_The following talk by Mark Steyn was delivered at David Horowitz’s_ Restoration Weekend in West Palm Beach, Florida (Nov. 17-20, 2011). Introductory remarks were given by Freedom Center Shillman Journalism Fellow Bruce Bawer.
Bruce Bawer: Hi. Thanks very much for having me here. It’s wonderful.
There are many reasons why God created Mark Steyn.
But one of those reasons was plainly that God wanted to teach other writers humility.
If they thought of themselves as reasonably prolific, if they prided themselves on their versatility, if they labored under the illusion that they had at least a modicum of wit, they had only to check out Mark Steyn’s website and find out what he had been up to in the last few days, in order to be disabused of their pathetic illusions.
Mark’s website describes him as a “one-man global content provider.“ And no man has earned more of a right than he has to attach such a label to himself. Forget for a moment about his political commentary, which has appeared in pretty much every major newspaper in the English-speaking world. He’s also written authoritatively about every imaginable subject that comes under the rubric of culture and the arts.
He is in particular a critic of popular music, especially “The Great American Songbook,” whose taste is impeccable and whose writings about the creations of Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and company are never less than hugely entertaining and piercingly perceptive.
In fact, he writes so well and so abundantly about so many different things that there’s too much of him for just one country.
He’s Canadian, but he’s also American, and he’s also even kind of British; which I think we can all agree are three of four or five best things to be. He certainly knows his way around all these countries and their politics and cultures as only a native does.
In fact, he seems to know his way around just about every aspect of the globe and just about everybody – every political or social or economic topic you can throw at him. And he takes them all on with gusto. And no matter how grim the subject, he always manages to communicate to us everything we need to know about it. And still somehow, at the same time, he makes us laugh out loud.
Case in point – this, his latest book, “After America: Get Ready for Armageddon,” which I bought two days ago at Newark Airport, and which made me so depressed –
— that I came very close to jumping out of the plane somewhere over Virginia – but I didn’t jump, because I was having too much fun being depressed.
Who else but Mark Steyn can do that?
One of the subjects about which Mark has written a great deal is Islam, especially Islam in the West. And on this subject he is, as they say, a hysterical alarmist. This of course is the latest newspeak for clear-eyed realist.
As punishment for being a clear-eyed realist, he was, as you probably know, targeted in Canada by three – was it three different – yes – three different human rights commissions, which of course is the latest version of the already perfectly good newspeak term “thought police.“ Mark has paid a very real price, in short, for speaking deadly important truths, to which all of us need to attend if we wish to preserve our freedom. I’m sure it hasn’t always been an easy ride for him.
But one thing is clear – this is a man who won’t allow anyone to shut him up. Let them do what they will – he’s going to tell the truth. And just to make them that much more mad at him, he’s going to make it clear in every sentence that he’s having a jolly good time doing it. And we’re all the luckier for it.
Ladies and gentlemen, Mark Steyn.
Mark Steyn: Thank you, Bruce. It’s an honor to be here at The Breakers with David and the Freedom Center. I think I’m starting about the time I was meant to wrap up. So I take it I have a little leeway. I won’t do what Barack Obama did in Rhode Island a few months ago. You were allowed to pay $30,000, I believe it was, for the privilege of having dinner with Barack Obama. And then he came. The dinner was supposed to start at 6 o’clock. He got there at 6 o’clock, and he said, unfortunately, he couldn’t stay for dinner. I won’t do that to you. So I think we have a little leeway with the time.
So I’m honored to be here. Thank you. Thank you, Bruce. Also, thank you to Tom, by the way, since Bruce mentioned my musical side. I saw Tom open for Sinatra all over the map, year in, year out. So it seems a little weird to be up here following him, round about the time in the evening when Frank would be opening the set with “I’ve Got the World on a String.“ I don’t know who sings “I’ve Got the World on a String” over here these days. I gather it’s quite a big number at the Chinese Communist Party annual meeting – the Politburo all come out.
