Freedom

Is America the New Weimar Republic? Yeah, no.

Extremist politics, fashion choices galore: Life really is a cabaret, old chum. Or just more prosperous, fun, and free.

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Over at the great site Splice Today, Todd Seavey ponders the 2016 presidential campaign and despairs:

At a time when our two major parties sometimes sound as if they're aiming for a careful balance of socialism and fascism, maybe I should feel consoled by the thought that at least we don't live in the dark days when people really did feel obligated to choose between those two options explicitly. Instead, I'm horrified that people go on choosing sides with enthusiasm even when presented with the most deadly and monstrous options.

With or without Biden in the race, I feel quite surrounded by bad presidential options this time around. What frightens me, though, is not the situation today but the possibility that people will keep going through the same half-hearted motions of picking, debating, squabbling, lining up behind their chosen representatives even as things get far, far worse and the choices more and more authoritarian.

Well, at least there's Halloween coming up, right? And Seavey plugs his NYC "libertarian Halloween party" in his column.

I don't take seriously the idea the that we're in the near-final stages of a decadent collapse. I'm not sure that Seavey does either, but I do know that Camille Paglia does. In fact, she told Reason TV in an interview that the proliferation of identity types is its surest sign:

Cabaret

Paglia: …There [comes] a time when these fine gradations of gender identity—I'm a male trans doing this, etc.—this is a symbol of decadence, I'm sorry. Sexual Personae talks about this, that was in fact the inspiration for it, was that my overview of history and my noticing that in late phases, you all of a sudden get a proliferation of homosexuality, of sadomasochism, or gendered games, impersonations and masks, and so on. I think we're in a really kind of late phase of culture.

reason: So that the proliferation of cultural identities, the proliferation of all sorts of possibilities is actually a sign that we're…

Paglia: On the verge of collapse? Yes! Western Culture is decline. There's absolutely no doubt about it, in my view, looking at the history of Egypt, of Babylon, of Byzantium, and so on. And so what's happening is everyone's so busy busy busy with themselves with this narcissistic sense of who they are in terms of sexual orientation or gender, and this intense gender consciousness, woman consciousness at the same time, and meanwhile…

For what it's worth, Paglia immediately classifies herself as a decadent.

The Seavey-Paglia line certainly has the ring of truth and it definitely appeals to all of us who want to be alive during the last days of disco and the Roman Empire. But I remain unconvinced that we're witnessing the collapse of civilization. That may just be an uncritical belief in progress on my part, but the vast and ongoing decentralization of authority has not in fact led to more human violence and desperation. Put slightly different: Western civilization may indeed be declining in terms of a cultural, political, and economic hegemony. That doesn't mean that civilization is declining.

Far from it. A record-low percentage of earthlings live in extreme poverty and for all the wars still smoldering around the planet, violence rates are down too. In terms of trends in political freedom, Freedom House's latest ratings show a nine-year decline in freedom, which supports the Seavey-Paglia POV. That's not nothing, to be sure, but it's also true that the world is still infinitely more free than it was 30 years ago. In 2000, Freedom House considered 44 percent of countries free; in 2015, despite declines, 46 percent are rated free.

So, Todd Seavey, enjoy this Halloween as though it might be your last. It won't be, but it will probably add some thrills to the evening.

What say you, Reason.com readers? Are we witnessing the end of the world, the birth of a new world, or just the slow, spreading-out of middle age?

Paglia on cultural decline comes in here around the 24-minute mark:

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  1. Recent events are always stronger in everyone’s memory, and it’s human nature as we age to think things are changing too fast, compared to our false memories of past stasis. I bet if Jesse Walker were to research this, he’d find every single era, mini-era, and micro-era had its share of doom-sayers. The only reason some get remembered is that some are sooner or later correct. Sure there will be peak oil — sometime. It’s not infinite. It may be held off by converting magma or clouds to oil in some way we can’t imagine now, but physical matter is limited — by current physics. Who knows, maybe the virtual particles in vacuum can be harvested and turned into oil, but at some point, people will stop wanting oil, and there will have been peak oil, long after anybody actually cares, just as we are now long past peak buggy whip.

    1. The one thing we know for sure – we will never, EVER hit Peak Derp?

  2. I’m just keeping my eye out for the next great experiment in Liberty, so I can retire there.

    People forget the fall of “great” empires comes when the State starts providing the tools of so-called decadence (Bread & Circus?). Seems like societies where “decadence” comes from the individual do just fine over as longer term.

