Free Markets, Free People

Loss of Will, Continued

In the comments to my previous post, “The Shark” writes:

What is civilization? Sanitation, clean water, viable infrastructure, decent standard of living? England has all that yet I don’t think it qualifies as civilization anymore. Watch it burn? No need, it’s decaying not-so-slowly.

The thing is that “sanitation, clean water, viable infrastructure, decent standard of living” and other amenities are not the characteristics of civilization. They are merely the products of it. They are what results from civilization, i.e., a standard of law, culture, science, and domestic peace that allows “sanitation, clean water, viable infrastructure, decent standard of living” and other amenities to be built.

Once a civilization has built these amenities, they have a physical capacity that everyone can use long after the civilization itself collapses. The men of the Middle Ages couldn’t build the Roman roads–in fact, they literally had no idea how the Romans had built them–but they still used them. So the question is not whether you still have the infrastructure amenities built by your predecessors, but whether your civilization is still improving on them and building new ones.

For instance, forty years ago, the United States sent 2 men to the surface of the moon every eight months or so from 1969 to 1972. In the space of a single decade, we went from having no manned space capability at all, to having multiple manned lunar landings. Forty years later, we don’t have a vehicle capable of sending a single American into earth orbit. We have the same manned space capability now that we had in 1960, 54 years ago.

Think about that for a minute, and what implications for our civilization we can draw from that decline.


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24 Responses to Loss of Will, Continued

  • Well, yeah, but we have the most well protected border evah!

  • I remember a few years ago, Pres. ScamWOW used as his SOTUS theme “America does big things”.
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    I kept shaking my head throughout that lie-fest and thinking, “No. We don’t do big things. And your base would have a rolling cat-fit if we tried to do ‘big things’, you lying SOS”.
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    We could not build Hoover Dam today. Not, of course, because we lack the ability. We lack the will. Some of us might want to build it, but it would be effectively opposed by the environmental extremist wing of the Collective. The current trend is to break dams…in the name of fish.
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    In some important ways, we’ve given up the ability to do “little things” that all of us should be able to agree should be done. BIG GOVERNMENT cannot do anything well. An example?…how about keeping track of people here by permission? We lost track of 6000 or so foreign nationals here under visas that expired. Concurrently, we have BIG GOVERNMENT attempting to tell us how our personal health care should be conducted, and what we should eat.

    So, we cannot do “big things” and our government cannot do anything well because it tries to do too much. This can be reversed, but that goes to that whole “will” thing…

  • I can’t but think of the bipolar housewife who yells at her husband … “Why can’t we have good things ?”

  • Our elected officials, in their infinite wisdom and over multiple administrations, chose citizen dependency and government largess over achievement.

    • Of course they do. No matter what party they are in, the obvious strategy for a politician is to buy votes using public money. That’s the surest way to keep getting re-elected, because they have plenty of people whose livelihood depends on them being in office.
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      With the government’s borrowing power, and the connivance of the media in keeping the confidence level up to float that debt, a politician can keep doing that for decades. They’ll likely be dead or retired to their comfortable enclave before the consequences hit.
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      When the music stops, I’m not sure what will happen to the denizens of elected offices at that point in time. Shark thinks they’ll likely be hung from lampposts, I believe. I think they’re more likely to have a rat hole to bolt down, and we’ll never hear from many of them again.

    • Well, and WE choose them, sorta.
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      “Here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into Stanley, hmmmmmpf “

  • It’s frustrating to know how much better we could be as individuals and as a nation if we only had the will to be so, rather than our current self-destructive tendencies. Gasoline should be no more than $1.50 per gallon. The economy should be roaring, driving private wealth and reducing public assistance to near zero. Entrepreneurism should be flourishing without onerous taxes and regulations from multiple government agencies. Think of all the technological advances and medical breakthroughs that could be made, but never will. We should be producing the best and the brightest students in the world, rather than a generation of garden slugs. There are two paths we could follow, and we are rapidly going down the wrong one. Instead of building a future of individualistic freedom and liberty, we are actively creating an all-powerful, omnipresent government and a helpless serfdom.

  • Our world has been reduced to Global Warming or an ISIS Age

  • That reminds me, Dale… I had extended comments on the podcast last week but they’re on my computer at home. I’ll whip something up tonight and post it here.

  • Quick question…did Obama ever sign the bill that would allow natgas exports to Europe?

  • Despite its character as the go-to example in these debates, I don’t think the space program is a good choice of example. Personally I think it has always been anomalous that we went to the moon in the 1960s, the result of a race for prestige rather than the natural outgrowth of technology. It was absurdly expensive for the actual results. I think what you see from places like SpaceX are actually about where space technology “ought” to be, because real cheap space technology needed a certain amount of materials science and computing power. And on the “computing power” note, we often marvel at the incredibly poor capabilities of the computers that powered our rockets. Again, I’d suggest that shows how we really put them into space long before it was economical.

    Also, our inability to put men in space is, frankly, partially by choice. We continue to not have a very good reason to actually send people up there, so it’s not that surprising that our manned capability has atrophied over time. A more relevant question would be how quickly it develops if a commercially-relevant reason to keep men in space developed.