I also gather at the Supreme Guardian Council in Tehran that when it gets late at night and they’ve had a few, Ayatollah Khomeini and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad like to do “We’ve Got the World on a String.“ But I don’t know who sings it in America anymore.
It’s a great event to be here when Tom Driesen and Bruce Bawer can be on the same stage together. You know, Tom opened for Sinatra, and – great event.
Actually, Bruce opened for Wayne Newton in 1976.
Wayne was furious about it, by the way, it’s never happened again.
It’s really good to be here. Like me, Bruce switched from showbiz to civilizational collapse. Because that’s where the big bucks are, Tom.
Wonderful to be here with people I admire, like Colonel West, who – I think I’m a little gloomier than Colonel West. But I’ll try not to depress the hell out of you completely.
As you might just be able to tell, there’s a slight funny thing in my voice. It’s not a problem with the sound system, don’t worry. I’m actually an immigrant to this great land. I’m not an undocumented immigrant; I’m the other kind. And I certainly wouldn’t make that mistake again.
But I – we foreigners, I think, have one advantage over you native chappies – we know the smell of decay. We’ve lived it. For many of us, it’s the land where we grew up, with its government-run car factories and government-run healthcare, and government-run housing; all suddenly reemerging, Brigadoon-like, from the mist, entirely unspoiled by progress. There’s nothing new about any of this – it’s been tried everywhere, and it’s failed everywhere.
I think we’re on the brink not just of decline, not just of a transfer of global dominance, but of a once-in-a-half-a-millennium civilizational shift. And if we don’t want it, if we don’t want that to happen, we’ve got maybe four or five years to seriously turn this thing around.
Sam Huntington’s great book, “The Clash of Civilizations,” came out two decades ago and talked about three major civilizations in the world – the Anglo-European civilization, Chinese civilization and Muslim civilization. Basically, China is surging economically, Islam is surging demographically, and the Western civilization is in steep demographic and economic decline. Islam has the manpower, China has the money, and we are running out of both. So we have maybe four or five years to turn this thing around.
There’s a famous quote from Gibbon’s decline and fall of the Roman Empire that I use in my book – “The form was still the same, but the animating health and vigor were fled.“ You can make that case for the broader West and for America today. In theory, this is still a republic of limited government and a self-reliant citizenry. But in practice, we’re something quite different.
I’m just going to say that 47 percent of Americans now depend on one or more federal benefits – the highest percentage in history. But I believe Allen actually upped it. In the two weeks since I acquired that statistic, I believe it’s – what is it – 48 percent now. Yeah. 48.5 percent. So it’s gone up a point and a half just since I did the research for that statistic in the last couple of weeks.
These are serious times. Federal regulation accounts for 10 percent of GDP. That’s to say we take the equivalent of the entire economy of India or Canada and throw it down the toilet every year just in complying with federal paperwork. State and municipal regulation makes almost everything you do more cumbersome, including the basic right to earn a living. In the ‘50s, one in 20 Americans required permission from the government to do their job. Today, it’s one in three. We’ve delivered a self-governing republic into rule by regulators, bureaucrats and social engineers. And as a result, we’re the brokest nation in history.
Officially, we crashed through the $15 trillion debt point a couple of days ago – just a couple of days ago – and hit a new world record. No society in human history has ever owed as much as we do. We have to pay back $15 trillion just to get back to having nothing.
Most of you know this. Most of you here tonight know this. But most of your fellow Americans don’t. And they still think the money’s out there somewhere. In a giant shoebox under the Koch Brothers’ bed or under the Halliburton boardroom table, or somewhere, there’s money for all this stuff. And there isn’t. We’ve spent all the money.
So you can hear politicians like Allen, with his five points about what we ought to be doing. But at the same time, for every guy who’s making sense, like Allen, there are 200 politicians still peddling the same old line.
Two weeks ago, the governor of Connecticut officially proclaimed Diaper Need Awareness Day. If you’re wondering what sentient being isn’t aware of diapers, you’re missing the point.
