Events of the past several years up close could be compared to individuated and discrete dots, each circumscribed by itself alone, each self-contained and even comprehensible. The housing bubble. The financial crisis. The energy crisis. The financialization of the American economy. Our colleges as beer-and-sports luxury purchases. “Globalization.” 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Federal Reserve’s printing presses. China. India. Europe’s empty churches and cradles. TARP. Cash-for-clunkers. Gold at $1,100 an ounce. The Federal Stimulus plan. The United States, indispensable yet teetering.

Seen from something of a distance – from a point of “perspective” – all these points, and many others, come into focus as an example of “pointillism,” a comprehensible picture in which many discrete points, seen from a distance, converges into a picture altogether more comprehensive and even distinct. The picture being portrayed is the end of Western liberalism, and the beginning of something rather different – something yet without a name – but which I’ll call authoritarian capitalism for shorthand.

At the end of the first decade of the 21st-century, accumulating evidence points to the decline not only of America, but the operating assumption of a market-based, liberal nation-state that has operated over the hundred and fifty or so years. That system – whose philosophical groundwork was laid in the latter part of the eighteenth-century, but which began in earnest with the industrial revolution in the mid-nineteenth century – argued in essence that two seemingly incompatible ends could be achieved.

First, it was held that modern society should be built around the goal of material prosperity – “the relief of the human estate,” in Bacon’s phrase, or “commodious living,” in Hobbes’s articulation. Human ingenuity and the rise of modern science aimed toward maximizing the ability of humans to manipulate and control the natural world, and to extract from it hitherto unimaginable bounties for life.

Second, particularly with arguments posed by John Locke and the Framers, as well as the thought of many thinkers in the Scottish Enlightenment, it was held that political sovereignty rested in the will of the people, and that political systems ultimately derived their legitimacy from the consent of the governed. This basic insight (which had some relationship to medieval theories of constitutionalism, albeit without a concept of “human will” at its core) laid the groundwork for theories of modern democracy, including periodic elections, theories of rights-based individualism, and eventually a form of liberal welfare-statism that would ensure the basic material conditions of life needed for participation in the political and civic order.

The result were two theories in pronounced tension, if not outright contradiction, with one another. The first claim recognized that practical inequality was the likely result: as people’s talents and abilities were permitted maximum distinction in an environment of opportunity and progress, some would achieve great rewards, and others would risk too much or accomplish too little. Prosperity with pronounced social inequality and societal instability was the anticipated outcome. The second claim allowed for the full expression of grievances over those unequal outcomes, with the strong possibility that the popular sovereign would demand some form of equalization of outcome.

Classical political science had long understood that any such extreme and permanent forms of social inequality and instability led to social unrest and ultimately endangered the viability of private property. For this reason, political democracy was thought to be incompatible with significant forms of material inequality. Where extensive forms of inequality existed – typically in large-scale regimes, most often various forms of empire – it was believed that a strong form of autocratic rule was essential. A strong distinction between republic and empire was one inheritance of classical political science, in acknowledgment of the political incompatibility of political equality and social stratification.

The new political science introduced a third element into the mix: growth. Economic growth was the bribe that Stratification offered to Equality. In return, Equality agreed largely to respect the boundaries of rights to private property (though, truth be told, in times of economic stress, this relationship would become strained and Stratification would need to offer an additional pay-off to Equality, e.g., The New Deal). As long as economic growth tempted Equality enough that it might benefit from Stratification, the bargain held. America seemed to be a story of economic AND political progress, a constant increase in PROSPERITY and EQUALITY all powered by GROWTH.

Trouble was: until the latter part of the 20th-century, American growth was premised upon unrelenting ravaging of the resources of the continent. Everywhere something of value could be found, it was extracted and exploited. America largely eschewed the wars of imperialism (largely, though not entirely), a) because it was able to recategorize a domestic form of imperialism as its manifest destiny leading to the “Empire of Liberty,” and b) the resulting continental amassing of property had more than enough resources to exploit without engaging in the kind of foreign imperial project required of the Europeans. At the same time, the regime became ever more “democratic,” as political rights and even forms of State obligations were extended to ever more classes of people – the propertyless, former slaves (whose labor was replaced by machines and the energy slaves that powered them), women, immigrants, youth, and so on. A narrative of Progress (powered by Growth) hid the fundamental tension of the regime from view.