    1. Hey, off topic but, are you coming out to Colorado to skit this year?

      1. Ayup – probably. Likely to be Copper.

    2. Maybe a Mars colony will be up by then.

  3. In recent elections, the GOP voters seemed to be holding their nose to vote for the least-worst option, whereas the Democrat voter seemed to be actually enthusiastic in his choice. Now, for some reason, a couple terrible Republican offerings are jazzing people up, whereas not many are stretching the front of their breeches for any Democrats on tap.

    1. You mean the lurch to the Left and the enthusiasm for Socialist Bernie Sanders isn’t real? Not to worry, it can’t happen here. Libertarians will ride to the rescue.

  4. But I remain unconvinced that we’re witnessing the collapse of civilization. That may just be an uncritical belief in progress on my part, but the vast and ongoing decentralization of authority has not in fact led to more human violence and desperation

    What we do have is an authority which continuously flexes its centralization muscle in an attempt to (continue to) assert control over a people that find themselves enjoying more and more choices.

    I think it’s important to talk about that.

    Yes, I can buy amazing toys like… oh, I dunno, a really cool GPS-controlled drone with a camera on it that let’s me do all kinds of neato stuff.

    But I have to register it with the government.

    Marijuana is legal-ish in my state. But there’s a byzantine set of rules and limited options to sell it, with the government controlling who, when, where and how it’s sold.

    I’m finally free to by liquor in the GROCERY store! *shudder* but the government slapped a 20% tax on all spirits to keep a cadre of liquor control board employees in catnip.

    I’m free to own various firearms, but if I hand one to someone else, there has to be background checks, approvals from federal officials, documentation and stamping to do so.

    Crime is down, police are safer than ever, but why do I feel that my chances of being killed by a cop are far greater than they were 25 years ago?

    1. Look Paul, you enjoy so much freedom it’s sickening. You’re free to choose which hand your sex-monitoring chip is implanted in. And if you don’t want to pay your taxes, why then you’re free to spend a weekend with the Pain Monster.

      1. Irwin Schiff would like to know more about this “one weekend” route. Well, would have.

      2. All I ask is that I have *some* choice in what color and style my ducts some in. Central Services can provide that, can’t it?

        1. Mr. Tuttle would like a word with you.

    2. “why do I feel that my chances of being killed by a cop are far greater than they were 25 years ago?”

      Probably because we have the technology to catch and record them that we didn’t back then.

      1. I think that only partially explains it.

        They absolutely weren’t using military squads with assault rifles and grenades to arrest petty thieves and drug dealers.

        Even retired cops have commented on the overuse of military tactics to make simple warrant arrests.

        1. Officer safety. Better to kill a thousand innocent peasants than allow one cop to stub their toe.

        2. Didn’t they bomb a suburb in Philly once? You’re right about the militarization but you don’t need to be militarized to thug it up.

          1. I’m not going to tell you that the police didn’t misbehave or lacked corruption.

            I’ve argued that police were MORE corrupt back in the day.

            And that bombing of the tenement building in Philly is talked about to this day as a low point in American policing.

            Is anyone in the media going to be talking about how the LAPD shot everything that moved in LA during the Christopher Dorner hunt?

    3. why do I feel that my chances of being killed by a cop are far greater than they were 25 years ago?

      A combination of zero tolerance for non-compliance with a laser focus on officer safety can be quite deadly for any members of the public who dare to disobey unlawful orders and/or assert their non-existent rights.

    4. This idea that police are magically getting worse is a myth, dear. The brutality inherent in law enforcement has existed quietly for many decades.

      1. As someone who’s interacted with police since the early 70s, I can tell you there’s a much more aggressive approach in the way police deal with the public.

        I know it sounds like a bit of cheesy Americana, but there was a time when if a cop found a kid misbehaving, he’d grab the kid by his shirtcollar, drag him home to his parents, give everyone a talking to and that would be the end of it.

        I had cops approach us as kids because of neighbor ‘noise complaints’, and when the cop got there, no one was even asked to produce id.