Connecticut wants the federal government to hand out free diapers. In the United States Congress, Representative Rosa DeLauro has introduced the DIAPER Act – D-I-A-P-E-R. Do you know what it stands for, Colonel West? No, he’s getting ready to leave. Just never mind the diaper, the whiff of the DIAPER Act is enough to drive Allen to leave the room. D-I-A-P-E-R, the Diaper Investment and Aid to Promote Economic Recovery Act.
She wants to stimulate the economy by handing out free diapers. Diaper change you can believe in. We’re going to borrow another trillion from the Chinese Politburo and stick it in your kids’ Huggies. Just like we stuck it in Solyndra, and we stuck it in Fannie and Freddie, and all the rest.
Why is this stuff still taken seriously? There’s no money. There’s no money for free diapers. We spent the diaper money. That ship has sailed. That diaper is filled.
There is no money for the DIAPER Act. Why does Colonel West get that, and most of his colleagues don’t get that? Why are they still proposing this?
We don’t need a Diaper Awareness Day. I would like to propose a Multitrillion-Dollar Debt Awareness Day.
With a ribbon, [all right?] Because the most important thing about an awareness-raising day is the color of your ribbon. So I’d like a ribbon that starts in the black but turns a deeper and deeper red. Or, how about a We’ve Spent All the Money, Including the Money for an Awareness-Raising Ribbon, Awareness Day?
How about we cut to the chase and just have an Impending Societal Collapse Awareness Day? Or would it be too much to hope for a Self-Reliant Citizen Awareness Day? There’s no ribbon for that, by the way, you can make your own damn ribbon.
And if your local haberdasher went belly-up, cut up and old diaper and use that for your ribbon. Distressingly large numbers of Americans are still pining for ever more swaddling in the government cradle. They seem entirely unaware that we’re broke.
The late 20th century did something profoundly immoral – it broke the trans-generational compact on which all civilized societies depend. We looted the future to bribe the present, to such an extent that it’s not clear we have a future. There’s nothing compassionate or caring about being generous with other people’s money, especially when it’s money yet to be earned by generations yet to be born. In fact, it’s wicked, profoundly wicked. It’s more wicked than the worst robber baron.
But it goes beyond that. If the government’s responsible for changing your kid’s diaper, who’s the real child here? A society that demands the government provide free diapers is agreeing to the remorseless distribution not only of wealth but of liberty on every front.
Seven-year-old Julie Murphy was selling lemonade in Portland, Oregon, when two officers demanded to see her temporary restaurant license, which would’ve cost her $120. When she failed to produce it, they threatened her with a $500 fine. They also made her cry, because she’s a seven-year-old girl.
When I read these stories, they always remind me of Saudi Arabia’s religious police, the mutaween, the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. Except in this case, the religion they’re enforcing is nanny state power. Other than that, perhaps like the fierce, bearded officers of the mutaween, these cheerless skulls of [Permit-stan] could be issued with whips and scourges to flay the grade-school sinners in the street.
When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. And then you watch the state enforcers turn it back into sour fruit. Ask yourself this – if a second-grader can no longer sell homemade lemonade from her front yard without $500 worth of permits, what aspect of your life can’t the government regulate?
Skylar Capo, 11 years old, of Virginia, made the mistake of rescuing a woodpecker from the jaws of a cat and nursing him back to health for a couple of days. And for her pain, she was visited by a federal Fish and Wildlife officer with accompanying state troopers, who charged her with illegal transportation of a protected species and issued her a $535 fine.
By the way, bullies always pick on the softest target. You notice Fish and Wildlife didn’t charge the cat for illegally transporting the protected species from his gullet to his intestine. They always look for the softest point.
A republic of micro-regulation eventually seizes up. It takes longer and longer to do anything, and then it becomes impossible to do anything, and then you stop doing things. Just like Rome in its heyday built great aqueducts, and then it stopped building new aqueducts, and then the old aqueducts crumbled. We’re getting preciously near to that stage.
