January 27, 2007

Decadence III

On The Nature of Struggle.

Nature maintains her balance through a rigorous process of selection and elimination. To attempt placing moral judgements on a natural process would be silly and pointless. To declare that nature is cruel is sentimental nonsense. The process of birth and growth, corruption and death, is so elemental that even a dull mind might appreciate Natural Law manifesting in a physical universe. Even an amateur naturalist recognizes that the struggle is necessry to maintain the natural order, to ensure the overall health of the system. The dynamic at work is so rudimentary, we can call it self-evident without ever taking it for granted.

Man sometimes intrudes on the natural order with his good intentions. Nature will have none of it. Her systems are self-correcting with or without the intervention of humans. In the natural world, it is always hunting season. Man attempts to increase the numbers of a herd by means of predator control, only to see nature knock back the numbers through disease and malnutrition. Even when man reduces a species to the point of extinction, nature will find a means to correct the imbalance.

How is it that humans so frequently fail to honor Natural Law in their own affairs? A famine comes to Africa because too many people are attempting to support themselves on marginal land. Our sentimental impulse is to send aid to the starving. We are able to save thousands who would otherwise perish. And what have we accomplished by this violation of the natural order? Only to ensure that the next famine is even larger, and its affects more extreme. We must have the courage to honor a natural process even as it cuts against the grain of our humanitarian impulses. To do otherwise is to inflict massive cruelty on our fellow human beings. I can hear the cries of altruists already: Monster! But then, objectivism is not for the faint of heart.

What applies to Africa applies also to America. Why do we enact legislation designed to mitigate the poverty of our perpetual underclass? When the struggle is removed, the unfit multiply. We compound the problem by letting these creatures breed indiscriminately and without penalty for their behavior. Is it any wonder that the forty year war against poverty is a failure? The pathologies associted with the underclass multiply, as well, filling our prisons with the poor and the ignorant. Why? Have you ever heard a police officer ask a criminal, "Why didn't you think about it ahead of time?" The question, of course, is merely rhetorical. Those with limited intelligence do not, nor cannot, anticipate the consequences of their actions. Their behavior is reactive, always after the event. They are like pool balls, racked about by forces beyond their control or comprehension. Life is a mystery, and often a misery as well. It is cruelty to subsidize the underclass in ways that guarantee the perpetuation of poverty, pathology and crime. For our social system to remain healthy, failure must be an option.

The error in socialist thinking is the belief that humans should not have to struggle. Even when not stated explicitly, the socialist believes in his heart that life should be easy. I see it everyday amongst educators who believe that children learn through play, as if mathematics and language can be mastered through some system other than the hard application of mental effort. The result is failure, but this does not deter true believers. The socialist believes that government should always stand ready with programs to mitigate against failure. At this point the population begins to succumb to a condition of absolute decadence. Idleness, indiscriminate fornication, and drug use proliferate. Public morals begin to decay. Ever lower standards of public conduct become acceptable. Patriotism seems passe. The rot becomes systemic, leading ultimately to the collapse of civilization. But this is part of a natural process, no?

Once we recognize that struggle is necessary for a healthy society, as it is in nature, we can make the appropriate adjustments in national social policy. Failure must be left open as an option. We must find new challenges and devote our energies toward ever greater achievement. How about the conquest of the solar system for a start? Utopian ideas must be denounced as the day dreaming of lotus-eaters. Social Darwinism should be resurrected and debated. National military service should become mandatory as a method to promote personal discipline and love of country. The road we are on now is the path to certain ruin. We have embraced ideas that will lead to cultural suicide. The enemy is decadence. It is part of the natural order, the ebb and flow of a universe in constant turmoil. Only the human mind, and the application of human energy, can arrest the entropic process. Only genuine achievement can lead our nation toward spiritual renewal. Only the recognition that freedom must be renewed with each passing generation by a blood sacrifice, can we hope to retain our liberty.

