It has been a rough year, to say the least. Disease and ‘isolation’, those “premodern idea(s) of quarantines, closures, and measured lockdowns.” A way of thinking that is “not just premodern; (instead) turning the logic of modern medicine on its head.” The effects have been catastrophic, not just for our public and private finances (the bill for this mess has been $20 trillion and counting), not just in the knockoff effects of isolation and misery and suicide. In my particular case, or my environment, it has meant war and incompetence. Incidentally, these things go together – they are related. Chaos follows governmental incompetence mostly. They are the ones with the ‘legitimate use of force’ to misuse after all.
“A theme has emerged throughout (the hundreds of years of analysis of government ‘help’): policy officials are quite often ill informed or have bad incentives compared with what individuals, markets, institutions, and society can achieve on their own. Economists have documented how government intervention leads to various unintended economic consequences and even human rights abuses.” What is the answer? “We prefer private governance to public governance. We have applied this logic against socialism, fascism, war, macroeconomic planning, public goods, monetary policy, countercyclical fiscal policy, environmental regulation, and a hundred other issues. We’ve made a solid case for pure freedom.”
We are losing this debate. Or perhaps we lost it, in the face of the overwhelming power of Burnham’s “Managerial Elites”, our new aristocrats so puissant that they brought down a president. The 2020 pandemic is their wet dream, that moment when they have a cart-blanch to order any intrusion on life public and private. Always wanted to shut down churches? Check. Want to censure speech? Check. Want trillions of dollars in unaccountable money to do whatever you want with? Check. Al Jazeera free commercials declaring “there’s a little hero in all of us” as they show a fat man watching TV on his couch? Oh, if we all would just stay home, so many of the world’s problems would be solved – right? Mark my words, the death-eating apocalyptic climate crowd is salivating – just waiting for their turn.
And what did we get for our colossal efforts of discipline? 7,000,000 dead – that’s the #5 pandemic for a new disease in the history of history. And this might very well be the most global, affecting every human on the planet – that has never happened before. For me personally, as I mentioned, it has also meant war. Those seeking to return to violence to settle old scores while the world is preoccupied and the peacemakers are eating Doritos in front of Netflix. And governmental incompetence on such a massive scale it takes the breath away. Hundreds of billions of ‘relief’ payments stolen by Nigerian hackers. Unemployed waiting for weeks and weeks on hold to talk to an agent of government, somebody who can help them cover rent since the normal way was destroyed by lockdowns. Websites crashing. ‘Guidance’, that aristocratic word which has come to replace ‘orders’, it sounds more gentle – though it means the same thing — the ‘guidance’ changing daily, from the ‘scientists’ we are told to worship. It’s airborne, no its not, oh wait yes it is; you can’t have sex, ok now you can go ahead, oh wait maybe not; don’t wear a mask, no wear two; take this vaccine – oh wait maybe not yet, ok now its fine! Teachers abandoning their sacred duty – a lost generation of children some are saying. An explosion of inequality as the ‘aristocracy’ cashes in and everybody else fades away. Not a stellar record to justify this mess. I know, I’m not an epidemiologist nor an economist – just a man with a little bit of common sense and enough life experience to call “bullshit” on those who consider themselves my betters.
Tocqueville warned us about all this. The countries that have done the worst are the big ones. The city states did much better. Perhaps the virus circulated in equal measure (how do you stop a pandemic?), but the societies did better. More humane. Rallying around each other. Meeting each other’s needs. Debating the nuances, calculating risk, giving people choices. Consent this used to be called. All the while the Coming Anarchy Robert Kaplan warned us about came, burying the big countries – India and Brazil and EU and USA. But what about China? You say – buying their propaganda (do you really believe a country of 1.4 billion has 15 new cases in a day?) And even if they did, an oxygenless dictatorship can do a lot. The USSR challenged the USA for 70 years – but they had to turn their country into the largest forced-labor camp in the history of humanity to do it (read Solzhenitsyn for a good summary of that). I sure as hell would not want to live there; stuck in my re-education camp while the Chinese Communist Party harvests my hair.
At this point you are probably accusing me of a bait-and-switch. “What does any of this have to do with anything glorious?” Thanks for asking!!! Because there is only one way to fight the wicked incompetence of the death-eaters. And that is to remind the world that there is nothing glorious there, no life there, nothing there that touches our heart-strings of humanity – if nothing else, the misery of the last year might prompt you to agree with that. There is rarely anything glorious to be found in groups – especially collectivities based on shared ideology – for another word for a group is a mob.
So what to do…? If I might proffer an option, seek out the glorious and write about it!! The extraordinary beauty of a Caucasus mountain valley. The amazing power of book well-written and moving. The pure joy of a little boy at play. The gentle love of man’s best friend at your side as you hike the storied places of your land. The individual stories of resistance and resilience in the face not of a virus – that is not an ‘enemy’ insofar as it has no motivation – but instead in the face of the massive dehumanization that has arisen over the last year, where we all have been reduced alternately to vessels of government ‘economic stimulus’ and vectors of disease. If you do that, and tag me I’ll re-blog those stories here and share them to my (admittedly limited) audience, thereby reminding those out there who think of us only as tools in their attempts to control us – that we aren’t so easily controlled, we who love our lives, our families and the natural beauty of our world. That the aristocracy that eats souls cannot have ours for the price of a few thousand dollars deposited in our account and 17 hours on hold with the Bureau of Labor office. That we will write alone, dream alone and continue to build our world in spite of the thousand-papercut-murder attempts by our betters.
I’ll start (I actually did) – I wrote a post about my time in Armenia the other day, because Armenia Saved My Life – I invite you to read it and make common cause as I have with something ancient and timeless that has weathered lots of pandemics since Noah marched down off the great Mountain of Ararat. And secondly, here’s a picture I took, in the highlands of Armenia, which made me tear up at the natural beauty of our world. Go forth now, and be glorious!!!! The world needs that.