If you recall, the Empire State Building was put up start-to-finish in one year and 45 days in the middle of a Depression. Eight decades later, Mayor Bloomberg held the 10th anniversary observances of 9⁄11 at a glorified building site. Destroying the World Trade Center was something our enemies did to us. The 10-year hole in the ground was something we did to ourselves. And it tells the world something profound about American sclerosis, about our lack of what Gibbon calls the animating health and vigor. Because if anything should’ve been a national priority, that should’ve. But the animating health and vigor weren’t there.
That’s America as the new Rome, if you like – sclerotic. America is the new Athens.
I’ll quote Arnold Schwarzenegger on that. You may remember he was governor of California, I believe. See, he didn’t exactly leave much trace, the terminally terminated Terminator. He couldn’t terminate anything. He told the legislature in Sacramento, in his fourth State of the State address – “California has the ideas of Athens and the power of Sparta.“ That was half-right – California does have the idea of Athens. Unfortunately, it’s late 20th-century Athens. It’s America’s Greece, except it’s bigger and it’s broker.
We heard Colonel West earlier quote Mrs. Thatcher’s famous line – that the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money. Greece and many other European countries have advanced to the next stage – they’ve run out of other people. Period.
The alliance between the dependency class and the government class that ministers to the dependency class is a permanent voting majority in Greece that squeezes the productive class. They’re caught in the middle, in a kind of good cop-bad cop regime. If you’re a hardworking Athenian with a great business idea, the best thing you can do is buy a one-way air ticket out of there and do it almost anywhere else on the planet. And far too many states in this country are headed the same way.
California actually doesn’t have significantly different numbers from Greece. It’s doing Zorba’s dance on steroids with the same malign alliance of government pseudo-workers and welfare dependents driving out what’s left of its productive class.
Nevertheless, I was astonished to see that despite the fact that it’s broke, that didn’t stop Sacramento legislators from announcing plans, just a few weeks ago, to regulate bed sheets in motels and hotels. It will be illegal under the California Sheet Regime for motels and hotels to put non-fitted sheets on their beds. And so there will be a sheet regulatory regime, with sheet regulatory enforcers, kicking down the door of room 73 of the Orange Grove Motel to check that they’re in compliance.
I don’t know whether they have it here at The Breakers. I don’t know whether you’ve been upstairs in your rooms and checked to see whether they’re elasticated sheets or non-elasticated sheets. But if they’re non-elasticated sheets, this hotel would be illegal in the state of California. You can try to resist when they kick the door down, but they’ll kick the sheet out of you.
There is an Orwellian, apocryphal Orwell quotation to describe the way even pacifists depend on the soldiery to defend the realm – “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.“ Hah! Says the state of California. People sleep peaceably in their beds at night, only because the state agency of sheet regulation stands ready to do violence to innkeepers with non-elasticated sheets.
By the way, I know all you guys who hang out with David and the Freedom Center. There’s a big bunch of racists among you. I know – any racists in the house tonight? Just remember, just remember, for the Ku Klux Klan members here tonight – if you attend a lodge meeting with a Grand Kleagle in California, you will need a fitted sheet.
I don’t know why you’re laughing. The elastic really makes your neck itch, it’s not good.
When Canada decriminalized homosexuality, Pierre Trudeau famously said – the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation. But California says – oh yes, we do, if you’re consummating your same-sex marriage on a non-compliant sheet.
I was – they’ve only just introduced it. But I was talking to an undocumented immigrant from Tijuana. And he says that throughout Mexico, California is already a byword for sheet government.
In America as in Europe, the debts and deficits are a symptom. They’re not the problem. Angela Merkel understands that every time the government in Athens says – okay, we burned through the last bailout, time for the next one. She understands that the real problem is not the Greek finances, but the Greek people.
I happened to be in Morocco during the 2010 World Cup. And I chanced to see a report of a sermon given by the eminent Egyptian imam Mas’id Anwar in Cairo. He may have been even one of the excitable fellows we saw in the film just then.
Real – an A-list imam, you know, a couple of like [also ands] in there. You know, they were like Bruce during the warm-up for Wayne Newton. There were a couple of real C-list imams in there.