        1. I can tell you there’s a much more aggressive approach in the way police deal with the public.

          Yes. The cops are trained to demand total compliance while never putting their safety at risk. As a result they are more aggressive and quicker to violence than they used to be. The thin blue line has become the nightstick in the dark.

          1. I agree the officer safety angle is a big part of it.

          2. Strangely enough the cop that was killed in NY yesterday may just have been putting his safety at risk just to chase a bicycle thief armed with a gun. Any more snarky comments?

        2. Your angle of observation is correct, of course, and police are being trained differently and in a way that promotes police safety over public protection but landmark cases like Mapp v Ohio and Miranda v Arizona in the early days arose because of these realities.

          The blatant and belligerent disregard of constitutional rights by law enforcement initiated those early movements to try and rein in fucking scumbags hired by the state.

        3. “…but there was a time when if a cop found a kid misbehaving, he’d grab the kid by his shirtcollar, drag him home to his parents, give everyone a talking to and that would be the end of it.”

          Can I pass your suggestion to the cops in Chicago or Detroit?

  5. But it’s not the threat of decadence dethroning Western civilization. It’s the threat of progressive politics hobbling productivity in the name of dethroning Western civilization. Whether the public is dragooned into referring to Bruce as Caitlin or Kim Davis attaches her name to a different sort of state license affects GDP not at all, but a regime of microregulation affecting every facet of industry, business, capital, and labor very much does.

    1. I hope that new tech ex Uber will cut through and render more and more of that regime of regulation.

  6. If Western Culture collapses, it will be because the governmental parasite sucks its societal host dry. Which is exactly what will happen if the government tries to solve the “problem” of inequality with earnest.

    1. Inequality is what has made Western society so great. It is the great accumulations of capital that have given us cheap food, clothing, and other necessities of life. If government sets itself on destroying the engine of capitalism, we will see real hunger and homelessness on a scale that hasn’t been seen in generations.

      1. Don’t worry, though. The media machine and the SJWs will blame the results of all the government meddling on Capitalism.

  7. If you start a simple business for something as basic as ridesharing, you have to hire an army of lobbyists to negotiate with every city, town and burgh and navigate a labyrinth of entrenched interests and corrupt local officials who want to regulate every move you make.

    I guess if I had to make an assessment, I would say that centralization and leviathan are growing in equal share or right along with the expansion of choices we have in western society.

    I just spent two weeks living and working within Communist China, and all snark aside, it was an eye-opening experience in how free the Chinese people (inside communist mainland china) are to pursue their ideas.

    Yes, there are glaring aspects of government control that most Americans wouldn’t put up with, but it was a very educational experience in how the Chinese people view and work with (and around) their own government.

    1. I can’t imagine what it is you believe American’s won’t put up with. I suggest starting at a more basic level and ask what kind of abuse American’s won’t enthusiastically support.

      Even that lighter standard tolerates an NSA police state and prosecution of icky speech.

      1. I can’t imagine what it is you believe American’s won’t put up with.

        to be specific, The Great Firewall of China. America wouldn’t put up with the wholesale blocking of well-known encrypted services because the NSA can’t read it.

        The NSA would very MUCH like to emulate the GFWC, but the political will isn’t there as of yet.

        One child policy. I predicted (about ten years ago) that China’s one-child policy would end in ten years. Looks like I’m wrong, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’m really quite surprised that with the explosive economic growth they’ve had (the nexus of my prediction) that they haven’t abandoned it. Paul Ehrlich and his progressive ilk would love to enact such a thing, but again, the political will isn’t there.

        Freedom of movement from town to town. In China, there are bizarre relocation and registration rules. If you want to move from Beijing to Dongguan (for example), you have to pay fees and register with the government. I’m sure progressives would be drooling to institute a policy like this for egalitarian purposes (of course), but it wouldn’t fly here.

        1. I think the American people would absolutely support the GFWC. They already support the NSA reading all of your emails. I don’t see much difference. Freedom of movement I think could be sold based on safety. We already tolerate no fly lists with scant or zero evidence. The only point I think you might have is the one child policy. You may be right that we aren’t ready to tolerate that just yet.

    2. Some potential lesser-known facets of Chinese government approach, and why they’re actually freer in some ways:

      1) three times as many people – It’s harder to engage in picayune tyranny with a billion people.