I would like to claim such truths to be self-evident. But decadence has a way of blinkering the masses. Let history judge my words. I am immune to the criticisms of lesser minds. If I have become a monster in your eyes, so be it. Truth arrives in the middle of the night as a revelatory experience. If you do not know the process, you cannot judge the experience. I am warning those with ears to hear that we can suffer an absolute fall. It is the abyss. Then you will know cruelty beyond your worst nightmares. But such a situation will be, as per Natural Law, ultimately fertile soil for renewal. It always is, always has been, and always will be. The natural order of the universe cannot be altered. Be content with it. Stand outside at night and peer into the cosmos and know that the Creator has constructed a system of absolute perfection. Know also that you are a child of the universe with a role to play. You have volition. You are a player in a cosmic drama. Choose well.



Aethelred said...

Ah, Nature!
The bitch.
On the one hand, you extoll her primordial drive as the paradigm for human society, and on the other, you flaunt her strictures on a moment-by-moment basis by existing in warmth and comfort surrounded by technology, fed and safe in your home, protected by others, fed by others, clothed by others, educated by others, healed by others, befitting from technology you did not create and do not contribute to materially ...
But no shame in that, Baz. Why, "even" a silly simple dull-minded amateur can realize that the glory of Humanity lies in that un-natural state. Rudimentary, mein alte.
All other animals (or for you of a more superior Victorian mindset, "all animals") are indeed subject to the thinning of the herd, the vagaries of Nature.
The small, the weak, the injured, the halt, the stupid, those unfortunate enough to be born where the weather is bad or the science is deficient or some stronger animal has chosen to squat or hunt ... they die. Yep.
Dead caribou and wildebeest. Dead buffalo and trout and swan. Dead dead dead. And when they're dead ... well, dead predators, too.
Few things are more heart-wrenching than the sight of a starving lion, non?
Yeah, "man sometimes intrudes," and develops antibiotics and plumbing and fertilyzer and fences. And you know what? These things work. They actually feed the beasts that feed the predators and the men. The herds DO increase and HAVE increased, according to Man's Will, not nature.
And that Will, not "Nature", is why our society can afford diletantes and parasites and the aged and the less-than-able and other non-producers. Neat-o, huh? Why, it can even support those who do nothing but teach ungrateful children all day (shudder!).
Efforts to "mitigate" poverty work, Baz, to the extent that they ease suffering. But they are, I will concede, mere symptomatic treatments - they do nothing to actually alleviate the root causes of poverty.
However, we've only been at this poverty-elimination stuff in the US of A for what? - thirty-forty years? LBJ didn't have an exit strategy for the War on Poverty, and didn't leave much of a game plan - he just identified the true enemy for us.
Poverty is a complex problem, a wily enemy, and the War on Poverty is hindered by the fact that we are dealing with human beings, not cattle.
Could we, as a species, alleviate poverty in short order? You damn betcha, Baz. We do know how to alleviate poverty - the Pharoahs knew it. Work and Pavlovian training and absolute control and draconian tactics (like "thinning the herd") that brook no least quibble or kibitz or compassion. That would work, it has worked, and the roll-call of the cultures that used these techniques is a roster of atrocity.
It could work again. Let's hope it never happens in our lifetimes, though, right? Or would you be willing to sacrifice yourself, were it deemed necessary to serving the greater good when the Dictator decides it is time?
The same motivation that drives those of us who have risen above the Serengeti mentality of "red in tooth and claw" thankfully precludes the use of those methods that would be instantly effective in "eliminating poverty," but would decrease the humanity of our fellow men and in ourselves in so doing.
So the methods used these days, in our non-pharonic, un-Natural times, are more, um, "natural." We who fight poverty are more like druids, more like teachers than like a despot or a predator. And so it takes time to effect change.
Yeah, it takes time, and consistency (and that has been sorely lacking, thanks to waffling about the benefits of the effort). But shit, things ARE better now than they were thirty-forty years ago, precisely because we CAN and ARE doing something to alleviate suffering across the planet, despite the occasional presence of a troll at the helm of state.
Yes, new problems arise periodically, because, as noted, Mother Nature is an unmitigated bee-yatch. Disease and drought and disaster happen - that's only "natural."
But that is why we Humans have Brains, ain't it? To intrude on the Natural Order with our Good Intentions.
There is no reason that we cannot learn from our social engineering as once we learned from our space program's engineering. In fact, there is no reason that we cannot advance both the space program and the war on poverty, dude.
There is no Nature. Mother Nature is a bugbear and a boojum. There is only Will, or a lack of it.

muninn said...

