Free Markets, Free People


What’s happening to us?

I‘m just sick about today. It’s really incomprehensible, isn’t it? Sure, it was the act of a lunatic, and lunatics are, almost by definition, incomprehensible. So, I can’t even begin to get my mind into the sort of space where you massacre children. It’s just been a day of grief and depression.

These kinds of shootings seem to be coming ever faster, and I honestly don’t know what we can do about them. I’m sure that we’ll be spending a lot of time talking about gun control for the foreseeable future, but…well…that’s not really going to solve anything. Quite apart from anything else, there’s 300 million guns floating around in the US. Good luck rounding them all up.

Besides, that’s not really the root of the problem.

I just can’t escape the sense that we are watching our society and culture slouching towards collapse, and that what happened today is a symptom of that. There’s a streak of mad decadence in American culture; a streak of anger, and a lack of civility, and a surfeit of selfishness that can’t sustain a functional civil society.

Our politics are so angry that otherwise sane men physically attack other men, and scream at them like angry children for holding a different political opinion. Our popular media is drenched in sex and violence. Our news media are little more than mouthpieces for socialist pieties. Traditional religion is belittled and reviled in popular entertainment as New Wave beliefs are treated with credulity. Individual responsibility is ignored, while victimization is fetishized.

The litany is depressing, and none of it indicates a confident, forward-looking culture. And it puts out a vibe of craziness and violence that even lunatics can pick up. Maybe they could always pick up on it, but, at least prior to the 1970s, we could lock lunatics up through involuntary commitment. Since then, of course, we’ve ensured that we can only lock up lunatics after they violently act out. So there are a lot of them lurking about, now, many of them homeless, walking the streets.

I honestly have no idea how to fix this. Clearly, government isn’t the answer. A government that can’t even do what is obviously necessary to balance—or even produce—a budget certainly isn’t going to effect any useful cultural change. Besides in a democratic system, the government reflects the culture, not the reverse. Our government is increasingly one that is characterized simultaneously by arrogance and incompetence. Those would be incompatible characteristics in a rational culture, but they accurately describe our culture, the government that reflects it.

We’ve had it so good in this country, for so long, that I’m afraid the culture has internalized the idea that it’ll always be that way. There’ll always be second chances if you screw up, and someone will always be there to keep the machinery running. What problems we do have are First World problems: the free in-flight wi-fi doesn’t work; Starbucks ran out of Pumpkin Spice. We go into debt getting our degrees in Gender Studies, and we expect a lucrative job as a reward. Our kids come in last place in their soccer league, but they’ll always get their trophy for participation.

We’re living off the financial, moral, and intellectual capital of people who opened a continent-wide frontier, defeated horrific foreign tyrannies, and then sent men to the moon. We, of course, will do none of those things.

Quite apart from anything else, we couldn’t afford to. We’ve spent the last thirty years going ever deeper into debt to defer ever making any hard choices. Instead, everybody got everything they wanted. I mean, we got our Great Society, and our Cold War military build-up; Medicare Part D, and No Child Left Behind; wars in the Mideast, and subsidized college loans. We’ve denied ourselves nothing that we wanted, and now that the bill is coming due, all we can figure out how to do is raise taxes, and have the Fed buy back some bonds so we can keep the party going on longer, and stretch out the time that we’re allowed to go ever deeper into debt.

But, not only can we not afford to, we don’t want to embark on some great cultural mission whose rewards will be enjoyed by our children instead of ourselves. We just want to pull up some porn on our iPads, and watch Netflix after we finish.

The founders of the Republic understood that democratic self-governance is only suited to a moral, responsible people. A people who cannot strive to create a polity where ethics and responsibility are primary principles are a people who are not capable of governing themselves. And I no longer see us as a people who can create that kind of polity.

Some of my libertarian friends think that a financial or societal collapse will lead to a better understanding of the importance of freedom, and that a new flowering of liberty will bloom in the aftermath.

That’s a foolish and stupid idea.

What will actually happen is what happened when Rome fell: a period of barbarism and tyranny and darkness will sweep over us at worst, or at best, people will demand that a man on a white horse punish the appropriate scapegoats and make the trains run on time again. Sure, I hope I’m wrong, but history is on the side of pessimism. As nearly as I can tell, all we can do is hold on tight, because we’re getting ready to ride this puppy down in flames.