      2) an aversion to individual action – An American cop can walk around as lord of all he surveys because he essentially is. If a peasant gets out of line, the cop can can any action he wants and rest assured of being backed up the line by his command. A Chinese cop won’t take a shit without orders from higher, and doesn’t “embarrass” his leaders if he knows what’s good for him.

      3) differing priorities – US government: OBEY and produce tax revenue. Chinese government: Don’t challenge the Party. Other than that, we don’t give a damn.

      Not to say there aren’t problems (mostly tied to Third World attitudes that haven’t caught up with a getting-to-First-World economy), but it’s something to think about.

  8. For the Ward Cleavers, western civilization is definitely collapsing. For Dan Savage, probably not so much.

    1. The Ward Clevers of the world built the most productive, wealthiest and most powerful civilization in human history. The Dan Savages of the world used all that wealth and power to invent the gay bathhouse and figure out you could put a gerbil up a man’s ass.

      I am not sure what you intended but you are kind of making Paglia’s point here.

      1. Alan Turing disagrees.

        1. Dan Savage is no Alan Turing.

          1. Right. Alan Turing helped build and protect post WWII civilization. He was Ward Cleaver. He also liked a penis in the ass. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

            1. Were there gerbils?

              1. “Today, on Reason’s ‘Wild Kingdom’, gerbils – not just for Habitrail? any more….”

              2. No. But definitely bath houses.

            2. “He also liked a penis in the ass.” That’s his defining characteristic as a Libertarian?

      2. “The Ward Clevers of the world built the most productive, wealthiest and most powerful civilization in human history. ”

        No that was Ward Clever’s grandparents. Ward Clever was more likely to vote for keeping SS.

        1. No Ward Clever would have likely been fighting the SS.

          1. And then voting to keep his SS when he got old.

          2. Actual backstory, per wiki:

            Ward attended a prep school, is a veteran of World War II (having served as a surveyor in the Seabees), a State college graduate (majoring in Philosophy),[2] and member of a fraternity, a responsible white collar professional, and an upstanding citizen.

  9. The love of soaring through the wilds and breaking through the barriers of imprisoning ideologies is unique to the individual I presume. Some of these liberty-hunting individuals can be decadent high-ass motherfuckers who eat too much pussy or are thoughtful frugal farmers who pen books on philosophy.

    Decadence is just a characteristic of station. This isn’t to say that some of the homeless and hobos don’t share a unique streak of grunge decadence.

  10. One of the reasons the Roman Empire got so bad was probably because it shmooshed all the competition. No more Carthage. They were free to fuck over their producers and otherwise be horrible/stupid with minimized short-term consequences that allowed the bread and circuses to rot Rome right out. Where where the producers going to go? China?

    The world today has so much more competition. Panama for instance isn’t perfect but it’s a pretty liveable place.

  11. So out of every government ever, the US has finally gotten it right. There is not now, nor will there ever be, need for a revolution of any sort. We’ve finally managed to get the right sort of Top Men into the correct positions.

    Well hallelujah for humanity!

  12. I think it is obvious we are nearing several very large collapses.

    The collapse of the post world war 2 American Empire and the end of the era of the superpower where we revert to the way the world was prior to WW2 and there are multiple world powers each exerting varying amounts of influence in different parts of the world but none being able to truly control anything and none really willing to confront the other in direct conflict becuase they are too equal in power for the outcome to be assured.

    The end of the current debt based global financial system. Too much has been borrowed for too long and there is no way to stop it from crashing down entirely.

    And culturally yes we are looking at the end of the “liberalized hedonisim” that grew out of the post war period. This is not to say people in the west and the US in particular are going to suddenly grow less tolerant and more conservative but identity politics has just about reached the end of the line and at some point in the next decade or so a new social order will emerge

    1. I think you about nail it. The scary part of all of that is that the “end of liberalized hedonism” is just people realizing that there is more to life than free sex and having lots of stuff. When they do that and start looking for something more meaningful, they are likely to turn to some pretty dark things like radical Islam, doomsday environmentalism and God knows what else.

      1. That could well be so.

        And welcome back.

        1. …from wherever you were.

    2. *Putting on my doom & gloom tinfoil hat*

      Sorry, but the social stuff and identity politics is just a sideshow. When we’re struggling with currency devaluation and/or peak debt whether rape culture exists or not will be of minor concern compared to needing to employ, feed, house and offer opportunity to young and old alike.