Social Engineering????
Who gets to drive the train?
What does it run on. Where does it go? Are we there yet? What if we dont want to go anywhere? How much is the cost of a ticket? Is there a smoking car? Is there a first class car with dining and drinks, or do we all stand in cattle cars?
Societies can produce anti-biotics and then tax me to pay for them to be shipped to Africa in a
vain attempt to stop the spread of AIDS in a land where people worship sticks and rocks. We stopped malaria in africa with DDT and then the tree huggers stopped DDT. Result 50 million dead Africans. Every attempt at social engineering has ended in unanticipated disaster. The law of unintended consequences is a corollary to Heinlein's law that the only universal crime is stupidity, the punishment is always death. It is not nature that does not exist, it is society that is the subjective construct. I do not collect my own medicinal herbs but trade my labor for money to purchase the goods I require. Social engineers want to take the fruits of my labor to buy medicine for everyone. Doesnt it feel great to help? At the rate taxes are increasing, I am sure I will have cured all the world's ills and conquered space as well by next week. But hey-everybody has to sacrifice something for their fellow man, don't we? Maybe I'll cancel my medical insurance and just go to the E.R. whenever I get a cold. Then everybody else stupid enough to buy insurance can pay for my medicine for a change. Better yet, I will renounce my citizenship, quit the country and re-enter as an illegal alien and get everything for free. Life hath no greater pleasure than spending other peoples money. Eh, Red?

Anonymous said...

The nature of the social contract, a term coined by Jean-Jacque Rousseau, is that all agreements in a civil society are based on reciprocity. To each something is due, and from each something is owed. We do not need to dissect Rousseau's argument, based in Natural Law, to understand that voluntary compliance is the very basis of a civil society. The idea is so simple as to be self-evident. Each member of society is expected to restrain his natural impulses toward self-gratification in the recognition that order and cooperation will secure his liberties, safety and property. That's Rousseau in a nutshell.

The concept of a social contract stands in direct contrast to "rights" advocates who believe that society at large is obligated to confer on individuals an endless stream of benefits without reciprocal duties due in return. For example: "The Right to a Free and Appropriate Education." Such a statement should set off warning bells and whistles. There is nothing free about public education. The system costs American taxpayers billions of dollars annually. What we get for our money is consistent failure on a national scale. Why is this, and who is to blame?

Absent the social contract, so-called "rights" have no value. That which is not earned is never valued. Public education arrives as a windfall to every child in the nation. But there is no reciprocal obligation on the part of students to honor this gift from the taxpayers. A contract should be put in place as follows: To the student is due a public education at no cost to him or his family; from the student is due an honest effort, to be diligent in his studies, to perform to expectations, to be respectful toward teachers, and to demonstrate good deportment on campus. Now we have a contract. Abrogation of the contract on the part of the beneficiary should result in expulsion from school.

Public education is a national disgrace and an abuse of taxpayer generosity. No child is ever removed from the system for poor grades due to ordinary laziness. Administrators are hand-cuffed by rights advocates in matters of school discipline. Even a juvenile criminal has the "right" to an education; never mind that he might violate the rights of other students to pursue their education unmolested by delinquents. But the true culprits in the scam are parents who use public education as a community subsidized, day-care program. When a child learns that nothing is expected from home, then nothing is given at school. In New Mexico our retention of students to graduation is only 50%. If my telephone company provided me with a dial-tone only 50% of the time, I would fire my carrier. It is a sign of our societal decadence that taxpayers are indifferent to the lack of results provided by public education.

