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Monday, July 25, 2011

Jonestown D.C.
by David Atkins ("thereisnospoon")

It is easy to get caught up in every rivulet of the default crisis as we approach the inevitable cascade of market panics followed by shock doctrine cuts to social services. It is easy to find fault with the Administration for its many flaws in handling the situation, and with Congressional Democrats as well.

But it's also important to remember the big picture. The big picture is that America is being held hostage by a conservative movement that behaves much more as a bizarre religious cult, than a legitimate political entity. It is perhaps the most dangerous cult to have ever held sway over a major nation-state in modern times.

It is a cult founded on a number of dogmatic beliefs that have no basis in reality. These are people who believe that the inflection point of the Laffer Curve is somewhere in the low single digits, and that cutting taxes to insanely low levels will magically lead to revenue increases. These are people who believe that government itself is basically unnecessary but for a private property protection scheme, and that the unfettered market will provide all that society needs, and will dole out the appropriate price for all goods, wages and services with zero inflation through the magic of the market. These are people who believe it is impossible for humans to affect the climate, and that it is better for humans to attempt to magically adapt somehow to a much hotter world than to do anything to even curb the behaviors that might be making it hotter. These are people who believe that the proper way to punish corporate evildoers is to not punish them at all, because people will simply stop purchasing from corporations that poison their water and air and crash their economies--because the average consumer presumably has the secret market-given wisdom, and magic powers necessary to make financial choices to punish Koch Industries and Goldman Sachs if necessary. These are people who view Objectivism as a legitimate and serious philosophical discipline, and the fictional works of Ayn Rand as gospel to live by.

The fact that no country on earth has attempted to operate by these principles in the modern era is irrelevant. These people do not operate according to facts, but according to a deep and abiding faith in a wholly untested set of principles that can only be put into place upon the destruction of the current order.

As with any cult, the prospect of Armageddon is not troubling to them. Thus, the answer to exponentially rising healthcare costs is to do...nothing. The answer to rapidly increasing global temperatures is to do...nothing. The answer to a devastating default on the faith and credit of the United States is to do...nothing.

The possible outcomes of any and every imaginable crisis are only two: 1) give the cult everything it wants, when it wants it; or 2) do nothing and let the world burn. Which is fine, because once the flames have died down, the cult can at last build their Kingdom here as it is in Milton Friedman's heaven. If healthcare costs explode, then the system collapses and the people who are left will only buy the healthcare they can afford at market prices. If global temperatures rise, then Social Darwinism will preserve the deserving. If the American economy collapses, then it can be rebuilt, minus the surplus population and those pesky Keynesian programs that kept it afloat and alive. 2nd Amendment remedies will deal with the lesser people who resist.

One can rage all day and night, and legitimately so, at the failures of the Left and Democrats over the last 30 years. It would take an encyclopedia to count them all.

But one also must remember that the American political system is facing perhaps the most dangerous enemy it has ever faced: an intransigent cult of individuals who simply do not care if everything goes down in flames around them, so long as the sacred tenets of the cult remain unchallenged.

The American political system was crafted by thinkers and philosophers deeply steeped in the Enlightenment. The Founders assumed that the competing elements of self-interest and cooperation, hinged on a delicate balance of powers, would be enough for men and women of Reason to, through fits and starts, ultimately find the best solutions for the problems facing the country based on evidence and argument. The system is built, in essence, upon the presumption of Reason. Of give and take. Of compromise.

The system was not built to handle a takeover of the system by an unreasoning cult. Big money has had outsize influence on our political system before, and the American People have managed to beat it back time and time again. But never before have we been faced with the sort of unified, concerted, intentionally reinforced delusion that besets our halls of power today.

Yes, it is true that the conflict within what passes for the Left in this nation is in part a fight over the power of Big Money to co-opt the political vehicles that are supposed to carry our preferred policies forward.

But even more than that, the conflict is about how to handle the metastasizing cancer that the market fundamentalist cult is perpetrating on our body politic. Some on the Left believe in the inherent intelligence and reasonableness of the American voter, and assume that by keeping a level head and appearing to be the most sensible person in the room, the public will ultimately reject the cult and its trappings, even if we must give significant ground in the meantime. Others see politics as a game of tug-of-war in which only one side is doing any real pulling, and believe that an equally forceful counterweight is needed in order to keep the cult from pulling us all over a cliff. I consider myself squarely in the latter camp.

But whichever of those two sides one agrees with, it's important to remember the big picture: our future is being held hostage by a cult that doesn't care if the world burns down so long as they get what they want. Dealing with the implications of that needs to be the top priority of serious thinkers in our political system if we hope to preserve it.