In 1971, the United States simultaneously produced as much oil as it would ever produce (hitting its point of domestic peak production) and produced an elaborate theory that philosophically justified a permanent institutionalized form of property-redistribution that at once a) would ensure the pacification of the least-well off, and b) continued to permit systemic inequality (I speak here of John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice and his famous “difference principle”). I do not think it was a matter of mere coincidence that these two events occurred at the same historical moment: this was, oddly, the high water mark of the marriage between Stratification and Equality, a kind of celebration of their compatibility even as it also marked the beginning of their long separation. The continental growth that had depended on resource exploitation – above all, oil – was beginning its long descent, and with it a mad scramble to replace it with various kinds of fixes that only ensured further and more severe forms of stratification – the “unlocking of shareholder value”; outsourcing; the “symbolic-analytic” economy; the ramping up of the meritocratic educational system, and the accompanying insanity and corruption of our universities; the “financialization” of the economy; a debt culture that began in earnest with the Presidency of Ronald Reagan and reached its culmination (if not its final act) in the Autumn of 2008; and the expansion of the American military umbrella which, above all, protected sources of “foreign oil” that the empire simultaneously required for its maintenance and which it maintained through the enforcement of empire. America was on its way to foreclosure, but before that happened, those with enough know-how, cleverness, and the advantage of unscrupulousness would do what would become common in many instances of foreclosure: they would strip the domicile of everything of worth, leaving only a shell of worthless material that could barely house and protect anyone who happened to be left behind. It was a Made-off economy.

All the major players knew that the “social contract” between Stratification and Equality was teetering, but that it could be propped up a while longer with further pay-offs. For years these pay-offs had no longer come out of “current use” funds – those funds were becoming too precious, and without prospect for long-term increase – to be used to pay off the demands of Equality. Instead, pay-offs were increasingly made using future funds, the presumed inheritance and legacy of generations not born, all added to a running tab called “the deficit” or (most amusingly) the Social Security “Trust Fund.” A massive fiction called “the National Debt” was sold to the rising nation of China, who – for lack of better savings depot – decided to buy out its only real competitor, biding its time for the day when it would own the West. Monetary policy was devised to create a series of oscillating bubbles, each popping ever more closely to the previous, each one indicating a growing frenzy to get what one can while one could. Fearing electoral backlash, the political classes continued to buy enough votes to bring its success in the next election, and the money-masters financed that auction in return for 1,070 blind eyes.

Without the advantage of a crystal ball, I suspect we will be looking at a New World Order within a decade. Writing at the eve of 2020, we will look back on the first score of the 21st century and see more clearly than we do now that “regime change” was afoot – albeit not the sort we might have imagined when that phrase entered the common parlance. The massing evidence that still requires a conclusion suggests that the 21st century will signal the end of the arrangement of the past 150 or so years. The marriage of Stratification and Equality will unravel, and I fear that it will not be a friendly parting. As is often the case in ugly divorces, those of us – friends of each spouse – will be forced to choose which we will remain our friend, for the other will finally brook no communication with the other. And all the evidence to date suggests that the choice will be difficult: we will not want to choose either, loving aspects of both while fearful of offending the other. We will try to remain friends of each until the bitter end, and – predictably – will end up driving both away.

The future will be China, and the new world order. That arrangement is deadly realist about the incompatibility of Stratification and Equality. It has embraced a future of Prosperity without a sentimental glance at the worn bride, Equality. It has ruthlessly elected to engage in the remaining prospects of worldwide resource exploitation, and will do so unburdened by the often tragi-comic efforts of the West to maintain the fiction that this effort can be finally made compatible with a marriage to Equality.

The choice facing America today is grim: it shows every sign of a willingness to embrace the Chinese model, a model it will likely choose to remain “competitive,” but also daily demonstrates its habits of blandishing a citizenry that demands to be coddled. The “democracy” continues to demand its fair share of a dwindling pie, an expected denoument when citizens have been redefined as “consumers.” I wager that in 10 years’ time, the nation will either have sunk itself beneath the untenable weight of continuing payment of a bribe that could never be sustained – and will look like a third world “banana republic” – or, it will have “successfully” made the transition to another regime, an form of autocratic capitalism in which the State will change the terms of the bribe, paying us with materialist distractions in exchange for our political rights and equality. I daily see signs of both prospects, and can’t clearly discern at the moment which will arise. Either way, our culmination is grim, for in either event we will cease in any real sense to be a Republic.