Well, this guy is an A-list imam. And he ferociously attacked – he took time out of his hectic schedule of calling for death to the Jews to attack young Muslim men who follow soccer instead of memorizing the Koran. “Ask one of those young men who are so crazy about soccer to name the names of twenty of the Prophet’s companions. Only 20! The Prophet Mohammad’s companions numbered over 100,000. All I’m asking for is the name of 20 companions.” But if you ask the same man to give you the names of 20 soccer players, he will. Who’s to blame for this?
Well, the imam looked into it. And he quickly discovered who’s seducing the Muslims away from their Korans. “As you know, the Jews have the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Over 100 years ago, they formulated a plan to rule the world. And they are implementing this plan. One of the protocols says, “Keep the [non-Jews] preoccupied with songs, soccer and movies.‘”
That’s protocol number 27, incidentally.
“Is it or isn’t it happening? It is. At an important match in Egypt, a man was standing in the stadium, and when his team scored a goal, he screamed, ‘Goooaaal!’ got a heart attack, and died… the Zionists manage to generate animosity among Muslims, and even between Muslim countries, by means of soccer. Whose interests does this serve? The Jews.”
It’s easy to be skeptical.
I mean, if soccer is part of the international Jewish conspiracy, how come Israel has only managed to qualify for the World Cup on one occasion?
Anyone remember when that was? Anybody? Oh, come on, David’s giving away a Chevy Volt.
1970. 1970. Remember how far they got in the 1970 World – oh, come on, he’s giving away a Chevy Volt, if you know how far they got. We’ll staple a Solyndra solar panel to the roof –
— of the Chevy Volt.
What did you say, sir?
Unidentified Audience Member: We lost the first round.
Mark Steyn: That’s right, two-zip to Uruguay.
You see David afterwards about the Chevy Volt –
— complementary Solyndra panel, and most of the members of the executive board stapled to the roof of that Chevy Volt.
They lost two-zip to Uruguay in the opening round. That just shows how cunning these Jews are.
A day or two after the distinguished cleric advanced his theory, I happened to be in Bordeaux. And I found myself outside the Virgin Megastore which brands itself in France as La Culture du Plaisir, the Culture of Pleasure. As far as I know, the chain doesn’t operate in the Middle East. If you’re a Muslim, you have to wait till you self-detonate to hit the Virgin Megastore.
Big time, and with our entire inventory priced to clear. But it struck me that the Western world’s self-evaluation isn’t actually so very different from Imam Anwar’s diagnosis. We promote ourselves as the culture of pleasure – preoccupied, as the imam says, with songs, sports, movies and other delights. Life as a sensual diversion.
The most famous line by the most famous economist of the 20th century is this – in the long run, we are all dead. Keynes’s flippancy disguises his radicalism. For most of human history, functioning societies have honored the long run. It’s why millions of people have children, build houses, plant gardens, start businesses, make wills, put up beautiful churches in ordinary villages, fight – and, if necessary, die – for king and country. It’s why extraordinary men create great works of art, or did in the Europe of old.
Any society – a community is a compact between the past, present and the future, in which the citizens, in Tom Wolfe’s words, conceive of themselves, however unconsciously, as part of a great biological stream.
Europe climbed out of the stream. They decided you didn’t need to make material sacrifices; the state takes care of all that. You didn’t need to have children, and you certainly didn’t need to die for king and country. But a society that has nothing to die for has nothing to live for. It’s no longer a stream but a stagnant pool. “How fair thou hast been,” in Goethe’s words, “but only for the moment. And in Europe, the moment is passing.”
The Western world’s economic crisis, I think, is a mere symptom of its existential crisis. What is life for? What gives it meaning? A post-Christian, post-nationalist, postmodern Europe has no answer to that question. And so it has 30-year-old students and 50-year-old retirees and wonders why the small band of workers in between them can’t make the math add up.
