The Future We Face
So another year closes, and another company comes under the umbrella of United States of America, Inc.:
The federal government said Wednesday that it will take majority control of troubled auto lender GMAC and provide an additional $3.8 billion in aid to the company, which has been unable to raise from private investors the money it needs to staunch its losses.
As it happens, one of my family’s vehicles is currently subject to a GMAC loan, leading me to wonder, first, why my debt shouldn’t disappear if my government is purchasing the company and, second, how penalties for failure to pay might change if the feds settle in to ownership. Debtors prison, perhaps? Of course, the government has been meddling in the lending game for years, helping to dig the population’s debt hole to its current globe-crossing depth (to China), and as a National Review editorial blurb suggests, the president, at least, has conflicting intentions:
With unemployment persisting at painful levels, President Obama casts himself as the scourge of the “fat cats”–he has taken to the language of vacuous populism–castigating banks for making too many risky loans.
At the same time, he dressed down a group of bankers, demanding they make more loans, which means riskier ones.
Arguably, GMAC is in its current position because it made loans that its business model did not support. With government involvement, politicians can sift through potential borrowers and determine which groups are high-risk/high-value (and therefore deserving of subsidization by taxpayers) and which groups are just high risk. That way, risky loans can be rephrased in moral terms and promoted as a debt that society owes the oppressed.
Combine that debt with another that politicians with too much power have incurred and which Nick Gillespie foresees as bringing us to this state of affairs:
There is a looming showdown in American society between public-sector employees and the rest of us, in terms of job security and, especially, unsustainable gold-plated retirement and health benefits that are working hard to bankrupt whole states such as California, New York, and New Jersey. As with some parts of the private sector (domestically owned auto companies, for instance), basic compensation packages were hammered into place in a very different America, and conferred massive future benefits when politicians were either too stupid or too cowardly to confront basic questions of fiscal responsibility.
Government has long been the answer for those who wish to play philanthropist with other people’s money and for those who wished to ensure ever-increasing comfort and security through collective manipulation of a democratic system.
Which brings us to an essay by Patrick Deneen, which I found via Mark Shea. One must swallow a very particular interpretation of history in order to agree with Deneen’s entire essay, but his conclusion has the resonance of truth:
The choice facing America today is grim: it shows every sign of a willingness to embrace the Chinese model, a model it will likely choose to remain “competitive,” but also daily demonstrates its habits of blandishing a citizenry that demands to be coddled. The “democracy” continues to demand its fair share of a dwindling pie, an expected denoument when citizens have been redefined as “consumers.” I wager that in 10 years’ time, the nation will either have sunk itself beneath the untenable weight of continuing payment of a bribe that could never be sustained — and will look like a third world “banana republic” — or, it will have “successfully” made the transition to another regime, an form of autocratic capitalism in which the State will change the terms of the bribe, paying us with materialist distractions in exchange for our political rights and equality. I daily see signs of both prospects, and can’t clearly discern at the moment which will arise. Either way, our culmination is grim, for in either event we will cease in any real sense to be a Republic.
Either way, the strategy is to beg, borrow, and steal for a continuing supply of illusory comfort, the difference being whether we chase denial into the mentality of a basket case or give totalitarianism a try, trading freedom for cheap loans, subsidized toys, and deteriorating healthcare. Neither choice is sustainable, but some minority portion of society might squeeze another half-century or so out of the delusional scam.
Of course, there’s a third option, entailing real tolerance of political differences and a widely dispersed government structure. Luckily, we’re all familiar with the necessary terms — federalism, checks and balances, representative government, property rights, due process — requiring us merely to reaffirm their meaning and importance.
It is in this last possibility that I find room for hope for the new year. Calamities may loom, but Western civilization will not collapse over night. Our national memory of principles of freedom will not dissipate with the winter clouds. Therefore, start where it all must begin: with your self, your family, your town, your state, and your nation. Be vigilant of changes and affronts far and wide, but begin where you can have the most effect.
Your example and lessons to loved ones will ripple throughout society. Your affirmation of principle in the town hall will echo to Providence, to Washington, to Brussels. Such could be the catalyst expanding a new invigoration around the planet, one well-lived life at a time.