But, that may have happened long ago. We may never have been a Republic. We may have always been an Empire – or at least our tendency was tilted in that direction – and only became better at it over time. We have only imperfectly, and occasionally been truly self-governing. And, I sadly acknowledge at the end of an old year, the prospects for self-governance in this careening modern world have never been dimmer.

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar John Médaille December 30, 2009 at 12:51 pm

“In 10 years time”? You’re very optimistic. 2012, 2014 tops.

avatar Ryan Davidson December 30, 2009 at 1:09 pm

John, I think the timing is the least optimistic part about it. Sin always destroys that which it seeks to possess. Modern societies make an idol of prosperity and individual freedom, seeking them for their own sake. I would say that Patrick‘s overoptimism is that we can choose between Stratification/Prosperity and Equality.

I’m increasingly convinced that in the long run, we may not actually be able to have either.

avatar AML December 30, 2009 at 1:25 pm

Hmmm… while I do see eminent change, I do not think it will towards the Chinese model. If America collapses, China collapses. If China collapses, I’m not so sure what will happen. China is in the midst of a demographic crisis. I am not sure how it will sustain itself when the fruits of the one child policy come full force into view. There may be a bit more vitality in America if we are able to come out from under “authoritarian capitalism” and explore more dynamic models in the face of economic collapse. Perhaps a return to the local.

avatar D.W. Sabin December 30, 2009 at 6:21 pm

Empires, and their chief fueling conceit…hubris, shift and set as if a pendulum on a clock, ticking away. Yesterday, one of the Everlasting Sunbeams For The Unitary Executive, the N.Y. Time’s beloved-by-liberals-conservative Mr. David Brooks dispensed an award to Mr. Josef Joffe for his essay in Foreign Affairs entitled the “Default Power”. Mr. Joffe asserts that we are simply within another of those pesky ten year cycles of imperial gloom and doom and that we are set to continue our role as Benevolent Hegemon With Daisy Cutter. He cites as an example the Iraq War of George Herbert Walker Bush where we “….dispatched 600,000 soldiers…without reinstating the draft or raising taxes. The only price of “overstretch” turned out to be the mild recession of 1991″. Cheeky ehh?

The wonderful thing about our Neo-Conservative patriots is that they believe things exist in a vacuum and that the first Iraq War is not tied to the current tarbaby of Terrorism, Iran , Iraq and Afghanistan or that Britain’s and Russia’s adventure in Afghanistan will not be revisited by the United States of America because this is what happens to Empires when the locals have nothing to lose but their native soil. These folks believe we will actually retain possession of our senses when we attempt Global Democracy at gunpoint.
Ho Ho Ho.

However, another pendulum of the clock is the unexpected, the imposition of a chaotic adjustment leading to such things as the Revolutionary War or China’s abandonment of isolation and subsequent embrace of the globe or Gorbachev’s embrace of the human potential in the Soviet Block. The only serious question is whether or not the people of this action-addled yet somnolent country will wake up in time to impose the will of chaos upon a leadership that thinks corruption and best-intentioned tom-foolery is standard operating procedure. These folks believe they can continue to grasp the tail of the baksheesh tiger and do it better than history’s verdict supposes.

Talk with your neighbor. Whether you are of the same political persuasion as they are or not, you will find that despite any disagreement you might have, they harbor more prudence and good judgement on many issues than any 10 of our Leadership put together because they are living this American life rather than talking about it while cosseted away in a fantasy land of history averse supremism.

It continues to amaze me that the Governors of this nation continue in blithe indifference to the dereliction of the Federal Government. That they do not meet and act would seem to bolster your most pessimistic observations.

Nice job on the Kim Jung Bush Graphic but it could just as well be the current circular Evador in Chief.

avatar Albert December 30, 2009 at 6:31 pm

Timing… that’s always the tricky part. The shadow of T. S. Eliot looms large.

avatar Bob Cheeks December 30, 2009 at 7:05 pm

T.S. indeed, Albert, this is better than the great man:
Patrick waxing eloquent in his analysis; critical, analytical, depressing!
D.W.’s wit and wisdom delivered in paragraph after paragraph of political poetry, and John, ever John, in sarcasm and droll humor, his lackies, dutifully at his ‘eels.
Oh, my Lord, this is why we visit the porch…and now, pray tell, a comment from Peter, in haste one prays, in high dudgeon would be even better for indeed the system has come under assault or Caleb, in a bad mood having been forced to release a miscreant, now sensing his carefully contrived culture collapsing before ‘is eyes!
Yes, friends and neighbors, there is much to compliment the porch where all men are welcomed, a seat provided, and two fingers and a decent cigar always available.

avatar John Médaille December 30, 2009 at 7:09 pm

What sarcasm?

avatar vanderleun December 30, 2009 at 7:48 pm

“In which the State will change the terms of the bribe, paying us with materialist distractions in exchange for our political rights and equality.”