In between the trash and the robberies and the rapes, and the extraordinarily high body count, Occupy Wall Street is also agitating for the right to stay out of the stream, sunning yourself on the bank in perpetuity. Pay my college debt. I went to Complacency University to do five years of whatever studies, and it cost me a six-figure sum. And nobody wants to hire me to help me pay it off. So the government should pay for that.
In the long run, we are all dead, says Keynes. The public sector workers on the streets of Madison, Wisconsin are Keynesians to a man – we don’t care if our benefit packages are unsustainable and will bankrupt the state. Just keep the checks coming till we’re dead.
A lot of my friends on the right have a reductive view of what’s happening here. They think these are bookkeeping issues, green eyeshade issues, a question of somehow finding a way to make the arithmetic work. But they’re not. Ultimately they’re moral questions.
Think about it. What sort of society does a state that hands out free diapers and regulates bed sheets and shuts down your grade-schooler’s lemonade stand – what sort of citizens does such a society produce? Would such a compliant people be willing to rouse themselves to resist, say, the nuclearization of Iran? Or would they be willing to rouse themselves to see off the subtler challenges of incremental Islamization in the Western world? The honor killings in Ontario and Arizona that the press can’t quite bring themselves to identify as such? The French satirical magazine that attempts to make the same jokes about Islam it makes about Christianity, and gets its offices firebombed – and then, adding insult to injury, has to endure lectures from Time Magazine on how it was being unnecessarily provocative, and how sometimes freedom of speech – says the Time Magazine correspondent loftily – sometimes freedom of speech means having the courage just to shut up and keep your head down, and not say anything.
A few years back, I thought even spaghetti-spined Western liberals might draw the line at female genital mutilation, or FGM, as it’s already known in far too many Western hospitals, from Virginia to Australia. It’s a key pillar of institutional misogyny in Islam that Baroness Cox, whom some of you may have heard earlier – the Baroness Cox is tackling head on in London at the moment.
It’s a key pillar of institutional misogyny. Its entire purpose is to deny women sexual pleasure. True, a lot of us hapless Western men find we deny women sexual pleasure, even without trying. But we don’t demand bodily mutilation to guarantee it. And on such slender distinctions does civilization rest.
In 2010, the American Academy of Pediatrics floated the suggestion that because certain – ahem – immigrant communities were shipping their daughters overseas to undergo female genital cutting, which is their new nonjudgmental term for it – in a spirit of multicultural compromise, perhaps US pediatricians should amend their opposition to the practice and provide a ritual nick to young girls. The American Academy of Pediatrics. Do we have any pediatricians in the house tonight? That’s good. If you see one, don’t go near him while he’s holding the bread knife.
I have a statistic in my book. By 2020, just the interest payments on the federal debt will be larger than the US military budget. That’s not paying down the debt, but merely staying current on the servicing. Like when you get your MasterCard statement and you can’t afford to pay off what you borrowed, but you can just about cover the monthly interest charge. Except in this case, the interest charge for US taxpayers will be greater than the military budgets of China, Britain, France, Russia, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, India, Italy, South Korea, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Spain, Turkey and Israel combined. Just in interest payments on the debt. That’s 20 percent of federal revenues, a fifth of your taxes, entirely wasted.
Pious celebrities often simper that they’d be willing to pay more in taxes for better government services. But a fifth of what you pay won’t be going for government services at all, unless by “government services” you mean the People’s Liberation Army of China, which will be entirely funded by US taxpayers by about 2015. The People’s Liberation Army is the largest employer on the planet, bigger even than the US Department of Community Organizer Grant Applications. And we’re already funding about 80 percent of it.
As I’m sure you know, when the Visigoths laid siege to Rome in 408, the Imperial Senate hastily bought off the barbarian King Alaric with 5,000 pounds of gold and 30,000 pounds of silver. But even in the slough of despond and decadence, they didn’t budget for Roman taxpayers picking up the tab for the entire Visigoth military as a permanent feature of life. That unprecedented historical act had to wait for our time. There is no precedent for this in human history, of one power consciously, consciously, funding its successor power.
