Can The Country Survive?

Over at QandO, Dale Franks suggests that we’re careening towards a fork in the road. If we keep on at our current pace, we will reach that fork. Will we go left or right? Dale suggests both:

I’ve also said before–and every time I do, people like Oliver Willis call me crazy for saying it–we’re preparing this country to split apart. There are two political camps in this country: collectivists, and and indvidualists. (Forget party labels. The parties are, at best, loose approximations of those two camps.) It’s a fairly even split between the two camps. And the fundamental philosophies of those two camps have become irreconcilable, for a number of reasons, but primarily as a result of centralization of power in Washington.

Unfortunately, if the solons in Washington declare we must do X, there’s no way to escape the consequences of that decision. And so, every political decision is now fraught with national, rather than local consequences. As a result, the incompatibility between collectivists and individualists is reaching a boiling point. The centralization of power in Washington, and the nationalization of practically every domestic issue, has done nothing but poison our politics, and degraded our political discourse.

He goes on to point out that he doesn’t think we’re headed towards a violent civil war, but that we’re putting decisions on irreconcilable first principles in the hands of a central authority that will force one side to submit — and as we see with health care, they intend for the individualists to submit. Given an American cultural and historical opposition to authority, being forced even to do something we might have freely chosen is not something that we appreciate.

Dale focuses somewhat on federalism and the Red State / Blue State divide. I find that a bit odd, as we’re both living in Southern California, a state that might be worse than the Feds if they were given a free hand. I do see some advantages to federalism as a supporter of liberty; competition between state governments may drive ALL of them towards freedom to survive. But I think we’ve moved beyond a Founders-era conception where we thought of ourselves as citizens of a state first and the United States second. I am an American first and foremost, and a resident of California second.

The greater damage from centralization, though, is destroying the bond between a citizen and his government. The farther away a decision is made and the more competing voices one must overcome to affect policy, the more he feels that his government is completely out of his control. He doesn’t believe the government represents him, and he loses faith in that government. This is where the individualists are today. This is where I am today.

In California, Dale and I each have a vote. The Congressman of my district, John Campbell (R, CA-48) represents a population of roughly 640,000 people*. My vote is one for or against his party, and he is then a vote among 434 other Congressmen. The Senators of my state, Boxer and Feinstein, represent a state of 30M+ people. They are then two votes amongst 98 other Senators. The President is elected by the states, meaning that again my vote for President is one of 30M+, and this is for a state which controls over 10% of the nation’s electoral college votes, which is probably the largest voice I have.

When decisions are made in Washington, my voice as expressed by a vote is merely noise to those in power. I have therefore lost my belief that government has the ability to represent me. I am an American, but this is not MY government**.

Proponents of small government watched as Republicans spent us into record deficits when given the reins of power. We are now watching as Democrats pour gasoline on the spending fire. We individualists have nowhere to turn. We are not being represented and we are being forced into acquiescence with whatever Washington declares.

We have no control, we have no voice, and we are being forced into actions that we fundamentally — down to the core — believe are unfair, wrong, and illegitimate. We’re on simmer. We’ve boiled up a bit with the Tea Parties and now with these town hall meetings. But the government is continuing to turn up the heat, and it’s only a matter of time before we boil over.

* PS – Yes, I’m using raw population, not eligible voters. Yes, I understand that this overstates the odds. This is shorthand and take it with that mentioned grain of salt. The numbers are still large enough to ensure that my voice in government is nearly meaningless.

** PS2 – For those of you who are new to this blog, please do not take that as an anti-Obama statement. This is a sentiment that I’ve felt (and expressed here in the archives of this blog) back during the Bush administration, and am simply too young to take it back all the way to Clinton and before, as my political beliefs were gut feelings rather than principles at that time.

  • thomasblair

    Excellent article. This is the primary political divide – those who make their living via productivity vs. those who make their living via parasitism. Like you (and many others) have said, it’s a fundamental difference in first principles.

    It has parallels with the abortion debate that Megan McArdle talked about a few months back. The whole debate really boils down to whether the fetus is its own life or not – a fundamental difference in first principles. Those who think it is and those who think it is not must fight tooth and nail because the final decision is applied to everyone nationally.

    Good post.

  • Brad Warbiany


    Thanks for the comment. One point of disagreement, though. It’s not a fight between the productive and the looters per se. It’s a battle of principles over the moral validity of looting itself. There are plenty of productive people who are collectivists, who see themselves as subservient to the “common good”.

  • silvermine

    Do the collectivists understand this? I don’t think most of them do. They assume all people want to be part of a group, and if you won’t join theirs, you must be an enemy. They don’t understand why someone would want to learn something on their own, or not be part of a committee. I think. At least a lot of them. It hurts them to think someone would want to keep their own idea, instead of sharing it and having it be changed by a group. Like, it’s personally insulting.

    Just like it’s insulting to us for someone to say we can’t have it the way we want it, because 20 other people like it another way.

    The thing is — collectivits can always cooperatively, without government, go have a freaking collective. But if they coerce us into one, it’s specifically to keep us from doing our individualist thing. Why can’t they see that?!