Perhaps. But perhaps not so easy as all that. There are some unique American factors in play:

“You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass.” – Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto

avatar Bob Cheeks December 30, 2009 at 8:14 pm

John, if you persist in this humour, we’re going to end up friends!

avatar Kevin J Jones December 30, 2009 at 10:55 pm

It can be too optimistic to think a drastic change will result from a society’s destructive habits. While FPR has covered the environmental, economic and cultural destruction quite well, haven’t deeply flawed societies chugged along for centuries before their collapse?

Worse, we can still outsource some of our dysfunctions and leverage our remaining military and economic power in order to cannibalize other struggling societies.

avatar John Médaille December 30, 2009 at 11:23 pm

There is no cynicism in my comments. Obama cannot fix the problems, and the recent upturn, mild as it is, is still an illusion; it will continue for a while, as the stimulus money comes on stream, and then will re-collapse. Stimulus has worked in the past, but in economies that were either closed or had a near balance in trade. You cannot stimulate an economy based on foreign credits, and buying things on credit is not trade, free, fair, or otherwise; it is simply a recipe for disaster, one that is now overtaking us.

Hence he cannot restore the economy because there is little left of the economy to restore. He cannot fix health care just as he cannot win the various wars we are fighting, whether on “terrorism” or drugs or dependence on oil or environmental degradation. As this becomes evident, his power will slip away. The Republicans will make enough gains in 2010 to end stymie any project the government undertakes. He will be replaced in 2012, but by what? The Republicans have no better plans. Will President Cheney, Palin, or Jindal do any better? I doubt it, even if they knew what to do. Which they don’t. The country will rapidly go mad; I mean madder than it already is.

This is the Front Porch moment, if we take it. All real economies are (primarily) local, not global. We will have to rebuild what can be built. Kevin, we outsourced all that we can, and in doing so have sown the seeds of our own destruction. The factories making shoes for the swoosh will find they can ignore the patents with impunity (as the Chinese already do) and make the same goods for their own people at a tenth of the price, twice the wage, and triple the profit. They will begin spreading their own resources around their own societies, and let the Americans shift for themselves.

avatar John December 31, 2009 at 4:19 am

Patrick. Your coupling of Rawls and neo-liberalism is too neo-nifty. To do this, you need to connect the difference principle with a vision of what is the life worth living. Rawls himself has a hard time doing this as he ends up with the esteem that must be given to the grass counters. Rawls gives a hint in this direction when he points to the needed esteem that each must gain from their chosen life plan–even the grass counters. So it seems to me that Rawls is merely symptomatic to an account of the “legacy of conquest” that Patricia Nelson Limerick speaks of. It is a pacified nature that reads Cormac McCarthy as an imaginary avocation.

So growth–as Dewey taught us 90 years ago–is the “essence” of the modern 20th century, let alone American, life. Dewey, in the Quest for Certainty spoke of the construction of the good. Construction, and later reconstruction, was the basis of his version if scientific mastery of conditions allowing for growth to appear as art as experience. What is new here in our modern reconstruction of global capital martkets vis a vis clever Apple computer ads? FJ Turner spoke of democracy on the frontier becoming “empire” in 1896 with his “Significance” essay of 1896. So are you a thirteenth added to the “twelve against empire”? At least Turner saw a fight with that dog.

These socio-economic trends have been with us Americans for well over a hundred years, and we have to wait for your eloquent denunciations of them here in the early 21st century? In fact, as you know, Tocqueville claimed that democrats with their laziness and equality tend to see general ideas and forces and that which guides all history–an inevitability of “soft despotism, democracy’s drift” as a current writer has it.

So I take it you have a gripe against technocratic elites, but surely you see no answer in populism either. For all of Laurence Goodwyn’s reconstruction of American history, populism is nowhere to be found in the very same places he claims they emerged. It emerges in the Hofstadter’s version of reactionaries with their “gods and guns” as the pundit in chief puts it.

