Op-Ed

The “State” of Modern Society

History reflects an inherent tension between human efforts to socialize, and the government enslavement that often ensues. “Society” is defined as “the community of people living in a particular country or region and having shared customs, laws, and organizations.” The evolving American “state” which now dominates Americans’ lives increasingly lacks shared customs and laws. Customs such as Christmas and Columbus day are being dismantled like Confederate statues; the Rule of Law is itself being flouted in current impeachment proceedings — clearly the same legal standards are no longer “shared”.

Many Americans today invoke collective “rights,” but ignore “personal responsibility.” Our “society” is failing due to a deterioration of once-shared values (E.g., TS Eliot, The Wasteland; William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming: “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold”). In place of laws and customs held in common, secular liberalism has declared itself the new morality (represented by the Democratic National Party), and set out to dominate society through the State. Invoking “diversity,” “equality” and “universal rights to expensive state programs” as mantra, this pseudo-utopian dystopia thrives.

Those who will employ ANY means to achieve this worldly Hades are oblivious to the peril they invite. New inequalities are justified based on past sins; the Constitution is inexorably tarnished; the economy is being destroyed; American culture is being denigrated as evil, along with Christianity. The history and culture of the United States are being turned upside down: what is evil is called good; what is good evil.

A “state” is defined as “an organized political community under one government.” No unity of purpose or culture is required — China is a state, as is North Korea. In such systems, culture itself conflicts with institutional autonomy, as under Pol Pot, Mao, and Stalin. To abandon society for an Orwellian State is certain folly, but those who embrace socialism as an easy coup do not heed George Orwell any more than they learn from Eliot or Yeats. They “trust” the government because they wish to employ its powers to rule over others, not perceiving that they court their own enslavement.

Efforts to impose a “carbon tax” demonstrate this disconnect. Rather than ask private citizens to curtail pollution, climate activists invoke perceived future calamity as grounds to dictate consumption choices through government, enabled by taxes that benefit polluting corporations that trade in “credit” markets for carbon. GK Chesterton foresaw this abuse in 1917 (Utopia of Usurers): “Wait and see whether the religion of the Servile State is not in every case what I say: the encouragement of small virtues supporting capitalism, the discouragement of the huge virtues that defy it.”

Compelling citizens to pay a gas tax for the privilege of driving or mowing their lawn is a state-mandated “encouragement” of small virtue — the pollution will continue largely unabated, and good uses of energy will be penalized equally with bad. But to “consume less energy” (a “huge” traditional virtue, once widely known as “frugality”) is not advocated. The State will not compel individuals to consume less energy: merely charge them regardless of the purpose or intent of their consumption. This monetary burden is penance through corporate/government fiat; not a human virtue embraced through human society. And this abdication of personal liberty feeds government expansion and coercion.

Perhaps the “State” must save Americans, in lieu of an organized society. As Erich Fromm observed: “We are a society of notoriously unhappy people: lonely, anxious, depressed, destructive, dependent — people who are glad when we have killed the time we are trying so hard to save.” (from To Have or to Be? The Nature of the Psyche). This is an indictment of the materialism that secularism embraces as ultimate reality. (The post-Christian logic follows that if people are miserable, the State owes them a rescue.)

Plato (who rejected materialism) cautioned that “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors” and that “Excess of liberty, whether it lie in state or individuals, seems only to pass into excess slavery.” Today’s American government institutions have been afforded an excess of liberty. The result is that many Americans are being governed by their inferiors, and what is often called freedom (e.g., welfare benefits, removal of moral limits) has now become slavery — “Freedom is Slavery.”

Americans must stop furnishing the means of their enslavement. The identity politics, reparations, virtue-signalling, and race-baiting that today’s “progressives” invoke are raw efforts to grab power, at the expense of freedom and social unity — society dismembered in favor of an omnipotent police state.

But of course, this too was predictable. GK Chesterton foresaw this outcome 100 years ago: “Earnest Freethinkers need not worry themselves so much about the persecutions of the past. Before the Liberal idea is dead or triumphant we shall see wars and persecutions the like of which the world has never seen.” (Daily News, February 18, 1905). Today’s climate warriors, Antifa, BLM, and #MeToo antagonists are very worried about the “persecutions of the past”; unconcerned about the wars and persecutions they foment.

Indeed, American society is in a very sorry state.

John Klar

John Klar is running as a Republican candidate for Governor 2020

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