    I just, really, maybe I’m giving them too much benefit of the doubt, but I’m not sure I can imagine people I do think of as friends thinking that it would just be darn happy to force we to do something contrary to my inner self and needs. But maybe they would. I don’t know. I tend to trust no one (except very close family), and expect everyone is going to stab me in the back sometime. Sad, huh? (Apparently that’s just the INTJ way…)

  • southernjames

    “It’s a battle of principles over the moral validity of looting itself.”

    As far as I can tell, it appears that the collectivists have considered that question to be settled, and no longer open for debate. And would prefer that you kindly just shut the fuck up please. You lost. They won. You lost for good too. If you really MUST open your mouth, submit your question in writing, or politely raise your hand and hope to be called upon, and then IF you are called on – please be VERY polite and soft-spoken, humble, and respectful. Perhaps even a little obsequious bow might be in order. Whatever you do…just keep it ‘civil.’!!

    I have never seen such an intense and smothering call for “civility” in the face of some folks getting pissed off and actually daring to yell at their congressmen…in my entire life. I have never seen such demonizing, and smearing, of honest everyday people – 90% of whom have NEVER attended a protest in their entire LIVES – but who are feeling that the collectivist mindset holding all the power in DC, is hell bent on ramming through massive changes to our economic system – with no discussion or debate allowed – and as a result, have decided that….well, maybe it’s time to stop being so meek and silent and acquiescing. Maybe it’s time to actually start yelling at congressmen who arrogantly refuse to even READ a bill, let alone discuss it with their constituents, before voting on it.

    I have read several examples this week, of bloggers looking back and citing to numerous national media reports that completely ignored the heinous signs and vicious chants and disruptions that took place, directed at Bush as they were happening back then. The posters with his face and a gun pointed at it; the Hitler references, etc., etc. Truly venal, and NOTHING like the tame stuff being done at these town halls. It was all okay then. Not even worth covering or discussing on the news. It was “speaking truth to power” when it was leftists doing it.

    But NOW…front page of my morning paper …”Calls for civility in health care debate” NOW, the establishment is suddenly obsessed with, and anxious for, “civility.”

    This country IS splitting into two (hostile) camps. IMO. And the camp with all the political power (consisting of people from BOTH political parties) is going to have to use this power to (over time – I’m thinking after the 2012 elections) to disarm the other, and smaller (30% or so of the populace) camp.

    Because the individualists have most of the guns – which destabilizes the situation temporarily – but the collectivists control the media, police, military, and have the power of martial law; and the power to do things like tax/regulate ammo manufacturers out of existence. This is coming, IMO.

    As for this health care debacle, I have read that the ONE and ONLY chance of this 1000 page monster being defeated lies SOLELY with how the Blue Dog dems end up voting. Watch carefully for back door deals, sweetheart pork doled out for certain areas, thinly and not so thinly veiled bribes and threats – lots more demagoguery; lots of lies and distortions and media attempts to destroy the characters of “tea baggers” and town hallies; more fake “kabuki theater” faux open discussion by Charlatan politicians – complete with “plants” for asking the questions; mass media concocted hysteria if ONE nutjob brings a swastika to a rally, etc.

    I think we’re probably going down. It’s probably inevitable. But we should not go quietly. We owe it to our kids to at least try to resist it.

  • John222

    It does seem as if the collectivists consider the issue settled. They honestly can’t understand why one would not want to be a part of the group. It’s all about “the common good”. If it’s so good why do we have to force people to take part?

  • Akston

    I constantly find it interesting that the very people who seem to champion the downtrodden by vilifying and confiscating from the successful end up having such little regard for those downtrodden.

    The objects of their pity cannot possibly be trusted to live their lives in freedom. They might fail. They might not be willing or able to achieve what the kindly observer expects them to achieve. They might choose badly for themselves. They might suffer consequences.

    Better to infantilize and control those poor unfortunates.

    How little regard the beneficent truly demonstrate.

    Is it not possible that those other citizens’ point of view is as well or as poorly considered as your own? What makes my judgment superior to theirs or yours? Is advocating the control over other citizens’ choices respectful to those citizens, or dismissive and condescending? Which of your decisions should I make for you?

    America was founded, and continues to attract immigrants, based on the concept of open opportunity, individual responsibility, risk, and reward. But America was founded 233 years ago. Collectivism thrives in older cultures whose citizens begin to value a perception of safety over liberty. That the perceived safety comes at the expense of others’ freedom, and one’s own freedom, is often seen as an acceptable price.

    Maybe American culture is just too old, fat, and happy. Maybe our headlong rush into the brick wall of unsustainable economic policy will remove enough of the fat and happy component to remind us of the power of liberty. Freedom and free markets built America, not governmentally imposed collectivism.

  • Steve


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    You tube video:

    Steve Kolrud

  • Tsu Dho Nihm

    “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
    — Yogi Berra

  • Dan

    When you come to a fork, eat your vegetables. Why don’t you divide us by our buying power? the one % and the 80 %. How about those that believe God Loves a Drunk and those that hate drinkers? How about those of us that are animals and those that believe we are not animals? We are social creatures, we use language, and none of us can take much when we go. When there are too many of us, the collective and the individual are capable of losing. I wonder if I will be free of attachment to things when I go, will you?