      Poverty has a way of wiping away secondary distractions and focusing the mind on the important.

      1. Poverty has a way of wiping away secondary distractions and focusing the mind on the important

        Drop the mic, Mrs LS! As Hans Landa would say, “That’s a bingo!”

  13. We’ve been experiencing a collapse of civilization for decades. Didn’t anyone else read Brazun?

    Just because one type of civilization collapses doesn’t mean another doesn’t take its place. What takes its place is the question. Better or worse? Yes.

    1. Seems there are many people who conflate best there is right now with best. When enough people decide that things could still be better, change happens.

    2. Yes. I love that book. And what is going to take this civilization’s place is going to be much worse. We had a pretty amazing thing going there.

      1. Meh. We had some amazing principles articulated by old dead white guys. To the extent we’ve been able to hold on to those Enlightenment ideas, we’ve been successful. Unfortunately, they’ve been co-opted, corrupted, and water-downed to the point of meaninglessness in certain regards. Now, how we move forward will pit those tattered principles against “newer” ideas and ideologies. We’ll see who wins. Could go either way, if you ask me.

  14. Is Nick lighting the basic bitch signal for HM with that pic?

  15. “Yeah, no.”

    You’re a grown man, Gillespie, and this isn’t Gawker.

    That said – we approve of the Alt-text, and its subject matter.

  16. “Western civilization may indeed be declining in terms of a cultural, political, and economic hegemony. That doesn’t mean that civilization is declining.”

    That would be reassuring, except for the fact that *I’m* Western.

    Did it cheer up the Spaniards, in their decline, to reflect that at least there were other, more successful countries out there?

    1. And of course Nick doesn’t talk about those other civilizations that are replacing Western Civilization as it loses its hegemony. I am pretty sure Nick would not like living in any of those civilizations very much.

      1. As someone whose grandparents emigrated from Ireland and Italy to America in the 20th century, I can tell you that the decline of Spanish empire both in Europe and the Americas turned out okay for everyone except the Spanish (and they’re better off now than they were just 40 years ago).

        As for those “other civilizations,” the fact that China is technically a bigger economy than the United States in no, way, or form means that we are going to start speaking Mandarin or being forced to participate in opening ceremonies for the Olympics. And indeed, these other countries and regions will prosper precisely to the extent that appropriate and mirror liberal economic and political regimes.

        1. I’m focused on the fact that the American empire, like the Spanish empire of old, is collapsing from internal corruption. Yes, it does occur to me that other countries may screw us when we’re weak, but that would simply be one of several results.

        2. And indeed, these other countries and regions will prosper precisely to the extent that appropriate and mirror liberal economic and political regimes.

          If only that were true Nick. Prosperity isn’t the only measure of power and justice and morality hardly the only or even a sure fire means of obtaining it. While those places are not going to prosper economically, they absolutely can become powerful and influential much to the detriment of us and the world at large.

          It is a mistake to think that our freedom and our civilization just organically happen. It doesn’t work that way. Our freedom and our civilization are the exception in human existence and only exist because generations of people fought and strived to make it that way. Stop doing that and both will go away very quickly.

        3. Nick has seen the future and absolutely guarantees that Mandarin will not be spoken and that free pot and butt sex means that civilization has now reached its apogee. But watch out for Officer Friendly ’cause he’s looking to shoot you for spitting on the sidewalk.

  17. “That may just be an uncritical belief in progress on my part, but the vast and ongoing decentralization of authority has not in fact led to more human violence and desperation. Put slightly different: Western civilization may indeed be declining in terms of a cultural, political, and economic hegemony. That doesn’t mean that civilization is declining.”

    This reads like Houellebecq’s Submission, with resignation to the new cultural hegemon and everything–except the cultural, political, and economic antagonist to which we’re submitting isn’t Islam in this case. It’s something else.

    There are a number of problems with this picture. For one, the decentralization of authority isn’t political, or maybe it’s better to say that political authority is actually being centralized in support of the new culture. It has always been the case that political institutions are subject to cultural changes. That isn’t new.

    However, the separation of church and state was a Protestant construct. Our conception of the Protestant work ethic is, of course, a Protestant construct. As I’m watching these things, and many more like them, disappear, I can’t console myself with the realization that at least the cultural hegemony is being decentralized. Not when I see that political power is being thoroughly centralized.

