16 January, 2010

America's Greatest Challenge -- and Danger

The greatest threat to the safety and liberty of the American people is recognized by very few. Though formidable in their own right, this hazard is not posed by any state among the new class of rising great powers. Nor is the great danger to be found among transnational terror networks, violence caused by religious extremism, or the anarchy of ethnic upheaval. Nuclear proliferation, ecological crisis and the rise of biological weaponry, though all proper cause for consternation, pose a challenge dwarfed in many ways by the task set before us.

This is because these dangers and perils are but a subset of a much larger problem – the outgrowths of a crisis that threatens to engulf the entirety of America's strategic decision making machinery. If the United States has any hope of maintaining its elect position over the course of the following century, this crisis must be recognized and resolved.

And it is a crisis that lies within ourselves.

It is time for serious analysts of American civilization and concerned citizens of the United States to recognize two uncomfortable truths about the republic in which they dwell. These truths, disturbing to accept, are entwined evils which underlay the Republic's current and coming decay.

The American Republic is no longer governed by the people. The rule of the people has been replaced by an oligarchy of well meaning elites. Not limited by professional divides, these men occupy the vaulted halls of business, media, politics, and academia; they are united in only their unshakable faith in their own beneficence. Entirely sure of their ability to cast a society better than that which already exists, these elites are uncomfortable with democratic accountability or financial liability, and constantly seek opportunities to free themselves from both. This desire to be free from the censure of their countrymen easily translates into a bunker mentality that views individual empowerment, decentralization, and meritocracy as assaults on their power and influence. Unabated social stratification, the erection of barriers to political and economic participation, and the implementation of incomprehensible, unreasonable, and ultimately self-serving regulations are the consequences of this paternalistic culture.

Living lives that are isolated from their fellow citizens, the identity of the elite is formed along lines of privilege and class, not ties of community and country. Unsurprisingly, the oligarchy of good intentions has difficulty demarcating the divide between special and national interests. Nor can they be expected to construct sustainable solutions to the problems faced by the nation; a ruling class who has made a lifestyle of shifting blame is not an instrument suited to complete such tasks.

The people have no desire to govern America's Republic. The oligarchy of good intentions maintains its dominance over society by claiming that its members are the sole possessors of the knowledge needed to hold the reigns of enterprise and state. This claim is for the most part true. Across the board, Americans are woefully ill informed in the fields of science, civics, and history. The worldview of the average citizen is provincial, the media he consumes even more so. There is little indication this will change any time in the near future. To the contrary, the population of the United States is marked by a multi-generational decline in political participation matched only by the nation's falling levels of civic engagement. With pure passivity the public gazed on as its access to the conduits of power were cut off one by one; without raising a voice in protest the people have have seen their liberties stripped away. Those few items that can capture the interest of the citizenry are petty – popular public discourse is but a competition to see who can fit the most theatrics into a seven second sound bite, politics but a never-ending game of governmental “Gotcha!” Such is needed to keep the attention of a population obsessed with the flashy and trivial; the affairs of the country one has no affection for pale in comparison to the allures of the circus. Bread also has a part to play: in an age where voluntary associations have collapsed and economic disparity is growing, every trial and tribulation has become a problem best solved by someon else.

This was a role the oligarchs were all too happy to fill. When they did, American society underwent an incredible cultural transformation. Her people are no longer citizens – they are subjects. The United States is a nation of sheep being led to the slaughter. The few who recognize this are paralyzed, unable to proceed in an environment where protests are useless, the people's will is ignored, and the sheer scope of the corrupted institutions make anything short of revolution a half measure.

The hazards found in this system of oligarchy are not difficult to see. Plato's philosopher-kings these men are not. Mired in factional infighting and entrapped by special interests, the elite are unable to form a clear image of reality. The citizenry, in turn, are too ill-informed to hold the elite accountable for their failure. In this lies the source of the last quarter century’s strategic malaise; her ability to observe and orient destroyed, America has become a blind Goliath, stumbling from one international crisis into another. This sorry state will remain her fate as long as society's ship is captained by a class of oligarchs who remain hostile to the innovations necessary for success in an age defined by networks, rising powers, and instantaneous exchange. Of these things the ruling class does not care – they are too busy skimming the project's profits to bother with steering us away from the rocks and shoals of the future.