I know that FPR holds much out for localism, but speaking from my locality, it is already–and since the 1950s has always already (i.e., my entire lifetime)–been colonized by the giganticism of which you speak. Like Andre the Giant, a luminary from my local hometown Galveston, Texas, with unlimited growth the body becomes so large that the heart can no longer pump the necessary blood to reach the brain.

So I guess at this point one must not worry about brains and speak of soul and character–as you did in your wonderful book Democratic Faith. All this economism sounds like Ron Paul–as as a constituent of Ron Paul, I must say that District 14 is the most depoliticized community in America. Not that there are that many bowling leagues in this area, but an emphasis on “gold” and what have you will only exacerbate the problems of which you speak. Here–the land of so-called true conservative libertarianism–will become nothing but how can I smoke pot legally democracy. So beware of what you wish.

avatar S.L. Toddard December 31, 2009 at 12:38 pm

“The picture being portrayed is the end of Western liberalism, and the beginning of something rather different – something yet without a name – but which I’ll call authoritarian capitalism for shorthand”

More like “authoritarian corporatism”, which already has a shorthand: “fascism”.

avatar Bruce Smith December 31, 2009 at 4:57 pm

The mentality of rape and pillage came to the American New World from Europe like the bubonic plague carried by the fleas on the backs of rats. How could it have been otherwise when so many countries in Europe were repeatedly exposed to invasion and subjugation by other countries, tribes and classes especially Britain? However, also carried over to the New World were the ideas of a thirteenth century, Italian university professor and Dominican monk, Thomas Aquinas. His ideas suddenly seem to have sprung to life in their applicability to curing the R&P plague. If as Patrick says the role of private property lies as the root cause of the tension between Stratification and Equality then Thomas has two things to tell us. Firstly, a law by definition is an ordinance of reason directed to the common good. Secondly, an unjust law is not worthy of obedience because it is not a law at all.

avatar J.D. Salyer December 31, 2009 at 10:12 pm

The jig was up as soon as a critical mass of Americans chose to regard wealth and prosperity as unmixed blessings, rather than as entailing very serious challenges and responsibilities.

Challenges particularly when it comes to child-rearing — as Plato notes in Book III of The Laws. What kind of bizarre people has the wherewithal and constitution to conquer the world, yet gives no attention to the character-formation of the next generation who are to rule that world?

Americans and the kings of Persia, apparently.

Perhaps material success (“the pride of life”?) is rather like the energy given off by a high-powered engine — unless the engine is of sophisticated construction and built of extremely rigorous metals (philosophical and intellectual substance, religion, ancient yet vibrant historical traditions, sternly aristocratic obligations, etc.) then it will swiftly destroy itself.

The stronger and more gifted the young athlete, the greater the effort and focus and care which must go into ensuring he doesn’t grow up into an undisciplined, arrogant (and inevitably doomed) punk.

Maybe America grew up too quick, acquiring world power before it evolved the cultural forms which might have contained and restrained that power.

avatar ANdrew January 1, 2010 at 1:09 am

I am currently living in Perth, Western Australia. the most isolated city earth with a population of around 2,000,000 people.
as of this year we are getting our cars electronically tagged for our car registration, it used to be a sticker.the NWO is upon us too…..

avatar Seth January 1, 2010 at 2:31 am

Hopefully we’ll have a revolution in 2013 to undo the outcomes of the revolution of 1913 (income tax, direct election of Senators, Federal Reserve, etc). It all begins with a belief and fear in God, then a respect and understanding of the Constitution.

avatar Bruce Smith January 1, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Only the little people, including the contributors to FPR, pay taxes. Goldman Sachs, for example, according to Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone magazine only paid out $14million (One percent) in tax in 2008 on a profit of more than $2 billion and despite paying out compensation and benefits of $10 billion in that year including $42.9 million to the CEO Lloyd Blankfein :-


Clearly tax evasion is so easy now the system is in urgent need of reform. Since you can now get smart bank cards that can read your finger prints for verification I’m tempted to argue that taxes should be solely raised from pro-rata sales taxes linked to automatic and accumulatively assessed bands of consumption expenditure. Clearly though this will not sit easy with sociopaths!