Still, Rome didn’t collapse in a day, and maybe we can manage to avoid a total collapse and ensuing Dark Age for another 30 years or so, until after I’m gone. Frankly, that’s about all the optimism I have left in me.

But, maybe, in 500 years or so, a confident, adventurous people will once again step onto the surface of the moon. No doubt they will be amazed to learn that the mythical figures of Buzz Aldrin, Alan Shepard, and their companions actually did exist, and set foot there once upon a time, and left behind six beautiful, red-striped banners, spangled with white stars on a field of blue.

~
Dale Franks
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57 Responses to What’s happening to us?

  • i worry what happens when a government that has more instruments of war than all other nations on earth combined falls.
    hopefully we’ll wake up some day and realize our priorities are all in the wrong place

  • Oh yeah.  We really need yet another law, but for what ?
    Gun control ?  Seems the mother bought the guns, besides when you have an ATF and DOJ that illegally allows guns to flow to Mexico to kill reportedly hundreds, who needs gun laws ?
    We now have such a myriad of laws that it inspired a book, “Three Felonies a Day”.  The author claims that the average American commits, on average, 3 felonies a day.
    But when out POTUS decides to ignore laws, like our immigration laws, why can’t everybody else just ignore a few .. and maybe go shoot up a school or church.   Seems “fair” to me.
    I propose a sunset of 12 years on all laws, when they will have to be reauthorized.  This should keep Congress so busy that they won’t have time to do much spending.

    • How about outlawing “gun free zones”.  We may as well build shooting galleries and hang our children on hooks.

      • How about outlawing the ACLU that pressed court case after court case to prevent institutionalizing massive whackjobs? It was the ACLU, not Reagan, that caused all the homelessness and criminals out on the streets (for those here who remember the situation in the early 80s).

    • The massacre in CT can be laid at the feet of the our government

      Last night it also emerged Nancy was a member of the Doomsday Preppers movement, which believes people should prepare for end of the world.

      Her former sister-in-law Marsha said she had turned her home ‘into a fortress’. She added: ‘Nancy had a survivalist philosophy which is why she was stockpiling guns. She had them for defense.

      ‘She was stockpiling food. She grew up on a farm in New Hampshire. She was skilled with guns. We talked about preppers and preparing for the economy collapsing.’

      … Trillion dollar deficits lead to the massacre .. but who is responsible for that ?

  • All empires collapse eventually, there’s no reason to believe the US is exempt from it.  I’m with you – at this point just hoping to make it to my dirt nap before the total collapse occurs.  And you’re right about what comes after – it’ll be a dark, brutal environment in which the living envy the dead.

    • “I must study politics and war, that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.” -John Adams
      My preference is for it to be kicked off sooner rather than later.  I can see a flaw in Adams concept, some must always study war and politics, but I appreciate his gist, which I think was not universal.  Morally, he felt the exigencies of his time did not give him the right to study other than war and politics.
      Morally, I wonder if I have the right to do other.
      If it can be won now, let it burn now!
      Can it be won?
      We should consider Ways, Means, and Strictures.

  • “When the police break the law, then there is no law. Just a fight for survival.”
    That line has stuck with me ever since I heard Billy Jack say it.
    I don’t think the breakdown will br pretty either. Anyone that disagrees needs to look no further than Michigan.
    But I wept for those children. Couldn’t help it.

  • It was a bad day once I got the details.   Odd that I’ve come to accept the shootings, but the idea of children…..was hard to take….is still hard to take this morning….pray God it always be hard to take.

    And the F*ing bastard didn’t even have the balls to wait for men to come and put him down.