A well deserved tip of the hat must be delivered to Zenpundit. His words served as a springboard for this post, and I draw liberally from his ideas. However, Zen writes only of the first tragedy listed here; I find the second one to be just as, if not more, important.


JN Kish said...

Mr. Greer- You are right. The threats that you identify are very real. You speak of a crisis that "threatens to engulf the entirety of America's strategic decision making". To fully understand the breadth of the crisis- You need to look to China and realize that China is swiftly gaining world dominance. This dominance is gained through a concerted strategy.

You speak of an "oligarchy of well meaning elites". This group is indeed very dangerous in that they can easily be baited, influenced, used and controlled by outside sources (i.e. China).

Unless free people wake up to these realities now, we may find ourselves hopelessly ensnared. Our Country is already deep inside the trap.

Sun Tzu teaches- "The victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won".

After the strategic victory has been achieved, all it takes is for someone, anyone, to bump the trigger on the trap.

You can read more here:

JN Kish said...

Here's a clickable link to Friend or Foe

Krystine said...

Very interesting. As I am only an average citizen I am not sure what can be done? What in your opinion is the answer?

T. Greer said...

@JNK: I am unsure that China plays a part as devious as you ascribe to them. By all indications the Chinese have a more lucid picture of reality than that possessed by the American ruling class; so too are their attempts to gain influence and favor throughout the world both more sophisticated and determined than our own. Undoubtedly they watch the parody we style self government with glee. However, I do not think their influence is so pervasive as to dictate the course of all that happens in American politics. Sadly, the Chinese are needed to send America on her way to self destruction.

@Krystine: Of this there are no easy answers. To be honest, I have very few. My attempts to answer this question shall consume much of the Stage's space.

JN Kish said...

Mr. Greer - I too used to be unsure... Confusion and disbelief are the key components of deception. But don't listen to me- take a look for yourself at what ex-KGB Major Anatoliy Golitsyn has to say about the liberalization of the Soviet Bloc and strategic deception. Anatoliy Golitsyn - New Lies For Old

Krystine - The first step is awareness. The second is understanding. After that, you must learn and spread facts without coming off as a kook- that is the tallest order. Informed and empowered citizens are the answer in a representative government. What can you do right now? Today? Find and participate in a local TEA party.

T. Greer said...

Note: my last comment should read "The Chinese are not needed to send America on her way to self-destruction.

@JNK: I am afraid that your advise to find a TEA party holds little weight here. If there is evidence that the TEA movement has not been co-opted by the powers that be I would love to see it. As it is, the TEA movement is just another way to release the pent up anger of folks might otherwise be dangerous.

Anonymous said...

. Across the board, Americans are woefully ill informed in the fields of science, civics, and history.

Hogwash. You too have bought into the narrative.

It is the elites that have false knowledge in these area-it is they live in the quite parochial and delusional world of the Academe, the politician, the "knowledge professional", the "committeeman", and the Wonk. In fact their "knowledge" is little more than Leftist/tranzi cant, gobbledygook and prattle to destruct the good and the honorable. One can scarcely get a useful, rational sentence out of the whole lot of them. One most cerainly cannot get an honest days work out of a even a handful them.

If the world is any more complicated than it once was, it is ch9iefly due to the mischief this crew gets up too in order to hang onto their so called "privileges".

These elites have got there by gaming political patronage systems systems, the chief one of these being the educational system, which, of course, is what our educational system has devolved into; they have not earned it by merit. Superior scientific knowledge? Have a look at the AGW fraud. Superior knowledge? Have a look at what these brianiacs did on Wall St. or are doing in the EU as we speak. These elites have practically destroyed the country and Western civlization. How dare you say that their "guidance" is somehow required or merited. Few things could be more absurd.

How can you still believe in a institution such as Harvard when it gives us buffoons such as Obama and Kagan? It is you that is being "provincial" it is you that is "distracted by the petty".

You should go thumb through the "scientific papers" gushing out of our so called "scientific institutions" today. 80% is pure bilge.

You appear to share the same contempt for the Americans that the "elites" do.

These "Elites" are just the Democrats' version of the Soviet Nomenkaltura and just as bogus and parasitic. They are a product of the New Deal and its various reincarnations lo these last 70 years or so. Cut off their government funding, force them to earn an honest living and quickly you shall find that it is they who are are "woefully ill informed in the fields of science, civics, and history". Of course, to get to that point of wisdom, Mr. Greer, you would have to face you own limits, delusions and vanity.

