The Great American Sell-Out

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U.S. Capitol

U.S. Capitol (Photo credit: afagen)

Both political parties are selling out the American people, and many Americans are quite happy with that. The budget deal included some tax increases, but those are not as much of a concern as a refusal to cut spending. The same massive deficit spending characteristic of the Bush 2 administration and accelerated beyond anything the country has seen under Mr. Obama will sink the children and grandchildren of Americans. The Republican Party does not have the courage to support massive spending cuts because they are more concerned with staying in power than doing the right thing.

Their fear may be justified. Americans showed that they would support someone who kept bringing in the “benefit” dollars–it is the typical attitude of most (and I mean to say “most”) contemporary Americans: “What’s in it for me?” As if that attitude is not bad enough, most Americans have the view that “I want from the government what helps me and to hell with my children and grandchildren.” Massive deficit spending cannot be sustained long-term–that is basic economics which anyone but an academic can understand. The problem is not as much political ideology as it is old fashioned selfishness. As Americans retreat into their individual worlds, the fate of their children (if they have them) becomes immaterial to their own lust for “free stuff.” Of course there is no “free stuff” that the government gives the people–that money comes from taxes. The United States sells treasury bonds to China and Japan (its main customers) which are only as good as long as the United States can pay up. So far it has, and billions of taxpayer dollars have paid the interest in the national debt. Printing more money to pay off higher deficits will only lessen the dollar’s value.

Apocalyptic books are popular these days, as is speculation about apocalyptic scenarios in real life. Although I am not one of those who store barrels of grain in my house, I understand the concern. Congress and the president will not stop massive federal spending, and when the day of reckoning comes (through China calling us on our debt, a massive loss of value of the dollar, or some other deficit-related catastrophe), it will not be pretty. The 2007 recession (which continues today despite what the mainstream media with its Obama-worship says) will look like child’s play. Now ideological liberals may think that’s a good thing since income distribution will be leveled out. To a liberal ideologue, it would not matter if the United States becomes a third world country. I do not believe most people in Congress want that, but their refusal to discipline themselves is going to damn the country to economic disaster. No money can be spent without the House of Representative’s approval. People in the House need to take their fiduciary responsibility to be good stewards seriously. Conservatives need to vote people into Congress who mean it when they call for federal spending cuts. Those in Congress who refuse to accept fiscal responsibility should be voted out.

I am doubtful that will happen–it seems that most Americans’ characters have been corrupted regarding fiscal responsibility by their own greed and selfishness, by their wanting something for nothing. The American people are being sold out, and only a few voices “crying in the wilderness” speak against the sellout. Ultimately, republics tend to disintegrate by their own hands. The hands of most Americans are wrapped around the fiscal throat of the United States, and they refuse to let go. Sadly, amputation via economic collapse may be the only way to teach them hard lessons about economic reality.

Europe’s Road Toward Economic Ruin

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Relief map of Europe and surrounding regions

Relief map of Europe and surrounding regions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With the defeat of President Sarkosy of France by the Socialist Party candidate, Francois Hollande, France is most likely only the first of other European countries where voters will throw out governments that support austerity measures. Already German Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democrats have lost a key local election, and popular sentiment in Greece is such that its government’s fall is just a matter of time. Europeans, like many Americans, have been spoiled by years of government benefits. Since they are used to such benefits, the idea of losing them is repugnant to the European public. Like most people, they think in terms of their short-term wants rather than the good of the whole. Government programs cost money, and raising more money to mitigate austerity measures means raising taxes. Raising taxes will result in a more sluggish economy and possibly less revenue for the government. If the current trend away from austerity continues, it appears that massive defaults by European nations are inevitable. The consequences, not only to the people of Europe, but also to the people of the world, could be devastating.

If the government treats people like children they will behave accordingly. Europeans naturally wanted an easier life after the horrors of a worldwide depression and two world wars. “The Sweet Life” with two-month paid vacations and limited hours working each week was too attractive for them to resist. As long as Europeans had a moderate to high birth rate, this system could, more or less, work, since young and productive workers continued to be added to the tax base. However, a birth rate below the population replacement value has left Europe aging, with entitlement programs draining treasuries to the point that the only choice for solvency is to borrow more. Debt piles up to the point that a country’s credit rating drops, making it harder to get good loans with reasonable interest rates. If loaning institutions lose confidence in a country over its lack of an ability to ensure a lender a return on investments, those institutions naturally would stop loaning money.

Europeans do not understand that a massive default would destroy the solvency of all the government programs and entitlements that they want. Some austerity now may allow a chance for recovery, provided that the pool of young (especially the skilled young) workers is replenished. This will most likely not be the case, as France and other European countries import foreign workers to meet their employment needs. Considerable opposition in France to such immigration and resulting damage to French culture is reasonable, but then there should be a concomitant interest in native French having more children. Given the contemporary notion that children are a burden rather than a gift, it is doubtful whether most French people will do so, even if offered government incentives. The majority of the French want to eat their cake and have it too (which is the right metaphor, by the way)–to continue to have extensive government benefits while watching what is left in the treasury melt away, only replaceable by higher and higher loans.

A massive default could lead to a worldwide Depression such as has not been seen in Europe since the 1920s (and from late 1929 onward in the United States). If other world markets collapsed, there could be a worldwide Depression that would make the post-1929 Great Depression in the U.S. look like good economic times.

The individualism and egoism of the Enlightenment is finally coming to fruition. Self-centered people will leave a world of economic ruin to those who come after them. Socialism, unlike its proponents’ claims, leads not to greater cooperation, but to greater selfishness. Such selfishness, when “fullgrown,” will leave its ruinous fruits behind if Europeans (and Americans) to not change their course.

The World Turned Upside Down

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World upside down

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Imagine that aliens invade the United States (space aliens, not illegal aliens). Suppose that instead of attacking the American people with weapons, they plant ideas into the minds of the people. Enough ideas take root that the old order of society is uprooted, and the individuals who resisted the alien attack feel as if the world has been turned upside down. Unfortunately, the aliens go through to most educators, journalists, and other cultural elites. Ordinary people who lived prior to the invasion feel ostracized and out-of-place. The fear that the old order on which they have based their lives has been completely destroyed.

Today many Americans find themselves in a world turned upside down. A comparison of the American of 1963 compared with the America of today reveals seismic shifts have occurred which have altered the very fabric that holds society together. Some would say they have ripped the fabric into shreds, and any hope for patching has long passed.

There are many causes for the cultural shift, which had already taken place in Europe by the end of the 1930s and which was accelerated by the end of the Second World War. Supreme Court rulings in 1948 and 1962 limited religion’s public expression and banned required organized prayer in public schools. The Supreme Court claimed to have discovered a “right to privacy” in 1965, a “right” that the Court used to justify legalization of abortion in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The last year of the great post-World War II religious revival was 1965; after that year, weekly church attendance began a decline which continues today. The development of effective, cheap contraception with the birth control pill helped to revolutionize sexual mores to the point that only very conservative religious people believe that sexual intercourse should wait until marriage. The problem of juvenile delinquency in the 1950s grew from problems with street thugs and motorcycle ganges to problems with the use and sale of hard drugs and cold-blooded murder. The traditional family structure of a man and woman married with children has been replaced in many circles with the notion of the “family” as a fluid structure that can be modified to suit individual needs. Many young people today reject initiative, thrift, and hard work. College and university professors complain about the poor quality of their students, but supervisors also complain about workers failing to report for work and multiple firings. To their surprise, many workers don’t care if they’re fired–yet they have a sense of entitlement to material things even if they are too lazy to work for the money to buy these things. People have more to do than ever, but are lonlier than ever. The government plays a greater and greater role in individuals’ lives, and mediating institutions between the state and the individual, such as family and church, move more and more to cultural irrelevancy.

I believe this seismic shift to be a disaster that threatens the very structure of American society. When individuals decided to find meaning in their own subjective desires, mainly involving pleasure, and were unrestrained by permissive parents, they became contemporary barbarians–or even worse–at least the barbarians hunted and farmed for their food. With the search for transcendent meaning finding effortless New Age “spirituality” or a vapid Evangelical Christianity that caters to the lowest elements of popular culture, especially in music, it is no surprise that American society has been turned upside down. It is not just the trendy leftist followers of Herbert Marcuse in the 1960s who have fomented a disasterous cultural revolution; it has also been many Americans. When a society aborts its most vulnerable citizens, allows others (in two states) to off themselves legally, is promiscuous in both sex and in mind-altering substances, and which puts vapid “self-help” above all, that society is dying. Those Americans who hold traditional values stemming from orthodox Christianity feel out of place, for the university and the media ridicule their theological and moral positions. A sense of anomie pervades what is left of traditional Americana.

What should traditional Americans do? Some have emigrated to more traditional countries such as Poland. A more realistic option is to begin to develop  an island of normalcy and civilization in one’s own home. Parents in such an environment would try to guide their children toward tradtional cultural and moral values; they will not practice permissive parenting. At the very least, if parents can instill in their children a sense of reponsiblity and a sense of avoiding the urge for entitlement, this will do a great deal toward righting the world. The toughest task, which seems almost impossible, is to change people’s hearts. But despair is the unpardonable sin–those of us who are traditionalists should not despair but fight the good fight and finish the course as people of virtue and honor.

Of Entitlement Culture and Chess Clocks

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Digital chess clock

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Americans have become notorious whiners, especially in this age of entitlement. Instead of working on their weaknesses in order to overcome them (something that builds character), many Americans try to get a break that costs them nothing. As a chess player and long time member of the United States Federation, I have seen such attitudes seep into participants in chess tournaments.

When I played in tournaments in the 1970s, the rounds would start on time–anyone who arrived late was penalized time off their clock, and therefore had less time in which to make all their moves in the game. They thus had a greater danger of losing. Now some tournaments routinely start ten, fifteen, or even thirty minutes late. Those who arrive on time end up staying later than they had planned due to delays in the later rounds. Those who arrive late are not punished for their late behavior. Now there are some tournament directors, such as Tennessee’s Harry Sabine, who do an excellent job of starting rounds on time. But they are becoming fewer by the day.

One of the worst developments, in my opinion, in the contemporary chess tournament is the five-second delay in many chess clocks. On this setting, a player’s clock does not start until five seconds after his opponent hits the button on the clock. Thus, a player may have one second left on his time, but if he moves within five seconds, he will have a potentially unlimited moves left.

Players who have good time management skills will not be harmed by the five-second delay. I have only lost one tournament game on time in thirty-three years of tournament play. But players who have not learned good time management skills benefit from the five-second delay. Instead of learning such skills, they now can move quickly and avoid losing on time. Most of these players are higher-rated players, and a lower-rated player would sometimes win on time. This greater chance of an upset added to the excitement of a tournament and was good for the morale of the lower-rated players. Now, since by the time a higher-rated player gets into time trouble, it is usually during the endgame, most of the time that player can easily make moves during the five second delay period. There are fewer upsets as a result.

The USCF default is to use the five-second delay setting. That is, if a player prefers that setting and the other player protests, that does not matter–the five-second delay is forced on the protesting player. Thus whiny players with poor time control skills have gotten their way with the five-second delay instead of taking the time and effort to improve their time management. The USCF has become a participant in the entitlement culture. How sad.