  • “I mean, we got our Great Society, and our Cold War military build-up; Medicare Part D, and No Child Left Behind; wars in the Mideast, and subsidized college loans” -Dale Franks
    Way to be an equivocator morally yourself, Dale.  One of those actually was the government’s job, and it should be done.  Can you guess which one?
    “We may be tossed upon an ocean where we can see no land — nor, perhaps, the sun or stars. But there is a chart and a compass for us to study, to consult, and to obey. That chart is the Constitution.” -Daniel Webster
    I believe it.  I often think you don’t.  I remember an idiocy you once proposed to “prove” market failures exist, something about a bicycle path cleaning business.
    “A government that can’t even do what is obviously necessary to balance—or even produce—a budget certainly isn’t going to effect any useful cultural change.”  -Dale Franks
    Since money will evidently be taken and spent anyway, near as I can tell in violation of the law, and there is no general uprising yet–why should we worry about compromising better principles and see evil accommodated just to see a budget done.
    If it can be won now, let it burn now!
    Can it be won?

    • Way to be an equivocator morally yourself, Dale.  One of those actually was the government’s job, and it should be done.  Can you guess which one?

      Yeah, I do know which one. Do you know why that’s UTTERLY IRRELEVANT to the point I was making, or are you just being obtuse?

      I believe it.  I often think you don’t. I remember an idiocy you once proposed to “prove” market failures exist…

      Market failures do exist, whether you are too obtuse to recognize it or not. And, my corollary point in that thread was that government is generally ineffective at correcting market failures, and their attempts to do so creates even greater problems, so it’s none of government’s business.  I notice you elide by that.

      • “Do you know why that’s UTTERLY IRRELEVANT to the point I was making, or are you just being obtuse?”
        It’s not irrelevant at all.  Government SHOULD DO what it is it’s job to do, and it wasn’t the Pentagon’s budget that broke the bank.  The other things were jobs the national government should not have undertaken even if it had the money for them.  If you’ve lost sight of the fact that is the point, then that makes my point for me, doesn’t it?
        “Market failures do exist, whether you are too obtuse to recognize it or not. And, my corollary point in that thread was that government is generally ineffective at correcting market failures, and their attempts to do so creates even greater problems, so it’s none of government’s business.  I notice you elide by that.”
        I notice once a person concedes the falsehood the market can experience failure, that it always become government’s job to correct the failure–no exceptions.  I notice that simply by claiming a falsehood–conceding as real what is a myth, market failure–you reinforce, invite, fertilize, and accept as inevitable the only possible antidote, government, which is force.  The market in contrast is consensual and not predicated on force.
        There are two ways at least the idea of market failure is a myth.  The first is that the market doesn’t exist, “the market” is a shorthand term for the manifold decisions of individuals taken as a aggregate for the sake of brevity and convenience.  Individuals can succeed and fail in absolute terms, and they can succeed and fail relative to each other, but that is because individuals exist and the “market” doesn’t.  Another sort that comes immediately to mind is that individuals can respond en masse and in tragic and frequently predictable ways to circumstances government produces, for example the recent housing bubble; the intervention of government kind of precludes it being a “market failure” doesn’t it?
        The aggregate decision of billions of people as to the worth of thing or service likely can not be bettered, and when it is bettered, we are all better off.  No room for market failure in reality, Dale.

          • Tell you what Dale, you look up and write out what definition of Market Failure you want to use, and I’ll take it apart for you

            Your bicycle path example was begging the question.  You insist on the counter factual, and you’re just lying to you and to us.

  • There’s a streak of mad decadence in American culture; a streak of anger, and a lack of civility, and a surfeit of selfishness that can’t sustain a functional civil society.


    The founders of the Republic understood that democratic self-governance is only suited to a moral, responsible people.

    We’ve created or advocate an “eye’s forward, none of your business” society.  I can see the reasons for this sentiment in most cases.  But its something that libertarians usually seem to want as an absolute.  And its something that Marxist inspired Democrats use to dismantle rivals to the state.

    These shooters are crazy and if their neighbors know they’re crazy.  The dual edge sword is that in most cases the crazy person is harmless and ideally should be left alone.  The consequence is that the harmful ones are also left alone until after they do something where they can’t be ignored anymore.

    A lot of what you mentioned used to be handled through people being judgmental.  It was handled socially.  But now that’s wiped away it only leaves the law.  The law only reacts.
     

  • Gentlemen, if you’ve taught your children well, you’ve done pretty much all you can.
    Endure, my friends.

