Tom Bethell has written a fine article on the America he has known, 1962-today. He was an immigrant from England in 1962. He came here to study New Orleans jazz. That’s a man after my own heart. He loved George Lewis’ music. So did I. He wrote a book on Lewis. That, I did not do.
He is a conservative. He sees things pretty much the way I do. Not many others do.
He thinks progressive liberalism is on the run, all over the world. So do I. He thinks technology is on freedom’s side. So do I. He thinks jazz has declined since 1970. So do I. He thinks India and China are the wave of the future because statism is declining in both nations. So do I.
Here are highlights.
Culturally, it has been downhill.
When I later saw what happened to American popular music—tumbling from ragtime to the idiocies of rap in less than a century—I have been dogged by a sense of decline. Classical music, ditto: Bach to Bartok. Where’s the improvement? It’s all downhill. Perhaps that helps explain why I don’t believe in evolution. Things don’t evolve; they peak quickly and inconspicuously, then they fall apart. . . .
His rallying cry: “Shut it down!”
Like welfare, foreign aid hurts those who receive it, and I’m always glad to read that a country has rid itself of the Agency for International Development. Howard Phillips, appointed by President Nixon to head the Office of Economic Opportunity, promptly attempted to shut it down, and Howie and I have been friends ever since. . . .
Communism is dead. Liberalism isn’t.
What of Communism today? As a party program with satellite countries, millions of “apparatchiks,” and a queen bee in the Kremlin, it is dead. But American-style liberalism is its remnant and it lives on in its dishonest way. . . .
What do modern leftism (American liberalism) and communism have in common? Both are godless and egalitarian, but liberalism has “evolved.”
Communists wanted to kill off capitalism, for example, but liberals know it must be preserved—in a highly taxed and regulated form. It must be permitted to create sufficient wealth to redistribute to favored groups—single mothers, minorities, college professors—if the system is to keep Democrats in office. Liberals want market outcomes to be “predictable.” Appeals to envy and blame heaped on the rich can also be used as a bludgeon, as Obama has shown. . . .
Liberals fear democracy.
The liberal-left, who in some ways constitute our intelligentsia, are never reliably in power in a democracy. It frustrates them that they must submit to majority rule. Hence the importance they attach to the Supreme Court, a tribunal where five votes can enforce the things they most care about. Unrestricted access to abortion is probably their top issue today, and has been for some time. . . .
But there have also been opposing trends since the Hiss days. Blue-collar workers, once known as the working class, have shown they are not revolutionists. They aspire to join the middle class, not overthrow it. Think “Reagan Democrats.” It’s intellectuals who are, and always have been, the core of the revolutionary party.
The free market is winning.
Another change is that market forces, despite the liberals’ regulatory zeal, are far stronger than they were in 1962. The world’s two most populous countries, China and India, are becoming market economies, and we should no more fear their growing wealth than we did Japan’s after World War II. Regulatory agencies, including the EPA (a Nixon creation!), may hamstring the U.S. If so, China will move ahead all the faster. Don’t think of China as “Communist” either. True, that’s what their government calls itself, but they seem to be pulling off the unprecedented feat of both staying in power and encouraging capitalism. Taiwan may be the mainland’s undeclared model. China is not our enemy, and the same goes for Russia.
In Europe there’s a comparable lesson. Bond markets are now more powerful than politicians, despite the best efforts of the IMF. This frustrates the intelligentsia, who want Europe to submit to their foolish Euro-diktat. It won’t work. Europe is fragmenting, not uniting. Its countries are subdividing and will continue to do so. The EU is emerging as one of the great planning disasters engineered by the postwar ruling class.
Technology is our friend.
Technology meanwhile is ushering in huge changes. I am thinking of the digital world, the Internet in particular. It is so recent that predictions about it are hazardous. But its major effect will be to decentralize power. This is already happening, and the mainstream media can tell you about it. But they would rather not. Their semi-monopolistic mainstream is dividing into a thousand rivulets. Television is finally waning. The stock price of the Washington Post has fallen by two-thirds, while that of the New York Times is down to one-sixth of its peak a decade ago.
Read the whole article. Please.