In response to what has become a nation of shameless racketeering, vivid wealth disparity, and shocking destitution on display in city streets, the party of the common man seeks remedies in the redistribution of capital. Seems more than fair to many. It’s not for nothing that they style it “social justice,” the cutting edge of an economic system called socialism — with overtones, of course, of settling racial and gender scores for good measure.
Socialism might seem to be the answer to all this unfairness and indignity. And naturally it focuses on the two activities that have turned into the worst rackets in America: higher education and health care, a.k.a. “Eds and Meds.” Both are now cruel bloated parodies of what they used to be, turning their customers into debt serfs and bankrupts, apart from their dismal failures of basic mission: to prepare developing minds for reality and to “first do no harm.”
The proposed remedy is for the national government to take responsibility for running them and making their services free to all. That would do nothing, of course, to reform the patent idiocies of the gender studies departments; or rescue the sorry victims of obesity and diabetes from their toxic consumption of whoppers, pizza, and slurpees. Those dynamics operate on feedback wheels of futility for which there is no happy ending outside of drastic changes in thought and behavior.
The Left now promises redemption from these great quandaries with the tag-team of Robin Hood and Santa Claus ushering in a new golden era of free stuff. It’s understandable perhaps, considering how desperate so many citizens of this land are, and how desperation feeds rescue fantasies. And the Left may even get a chance to try this wizardry after the next election. But it’s really not where history is taking us. America is not going to go socialist, it’s going medieval. Why is that?
To put it simply, the money is not there. But the “money” is only an abstract representation of material wealth of one kind or another — energy, goods, resources, and delivery systems — and all that is becoming more of a fugitive presence in reality-based civilization. We don’t have the mojo anymore to nationalize and centralize these sprawling activities. It must be obvious that government is not only fatally beyond bankruptcy, but that it has also reached the stage of diminishing returns from over-investment in complexity that translates into generalized incompetency. It’s hardly just Mr. Trump alone that is responsible for the chaotic paralysis all around us.
Societies are self-organizing, emergent phenomena. They respond to the circumstances that reality presents, and they take us in unexpected directions. The general expectation in the USA since the Second World War has been for ever-increasing material comfort provided by an inexhaustible techno-industrial cornucopia, kind of a cosmic goodie machine. Well, we’d better adjust our thinking to the fact that the horn-of-plenty is shockingly out of goodies, and that no amount of financial hocus-pocus is going to refill it. Valiant attempts to redistribute the already-existing wealth are liable to prove disappointing, especially when the paper and digital representations of that wealth in “money” turn out to be figments — promises to pay that will never be kept because they can’t be kept.
So, instead of fantasizing about free PhD programs for everybody, and free insulin for the multitudes, consider instead the vista of a reduced population working in the fields and pastures to bring enough food out of the long-abused land to live through the next winter. Consider a world in which, if we are lucky, the electricity runs for a few hours a day, but possibly not at all. Imagine a world in which men and women actually function in different divisions of labor and different social spaces because they must, to keep the human project going. Imagine a world in which the ideas in your head about that world actually have to comport with the way the way that world really works — and the severe penalty for failing to recognize that. That’s the more likely world we’re heading into. It won’t put an end to dreams of utopias and cosmic rewards, but it will be a sobering moment in history.