  • Dale says at least twice that he doesn’t know how to fix it.
    This points to this human urge we have to understand, rationalize, and blame a tragic events on some damn thing.  Then, we feel we can “fix it”.
    We’ve seen it work with gun control, Gorebal climate whatever, blaming the parents, etc., etc.  It leads some of us down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theory.
    Thing is, sometimes stuff just happens.  People break.  We always have.  We will for the foreseeable future.  And once that break happens, the tools a madman has to perform monstrous acts really don’t make much difference.
    Sometimes funnel clouds just come out of the sky and wipe out whole communities.  There is no “why” beyond understanding how our atmosphere works.  There is no fixing it…not really anywhere on the horizon.
    Sometimes, the Earth’s plates move just a little bit in the scale of things, and whole nations are plunged into disaster, followed by disease and want.  No fix for that, either.
    Stuff happens.  We just help and comfort very often, because that really is all there is to do constructively.

    • No no Rags, trust me, if you’ll give me your freedoms, I promise the police will show up faster to pick up the pieces next time something like this happens.

      After all, there’s no evil, just conditions we haven’t medicated you for yet.  Give me your freedoms, and I’ll make this go away.

      And we will….

      And if I hear one more sad lament about this puke being ‘bright’ and ‘quiet’ I’m going to hurl.  How about we try calling a spade a spade here, and not pretend that a guy who can gun down rooms full of little kids just needed a little more help from society.   IMNHO evil was walking the country yesterday, as it does every day in other parts of the world.  Maybe if we’d driven God out of the state a little faster this wouldn’t have happened, right?

    • Sorry if that looks like an attack on you Rags, it’s isn’t and I don’t mean it to be that way.   I’m just thinking about all those who feel there’s no one to answer to but other men and the State they create.

      • I feel you, mah brother…
        Thing is, this is about the age when psychotic breaks happen most often.  And when you have a serious enough break with reality, you really do lose your humanity.  Dunno if that was the case here, and we could easily never know.
        People are capable of coldly, rationally doing stuff like this (how many elementary schools could be populated with the child victims of the Collective from last century?).  But I don’t see that being the case here, or with the Aurora killer.  I think they became monsters organically.  And there is just no way to prevent or predict that most of the time.

  • The scum who did this wasn’t a man. And that’s the problem- we are a nation of perpetual adolescents. And what do kids do? They throw tantrums. Bad ones sometimes. But in a world where attacking a tent containing women and children is condoned because of union politics, I really don’t see where this massacre is such a leap past that. Society made this bed, and we are laying in it.

    May this punk rot in hell.

  • Fathers.Where was this boy’s Father?Where are ANY of the Fathers in todays Food Stamp/Welfare society?Strengthen families and bring Fathers back under the same roof as their kids.

    • “Fathers.Where was this boy’s Father?”

      Fathers? Enlightened people know that fathers aren’t needed. Don’t you know that it takes a village? So where was the village?

      • Fathers are incidental. Ask women today – right Julia? God is a laughable concept to most of the respectable class. Govt to take care of all of us.

    • Family divorced in 2008. I’m not sure lack of a father was the problem as that meant the kid had a dad growing up. Mother was also supposed to be a disciplinarian, and to have complained to her son that she had to give up her class of kids to take care of him. (Thus the school shooting.) Why did someone with a messed up son decide to keep guns is another question.

      • And she had an odd combination of them too.  Couple of self defense handguns and a Bushmaster .223?  Those are hers?
        If they’re not hers, who’s buying weapons for the ‘autistic’ son?    And there must have been magazines for the pistols, even if he used extended magazines.   That or the reports of the number of rounds fired wasn’t accurate (and, that’s entirely possible, given that yesterday we were told he’d killed his dad in NJ….)
        no permits required according to http://www.ibtimes.com/connecticut-gun-laws-no-permit-needed-buy-shotguns-rifles-938576

        Still have to fill out the Federal forms, and from what I recall, one question indicates you are buying for yourself, and another asks if you’re a nut job (effectively).   Answering those wrong results in no sale.
        What’s up with that for an average “educated” woman from the North East?
        and who in hell was the camo handcuffed ‘other shooter’ they took out of the woods who was yelling “it wasn’t me”?