And every congresswoman who proposes a bill for federal diapers should know we’re doing that and should be mocked for piling on even more. Every time a congresswoman stands up and says she wants to introduce a federal diaper program, she’s in essence arguing that you need to pay more money for the Chinese to get a bigger army.
Last year, the Pentagon issued a report on Beijing’s massive military buildup, including new missiles, upgraded bombers, an aircraft carrier R&D program intended to challenge US dominance in the Pacific. And what they didn’t mention is who’s paying for it. And the answer is you are. When the commies take Taiwan, suburban families in Fort Lauderdale and small businesses in West Palm Beach will have paid for it.
But it goes beyond that. If you think the free diapers and California’s sheet regime are crazy, consider this – the US Agency for International Development gives foreign aid to China. That’s to say – follow me on this – that’s to say we borrow money from China to give to China, as a gift. Most of the foreign aid, we’re told – this is the reason we’re told we shouldn’t worry – most of the foreign aid we give to China is to “promote clean energy.“ So that makes it okay, makes it perfectly reasonable. I mean, who here doesn’t borrow money from his loan shark in order to winterize his loan shark’s home? It makes perfect sense.
According to the IMF, China is on course to become the dominant economic power on the planet by the year 2016. And that means the fellow we elect next November will be the last President of the United States to preside over the world’s leading economy. For the first time since Grover Cleveland, we’ll be the [also and]. And we give them foreign aid because they’re a “developing nation.“ And we’re so overdeveloped we don’t think of ourselves as a nation at all, but more like a geopolitical version of one of those nonprofit foundations that underwrite all those dull-worthy programs on NPR; a nation-state that has national interests – we’re way beyond that, way beyond that. “Developing nations” is a weasel word. It presumes that they’re – even multiculturalists use it – and yet it presumes that they’re developing into something closer to us.
We saw some scenes from the so-called Arab Spring. Seventy-five years ago, if you’d attended the opening of Parliament in King Farouk’s Egypt, it was like a kind of toy-town version of Westminster. Lady Cox would’ve felt quite at home there – basically the same kind of deal. You’d have assumed that Cairo was developing in the direction of London. Instead, what happened – that in tower hamlets and the old Jewish East End – London’s turning into Cairo. The Kingdom of Egypt in the period between 1922 and 1952 was flawed and ramshackle and corrupt, but it got closer to a functioning pluralist society than anything in the 60 years since.
The first minister of finance of the Kingdom of Egypt was a man called Joseph Cattaui, who was a member of Parliament and a Jew. Try to imagine that now – a Jew serving as an Arab Muslims’ nation – as the finance minister of an Arab Muslim nation. Or even getting elected as an obscure backbench MP. It sounds like something from a give-peace-a-chance, multi-faith fantasy. But it actually happened. And then it stopped happening, and then it became inconceivable for it to ever happen again under any plausible scenario.
And then, having got rid of all the Jews, Egypt had a Facebook revolution, and now it’s getting rid of all the [cops]. And once again, in a few years’ time, we will accept that just as there were once Jews in Egypt but now there are none, so there were once cops in Egypt but now there are none, and that’s just the way it is.
Sometimes things go backwards. Egypt got worse, Syria got worse, Lebanon got worse. And you don’t have to be a cynic to figure that in a world without American order, worse is the way to bet. When money drains, power drains. And power is already draining remorselessly. It starts with the money, but it never ends there.
I’m not interested in turning the clock back to a 1950 golden age. I think the 1950 golden age was a product of a particular historical moment and moments past. In a way, the 1950 postwar order was the real bubble – not the credit bubble, not the housing bubble; the 1950 moment was the real bubble. And we have to get over that and get on with the new world that’s arising before our eyes.
We need serious course correction, urgent course correction. It’s not about putting John Kerry on a congressional super-committee to report back about possibly raising the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 67 in the year 2050, or whatever other genius idea he comes up with. There isn’t going to be a 2050 if that’s the best the so-called super-committee can do. The best thing John Kerry can do for America is to go and windsurf off Nantucket in that buttock-hugging yellow spandex suit he seems to think flatters his figure, and windsurf till 2050.