  18. I see respect for the individual being overwhelmed in the new political culture. I think that’s one of the new political culture’s distinctive features. In the past, politics had it that government should let individuals make choices for themselves, just like God Almighty. Nowadays, anything can be justified in utilitarian terms so long as it’s in the interests of the greater good–and nothing can be justified unless it’s for the greater good.

    If we’re now free to do things that are actually in everyone’s interests to let people do, like, say, gay marriage and consuming cannabis, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re living in a freer society. A society in which no one is free to do anything unless it’s in everyone else’s best interests is a totalitarian society. I don’t know that Baptists being free to exercise their religious beliefs is better for everyone, and I don’t know that putting my competitors out of business, racists and homophobes using slurs, high capacity guns, or using fossil fuels to fly somewhere on vacation is in everyone else’s best interests either. But I know that a free society is when individuals have the right to make choices for themselves that may not be in everyone’s interests, and that such a society has important qualitative benefits that can’t always be quantified.

    And I’m seeing the public’s respect for those qualitative benefits circling the drain, and I know that speaks speaks to the culture.

    1. ^^THIS^^

      What Nick can’t seem to grasp is that there is more to “freedom” than your ability to do this or that. Just because you can smoke pot doesn’t mean you are free. If you can smoke pot because it is your right to control your own body, then you are free. If you can smoke pot because the government has decided that pot is a substance if finds acceptable, you are not free.

      1. The ability to smoke a tree under the waning light of day surrounded by sweetly toning crickets completely free from state-sponsored oppression is a small slice of liberty.

        All modern societies are structured. Limiting the ability of government to make a plant illegal is simply one step in a particular direction of limiting the ability of government to imprison over a specific illegal activity.

        Any movement made toward decreasing government intrusion is the primary goal of people who seek freedom.

        1. For some reason my right to smoke hemp – even if you throw in my right to marry my brother – while the government tells me what kind of insurance I must buy does not indicate to me that I am now more free. Oh, and the leading contender for President thinks that confiscating my guns is worth considering.

    2. “But I know that a free society is when individuals have the right to make choices for themselves that may not be in everyone’s interests…”

      Chosen morality, envy, and/or overt desire to control others is an ‘interest’ that directly positions itself to be violated which complicates the free society.

    3. A society in which no one is free to do anything unless it’s in everyone else’s best interests is a totalitarian society.

      This is the money shot, right here. We live in a permission-based society. It can’t be said strongly enough.

      We only receive permission when legislators or regulators have decided what’s in society’s best interest.

  19. “Is America the New Weimar Republic?”

    You know who else…confound it, you spoiled my joke.

    1. *stumbles into room, shouts…*

      HITLER???!!!

      Was I on time??

  20. I’m sure “splice” or whatever is a great site, but anyone who talks casually about ‘fascism’ and ‘socialism’ as if they were two separate actual things can pretty much be safely ignored. The difference between the two is purely academic and not at all discernible in practice.

    1. Socialism has – or used to have – a a clear definition.

      Fascism, as proudly anti-intellectual movement, doesn’t have the same precision when it comes to nailing down its tenets.

      It’s intensely nationalistic, and rejects socialism’s (alleged) international focus. And it supports aggrandizing one’s own country at the expense of other countries.

      It has the government all up in your business, because the individual is just a cell in the social organism.

      In line with the anti-intellectualism and nationalism, it attributes redemptive qualities to violence wielded on behalf of the nation or the Movement.

      It’s not intrinsically anti-Semitic, since Mussolini, before he joined Hitler around the mid-1930s, was cool with Jews, so long as they were Italian Fascists.

      I think America won’t really fascist until it gets more serious about (a) conquering other countries and (b) demanding Sacrifice (like conscription) from the people in support of these conquests. In fact, we don’t have politicians talking up sacrifice – even for bad causes, much less good ones – it’s all about “vote for me and things will be easier for you.”

      1. Fascism as an economic system is largely similar. One controls the means of production, the other leaves industries in the owners’ hands, but nationalizes the ‘results’ of production– or more accurately, demands industries pursue the national goals of the state.

        You know what regular commenter here continuously demands private industry serve the demands of the state?

        I think America won’t really fascist until it gets more serious about (a) conquering other countries and (b) demanding Sacrifice (like conscription) from the people in support of these conquests.

