Paradigm shifts are a funny thing. One moment your two-party system is egging the masses on to vote for one of two milquetoast versions of Universalism; the next, the personification of the establishment Herself loses the presidential election to a bombastic real estate mogul and reality TV star who practically picked up politics as a hobby.
What the heck happened? What’s happening now? And, most importantly, what can we do about it?
Paradigm shifts come naturally to me. I was raised as a fundamentalist Evangelical Christian, which naturally meant that after two years of community college and innumerable internet discussions, I became a dyed-in-the-wool militant atheist leftist.
I should add that these were the years of George the Son, and if you weren’t a lefty who hated the president and his wars, well, you were wrong, stupid, and on the side of evil. (Funny how some things haven’t changed for the left: their enemies are always the ones who are wrong, stupid, and evil).
Paradigm shifts can be productive or unproductive, or even counter-productive. Back in the day, it did seem to be the case that the left was the side not only of righteousness (a word I use very intentionally) but also of coolness. A part of me still wonders how the side that used to represent the cool kids now draws large crowds of people wearing depictions of genitalia on their heads.
I suspect, of course, that the loopy, hysterical side of the left was always there and simply came out of the woodwork during the eight years of the Anointed One. If you’ve read Hoffer’s book on mass movements—and if you haven’t, see that you do—you know that the tendency of mass movements is always to become more extreme if they are not stopped outright.
One view of what has happened in my adult lifetime is that the pendulum has moved from the right (George the Son) to the left (the Anointed One) to the right again (the God-Emperor). A more red-pilled version would be a normie conservative cycle, a progressive cancer cycle, and finally a red-pilled, Make America Great Again cycle.
Allow me, dear reader, to advance a more reactionary thesis: we have been living under progressive hegemony for at least the better part of a century, and that hegemony is now failing.
As I have pointed out before, New Deal programs account for an ungodly amount of government spending. Social Security is the largest of these behemoths, accounting for $1 trillion all by itself, most of which, $892 billion, comes from payroll taxes.
The rest, a mere $108 billion, approximately, comes from interest from the Social Security Trust Fund. That’s a new development, by the way: Social Security was running with a surplus from those payroll tax revenues until 2010.
But with the Baby Boomers retiring, costs are on the rise, meaning it’s going to have to get a lot bigger than $1 trillion. In fact, costs are expected to outpace income by 2030… and as Reason has explained, the Social Security trustees have calculated that we’re looking at an inflation-adjusted cash flow shortfall of $44.2 trillion over the next 80 years. We’re looking at across-the-board benefit cuts of 25% starting in 2034. (Here’s that link again so you can check it out for yourself).
(Private investments, by the way, produce better results than Social Security).
The Great Society programs Medicare and Medicaid have proven to be millstones in their own right.
Medicare is facing insolvency in less than 15 years, after which it will run annual deficits topping $200 billion—and that’s actually a very optimistic picture. Low reimbursement rates, patient privacy issues, and government involvement are driving physicians away from the program.
Medicaid, meanwhile, is straining state budgets, even as its “ridiculously low” payment rates leave millions of Medicaid-eligible patients stranded (even before Obamacare expanded the program, doctors refused to take new Medicaid patients).
The left doesn’t have the answers. In the last U.S. election cycle, then-candidate Bernie Sanders proposed an insane “Medicare for all” program that would have fallen about $16.6 trillion short over a decade… after rapacious tax increases. (Nice try, though, from our very own Kingfish of Burlington).
Second, “universal (government-provided) healthcare” in other countries isn’t doing so well. You know things are bad when even the BBC admits, despite some hedging, that the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is looking at (even) longer waiting times, and is racking up deficits despite a budget of over £130 billion. Even the New York Times is admitting things are getting substantially worse. Meanwhile, the U.S. beats the UK on five-year survival rates for cancers of the breast, prostate, lung, bowel, stomach, liver, and ovaries, not to mention leukemia and ischemic stroke.
Canada? In 2016, median wait times for medically necessary treatments and procedures hit 20 weeks.
Meanwhile, in Sweden, private health insurance is on the rise. It’s quicker—the Swedish public system has terribly long waiting times.
None of this is any coincidence.
Single-payer healthcare systems run into problems because they are flawed: by design, they obviate the role of prices as market signals, telling producers where to direct more resources. Since single-payer systems are inevitably price-setters, they run into the same core problem faced by the Soviet planners: no matter how smart, informed, or virtuous the people in charge are, they cannot plan how valuable one thing versus another thing will be, leading them to price things more or less arbitrarily.
As with Social Security, better alternatives are available.
If you’re not convinced, here’s a good exercise in red-pilling: compare modern entitlement programs with modern private industries.
In my experience, it’s the difference between an increasingly expensive investment, a multi-generational indenture with ever-dwindling returns, and buying a new laptop in 2017 that cost slightly less than the new laptop I bought in 2014, despite vastly better specs.
Of course, government-provided goodies promote dependency, and that works out well for the pale, bloated vampire of leftism. For all their talk about “helping” people, what leftists actually do, all too often, is to cause tremendous harm and enable counter-productive social behavior while they’re at it.
