Friday, April 12, 2013

"Are we becoming medieval?"


That's the question Victor Davis Hanson asked in a column last year, that I came across recently.  Here's an excerpt.

A tourist mecca like Venice now boasts that it dreams of breaking away from an insolvent Italy. Similarly Barcelona, and perhaps the Basques and the Catalonians in general, claim they want no part of a bankrupt Spain. Scotland fantasizes about becoming separate from Great Britain. The Greek Right dreams of a 19th-century Greece without Asian and African immigrants who do not look Greek. Belgium increasingly seems an artificial construct, half Flemish, half French, with the two sides never more estranged. These days Texas and California do not even seem like two parts of a united nation, just as Massachusetts is growing ever more distant from Wyoming.

Here at home, it is not just that taxation and government are different in red and blue states, or that for the last two decades national elections have hinged on what the shrinking number of purple-state voters prefer. Social and cultural questions are also dividing us, almost as much as slavery did in the 1850s. Fault lines over abortion, the role of religion, gay marriage, affirmative action, welfare, illegal immigration, and gun ownership are starting to manifest themselves regionally. We have long had the Blue–Gray game; soon will there be a Red–Blue Bowl?  If Mexico plays against the U.S. soccer team in Merced, Fresno, or L.A., will the spectators root for the country in which they live or the country that they left?

. . .

Why is there today a nostalgia for localism? Shrinking Western populations with growing numbers of elderly and unemployed can no longer sustain their present level of redistributive taxation and entitlements. Europe, which can endure neither the disease of insolvency nor the supposed medicine of austerity, is only a decade ahead of what we should expect here in the United States, or what we see now in California — a construct more than a state, where the Central Valley is to the coast as Mississippi is to Massachusetts.

There's more at the link.  Recommended and thought-provoking reading.

Mr. Hanson asks a very good question, I think.  The current brouhaha over gun control is an excellent example.  Americans in the liberal northeastern part of the country, plus a large swatch of the west coast, are all in favor of it.  The south, midwest and plains are generally very much against it.  I don't see much common ground, nor do I see efforts to find common ground.  On both sides, the extremists have taken over.  It's become an "us-versus-them" problem.

What's the answer?  I don't know . . . but I think any move to break up a large nation into smaller entities is bound to bring with it increased regional tensions, possibly erupting into Balkan-style conflicts if things overflow.  The cure might become worse than the disease.

What say you, readers?  Any ideas?

Peter

10 comments:

Noons said...

It's a hard choice. Globalization in large nations has essentially resulted in mass unemployment, failed economies and generalized corruption in financial and government entities. It's no wonder folks are looking at alternatives. And like in so many other things, a return to the "good old days" is always attractive.
The danger here of course is fascism and balkanisation.

It's up to governments to provide a credible alternative that encompasses a little more than just "austerity for the poor".
Under penalty of utter failure of Western-style society...

acairfearann said...

The 'good old days' only look good if you're not an honest historian...

Anonymous said...

How can the "cure" be worst than the disease?

We'll have several small socialist states instead of another giant Soviet Union? That all tear at each other? Better that way in fighting them.

I always like that mantra about the "Good ole days not being so good".

Do you man for the non-Christian, non-white, women and fags?

Good, says I. And a hell of a lot of others. We're tired of being the fall guy for those others. My people built this country not Africans or Indians.

Give me an old fashion Western Christendom any day over the modern crap salad he have now.

Bob said...

The internet seems to be Balkanizing not only us in the USA, but every other place, as well. Over in UK half the country wants to pay tribute to Margaret Thatcher, the other half wants to moon her casket as the hearse goes by.

acairfearann said...

Anon,
I could jump up and down about how my ancestors really did build this country.
I would rather spend my time trying to keep this country together and true to the Constitution of the United States of America.
As far as I can tell one side wants to ditch the Constitution and the other sides wants to ditch the United States. Neither side has my respect.
I have no desire to live in either the Balkans or a more efficient Soviet Union.

Chris said...

Given the financial math and the widening gap between worldviews, I see no alternative to either a collapse out of which regional States emerge, or a grudging separation in which the national government becomes unable to enforce its will in large swaths of the formerly United States.

The theory originally behind federalism was that the sovereign states would run things as they saw fit, other than foreign policy and not restraining interstate commerce. Each state would attract people who agreed with its views and lose those who couldn't abide living there.

Today, it is becoming more and more difficult for Americans to move to a "better place" as the economy and the housing market have placed high barriers to many folks. The American System (as called back in Lincoln's day) of crony capitalism mixed with corporatism, is slowly strangling entrepreneurial activity with tens of thousands of regulations, enforced not so much by the courts but by administrative hearings, in which the deck is stacked in favor of the bureaucracy.

I hope I am wrong, but all I see coming is some sort of major violence. And mo matter what grievance begins the conflict, I see it spreading as other disaffected groups figure it's time to make their play as well.

perlhaqr said...

Why is there today a nostalgia for localism?

Presumably because people everywhere are getting tired of being ruled by people they have no hope of influencing, and paying for people they don't know, and being forced to comply with the cultural mores of people they have nothing in common with.

Rik-in-NY said...

Hanson is right,and I can't wait for it to happen. I live in the northwest part of New York and my fondest wish is for New York to become two independent states. Pick a spot a little bit northwest of Albany and draw a line straight South from that spot to the Pa. border, and another straight east to Massachusetts. If that's not a big enough piece of real estate to satisfy the downstate commies maybe they can hook up with New Jersey.

Anonymous said...

The US has always had a strong tradition of localism. A modified form of that is codified in the Federalist structure of our government.

The national glue was a strong belief in American revolutionary ideals, and form of government & nature of man as expressed in the Declaration, Constitution and Federalist Papers.

The light hand of local governance was specifically chosen over the heavy hand of centralized power of a king or tyrant.

I think Hanson may be nostalgic for that very brief and unique period in our history - a time he grew up in - the early to mid 20th century - when localities and regions put aside their differences and rights to defeat fascism and then communism in Europe and Asia.

During the 20th century, out of the necessity to survive, power was centralized and culture homogenized to an unprecedented degree. I think that was a historical aberation - at least for the United States.

Currently, the US has the most highly educated, informed and plugged-in citizenry its ever had. People feel they are smart enough to live their own lives without detailed direction from a central bureaucracy.

I don't see the US breaking apart but merely shedding those centralized temporary arrangements of the 20th century that no longer fit the current situation and re-invigorating traditions and ways of life that worked so well for over 100 years for us.

I would guess a majority of people do not see a need for the uber-strong central government we now have. Many view it as a hinderance and would like a relaxing of its hold over us.

Since the central government now has those powers, they are loath to give them up, so the transition will be noisy and nasty. But when haven't our politics been so?



Another Anon said...

The optimum size for a polity is the largest homogeneous stable configuration.

Its pretty clear that the current setups everywhere are too large. The USSR of course was the 1st to go but its logical that the others, most of whom are based on rather flimsy premises are soon to follow.

And before you get angry that I suggested the Constitution was flimsy,

It didn't really survive the first civil war .

Don't get me wrong its a great premise but it won't work well with low IQ low trust immigrants in a world with increasingly fewer jobs and/or when cored out by communists and ethnic diversity.