Government programs to eradicate poverty have had no more success than government sponsored education. Again, the problem is the lack of a social contract with the beneficiaries. The benefits all flow one direction without a reciprocal obligation. It is time we demanded something from the welfare class. Here's the deal: The beneficiary will receive modest government support at taxpayer expense until he is able to stand on his own feet; in return the recipient will obey the law, not spend his subsidy on narcotics, alcohol or contraband, nor engage in procreation, and see to it that children in the home attend school. By my reckoning, judging from the kids of the welfare class under my instruction, the contract would suffer a 90% abrogation rate in the first month. So why do we continue to support the underclass without getting something in return?

It is folly to believe that the underclass will value anything given them absent a vested interest in their own welfare. When such a person is content in the knowledge that another check is always in the mail, what incentive is created to move off the dole? When everything in life arrives free of obligation, what value is attached to citizenship other than a chance to be a freeloader? As long as nothing is demanded of the underclass, we can expect only more of the same. There should be a penalty for those on welfare who break the social contract. They should lose their benefits and suffer the consequences. They might wise up and finally understand that something is due from them as well as to them.

Public education in America is a national scandal. The only cure is to dismantle the entire edifice and hand it over to the private sector. The parochial schools do a better job for a fraction of the cost. If people had to actually pay out of pocket for education, they would demand something for their money. They might even insist that their kids apply themselves while actually in school. It's time to take the "free" out of public education. And while we're at it, we can dispense with the word "mandatory" in education as well. How about a completely voluntary system paid for by cash on the barrel head? Sounds about right to me.

Basil said...


Basil said...

seems to be working

Aethelred said...

Dang, and here I thought you boys were "conservatives."
But no, you are revolutionaries, seeking to dismantle the society and its institutions in an effort to, pardon me for cribbing, "drive the train."
Yah, spending other people's money is a hoot. It's the biggest thrill in the world (ask Congress).
Spending other people's money wisely is the trick, though. Spending other people's quatloos(and yes, even your own hard-won hoard of gelt) so that the act achieves the goals of Rousseau's somewhat puffed-up definition of "reciprocity", is the goal of all good government.
Failing to do so - or diverting those resources to unwanted or even wrong ends - and to persist in such an endeavor despite clear and even overwhelming evidence to the contrary, is the sine qua non of bad government.
As to the corollary to Heinlein's law, I tend to agree that stupidity is its own reward and the penalty not just death, but extinction. But I weary at the same time of the argument "well, we tried once back in the day and that didn't work so let's never try again." Such an attitude is Luddite and anti-progress and anti-science. Just ask TA Edison about persistence and perspiration and the attainment of desired goals.
If it gripes you that there are freeloaders on the dole, then achieve a position in which you get to define who is elligible and what to do with those who are not. It is just possible that there are others of a similar mind who will join you in arguing that Jose and Juanita and Shaquita should be required to follow the same rules as everybody else.
Your position that withholding medical aid from African nations is good governance, is (I suspect) the un-stated policy of this and prior administrations, so waste no bile arguing against it.
Don't make it right, though.

Basil said...


You continue to use the expression "good" government, as if such a creature has ever, or will ever, exist. Should it not be apparent by now that the more complex the issue, the less likely government is to get the policy right? We are harvesting the bitter fruits of this principle in Iraq even now. Given the complexity of poverty and its associated pathologies, do you think government will ever have an answer? This is the fundamental divide between conservatives and liberals. On my side of the aisle we believe in the Emersonian dictum: "The government that governs best, governs the least."

Have you not noticed that our elected officials covet power and are motivated by ego? He who desires power should never be allowed near the reins of government. In our society the best minds tend to drift toward the private sector to pursue their ambitions (reference Tocqueville on this). The only philosopher-king to ever sit on a throne was Marcus Aurelius, and he didn't want the job. Do I make my point?

Best regards,