Leftist handouts create a sense of entitlement and disincentivize hard work, leading to social breakdown in the welfare-addicted underclass communities they create. Meanwhile, many of these same communities (and many others) are also afflicted with minimum wage laws that price the unskilled out of the labor market.
Thanks to the Sexual Revolution and its sequelae, the phenomenon of single motherhood is increasingly common. To be sure, most of the children turn out fine, but this still means significantly more boys at higher risk of incarceration and more girls at risk of teenage pregnancy.
Thus, the downfall of the structural leftism of the progressive dispensation is mirrored by its failure in the social and cultural domains. At every turn, leftist support for more government intervention in the name of “helping” people has produced social and cultural dysfunction.
As Thomas Sowell has elucidated:
Welfare state guarantees of not having to work, however the particular policies are applied, are not a solution. Relieving people of personal responsibility for their own lives, however it is done, is a major part of the problem.
Before there can be a welfare state in a democratic country, there must first be a welfare state vision that becomes sufficiently pervasive to allow a welfare state to be created. That vision, in which people are "entitled" to what others have produced, is at the heart of the social degeneration that can be traced back to the 1960s.
Teenage pregnancies, venereal diseases, dependency on government and murder rates were all going down during the much-disdained 1950s. All reversed and shot up as the welfare state, and the social vision behind the welfare state, took over in the 1960s.
These are the signs of a failing paradigm. The left’s mad rush toward egalitarian fantasies, coupled with its obsession with creating identity-based groups of putative “victims” and putative “oppressors,” has fomented social conflict and ill-will, not to mention a great deal of outright nonsense.
The result is a pathological mentality that displaces responsibility from the individual to the collective.
The signs of this are everywhere, from the aforementioned rise in single motherhood to Hillary Clinton’s shameless pandering to everyone but the hated straight white male oppressors, to “queering STEM,” to this person complaining that his sexual proclivities have left him vulnerable to three very colorful parasitic infestations—and of course, this means that healthcare providers and departments of health have failed him, because they did not warn him of the dangers of where he was sticking his tongue.
Still, no cancer can spread forever. Herself, the personification of the Establishment Left, defeated Bernie Sanders because her promise of a free pony was more credible than the Kingfish of Burlington’s promise of a free unicorn (and Herself’s campaign controlling the DNC didn’t hurt, either).
This is also, of course, why Herself went down in defeat to the God-Emperor. In the end, even a promise of free ponies was too much for tens of millions of people who understood full well that they would be called upon, yet again, to pay for yet another lavish handout to the clients of the welfare state.
The Trump phenomenon has been enormously useful, a wrecking ball impacting with and cracking the Cathedral. It’s a good start, to be sure: the pale, bloated vampire of leftism has been pulled partway off the vein of Western civilization, and the shrieks and cries that we hear are that of a parasite in terror of losing its host.
Still, in the bigger picture, we have to acknowledge the limitations of the Trump phenomenon. In this democratic merry-go-round, a new kid gets to attempt to spin the wheel in their direction for only four years, or eight years if they win the popularity contest twice. After that, someone else takes over.
So, what comes next? If the nature of the progressive order is entitlement, the solution must be personal responsibility, which is the precondition for excellence and proving one’s self. Indeed, the popularity of Jordan Peterson attests to the idea that this is a message for our time. No wonder the left attack the man: he is a powerful alternative to their morally and intellectually bankrupt narratives, particularly for young men.
There are no silver bullets. Undoing the damage caused by the cancer of leftism may take generations. It will not be easy, and we should not look for easy answers. There is no single plug-and-play program for utopia ready on hand to succeed structural leftism—indeed, utopianism is precisely what got us into this mess in the first place.
As leftism fails, though, the Overton Window is becoming increasingly open to other ideas. The Great Reckoning itself can, among other things, be seen as a triumph for right-populist nationalism over globalism. There seems to be a new nationalist spirit afoot in the Western world: in the U.S., it manifests as a response to arrogant, out-of-touch elites peddling the same tired old ideas; in Europe, it is in large part a response to the reckless importation of freeloading and troublemaking migrants by governments such as that of Chancellor Merkel in Germany.
Perhaps one way to think about the new, post-left order in the West is that it can be, within reason, whatever the nations of the West have the will to create. Freed of the pale bloated vampire of leftism, what will the societies of the West produce? Newly empowered by a mentality of personal responsibility, what will the people of the West take it upon themselves to do?
And bound together by a renewed sense of cohesion and purpose in their proud Western heritage and indomitable destiny, what will the nations of the West not dare to do?
There are no silver bullets—and thank goodness. Too-easy answers would deprive us of the chance to build character.
The paradigm shift is afoot, visible in the failure of structural leftism and the increasing recognition and rejection of the pathologies of leftism in culture. The fall of the left will mean the rebirth of the West.
As the age of degeneracy, entitlement, egalitarian fantasizing, and atomistic hedonism to an end, Western Man and Western Woman can find it within themselves to reach for an age of personal responsibility, discipline, standards, and communal and national identification. All that is required is the vision, the will, and the commitment to personal and then social transformation.