When a civilization fails to preserve itself from threats arising from within, which can be physical, material, or ideological in nature, it is at risk of collapse. This collapse is typically followed by anarchy, and ultimately tyranny; which can be of the mind or by the sword. When a civilization fails to defend itself from threats arising from without, it can be infiltrated or invaded. The civilization can be corrupted, subjugated, absorbed, or destroyed.
Civilizations rise when they are ideologically sound, and fall when they become ideologically corrupted. Cultural traditions provide the ideals that city-states, societies, colonies, states, and nations hold aloft as the guiding lights for greatness. Cultures define good and evil, right and wrong, and virtue and vice. Civilizations thrive on open information, free communication and social feedback mechanisms, like democratic elections and sound currency. Cut off human communication, and social systems collapse; they often revert to collective violence to futilely preserve the order.
Government coercion therefore reflects a failure of civilization. Debt and deficits are signs that a people are becoming detached from economic reality, and are immorally and unrealistically living at the expense of future generations. Rationalization of unsustainable lifestyles involve a corruption of language; and entail censorship in the final act when the exploited rise up against their exploiters.
Turning upside down who is being exploited by whom is thus a key strategy of socialism; it leads to civil war, or an intra-societal war, instead of an organized cooperative overthrow of the exploitative state. Scapegoating is a clear sign of a civilization in collapse: as Ayn Rand pointed out, the Nazis had the Jews, the Soviets had the kulaks, and Americans have the rich. When people are unable to accept personal responsibility for their own lives, they vote for a party that reflects this mental weakness. The democratic party eggs this on and thrives on it. Socialism is in many ways the codification of an ethos of avoiding personal responsibility.
The ancient Greeks had a double-edged word for revolution and stagnation termed stasis. Stasis is that state when an existent polity has stopped believing in fundamental ideals necessary for societal cohesion and order; it is a state of fugue and entropy that disorients the citizenry by removing the institutional, cultural, and traditional framework that gives rise to a relatively predictable, stable, and orderly life. Stasis produces a mental state of aimlessness and desperation for strong leadership; it can give rise to tyranny, military adventurism, and hubris.
It is important to note that the rise of Western Civilization did not emerge from a utopian vision of mankind, but one which sees man as a political and vain animal that must be given the opportunity to compete with others for power and wealth, without holding out the possibility of political or economic domination. Thus the Madisonian idea, derived from the Baron de Montesquieu, of divided powers and checks and balances.
The philosophies of the Enlightenment hold out the promise of a better, more peaceful and prosperous world by acknowledging that men are capable of knowing their own self-interest and pursuing it, while allowing others the opportunity to do the same. If reasonable men can agree to these rules, then society can become collaborative, prosperous and enjoyable. If they reject them, then man is locked into a constant political war for resources.
These ideas and ideals can be categorized as “rational self-interest” and extended to imply not only political but also economic principles. Rational self-interest entails mutual cooperation and trade of the fruits of one’s freely chosen labor so that people in a just societal order can pursue happiness of their own accord and allow others to do likewise.
The proper and dignified life for man is one of personal challenge and triumph over obstacles, and the laissez-faire economic order provides all but the most helpless, clueless, and lazy the opportunity to eventually succeed. This is not to say that we cannot help one another, but help must be freely given, not coerced by exploitative politicians and their parasitical clients. Which brings us to another aspect of the Enlightenment, economic freedom built on the premise of private property.
Private property is indispensable to freedom, because without private property, one is vulnerable to the whims of the state or the collective. Without private property, one lacks the mental security and the sense of self-determination necessary to work in the confidence that the fruits of one’s labor will not be seized. Furthermore, one must be allowed to own and pursue wealth not only because it is key to freedom and prosperity, but also because it is conducive to peace.
When one has the freedom of opportunity to pursue wealth and ascend in social esteem and influence, then one has an alternative to the unabashed struggle for political power, which alternatively would imply economic control. History teaches that when a small group of elites have political and economic control, men are enslaved, persecuted, and oppressed in order for the elites to perpetuate their privileged status in society. Yet many fail to take such a hard-won historical lesson seriously. They fail to understand the historical struggle against tyranny that gave birth to the founding principles of life, liberty, and property.
Why do millions of Americans refuse to acknowledge or react to the dire threats to our nation? While many citizens are alarmed at the unchecked growth of government, there are still millions of apathetic, ill-informed, ignorant, parasitical, moderate, or progressive Americans who are unable or unwilling to see the dangers mounting from such growth. They cannot see that the increase of government power is directly related to the multiplication and exacerbation of our problems, which are economic, social, and national security-related.
This is because a nation becomes most vulnerable when the majority of people become removed from objective reality through the perversion of rational self-interest; this is how people’s ability to perceive threats is disabled.
The government uses a number of tactics to disarm people’s willingness or mental awareness to oppose the threat that comes from the growth of its power. It makes government power appear to these people as harmless, compassionate, or even desirable. It uses the false appearance of self-interest to “jujitsu” the system to collapse; it mainly does this by issuing paper money, which appears to be money, but it is not real money (Austrian School economist Ludwig von Mises defined money as a “store of wealth”).
Since there is a “deal of ruin” in a nation, as Adam Smith put it, entire generations of Americans can live at the expense of future generations. The industrial base is gutted as people transfer into education, civil service, or bureaucratic jobs, who serve a growing number of clients of the welfare state.
The ultimate result of the corruption of rational self-interest is the collapse of the American system of ordered liberty, and, due to the ignoble state of all of Europe, the demise of Western Civilization. Intellectual leadership will be key to restoring the institutions that can preserve and promote any sense of rational self-interest for each citizen; an incremental return to citizens living in accordance with objective reality and the human psyche is therefore paramount to success.