Free Markets, Free People

decline

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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Loss of Will

Via Instapundit, I saw this story which irked me. It’s an AP story, so I won’t quote it directly. You can go read it if you want. The upshot is that UN forces were besieged by Syrian Rebels in the Golan heights.The commander of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, or UNDOF, who supervises the UN peacekeeping forces in Golan, ordered the peacekeepers to surrender to the rebels.

Last week, the detachment from Fiji were surrounded by the Rebels and surrendered, and are still prisoners of the rebels. The rebels then besieged the Philippine detachment of UNDOF. As part of the negotiations to secure the release of the Fijian peacekeepers, the UNDOF commander told the the Philippine detachment to surrender as well. The Philippine detachment, conversely, told the UNDOF commander to go screw, and…extricated themselves from the siege, during which time they were…ahem…forced to fire on the rebels in self defense.

So, first off, kudos to the Philippine troops, and their big boss, Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, who said that Philippine soldiers do not surrender their firearms.

Second, how useless is the UN and its “Peacekeeping Forces”? Rebel attacks have been on the rise, causing several UNDOF member nations to withdraw their troops. These withdrawals, have, surprisingly, not kept the peace, and rebel attacks have been on the rise.

The UN is supposed to provide peacekeeping troops to, if necessary, enforce the rules of decent civilization on barbarians. Clearly, they are a failure at that. One can’t help but remember that in other, happier days, the defenders of civilization, when attacked by barbarians, would keep the peace by hunting down and killing the barbarians to the last man, killing him, then killing his pet goat, as Ralph Peters has put it. Not any more, apparently. The job of UN peacekeeping has seemingly been reduced to molesting underage girls and surrendering to barbarians.

The thing is, there are men who only want to see the world burn. To surrender to them does not gain peace, but gives them the world.

We spoke about piracy at sea on the podcast this week, and how, after obliterating it in the 19th century, we have allowed it to flourish in the 21st. We are squandering–indeed have mostly squandered–the legacy of of civilization, and with it the notion that civilization must be defended. There is never a shortage of barbarians, but there is an increasing shortage of nations willing to defend against them with the only thing barbarians understand: naked, brutal, death-dealing violence.

I do not see a bright future for civilization if this continues. Future generations may very well regard us as men of the Middle Ages did the Romans, wondering how they built all those roads and aqueducts.

Civilization may not be perfect, but as the example of ISIS/ISIL in Iraq is instructing us, it is generally better than the alternative.


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Chinese lecture Europe on the corrosive effect of the welfare state

Irony of ironies.  The Chinese lecturing the supposed capitalist West on economics and the welfare state.  Of course, as we’ve discussed many times, Crony Capitalism and/or Corporatism aren’t Capitalism.   At best the West has a mixed economy with various levels of intrusion and market distortion caused by governments.  In effect, what this gentleman is saying to Europe is the intrusion and distortion levels are such that they have caused a cultural malaise which is finally coming home to roost:

"If you look at the troubles which happened in European countries, this is purely because of the accumulated troubles of the worn out welfare society. I think the labour laws are outdated. The labour laws induce sloth, indolence, rather than hardworking. The incentive system, is totally out of whack.

"Why should, for instance, within [the] eurozone some member’s people have to work to 65, even longer, whereas in some other countries they are happily retiring at 55, languishing on the beach? This is unfair. The welfare system is good for any society to reduce the gap, to help those who happen to have disadvantages, to enjoy a good life, but a welfare society should not induce people not to work hard."

Jin Liqun, the supervising chairman of China’s sovereign wealth fund

Of course that just touches the surface of the problems Europe faces, but essentially Jin is saying that the system in Europe, i.e. state welfare, is not only unsustainable, but discourages hard work – a vicious and self-defeating cycle.

Go figure.   Most rational people understand that human beings respond to incentive.  And that a good portion will always choose the easy way.   Human nature 101.   So when given the option of hard work or being a slacker and getting paid to be one, those who tend to slack will always choose the latter if an incentive to do so is provided. 

His point about labor laws that require rules such as featherbedding for instance is true.  And, by dictating wages, etc., government intrudes on market dynamics which properly price labor.   Instead we see the distortion of labor’s worth, rules that cut into productivity and spiraling costs which kick up the price of goods and services beyond what a market would dictate.

And that’s just a very small part of the problem.  Europe decided decades ago that it could use a mixed economy to somehow pay for a large welfare state.  It thought it had it all figured out and then this crisis hit.  But it was clear to many that it isn’t this crisis that precipitated Europe’s current  financial problems, it just hastened them.  Much like the revenue shortfalls we see here for the trillions in unfunded obligations for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, Europe has seen those for years.  Its day of reckoning is at hand.

Greece was the weakest member of the Eurozone.  But Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland aren’t far behind.  What critics of the welfare state have said for decades can no longer be hidden.   And, unsurprisingly, the culture that sort of a state breeds is fighting tooth and nail to preserve it, even if they really know that’s not possible.

But the irony is unquestionable.  Lectures by communists on the dangers of the  welfare state.  Snowballs in hell are obviously possible.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO