Tags: Emerging Threats | Education | Healthcare Reform | Homeland Security

The West Must Take a Stand or Perish

By Tuesday, 04 August 2015 09:08 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Alfred Marshall, in his foundational 1890 book, "Principles of Economics," argued that “Human wants and desires are countless in number and very various in kind.”

Alas, Western civilization is in a spiral pursuing a number of wants and desires without regard to law, constitutionality, or common sense. The goal of unfettered freedom has captured the imagination of many on both sides of the Atlantic transfixed by the belief that human beings do not have to be constrained by biology, laws, or conflict.

By virtue of technological miracles, people in the West can live as they wish. “The future,” as Paul Valery noted, “is not what it used to be.”

What was once stated in an ad, “if you have one life to live, live it as a blond,” has opened a Pandora’s box of opportunities from hair color to sex change, from belief in defense of the country to global coexistence, from a Constitution or a set of laws to post structural ideas that rely on perceptions.

The rich traditions of moral thought that guide human relationships have been interred. In fact, there appears to be an innate drive to avoid ethical standards on any level.

It was once believed that if informed citizens acting rationally could express free will, their individual choices would yield the best outcome for the civilization as a whole. An assumption was made in this belief that people would have access to information and the power to exercise choice.

But suppose you are confronted with information overload so that distinguishing dross from pearls of wisdom is impossible. Suppose, as well, that choice is withheld through judicial action that supersedes individual preferences, when prosaic near term action is determined by a few and imposed on an unwary populace.

The evolution of social lives and technology are affecting the way policy is derived. Lines of demarcation between buyers and sellers, employer and employee, rich and poor, weak and strong are not clear.

If you can sell things online the likelihood is you are both the buyer and the seller; if you rely on technological innovation to earn a living, you are likely to be both employer and employee; if you call yourself middle class, you are rich by the standards of three decades ago, but poor by the buying power of the super-rich; if you can obtain a nuclear weapon and have the means to deploy it, you are a de facto power — even if you have weak conventional defense assets.

In a century defined by accelerated change, norms that once served as pillars of security cannot be relied on. Uneasiness is in the air we breathe. The average person cannot be sure the job he has today will be there tomorrow. Policy analysts cannot assert the defense erected at the moment can serve as a barrier to the offensive development of the future.

A universal desire for the “good” in the form of clean air or treaty alignments very often result in the opposite of intention. By assuming public responsibility for the mitigation of risk through healthcare and welfare programs, personal responsibility has languished.

When the clarion call for remediation of any perceived problem occurs, state activism of various kinds is the answer.

Free education, universal healthcare, and mercenary armies turn out to be very expensive. There aren’t any free lunches in the West or anywhere else for that matter. But the appetite for “more,” for the realization of the dream, for the world we want rather than the word we have, increases daily.

It is inspired by an improved standard of living and the acceptance of stability engendered by the end of the Cold War.

History has not ended as Francis Fukuyama once proposed, but the elements of historical judgment are in suspension. The West does not want to confront the reality that it is in a war with radical Islam. It does not want to fight so it wills the enemy away.

Post-structuralists simply define what they believe is true, facts being a distraction from the embrace of a desired reality. Hence Islamic radicalism is not Islamic; a tax is not really a tax, legislative wording is unrelated to intent and the enrichment of uranium is not related to the creation of a nuclear weapon. As Humpty Dumpty said to Alice, “Words are whatever I want them to mean." This is a convenient way to satisfy the best of “wants,” but can never be entirely satisfying.

A decline in the West will be ushered in through the appearance of illusory solutions, treaties to ban weapons and a harvest of new technologies, new economies, new ways of thinking. The cult of the “new” commands attention because of desire, an insatiable quest for Utopia.

Unfortunately Utopia is just beyond our reach. What does come into focus is the dystopian consequence of reaching for the unreachable.

Regeneration power in the West still exists, but it appears to be in desuetude. It is as if a relearning process is necessary starting with the delay of gratification, confidence in the institutions that made the West unique, belief in God or a belief in a power beyond oneself and the startling realization that there is evil in the world against which defense is needed.

This seems rather elementary, but as George Orwell noted in times of peril, the “restatement of the obvious is necessary” and, for a variety of reasons including the expanding vistas of wants and desires, the obvious has been forgotten.

Herbert London is president emeritus of Hudson Institute and author of the books "The Transformational Decade" (University Press of America) and "Decline and Revival in Higher Education" (Transaction Books). Read more reports from Herbert London — Click Here Now.

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Western civilization is in a spiral pursuing a number of wants and desires. Uneasiness is in the air we breathe. Policy analysts cannot assert the defense erected at the moment can serve as a barrier to the offensive development of the future.
Emerging Threats, Education, Healthcare Reform, Homeland Security
Tuesday, 04 August 2015 09:08 AM
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