be reached by applying one’s rational faculties toward discovering it for oneself.
The problem with this country is not that people who believe in the Constitution and are willing to defend their individual rights stand for something, but that their political opposition stand for nothing. It is not noble or brave to attain power by making the false claim that everyone can get whatever they want without either earning it or paying the price for it. This is the opposite of rational self-interest, which is the keystone of Western Civilization. Remove that keystone, and everything comes crashing to the ground. Once again, civilizations rise and fall, usually because they become ideologically corrupted and the people fail to defend themselves from threats arising both from within and abroad.
While standing on principle will always seem like dogmatism or extremism to the vapid and the vacuous, the conservative will always see soft-minded idealists (meaning those who are not rooted in objective reality) who buy the statists’ heady but ultimately vain promises as manipulable dupes. Such people are prime targets for collectivists, who rise to power by indulging delusional fantasies, which are a consequence of people’s lack of rational self-interest. We must re-educate our fellow Americans to discover this self-empowering ethic of rationality and the true meaning of self-interest, or America, and by extension, all of Western Civilization, will be lost. The result will not be a new dawn, as the progressives believe, but a return to the dark despotism of the past; first of the mind, and then by the sword.