"Why don't you call me?" The young have never communicated with their elders as much as their elders have wished that they would. Lately, though, the generational schism has widened. Oldsters who don’t keep up with the electronic fads of the young are excommunicated with a shrug.
“I keep up with my friends through Facebook, Ma."
"But son, I'm not on Facebook."
"Well, Ma, that's your decision."
More and more people want to be paid for their goods and services in cash instead of by checks or credit cards. Why? Obviously, to avoid onerous taxes. Cash can’t easily be traced.
Now the push is on to make cash obsolete, so that all transactions become traceable. Government loves the idea, natch. So do all those companies that sell your most sensitive and personal data. If you think private, untraceable electronic currencies will provide a workaround, forget it. The government can ban such currencies with the stroke of a pen.
But people are inventive. Look for a modest rise in barter -- goods and services given in exchange for other goods and services.
Or maybe not so modest. It isn’t convenient for an entire economy to run on barter, or even mostly on barter, because barter is so inefficient. But if the government can’t shake its addiction to multi-trillion-dollar expenditures, we may come pretty close. That’s what happens in countries with hyperinflation, where every day money plunges in value.
Someday you may receive your salary in potatoes. And be glad to have them.
As the shame and terror in Afghanistan unfold, every day worse than the last -- as we watch the president of the United States crumbling before our eyes -- the reasons for calling him a coward seem compelling. For three reasons, I resist joining this cry.
The first concerns Mr. Biden personally. A coward flees from danger. Mr. Biden is safe and at ease. Though he is abandoning thousands who are in peril of their lives, he is not at risk. He does not rise to the level of cowardice. He sinks some degrees beneath it.
The second concerns our political classes. To pin the accusation of cowardice on Mr. Biden alone is to deny the perfidy of his partners, enablers, and predecessors. A great many experienced persons in responsible positions, both in the military and in the political branches of the government -- persons who ought to have resigned and gone loudly public rather than be complicit in this bloody farce -- have instead chosen to give him cover. Although the epicenter of the hurricane of spin lies in his own party, we have seen time and time again that the other party is not much better, in this and in other matters. The horror in Afghanistan illuminates the fact that our political classes have horribly failed.
The third concerns us all. We retain at least the trappings of a republic, and we empowered these people. Though we watch with shame not only the abandonment of our friends abroad but the unravelling of our social order at home, we cannot bring ourselves to pay attention to anything for long. Reality impresses itself upon us with scarcely more force than reality television. We watch social and international conflicts the way we would watch pro wrestling.
The scythe arcs down with such terrible swiftness. I used to wonder whether my grandchildren would escape the final destruction; then whether my children would; now I wonder whether my contemporaries will.
It is not entertaining when a writer repeats himself, but what we are experiencing is judgment. If we will not grasp that, we will grasp nothing. We are being judged not so much for the imaginary evils for which violent, deranged thugs despise the country, but for the real evils we have cuddled to our bosoms. We are just beginning to have the government we deserve.
Politics matters, make no mistake. But what we need is not just a different president, not just a political reform, but sorrow, soul-searching, and conversion. The rest -- let us hope -- will follow.
President Biden is, to be sure, some kind of Catholic, as the Jewish atheist is some kind of Jew, or the anarchist who wishes to destroy his country is some kind of citizen, or the theologian who teaches in the name of Christ while denying His deity and His resurrection is some kind of Christian, or the cancerous cell is some part of the body it is killing. If possession of some kind of religious sensibility, even an intense sensibility, is the proper mark of devotion, then perhaps one cannot even deny that Biden, Speaker Pelosi, and Catholics like them are “devout.” But this does not stop them from being very bad Catholics, servants of God in the same way Satan is, or bloody-minded enemies of the Church of which they are officially members in good standing, and which is replete with bishops who have no qualms about offering them communion.
Editorial, “Here We Remain,” Touchstone (July/August, 2021).
Many conservatives have come to believe that the domination of our political system by the executive and judiciary would be fine, if only the executive and judiciary did the right things. Thus is it argued that since there is now a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, judicial restraint has had its day, and all we need is a conservative chief executive who will toss out mandates the way Roman nobles flung coins to the crowd – that is, the way Progressive chief executives do.
I find the part about conservatives in the judiciary difficult to fathom. You don’t find that (somewhat) conservative majority on the Supreme Court revoking the constitutionally fraudulent doctrine of a private right to lethal violence against babies, do you? And if Mr. Trump is still the best standard-bearer the (supposedly) conservative party can come up with, the trouble on the Right is very deep indeed.
But suppose the premise were correct. The conclusion would still be wrong.
Yes, of course, the Progressive nostrums foisted upon the enfeebled republic by courts and administrators are abominations. But we have two problems, not one: Not only what is decided, but how it is decided. So long as we still aspire to a republic, prudential judgments for the common good should be made primarily by legislatures, not by the executive and judiciary. Making them is the meaning of legislation. Only those judgments should be left to judges and administrators that further specific legislative intentions in ways that the law allow.
I willingly concede that no one, in any branch, should be compelled to carry out a legislative enactment that violates the natural law. Even so, it is one thing for judges to refuse to give force to such an enactment, or for administrators to resign rather than to do so -- and another for them to set their own judgments in place of it.
The thing to do with a corrupt legislature is reform it, not wipe it out. True, we hardly function as a republic any more. But we have not yet reached the point – at least I don’t think we have reached the point -- where we should abandon all hope of working our way back to one.
I’ve just posted the audio recording of a talk on “The Architecture of Law” that I gave to the Sołek Academic and Cultural Center, Poznań, Poland, in June, 2021. It’s the first item on the Listen to Talks page of this website, and yes, it’s in English, not Polish.
If you’d like to hear it, alas, you won’t be able to view the slides, but you can still understand what I’m talking about by keeping your eyes glued to this larger version of the diagram above. Happy listening! And fraternal greetings to all of my readers in Poland.
The truth is, it does not occur to our elites that the world they wish to impose on the Taliban might be only slightly less morally repugnant than the world the Taliban wish to impose on Afghanistan. Our leaders govern societies that systematically deny the rights of the unborn and the elderly, that aggressively violate their citizens’ rights of free speech and free exercise of religion. They seek to create a world where parents have almost no rights over the education and rearing of their children, where toxic ideologies about race and transgenderism are forced on young and old alike, and parents are afraid to oppose these ideologies for fear of the state.
In other words, they do not really believe the things they say about rights, equality, and dignity. They are morally bereft. That’s why, when confronted by the bloody moral absolutism of the Taliban, they sputter nonsense and do nothing.
John Daniel Davidson, “The Afghanistan Debacle Has Exposed the Moral Bankruptcy of the West,” The Federalist (19 August 2021).