Source: Chet Richards
“There is a great deal of ruin in a nation.” So said the Scottish economist, Adam Smith. When Adam Smith talks about a “great deal of ruin,” he is saying a successful nation has a large margin, or cushion, between its current condition and its destruction.
America, spanning a continent as it does, is blessed with an abundance of natural resources. In practice, those natural margins exist only because people have the skills needed to exploit those resources and trust in one another. That said, America’s resources make it possible for our nation to be independent of the rest of the world should that become necessary.
There is an old joke that food comes from the supermarket. There must be some magician in the back room who waves his wand and creates all the wonders we find on the shelves.
The reality is even more fantastic. There is an astoundingly complex web of human skills and interactions that lie behind each of the products offered by the market. It is a network of trust.
Consider a loaf of bread. Farmers plant and grow wheat using tools, water, and fertilizer. Those tools, in turn, require the skills of heavy industry to fabricate, and they require energy to run. The energy mainly comes from petroleum products. This requires more skills, tools, and industrial support. Wheat must be delivered to bakeries and then to the markets. This, too, requires energy. Finally, sophisticated organizing and financing make all this possible. Some magic wand, don’t you think?
And all this is for just one product. Our highly complex civilization now depends equally on the fantastic web of information technology as well as hands-on skills and trust. This makes civilization increasingly fragile. Break the complex web, and there is no recovery.
Some people just don’t get it. Many political types believe that our margins are infinite, that nothing can destroy our network of trust: The nation will always survive, no matter what they do. This is false. Mismanagement can dissipate a nation’s margin. Nations fall, empires fall, entire cultures are swept into oblivion. It can happen to us as well.
The common man and his skills, not the politician, is the one who really counts. Unfortunately, these skills are now mostly lacking among today’s wealth-sheltered political and corporate leaders. Few of these leaders understand the nature of the society they are managing. Effective leadership happens when the leaders have worked their way up through the ranks and have mastered each part of the enterprise. What we need, and rarely have, are leaders who have actually gotten their hands dirty. How about someone who knows how to drive a bulldozer and work a backhoe? How about someone who has taken great risks and has built a successful business from scratch? Anyone we know?
Democracy can function only in an environment of trust. Trust is the glue of society. Sadly, in recent years, trust has been deliberately frayed almost to the breaking point by those clueless leaders.
In a healthy society, most of us trust our family. We trust that those we meet in passing intend no harm. As students, we trust our teachers. As employees, we trust our bosses and value our colleagues. As citizens, we trust our elected leaders. We trust that government is our servant. We trust that elections are fair. We trust that businesses exist to serve us. We trust that the value of the dollar is secure. We trust that justice is impartial. We trust that we will remain free.
How much of this do we still trust?
Loss of trust is induced mainly by Progressives. They beset us with a litany of destructive fantasies: climate catastrophy, Critical Race Theory, cancel culture, wokeness, transgenderism, Defund the Police. All these are intended to control us. It is no surprise that these cultish ideologies originated in the academic social sciences. Just glance at their turgid technical literature to understand why.
Naturally, all these utopian ideas are a magnet for the neurotic left. These notions posit an ideal world. But such a world, having reached supposed perfection, is static, despotic, and unstable. Civilization cannot survive stasis. Modern society is, by nature, dynamic. Stability, as opposed to stasis, requires constant adaptation to a rapidly changing environment.
In any competent army, it is the sergeants who win the battle, not the generals. In a complex society, only at the lowest levels is the needed information available, and the reactions are quick enough to maintain dynamic stability. Key decisions are made at the bottom of society, not at the top. This is the dynamism of the free market.
At government and corporate policy levels, the information and speed of response are simply not there. A stable modern society must be free and democratic — not authoritarian. The political class must be servants, not masters.
Freedom is the antithesis of Utopia. After all, if people are free to do what they please, then the result is certain to be chaotic. So believe the progressive utopians. An ordered, static society cannot tolerate chaotic freedom. Actually, the supposed chaos of a free society is self-organization in action. Free people make a multitude of decisions, which, collectively, keep things going.
So why does this work? There is collective wisdom in crowds. People have a myriad of life experiences. But there are some underlying factors that shape us all and influence our judgments. Democracy, together with the free market, distills those hidden factors. It keeps society on a relatively stable and successful foundation.
But this dual foundation is abhorrent to the dark-age utopians. How can there be the desired static tranquility with all this democratic froth? Whatever they may say, progressives loathe democracy. And they will do their utmost to destroy it. Their behavior in the 2020 election, and since, proves the point.
I don’t know who won the 2020 presidential election. But I have a pretty good idea who did. Progressives tell me who really did by their behavior: they adamantly refuse to allow fair audits of the election. You oppose an audit only if you know you have cheated enough to win. And we know from overwhelming testimony that cheating was rampant.
And for the past two years, we have been the victims of a totalitarian experiment: the COVID emergency. If, three years ago, someone had predicted that a two-week emergency declaration to “flatten the curve” would stretch into two full years of tyrannical government oppression, he would have been laughed out of town. Yet it happened.
The mechanism used to gain obedience was to induce fear. Fear works: many people still wander around wearing placebo masks.
People have been jailed, businesses ruined, careers destroyed, life savings obliterated, children abused, and many lives lost from drug addiction, suicides and compulsory inoculation with an experimental “vaccine.” Our human skill margins have been depleted; our trust has been eroded. All this because some unethical bureaucrats in the government gave unscrupulous politicians the excuse to impose flat-out tyranny in response to a medical emergency. Progressives applaud. Let’s make this situation permanent, they say.
Almost as bad as government malfeasance, Big Tech delights in its power of censorship. They used it to distort information about the COVID pandemic. That worked, so why not go whole hog and forbid all discussion of disagreeable ideas? Power and control — it feels wonderful! There is no freedom in a society with effective censorship.
COVID hit the country’s trust in other ways. Profligate spending to cover for government shutting down the economy during these two years has driven the debt to an unsustainable level. Inflation is higher than the 1970s. Most people are being unconstitutionally robbed by this inflation (Fifth Amendment). At the same time, with government sponsored illegal immigration, our Constitution’s protection against foreign invasion (Article 4, Section 4) has been subverted.
For the majority of our citizens, trust in this administration and its politicized agencies has been broken. Polls predict an electoral bloodbath in the next two elections. Let us hope so. That will be part of the correction necessary to regain the health of society and rebuild our devastated margins. May these elections put us on track to restore our free nation, regain our individual freedom, and renew our trust.