        Looks at Notorious in silence with blank stare.

        1. You know what regular commenter here who else continuously demands private industry serve the demands of the state?

          1. Now what did I do?

    2. ” The difference between the two is purely academic and not at all discernible in practice.”

      I’m sure people living within the respective systems at the time would have found the subtle differences rather more important than you or I do.

      That aside = Todd Seavey is beloved, a ‘Friend of Ours’ in the Reason Mafia. Its worth checking out other stuff he writes.

  21. So, it’s not civilization that’s collapsing. Just our little corner of it.

    Somehow or another, I don’t find myself wildly reassured.

    1. Just to clarify, that was my personal take on what Gillespie said, not my own take.

      Personally, I do think we have problems. That “vast and ongoing decentralization of authority” doesn’t seem to be being accompanied by a similarly “vast and ongoing” devolution of responsibility, which almost everyone seems delighted to see centralized. That isn’t a viable arrangement, in the long run.

      I think we’re reaching sort of the end of the line on this particular trend. It’s going to go either one of two ways, either we’ll see a revival or real individualism (as opposed to the “I do what I want! Oh, and give me stuff!” variety.). Or we’re going to see all of that decentralization reverse itself as we slip back into a new dark age.

  22. Is America the New Weimar Republic?

    Did America just lost a major war and made to pay huge reparations to her victors, which is breeding revanchism, resentment, nationalism, cynicism and despondency?

    Yeah, no.

  23. I’m wondering if it would be offensive to just completely stop saying “Gay people are free to marry” as opposed to saying “Gay people are allowed to marry.”

    Same result, but different circumstances surrounding the result.

  24. Jesus, this place is filled with pessimistic geezers. Get some perspective, ya crazy old coots.

  25. It’s the end times, I tells ya!

    1. When this shit all ends you could finally be happy, Citizen Nothing.

  26. “in my view, looking at the history of Egypt, of Babylon, of Byzantium”

    This obsession with the ancient world (why didn’t she say Rome) I think is misplaced.

    The complete disconnect between establishment and everyone else has more parallels with the French Revolution then with the Fall of Rome.

  27. “The future’s uncertain and the end is always near.”

    -some drunk poet

  28. For our species – Things have never been better. There’s no doubt about it. But, we are surely on our way to a certain type of hell. Specifically – Our monetary, fiscal & regulatory “policies” will soon face their inevitably calamitous conclusion.
    “The death throws of the Mega-State will result in certain externalities which will be hard to navigate.” Louis Rossetto (in a Reason interview) I couldn’t agree more.

    1. What will the Mega-State “throw” as it dies, exactly?

      /Mister English Person

        1. …the name’s Plissken….

          1. I thought he was in Cleveland?

      1. My typo must have made the quote incomprehensible to you – Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Thank you so much for the constructive criticism.

  29. the vast and ongoing decentralization of authority

    Where is this happening? Because I think I’d like to move there.

    On what possible metric and/or definition of “authority” is it being decentralized, at all, in the US? Am I just imagining the growth of the central government in all dimensions (except, possibly, the size of the military, which doesn’t actually exert any authority over me)?

  30. Prosperous? The U.S. is the most bankrupt country in recorded history.

    1. The government is not the country. And by “bankrupt” do you mean indebted?

  31. Put slightly different: Western civilization may indeed be declining in terms of a cultural, political, and economic hegemony. That doesn’t mean that civilization is declining.

    If Western civilization ends, what evidence do we have that any other decent civilization would take it’s place?

    1. Gillespie’s magical libertarian End-of-History future predictions that is not at all just a redressed Marxist determinist view.

  32. I bought brand new BMW by working ONline work. Six month ago i hear from my friend that she is working some online job and making more then 98$/hr i can’t beleive. But when i start this job i have to beleived her
    Now i am also making 98$/hr if you want to try just check this out

    ————– http://www.HomeJobs90.Com

  33. I don’t think that was Camille Paglia’s point, as such, if I understand you correctly. I think her version of sociey collapse was artistic and moral as oppose to an end of civlization.

    The decadence point is well-founded. When people have no more real problems, they sink themselves in leisure, in which new problems of how best to enjoy oneself surface. The obsession with personal identity and the passionate feelings of victimhood when that’s not observed by others could be a symptom of that.

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