    Far, far more relevant to the questions of civilizational decline are our inability to do anything large scale here on Earth, and the far more subtle brokennesses of the political process. For example… consider Obama. Yes, nobody here likes him, but that’s not my point. Consider also that at this point nobody in the entire Democratic political structure must be all that fond of him either. Consider that Obama’s internal power over the Democrats is by now nearly non-existent. Now, from that point of view and putting aside our personal antagonisms, consider the fact that the entire collective Democratic structure (the press included) is still unable to do anything but follow along behind him, all but mindlessly. Putting a feckless, weak man in the White House is one thing. It has happened before, and assuming our continued survival as a country, it will happen again. That’s not the sign of structural weakness.

    What’s the sign of structural weakness is that the Democrats can’t seem to find a credible alternative for leadership. Who is going to lead them? Biden? Hardly. Reid? Apparently not… despite being handed at this point the opportunity to be a strong leader for the Democratic party on a silver platter, he is incapable of taking that on. (Incidentally, consult your cynicism on that point. Proper cynicism about politicians should be pointing out that any half capable politician ought to be able to notice this opportunity and capitalize on it like mad. Instead he’s just content to sit back and play Stall the Senate, when he is in a position to be doing so very, very much more.) Pretty much the entire party’s current leadership hopes are pinned on Hillary Clinton, who is, increasingly clearly, not that strong a horse either.

    The Democrats may be unwilling to pursue the impeachment of their own President… fine. But they ought to be able to effectively sideline him, even from the Presidency, and they can’t.

    And that’s far more damning, because that’s the whole organization. Not a single person in it able to do anything. That’s true weakness.

    What’s scary to me is that if ISIS pulls off one of their spectacular attacks, I’m not really that concerned that we’ll just roll over and take it… I’m concerned that our power structures are so broken that when the raw surge of petawatt-sized anger starts flowing through them it’ll make the reactions and overreactions the system had to 9/11 look like a cake walk, because the whole thing will, metaphorically, short out. Oh, we’ll do something alright, but I really don’t have a good guess as to what, or any great reason to believe it will be sensible. Nobody will be in control of the resulting actions… it’ll just come out, whereever, however, and that’s scary.

    • And can we finally get a fix for paragraphs not being properly double-spaced? Adding

      .art-comment-content P + P { margin-top: 1em; }

      to the stylesheet appears to have the desired result.

    • Far, far more relevant to the questions of civilizational decline are our inability to do anything large scale here on Earth

      >>>> You mean like build a skyscraper to replace ones downed on 9/11? Only took a decade or so….

      • Yes, I think that’s far more relevant.

        You know, you read in the history books about how civilizations fell and all the knowledge was lost and you wonder how. Has any other civilization collapsed because by their actions they show that they love red tape more than they love doing things?

  • “Think about that for a minute, and what implications for our civilization we can draw from that decline.”

    Only regulations keep SpaceX from putting up to 5 (7 ?) people on the Space Station probably on two seeks notice right now. If nothing political stops him, Musk will within 10 years loft a SHLV with about 10 million (plus) pounds of liftoff thrust. His stated goal is to carry the 100 person Mars Colonial Transport.

    Mars Colonial Transport.

    I’m only concerned the progressive damage is enough of a baked cake it will stop him…

    … And that idiots who think there are such things as market failures will help stop him.

    • … And that idiots who think there are such things as market failures will help stop him.

      Right, because in a perfectly free market, there are never any externalities, there are no public goods, and information is always perfectly symmetrical. Right. Got it.

      • Externalities never exist, unless government or other violence, or the threat of it, prevent the rectification of a tort.

        Everything else is someone not liking what the market shows, and wanting the market state changed, usually with someone else’s money.

        • Not that I’m an anarchist. I don’t mind paying or forcing other people to pay what I consider to be fair taxes for–for example–the market in murder or stolen goods to be suppressed. Those examples are typical. not exhaustive..

          For another example, the medallion cartels opposing Uber and Lyft–they should be extinguished and the medallion money returned to the buyers.

  • “results from civilization, i.e., a standard of law, culture, science, and domestic peace”

    Culture (arts, science, philosophy, POLITICS) comes first, not as a result.

    As for the Space Program, that is technology, a derivative of science. Rather then sending people into space for the sake of generating a periodic HERO OF THE PEOPLE, we send robots, such as the Curiosity Mars Rover.

  • Hey, the limit of our epic achievements now seem to be standing in line for a day to get the latest cell phone from Apple.
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    Only technoids are following Spacex or ULA or even Virgin Galactic.
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    The rest are worried about whether peeking at nudie photos taken by idiots and stored on what amounts to a public network is considered or should be considered some kind of sex crime.

  • Manned space capability? At this point I would be satisfied if the US didn’t need to buy MD-180 rocket engines from Russia in order to launch our own “sensitive satellites”.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/04/us-usa-russia-rockets-idUSKBN0GZ02T20140904