The Senate was created to accomplish ratification of the Constitution by the large and powerful states. It institutionalized the power of the wealthy land owners, and was the intentional foil to popularism. This constitutional device was a direct copy of the British House of Lords scam and worked. It has helped to thwart democracy ever since. Conservative low population states get disproportionate representative power to highly populated ones. The solution is the abolition of this scam which with its 60 vote majority rule gives undue and unrepresentative power to individual senators and helps keep this country an oligarchy. Even libertarians believing in small government based on Agency Theory would have to acknowledge that constitutions can get rigged by “founding fathers” and should support this abolition.

It has to be just to get rid of the private banking cartel called the Federal Reserve and reconstitute it in a democratic form.

Finally, I’ll take my cue from Aquinas’s lengthy study of God’s will that any law that uplifts human personality is just and any law that degrades human personality is unjust. Unfortunately, we are pathetically slow to learn that property laws allowing the unrestrained pursuit of wealth leading to a concentrated ownership of that wealth often results in the economic exploitation of others. Wall Street financial crashes and corrupt constitutions obviously demonstrate this. As the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre argues it is not unreasonable to describe the moral sociology, or philosophical basis, of our society as one of treating other members of society as a means to our own personal ends.

avatar Rob G January 1, 2010 at 3:36 pm

“The jig was up as soon as a critical mass of Americans chose to regard wealth and prosperity as unmixed blessings, rather than as entailing very serious challenges and responsibilities.”

And another jig was up when, as one of the 12 Southerners wrote in “I’ll Take My Stand” (can’t find the quote just now), the businessmen convinced Americans that stock in a corporation was the same type of property as was other property, esp. real property (land/house/farm, etc.) This led to an abstraction of the idea of property itself, which may very well be an aspect of the problem of private propery mentioned by Patrick above. I’ve never really followed this thought out very far, but it seems like it might be an interesting trail to follow.

Over at the What’s Wrong With The World blog, Paul J. Cella reports that he has a piece coming out in the New Atlantis on this subject, which should prove intriguing.

avatar John Taratuta January 1, 2010 at 8:37 pm

Starting with “authoritarian capitalism,” loosely defined as a condition “in which the State will change the terms of the bribe, paying us with materialist distractions in exchange for our political rights and equality,” the author seems to forget:

#1. government never creates wealth, only redistributes it

#2. the “debt culture” has begun anew in earnest, not ended “…(if not its final act) in the Autumn of 2008;…”

#3. “growth” is and has always been a swinging door; both positive and negative – a cleansing tonic weeding out inefficiencies in the economy

#4. us folk in the hinterlands still have our 2nd Amendment rights and stand in the way of any wholesale shift to Maoism ;)

Our nation has endured politico currupto before – the number one issue today, not the economy – the Republic endures.

Happy New Year!

avatar Patrick D. LaRouche January 1, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Perhaps it would’ve been best to step away from this essay for a day or two before posting it. Perhaps it would be best to start walking it back…

avatar Carl Scott January 2, 2010 at 1:54 pm

I’m predictably agreed with Peter Lawler over at PoMoCon that the essay is over-the-top.

I find the little side-note on Rawls, peak US oil production, and the year 1971 kind of fascinating, though…1971 to my mind was also key in being the year the counter-culture and the larger culture came to a sort of implicit agreement that while an actual revolution wasn’t going to happen, a gradual acceptance of many of the counter-culture’s key propositions regarding sex and personal freedom was…a situation symbolized for me, at least by the release late that year of David Bowie’s career-defining Hunky Dory LP, especially its song “Changes.” As I’ve said elsewhere, “by 1971 it was clear that a revolution had occurred in the sexual morays and psychic tenor of society–the question was what to make of it and where to go next. The song seems to be Bowie’s effort to reassure those (of whatever generation) frightened by the changes, and to rein in the pride of those celebrating them.” And of course 1973′s Roe v. Wade represents the decisive and very Rawls-esque constitutionalization of the sexual revolution in U.S. politcs.

So, ha-ha, the simultaneous appearance of “Changes,” Peak U.S. Oil, and Rawls’ Theory of Justice CANNOT BE A COINCIDENCE! Nutty that, if pointing to causal connections, but not so nutty if pointing to connections in spirit, whose effects on causality remain ever elusive.

