It may be that the biggest single problem confronting the liberty-minded is the existence of a large (and growing) American proletariat. There have always been poor people, of course. But the proletariat is distinct from people who are merely lower down on the economic totem pole – or down on their luck.
I am just now finishing up a book about the Dust Bowl in the 1930s by Timothy Egan, The Worst Hard Time (see here). In it, you read of people who endured real poverty – as in, starvation poverty, living in a sod-walled, dirt-floored “dugout” in Oklahoma. No electricity – much less TeeVee (let alone a flat-screen TeeVee with Netflix streaming set up in front of a Rent-a-Center sofa in an air-conditioned Section 8 apartment with a refrigerator full of EBT-acquired food ). And of how reluctant – how ashamed – these people (most of them) were to even ask for government assistance. And when they did ask, in their utter desperation, all they wanted was enough help to keep them from literally dying – and to help them get back to work.
The gibs muh dat mentality so cancerously pervasive today was all-but-nonexistent then. People who could work but didn’t – and lived off those who did – were viewed as pariahs, as maggots. Even the most penniless sodbuster had moral standards rarely found today among the affluent middle classes. 1930s Americans had been raised to believe in a day’s work for a day’s pay – and viewed with suspicion and contempt people who didn’t work and yet still demanded a day’s pay.
Communism didn’t take root here then for that reason.
America, circa 1932, was still heady with the fumes of the late 18th century and its deeply entrenched notions of individual responsibility (the corollary of individual rights), thrift, delayed gratification – and self-reliance. Most people wanted to live by the sweat of their brows, not by the sweat of the brows of others. And the corollary of that was a similarly entrenched belief system which held that what you owned was yours – by dint of your hard work. The wealth envy and resentment so commonplace now was much less in evidence as recently as 80 years ago – a mere generation or two in the rearview mirror.
Today, socialism (that is, communism taking its time) is all around us. We are immersed in it.
Because we now have a proletariat. Millions who want what you have because you have it – and they don’t. And who will use any means available to take it from you.
These people cannot be reasoned with. They feel, they want – and they hate. Your quaint notions about property rights being the essential foundation of human rights are like the Latin scrolls of Cicero trampled underfoot by the hordes of the Germanic chieftan Odoacer as Rome slipped forever into that long good night.
And when these modern-day hordes get a leader – a latter-day Odoacer or Lenin or Hitler – they will become as a swarm of locusts, destroying everything in their path. That old piece of parchment, you know the Constitution of the United States and most especially the Bill of Rights – may survive in some monkish reading room. But only as relics of a forgotten era, to be puzzled over by future scholars parsing the unfamiliar words, the odd language… . For a window into this future, visit YouTube sometime and watch an episode of the original Star Trek series titled The Omega Glory (see here).
Or watch this clip:
The American proletariat really worries me – more than any other single thing. Because it will require a police state to contain it – or it will become the state.
I suspect we are headed for one of two likely outcomes: A Latin American-style strong-arm government, in which the proletariat is kept in check (and chained) by extreme brutality. Think Juan Peron – or current Mexico.
Or, the proletariat will sweep away the current order and we end up with an American Soviet Union – or Cuba. Possibly even an American Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, where any vestige of having been a member of the middle class – such as possessing spectacles or being able to read – often lead to a ditch by the road. And a bullet in the back of one’s head.
Think of the casual, gleeful violence of the flash mobs erupting across the land. They are not characterized by desperate people looking merely to grab a loaf of bread a la Jean Valjean. They are destroyers – vandals and looters, whose purpose is mayhem for its own sake.
For the moment they are disparate and disorganized. But it will only take a Che or a Vladimir Illych to corral and focus their hate. And when that day comes, it will not be reasoned arguments about the rights of the individual and the virtues of a civilized order that determine the outcome.
It will be violence, given in equal proportion to that received. And it will be horrible – regardless of the end result. If the old ideas about the sanctity of the individual somehow survive, they will only have done so at a tremendous cost, to be borne on the shoulders of us all.
God help us.