I would like most – with a few exceptions, most of the congressional members to go and windsurf off Nantucket till 2050. Because those of us on the receiving end of their genius need to understand that it’s not about midcentury; it’s about mid-decade. If we don’t turn this thing around in the next four years, we are going to pass the point of no return.
Here’s one way to look at it, by the way, here’s one way to look at it. Right now, we’re approximately – the federal government is spending 4 trillion and only taking in in revenues 2 trillion. We’re roughly – we’re getting to the point where we’re spending $2 for every dollar we take in.
So look at everything you see in government, and say – could it be half the size? When Barack Obama takes a 40-car motorcade to visit an ice cream parlor on Martha’s Vineyard, could he get by with a 20-car motorcade?
That’s the way to look at it. In my part of the world, they just built a $17 million border crossing at North Troy, Vermont – a border crossing with Mansonville, Quebec. Mansonville, Quebec – Her Majesty the Queen makes due with a one-room hut. Uncle Sam used to have a one-room hut on the other side. But under the stimulus bill, they widened it to an eight-lane road and built a $17 million Starship Enterprise that they dropped in the middle of the woods. Eight-lane highway for a border post that gets two cars an hour. So that’s four lanes for each car. Maybe if they just built a four-lane superhighway for the gateway to North Troy, Vermont – North Troy’s vacation playground – maybe if they just built a four-lane superhighway – look at everything – could we – we’re spending 4 trillion, taking 2 trillion – can we make do with half?
Every time you go through that eight-lane border crossing, it’s not communicating power; it’s communicating a suicidal kind of decadence. The aliens – when they plow through the rubble, the aliens from planet Zonga will be looking at – saying North Troy, Vermont! What a seat of a mighty empire! Look at the size of this! Gaze upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!
Look at it this way. Look at every single thing you see – could we cut it in half? We could cut the Canadian armored super-bus the President pretended to tour Iowa in. He could have toured in a Canadian armored minivan quite as easily. Because they just loaded it into the plane and flew it to his next venue, and then he got out of it and drove into town five minutes later. That’s the way to look at it.
Your representatives need to be talking about half the spending. You can’t close a $2 trillion gap. There is not enough money on the planet. The only way to close it is to look at what we’re spending and say – can we do with half of it?
The United States is still different. It’s still different. Somebody said earlier – where do I go if it all goes wrong here? For some of us, for some of us, this is the last stop on the tour. There is nowhere else to go. This is the hill to die on. If you can’t save Western civilization here, you can’t save it anywhere.
When America slides off the cliff, it lands with a much bigger thud than Iceland or Portugal. And it drags down the rest of the planet with it. This is the hill to die on.
In the wake of the collapse, mobs besieged their parliaments, from Iceland to Bulgaria, demanding the government do more. Elderly students in Britain attacked the heir to the throne’s car over [fruitling] attempts to constrain bloated, wasteful, pointless university costs. Why didn’t you, the government, do more for me?
America was the only nation in the developed world where millions of people took to the street to tell the state – I can do just fine if you control-freak statists would shove your non-stimulating stimulus, your jobless jobs bill and your multitrillion-dollar Vermont border crossings, and just stay the hell out of my life and my pocket. That’s the America that has a fighting chance.
Allen said – it’s up to you. He’s absolutely right about that. It’s not about waiting for some kind of government bailout, it’s not about waiting for a new messiah because the 2008 messiah is already three years past his sell-by date. It’s not about that at all. It’s about tens of millions of people moving the meter on public discourse and acting as self-reliant citizens. And if we don’t do it next November and we don’t do it in the next four years, we will pass the point of no return.
As they say in my great state – live free or die. It’s not a battle cry, it’s a statement of the choices before you. You can live as free men. But if you choose not to do so, your society will surely die.
So choose carefully. Do as Allen advised. You are the army, you are the generals. You are, ultimately, the Commander in Chief of this republic of limited government. It is for you to assert yourselves.
Thank you very much, indeed. Thank you.
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