the character of recovery: exiting the soundbite era for something better
4th of july thoughts on the evidence of self-evidence and upon the future of the great american experiment
the roots of the great american experiment lie in the elevation of the individual above the collective, of rights above democracy, and in the essential and inalienable prerogative of we the people to establish by virtue of our own consent such government as we deem best suited to safeguard our freedom and our pursuit of happiness above the remit tyrants and kings.
perhaps most important in this grand enterprise is the foundation in basic notions of justice of the duty to replace any government as becomes inimical to such goals with one better suited to their provision.
this function is both reserved for and dependent upon the people.
it represents both dispensation and obligation, inseverable.
the progenitors this new form of human organization held those truths to be self evident.
and so do i.
i do not believe in blind patriotism nor in “my country (or my party) right or wrong.”
i believe in changing that which has become unsuited to the provision of human agency and human thriving.
and that takes courage.
and this is why courage is and ever must be the foundation of a free society.
so let me speak of how i believe we have lost our way and of how we might find it again, for at heart, the matter is simple:
we have systematically put our faith in the wrong sort of institutions and the wrong sort of people.
faith in rule by technocratic experts to promote the greater good is the death of liberty and of human flourishing.
by their very definitional nature, claims to know this “collective good” are always false.
there can be no such thing in any objective sense and even if such were to exist, it could not be known by any human.
if i take from you and give to her, how may we know if the world is now an objectively better place? if i silence you to assuage the anxiety of him, does his relief exceed your loss of agency? who could even scope such impacts fully much less tally them comparably even as first order effects, much less as second and third?
it’s all a lie.
and the purpose of this lie is to occlude a greater truth:
that the phrase “greater good” always and everywhere belies the intent to sacrifice the few to the many and that is not liberty, that is predation by whomsoever might manage to elevate themselves to the lofty perch of “arbiter of the collective weal.”
and as such arbitration is always dishonest, only the liar and the zealot aspire to determine and enact it. the honest and the principled are galled and will have none.
thus the nature of collectivism is intrinsically to elevate the worst and suppress the best. it’s rule by the deluded and the demagogue.
and the two together find calamitous confluence: an ever growing state with ever greater encroachment whose intellectual and moral underpinnings become ever more divorced from truth or justice and whose stewards must become increasingly deranged to even countenance, much less to thrive under it.
and that way disaster lies.
we’re seeing it all around us.
the center is not holding.
and faith is being lost
and that is a good thing.
for that is how the american dream begins to heal.
we have reached the end of this road.
the time has come to change how we think and what we expect of a government.
and to do that, we need to adjust our frame of thought. so here are a set of truths that once more must become the polestar of our republic.
for these too are self evident:
free people do not follow focus group tested soundbites. they follow leaders.
leadership requires the possession of the courage of one's convictions, not the shallow tactical morality of the pandering demagogue.
such leadership becomes most vital in times of crisis.
elect those of manipulative and mendacious inclination whose only end is to foment and exaggerate crisis upon crisis and yet lacking in any and all of the traits to resolve such calamities or to defend a free people and the results shall ever be debasement and misery.
there are no exceptions.
only those of courage and character may truly serve the cause of liberty that underpins human flourishing.
seeking collectivist ends elevates collectivist leaders and such leaders, be they deluded or dishonest, seek to sell false dreams at the expense of real chances for liberty and thriving. this is the fundamental nature of collectivism, the scorpion that shall ever do the wrong thing and drown us all.
and so the time has come to abandon both.
the time for tolerance of slick utopian promises and populist payday promises has ended.
the time to run such charlatans out of town on a rail has returned.
let us instead elect those of integrity and whose ends are to protect and to elevate we the individuals above they the state.
to this end, we must preserve our own rights to be ungovernable and stand paramount to the governance that serves us (instead of we it.)
this takes more strength, more agency, and greater self-sufficiency to stand.
none incapable of violence may be truly called peaceful.
they are merely subdued.
none incapable of saying “no” can ever truly say “yes.”
they are merely coerced.
“no” is the foundation of freedom and retaining the ability to say so is up to us.
you will keep the rights you are willing to fight for. no more. no less.
this is stern philosophy, but as becomes more plain by the day, reality is not optional.
ignoring ethical foibles or tyrannies, petty or otherwise, because “it’s our team” is a prison of low expectations. the path to exceptionalism must take us another way.
society cannot be healed from the top down but may easily heal itself from the bottom up with order and plenty emerging from human freedom.
we do not need a “solution.” we simply need the state out of our way that we may find the way for ourselves.
the time has come to demand better.
one nation, not of united states but of united people held together by shared visions of liberty and instantiating such governance as required to realize that vision and ennoble the individual. (and not one whit more)
government with and reliant upon the consent of the governed.
all the governed.
no vast leviathan such as ours will ever be ruled by good people for no good people would seek such dominion over others.
the choice is big government by the worst of us or small government by the best.
there is no middle way nor “smarter people next time” nor “just intervention in my one special case.”
we've spent 30 years electing bad people with good media teams, ignoring their grievous ethical flaws, and substituting cynical, saccharine sentiment for honor, honesty, and character.
if we are to sustain this american dream, we can and must become once more worthy of it.
the best is yet to come.
Nobody for Leader.
Start leading yourself.
Thank you for this thoughtful and thought-provoking article.
At the risk of seeming to quibble and thus detract from your fine work, I will say that I occasionally find myself wondering if “electing our leaders” is really the correct framing. I will be the first to admit to having endured a second-rate education, and that may be at the heart of my misapprehension, but I have always regarded elected officials as administrators of state function, not as leaders.
In my experience, leaders arise naturally and organically and have no need of being elected; their role in the community is in no need of official sanction. Occasionally a leader may be elected to high office, but frequently we must choose the least bad from among a crop of mediocre and pedestrian self-seekers who would be largely incapable of delivering on their promises even if they intended to.
It was never completely clear to me how the process of being elected, as contaminated as it is with the grubby business of currying favor among competing special interests and with the establishment, automatically conferred some kind of moral virtue that I necessarily would want to follow in the sense that one follows a leader.
Is it possible that much present difficulty might be ascribed to venerating as leaders ordinary people who should be elected as invisible servants?
Was I misled when I was taught that “a bad king is one the subjects hate, a better king is one the subjects love, but the best king is one that the subjects don’t even know they have?”
Wouldn’t efficient and minimally-intrusive administration of the routine affairs of a town, a county, a state and a county be better than elected officials arrogating to themselves “leadership”?
Leaders are best left to arise in an environment where elected officials don’t see them as competition.
There’s more to this than I have room for here, but I hope I have managed to convey the gist without undermining your inspiring work.