  • The perpetrator, by the way, is properly referred to as ‘the shooter’. Just listen to any news broadcast. Even better, ‘the alleged shooter’. Odd that those folks can wallow in emotional and ‘disturbing’ video but can’t seem to bring themselves to say the word ‘murderer’, or ‘madman’.

  • An interesting commentary on news coverage of such events.

  • An interesting essay on the school shooting phenomenon. Written in 2006 but still applies I think.
    http://www.vickiespicsandprose.com/possible-reasons-behind-the-school-shooting-epidemic/

  • The best way to prevent school shootings would be the make home schooling mandatory.
     

  • I have to disagree with a few of Dale’s gripes about the culture.  There is a great deal of ruin in a country.

    “These kinds of shootings seem to be coming ever faster, and I honestly don’t know what we can do about them.”

    Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, I think the primary response is to keep it in perspective.  This is a highly dramatic tragedy, but the country as a whole has been growing less violent, not more.  Probably fewer than 7,000 Americans died yesterday, the vast majority of them not from violence (much less gun violence) and not nearly that young; the age-adjusted death rate is at all-time lows.

    Sex and violence on TV, and online porn, haven’t prevented the country from becoming much safer over the last 30 years.  The murder rate in America may not have reached our historic 1960-ish lows, but the trend has been good.  The number of sexual assaults collapsed; if DoJ statistics are right, women are now raped less often than men, as there are now more rapes inside prisons than outside.  And the drug war that contributed to packing those prisons has grown unpopular enough that marijuana legalization is winning referenda.

    The anger in our recent politics, with its growing partisanship, still hasn’t produced the riots of 1968, nor a rash of assassinations, nor lynchings.  Of course there are no beatings in Congress anymore, nor pistol duels between politicians, nor anything else of the sort. Instead, it damages a congressman’s career to lose his temper and grab a young activist by his wrist; you don’t even want to get caught on tape defacing your opponent’s campaign signs.  Even with unions, I can’t even imagine anything today turning out like the Homestead Strike or the Battle of Blair Mountain, since catching one random union dude throwing a punch is enough to spark an outcry.

    And the ordinary violence of denying people basic rights has retreated a long way: the country dispensed with slavery and extended the vote to virtually all capable adults, women can own property, and we’re worrying over smaller and smaller divisions on race and gender.

    I have my gripes about the culture, but the problem isn’t an excess of anger and violence, political or otherwise.  America has had bigger helpings of those things in our past than we have now.  What ails our politics is more subtle than that.

    “We’re living off the financial, moral, and intellectual capital of people who opened a continent-wide frontier, defeated horrific foreign tyrannies, and then sent men to the moon. We, of course, will do none of those things.”

    We are at the very beginning of the private space industry.  It’s not an easy frontier for the average man to start exploiting, so our millionaires and billionaires are going first (Ansari X Prize, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Planetary Resources), but finally we’re not relying on the government for everything. Aside from the extreme difficulty of beginning to conquer outer space, advances in materials, biotech, and computation that have already begun might be the intellectual capital that powers future generations.

    And our country has lately defeated some horrific foreign tyrannies: the Taliban and Iraq.  We’re certainly helping the Syrian opposition, and the Assad regime may fall despite all the assistance it has received from Russia.  These efforts may not ultimately produce liberal democracies, and we’re certainly not devoting all our resources to fighting them as we did in the ’40s, but then, there are no great empires of terror left to defeat, just middling human rights abusers and the odd little fiefdom of repression that causes as much misery in its collapse as in its continued operation.

    We absolutely have some significant political challenges left to overcome, and there’s no doubt there will be some painful adjustments.  But the country has survived worse, and in the meantime a lot of things have improved.

    • I agree. My suggestion is to stop watching the news. By news, I mean this sort of news, not all news. That can help.
      Some of the other woe and despair from us oldsters is probably just the usual “kids nowadays” that has been present forever.
      Also, the reason we have more crazies running around is because we, as a society, stopped locking semi-crazy people up back in the 70′s. That is one area that might be re-visited. There is a trade-off between letting crazy people run around freely and security.
      I think the general media set-up has also helped spawn these mega-attacks. Just killing your family is not enough to become infamous now. Hell, the batman dude is already old news.

