Monday, September 26, 2011

Why Does the Good Life End? Victor Davis Hanson Has the Answer

Victor Davis Hanson  has another great Works and Days column over at PJ Media on why societies decline and are swept away. A couple of excerpts:

The outsourcing of private morality to the state is a particularly modern affliction, but equally as pernicious. We witness the startling paradox that today’s private society is crasser, less honest, and more uncouth even as its government’s official morality stresses gender, race, class, and green ethical superiority. But just because the state now thankfully mandates disabled parking spaces does not mean that we honor a crippled relative more than in the past, or that our children are more likely to write a note of thanks to a grandparent’s gift. I can surely see an erosion in the public expression of manners and morality even as I sense our government is now more “fair” and “equal” than ever before.

When poverty is defined as relative want rather than existential need, states decay and societies decline. In the fifth century, Athenians were content to be paid to go to the theater; by the fourth, they were paid also to vote — even as they hired mercenaries to fight and forgot who won at Salamis, and why. Flash mobbing did not hit bulk food stores. The looters organized on Facebook through laptops and cell phones, not through organizing during soup kitchens and bread lines. Random assaults were not because of elemental poverty, but anger at not having exactly what appears on TV.

Obesity, not malnutrition, is the affliction at Wal-Mart. In our strange culture, that someone drives an overpriced BMW apparently means that our own Toyotas don’t have air conditioners or stereos. But that John Edwards or John Kerry or Al Gore has a huge house doesn’t mean that mine is inadequate — or the tract homes that sprout in my community for new arrivals from Mexico are too small.

Of course, the elite have responsibility to use their largess wisely and not turn into the Kardashians. But that a fifth of one percent of the taxpayers are finding ways not to pay at the income tax rate on their large incomes does not hurt the republic as much as 50% of the population paying no income tax at all. The latter noble sorts do not bother us as much, but their noncompliance bothers the foundations of our society far more than that of the stingy, but minuscule, number of grasping rich.
The whole thing is, as usual, worth reading but down in the comments, the always astute cfbleachers has a great summary of what's eating us alive. A partial quote:

A society that is hell bent on trying to find new and unique ways to pick a fight with itself is in for a headache. This current group is so inane and arrogant, it at once picks a fight, declares the matter “settled”, calls any principled dissent “racist” and then apologizes to the world for our entire past.

The problem, of course…with having the Protest Culture Cult in positions of leadership, is that they can’t produce a budget, have no foreign policy plan, don’t listen to our generals on the ground, can’t fix Wall Street, can’t make a tax program and can’t negotiate a contract with unions…because they have been in “anti” mode for 45 years. They know how to gripe and cry and moan and march in perpetual protest…but, they never had to actually MAKE something, they only had to criticize the efforts of others.


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1 comment:

Megalass said...

Marvin Olasky's book The Tragedy of American Compassion is an excellent history of charity in the USA, what worked, what didn't and how government involvement undermined the whole enterprise and eroded the moral compass of all citizens.