As for the broader “stratification and equality” idea, supplemented by the idea of “growth,” my mind runs back to Coriolanus, to Shakespeare’s and Machiavelli’s meditations on the meaning of Rome. That is, doesn’t every effort at any sort of republican form of government always run up against the necessity to somehow reconcile equality and stratification? Yeah, yeah, the ancients didn’t have Locke, Bacon, joint-stock companies, etc., so their “equality” and especially their “stratification” were very different from ours. But didn’t Coriolanus (and those stick-in-the-mud patricians like him) represent a refusal to accept that clever (indeed somewhat insincere) “reconciliations” is what republican politics must depend upon, given the tragic (or fallen) nature of man? Of course, Rome’s survival, running against the grain of die-hard virtue-crats like Coriolanus, turned out to depend on the “growth” of empire that reconciles plebe and patrician. I didn’t say the reconciliation of equality and stratification was a happy smily thing. But to pretend we can be for republican government, but against both straight-up empire-growth (or, the creation of confederations that have empire-like strength, and which thus necessarily might be corrupted into empires) AND against the modern and comparatively quite peaceful economic growth, (which I deny HAS TO BE “imperialistic” toward other nations’ markets or towards the earth’s resources) is perhaps to, well…pretend.

So, in the pessimistic straights these FPR thoughts have apparently brought us to, let us ask a question that I remember Patrick once rhetorically put to (the very wise, and very Christian) Robert Kraynak: “Monarchy, Anyone?”

P.S. Happy New Year, Porchers.

avatar Carl Scott January 2, 2010 at 2:05 pm

P.P.S. John and JD Salyer, good comments, IMO.

avatar D.W. Sabin January 2, 2010 at 3:47 pm

I am less concerned with Lawler’s serial accusations of Deneen’s reputed Marxism or the suggestion of a default into Monarchy than I am of the fact that I cannot find enough to argue with in Mr. Scott’s interesting comments to warrant a tart riposte. Happy New Year to you too Carl.

Salyers cheeky unification of dereliction held by we Americans and the Persian Kings also apt.

Accordingly, I might suggest that Deneen go “over the top” a little more often so that in the resulting Prison Break, a few more nougats such as these are exposed.

Would that the term “reconciliation” actually be one of measured, if calculating prudence rather than its current usage as a term of art describing the ability the Majority Party of Congress to completely ignore the Minority. (the fitting ignorability of the minority notwithstanding …leading to the question, how might we come to ignore both?)

“Peaceful economic growth” remains a subject whose full “darksome depths” aint quite yet been plumbed beyond the precincts of the winner.

avatar Andrés January 4, 2010 at 8:58 pm

It is interesting to read this article in light of Ancient Roman History.

The Republic, drunk with wealth and conquest, slowly converted itself into the Empire while the people slept, drugged with Bread and Circuses.

Indeed, the people welcomed Ceasar and Ceasar Agustus. Why? Because they brought competence and peace.

Why should it not be the same with the American Ceasar? Why should he not free that country too of it´s fractious and useless Senate?

avatar KEN January 4, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Current westernized economies are using other countries resources especially OIL(as we have burned most of ours up)societies that are reliant on other cultures,countries resources are really no more than beggars with guns give us your oil we give shiny paper or a bullet.. Imperial over reach is here and well as Peak oil and debt saturation of all the western world. In ten years you will be lucky to be able to drive to work(if there are jobs open anywhere). The majority of people are going to be focused on the more basic things in life. Life will change yearly from now on for the Worse?Better depending on how you feel about the current unworkable system. we will be more local I say because we will HAVE to be.

avatar Mike Mc January 5, 2010 at 9:40 am

I am impressed by the thoughtfulness and depth of both the article and the responses. One point, however; Bacon, Hobbes, and Locke did not live in an oil economy. The 16th and 17th centuries were much closer in economic terms to classical life than our own. The 18th century Enlightenment, which unleashed science and technology, has much more to implicate our ideas regarding material existence. It is really not until after 1865 that technology begets mass production that implicates the equality of outcome expected by every American today, and this is again not oil based until well into the 1920′s.

Today we are intoxicated by oil based economic results, but I am not sure that this really impacts the core of Americanism. Certainly there are those who know nothing better and cannot conceive of anything more substantial, yet I am not sure that these people constitute America. Despite many prevailing indications, I am optimistic that the core of America is sound and that the difficulties will be locally overcome, although I am also certain this will be a violent and horrible experience. I still hope to enjoy my own vine and fig tree.

avatar J Fowler January 8, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Well said and much agreed. You don’t have to be into conspiracy theories to see it’s happening plain as day. Now the real challenge comes: how to live in the light in the shadow of this new Empire. I guess we’ll work it out as we go along.