I rather doubt that you have it in you.

Shame on you for slandering regulare Americans so.

T. Greer said...


You state:

In fact their "knowledge" is little more than Leftist/tranzi cant,.

Perhaps this true. Regardless, it is not the type of knowledge I was referring to when I wrote "Americans are woefully ill informed in the fields of science, civics, and history." If you were to click on the link for "civics" it would take you to the ISI's public report on their the results of their Civic Literacy Survey. The questions on this survey are not leftist in nature. "What are the three branches of government?", "Name one right or freedom guaranteed by the first amendment", "Name two countries that were our enemies during World War II", and "Free markets typically secure more economic prosperity than government’s centralized planning because:" are hardly liberal talking points. But if you do not believe me, please go ahead and take the test yourself.

Worth repeating are the full results of ISI's study:

The results reveal that Americans are alarmingly uninformed about our Constitution, the basic functions of our government, the key texts of our national history, and economic principles.

* Less than half can name all three branches of the government.
* Only 21% know that the phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people” comes from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
* Although Congress has voted twice in the last eight years to approve foreign wars, only 53% know that the power to declare war belongs to Congress. Almost 40% incorrectly believe it belongs to the president.
* Only 55% know that Congress shares authority over U.S. foreign policy with the president. Almost a quarter incorrectly believe Congress shares this power with the United Nations.
* Only 27% know the Bill of Rights expressly prohibits establishing an official religion for the United States.
* Less than one in five know that the phrase “a wall of separation” between church and state comes from a letter by Thomas Jefferson. Almost half incorrectly believe it can be found in the Constitution.

Americans from all age groups, income brackets, and political ideologies fail the test of civic literacy.

* Americans age 25 to 34 score an average of 46% on the exam; Americans age 65 and over score 46%.
* Americans earning an annual income between $30,000 and $50,000 score an average of 46%; Americans earning over $100,000 score 55%.
* Liberals score an average of 49%; conservatives score 48%.
* Americans who go to church once a week score an average of 48%; Americans who never go to church score 50%.

T. Greer said...

You further state:

These elites have practically destroyed the country and Western civlization. How dare you say that their "guidance" is somehow required or merited. Few things could be more absurd.

This last bit leaves me a bit curious - did you anything I wrote? Here are a few selections:

* "the oligarchy of good intentions has difficulty demarcating the divide between special and national interests. Nor can they be expected to construct sustainable solutions to the problems faced by the nation"

* "The United States is a nation of sheep being led to the slaughter."

* "Plato's philosopher-kings these men are not. Mired in factional infighting and entrapped by special interests, the elite are unable to form a clear image of reality."

Finally, you claim:

You appear to share the same contempt for the Americans that the "elites" do.

I have no contempt - only sorrow. The American people are an ignorant mass. This does not mean the elites are any better off - indeed, events have shown that they are in many ways worse. I am reminded of the words of a Mr. T. Roosevelt, spoken at Sorbonne in the Spring of in 1912:

The average citizen must be a good citizen if our republics are to succeed. The stream will not permanently rise higher than the main source; and the main source of national power and national greatness is found in the average citizenship of the nation. Therefore it behooves us to do our best to see that the standard of the average citizen is kept high; and the average cannot be kept high unless the standard of the leaders is very much higher.

It was true then and is true now. We get the government - and the elites - that we deserve. If our elites have nothing but intellectual gobbleygook between their ears, it is because the American people cannot tell the difference between intellectual gobbleygook and real intellect.

LFC said...

A quick word w/r/t the ISI's civic literacy survey. Although most of the questions on that test are fairly neutral in tone, often asking, as I recall, just for basic factual information, ISI (the Intercollegiate Studies Institute) is a well-known conservative organization, and that perspective was evident in a couple of questions about the virtues of the 'free market system'. So not only is it correct to say that the questions on this survey are not leftist in nature; nothing about ISI is leftist. Quite the opposite. (I agree of course that the reported scores are pretty dismal, even if you discount the 'ideological' questions.)

Brett_McS said...

It is sort of ironic that these 'elites' think about society in such primitive, simplistic - one could say childish - terms. "Make it so!" indeed. The perfect society to them is the airline cabin where everyone other than the governing elite sits the hell down and shuts the hell up.

Their thinking about society is more in tune with that of Islam and other primitive world views. They're not within light years of understanding anything Adam Smith ever wrote.