      • And 10 people shot in Chicago last night is no news at all….Normal actually, don’t they have strict laws about guns?

    • Well, in 1968, we weren’t on the verge of collapsing the entire financial and monetary system through excessive debt. That changes the game significantly.

      • When did we leave the gold standard and Breton woods again?

      • I think this is a vital point.  Right now we’re in the process of eating our children and grandchildren’s seed corn – the rapid increase in violence will come as we run out of corn and have no way to replenish it.  Looking at relatively low levels of violence as a sign we’re not too far off course right now is just whistling past the graveyard.

    • “But the country has survived worse, and in the meantime a lot of things have improved.”

      I don’t feel like it’s been under active assault by high order elements of the government itself.   Or do you think the DOJ, DHS, White House, etrc have our best interests at heart in their quest to ‘fundamentally transform” the country?

      • FDR, Johnson…been there done that.

        Seems to me the free market keeps ahead of socialism…so far.

    • ” Of course there are no beatings in Congress anymore, nor pistol duels between politicians, nor anything else of the sort.”

      I’m not 100% certain that’s a good thing.  Might get more seat turnover if there were.

  • Union members threaten to protest the soccer game of the MI govs daughter. Crickets. Hey, if kids are now fair game politically- and they have been for awhile. You can exploit them in political ads, you can march them with your global warming placards. You can line em up and have them sing hymns to our exhalted leader hmm hmm hmmm. And you can fill em full of propaganda and send them out to work for the party. But you just can’t shoot em. Well it’s good to know where we draw the line nowadays.

    • Use em to stop traffic, to block the doors at sit ins and protest rallies.  See the useful things we’ve learned from the collective.

      Still, I love the subtle intimidation.  Do they know Governors rate a security detail?

  • This latest child killings are a gut-wrenching trajedy, but Mr. Frank’s sense of cultural decline reflected in the mass murder of innocent school children is the same false link between cause and effect that gun control proponents make between weapons and violence. The mass murder of innocent strangers is not a function of culture or the kind of weapon used. It is a function of the seeking for lost approval–James’s “craving for appreciation”–by the human omnivore who subconsciously seeks his own suicide in the act of committing homicide (duocidal behavior, as in terrorism; all too common).The increased frequency of child killings is not likely factual. It is more likely that it is the increased lurid reporting by media that generates the sense that the killings are growing in frequency. German universities tracks all school killings world-wide, and their data does not show any trend of increase.Still, the sight of human horror; sensing a cultural decline is entirely a normal reaction by good-hearted people.  

  • And here comes the politicization of this. It’s extremely hard to “come together” with people who seek to use even this to whack you. So I won’t even bother. Never again. My prayers and heartfelt grief for the kids. I hope they’re in a happy place now.  For the parents, nothing.

  • Today might be a very good day to buy stock in American arms makers.
    Jes’ a note to the wise…
     

    • Except the “never let a crisis” crowd is going to try to ride this horse to a Constitutional adjustment.  Let’s wait and see if Big Ears Barry decides his word is law through regulation or outright proclamation, because he’s already saying the words that translate to “no private firearms”.

      • Which all means that people will be buying up small arms at even HIGHER rates in anticipation of new tyrannies.
        So, buy stock this morning.  You can sell it later if need be.

      • Not to worry, senor. Just tell the dealer you are an illegal alien and plan to take the gun(s) back to Mexico.

  • I thought the most interesting thing about the Obama “Newtown” speech was just how unremarkable a speech can cause the networks to break in on their regular programming.

    Honestly, this speech could have waited for the 11 0′clock news .. or better yet, the morning shows.

    Obama started out fairly well, but about half way through, started to string together (what my old Century Collegiate Handbook would describe as) “deadwood”.

    Then apparently, when the speech was completed, went the wrong way to leave.

    Dan Quayle couldn’t have done worse.

    • I don’t listen to him speaking any longer.  From the snippets I’ve read, it was all too predictable.  More Collectivist pablum offered to advance incursions into American values.

    • Did he say “let me be perfectly clear”, it’s not a speech unless he points out that he’s being clear.

  • “let me be perfectly clear”

    I thought Nixon had that phrase copyrighted.