Love your site!

avatar Ovidiu Hurduzeu January 13, 2010 at 6:50 pm

The problem is how “localists” could fight this…

avatar John Médaille January 13, 2010 at 10:22 pm

Getting into the Union is easy; getting out is tougher. Cf. South Carolina.

Localists fight by being local. We won’t have to fight; we will have to (re)build local economies that work for us.

avatar Ben Dover July 19, 2011 at 12:38 am

What can Americans do to fight the New World Order?

1. Turn off or throw away your T.V.
2. Think for yourself.
3. Question all so-called ‘Authority’
4. Get out, and/or stay out, of debt!
5. Use cash, trade or barter as much as possible, rather than debit cards and credit cards
6. Get rid of grocery store ‘discount’ cards –grocery stores provide this information to insurance companies.
7. Bank at a Credit Union, or any alternative to the ‘TBTF’ Banks, that participated in the 2008 Banker Bailout.
8. Invest as much as you reasonably can in precious metals – especially silver.
9. You have the right to own a firearm, to protect yourself,and your family. Read the 2nd Amendment.
10. Buy products “Made in America”
11. Start your own garden
13. Meditate or pray – reduce your stress!
14. Get exercise!
15. Read a book (here is an excellent book recommendation: Psychological Warfare and the New World Order:The Secret War Against the American People
http://www.amazon.com/Psychological-Warfare-New-World-Order/dp/0932367232/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1310394551&sr=8-1 )
16. Listen to soothing classical, jazz, ambient, or other alternative music
17. Watch ‘Freedom to Fascism’–a film by Aaron Russo (can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUpZhhbKUBo)
18. Watch ‘Why We Fight’–a film by Eugene Jarecki (can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…r_embedded)
19. Watch ‘Endgame’–a film by Alex Jones (can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-CrNlilZho)
20. Below is advice from John Perkins’ book, entitled THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE (The Truth About Economic Hit Men,Jackals,And How To Change The World), pp. 322-329.

“AVOID SHOPPING AS ‘RETAIL THERAPY’ (Instead, jog, meditate, read, or find some other solution).
SHOP CONSCIOUSLY – if there is something you must have, purchase items whose packaging, ingredients, and methods of production are sustainable and support life.
PURCHASE AT CONSIGNMENT AND THRIFT STORES –where everything is recycled.
Write letters telling Monsanto, De Beers, ExxonMobil, Adidas, Ford, GE, Coca-Cola, WALMART, and other labor exploiters and environment destroyers
DOWNSIZE (your car, home, wardrobe) – everything in your life (and don’t buy what you don’t need)
SUPPORT/SEND MONEY only to non-profits, radio stations, and other organizations that promote JUST causes.
VOLUNTEER your time and energy to such organizations.
ENCOURAGE stores to buy from local growers, producers, and suppliers.
AVOID DRINKING WATER THAT IS FLUORIDATED (only your toothpaste should have non-industrial fluoride)
INSIST that those who use your money – banks, pensions, mutual funds, companies – make socially and environmentally responsible investments.”
21. Invest in precious metals (especially silver).
22. Research every company whose products or services you buy
23. Research every organization to which you donate your hard-earned money
24. Vote with your dollars!
25. Watch ‘The Secret of Oz’– a film by William T. Still (can be found here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swkq2E8mswI)
26. Get prepared for when the U.S. dollar TOTALLY COLLAPSES – You’ll need 1) Water, 2) Food, 3) Vital Medicine 4) Gun/Ammo, etc.
27. Global, non-violent, NON-COMPLIANCE is the answer, of We the Plebs, to the ‘elite’ New World Order!
28. Find alternatives to EVERYTHING that they’ve set up, to entrap you in THEIR system.
29. What would happen if 200 MILLION AMERICANS refused to pay their taxes, in 2012? (Just a hypothetical question)
30. Familiarize yourself with the concept of BOYCOTT
31. Corporate Membership in the CFR (Council on Foreign Relations):
32. Don’t ever join a ‘secret’ society
33. Watch ‘Global Warming or Global Governance’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_u81qXOYfKg )
34. Educate yourself. Thomas Jefferson: “If a nation expects to be ignorant & free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was & never will be.”

Expand the above list,and share it with everyone you know!

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