Saturday, September 18, 2010

The decadent West

Browsing through the Total Politics Top Blogs 200–101 List, I came upon a blog that I have not perused for some time—Cicero's Songs. I appeared a few times on 18 Doughty Street TV with Cicero (who has been writing almost as long as your humble Devil) and he is a very interesting person—well travelled (especially in the Baltic States), a good writer and possessed of a keen sense of liberty.

This last trait is much informed by the first, but I was again reminded of the second and third as I browsed the blog. I particularly enjoyed a post entitled The Ninny State—a comparison of China's slow to inexorable progress towards freedom, whilst in the West it declines—not because Cicero's reasoning and conclusions are particularly ground-breaking, but because they are framed in such a clear, forceful way. Here are some highlights, but do wander over and read the whole thing...
In the West where what passes for full democracy is already in place, it is clear that the promise of democracy in terms of personal freedom and fulfilment is not being met. The rights of the individual have often been subordinated to the limited private interests—and corporations can often dictate their will to the supposedly democratic organs of state.

However the key element in the weakening of the West has been the actions of the State itself. This is especially true in economic affairs. The power of the state over matters of employment, personal economic welfare choices, and certain aspects of social behaviour has grown, is growing faster, and needs to be reduced.

The past decades have seen the emergence of a society where freedom of action of the individual has been generally reduced in order to improve economic security. The problem is that rescuing the poor from impoverishment through the "welfare state" apparatus has ended up so limiting individual freedom, in the field of entrepreneurship for example, that the overall wealth generating capacity of society has fallen to a level where the welfare state itself can not longer be sustained without impossible levels of debt. In this I am not talking so much about a system of progressive or even redistributive tax, but rather the creation of a clientele of individuals and families that do not work at all.

We do not consider the cost side of any cost benefit analysis—only that benefits—however minor—should be pursued regardless of cost.

This is essentially decadent. We can not impose our own self indulgence upon the next generations- who most certainly will not be able to maintain the fiction that all things can be afforded. It is not necessarily the case that society need do without many of the positive things that the welfare state may offer, but that these things can no longer be offered by the government. More to the point, maintaining oneself and one's family can not be done at the cost of the rest of society. It is necessary that welfare claimants provide some contribution in return for the benefits that they receive: unemployment is corrosive, and once the discipline of work is lost, it is hard to regain it—as we see on too many sink estates.

We have allowed the ambition of too many individuals to dwindle to their next giro—so it is hardly any wonder that out of boredom and frustration, our barely educated underclass resorts to drink, drugs and violence. By fencing in its citizens—over protecting them—freedom has been diminished to enhance safety.

Those who sell freedom to gain security end up with neither, and that at the economic and social level is what has happened in too many places in the West. The price is an inexorable decline in wealth for the next generations—unless we can wean ourselves off the culture of economic dependency that has been fostered by the misguided good intentions of the current system.

There really isn't much that I disagree with there—and I am sure that most of my readers would agree with Cicero's assessment. The big challenge is not only to find the remedy, but also to be able to enact it—and this last is far, far more difficult than the first.

I think that it is pretty obvious that the Coalition are certainly not going to make any significant changes and Labour most certainly will not. As such, I fear that our long decline will only continue...


Squitch said...

There are a million essays, blog entries, comments, ... , which list the problems facing us. Some, like this one, even suggest reasons for the existence of those problems (although, as here, evidence to support those 'reasons' is often scant).

It is fairly clear, I think, that the democratic process is simply not powerful enough to preserve itself, never mind protect the people.

Only a revolution can save us. I'm not claiming that a revolution WILL save us, of course, just that nothing else has that capability.

Blogs should stop whingeing about how things are and get down to the practical details of changing them.

Elby the Beserk said...

"Those who sell freedom to gain security end" - and "the greatest freedom is security", said a local war criminal.

FUBAR is how I would describe the UK.

@Squitch The problem with revolutions is the bloodshed involved. Though I will admit that when the progenitors of any revolution are socialist, the bloodshed is exponentially worse (USSR/China/Cambodia). There's an interesting lecture on this here

Anonymous said...

Revolution for liberties ?
Only warm climates have those type of revolutions.
Colder climes have revolutions for food.
We are approaching that as the money to pay for the wastefull welfare state abd cushy public sector jobs dries up.
As Bernard Shaw stated ,
The end of civilisation is only three meals away.

Anonymous said...

Liberty is lost by the apathy of
those most likely to suffer the
loss . Apathy is nurtured by
hidden cowards whose aim is
maximum control with minimum effort
politicians being simple tools to
give the appearance of normality.
The secular Pantheon of decadence,
avarice and self will collapse
upon the the least guilty in deed
however most guilty of apathy.

Non sum dignus

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