THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 856, January 24, 2016
We live in a moral leper colony.
Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
Talking about the future is often a sure recipe for looking like a fool. However obvious it may seem to us, nearly everything that happened in the past was unexpected at the time. I am not aware of anyone in 1639 who believed the Stuart State was about to collapse. Nor do I think anyone in 1788 predicted the occurrence and course of the French Revolution. The course of the Great War repeatedly took all the clever men by surprise. The difficulty with looking ahead is partly that most of the facts are unknown, but partly that the facts already established will be seen out of focus. We always tend to see the world through the twin lenses of unreasonable fear and of wishful thinking. For the world as it is, facts already established provide some correction. For the world as it may be, the only correction is to wait and see.
I will, therefore, not predict the decline of American world power. On the one hand, the country does appear to be in decline. It suffers internally from an increasingly predatory and freakish system of government, and from a national culture that is malign in its values and intrinsically worthless. None of its military interventions in the past quarter century has achieved its stated purpose, and all have been disastrous for the foreign peoples they were supposed to help. The military and diplomatic power of American have declined. It is no longer even clear that the Dollar will keep its hegemony. To put it mildly, the demographic changes now taking place are undermining the equilibrium and cohesiveness of the United States as it has been known since the 1870s.
On the other hand, the bulk of scientific and technological and economic progress remain concentrated in the United States. No other country approaches America in these respects. Nor is there any reason to suppose that any other country will. Also, every country that ever rose to greatness has combined tendencies to further progress and to disintegration. Until the very end, these forces have risen and fallen against each other. It may be that America has passed what will, in retrospect, be seen as a tipping point. Or it may not. I do not know, and I am sceptical when others claim they do know.
Rather than say what I think will happen, I prefer to say what I would like to happen. In doing this, I speak primarily from what I think to be the interests of my own.
My view of America is tinged with a paranoia born from jealousy and resentment. I believe that American self-respect has, for at least the past hundred years, required the destruction of England as a great and independent nation. The Americans speak a language that did not emerge among themselves. They live within a system of law and within a set of constitutional assumptions that are also not co-existent with their nation. If their country were a minor power, they could, like Haiti, or Australia, or America before the 1870s, accept the fact of inferiority. If it were to vanish from the earth, they could look on the originator of their language and institutions with sentimental affection, as the Byzantines did on Athens and Rome.
Their problem is that, before 1940, England was a strong competitor. Since then, it has been generally subordinate, but never with full willingness. Therefore, the Americans have mixed occasional humiliation, as at Suez, with continual meddling in our politics. Our foreign policy has, since 1945, been largely set by Washington. Our leaders are mostly American Quislings, and these have systematically promoted American culture at the expense of our own. It may be that the accumulation of blocking powers by our new Supreme Court is an imitation to be welcomed. But the importation of American political correctness is not to be welcomed. Nor, I suggest, should we welcome the official replacement of English with American words and expressions—see, for example, the use of "train station" for "railway station." This may appear, in itself, a trivial complaint. Repeated across the whole administrative and educational machinery, it has the effect of making our own recent past into a foreign country.
What the Americans want is for England to be discussed mainly in the past tense. They will study our literature, and sometimes our history. Some of their higher classes will put on Anglicised airs and graces, much as the Romans did after they had plundered and enslaved Greece. But to see their preferred model for living Englishmen, look at the characters played by Wilfred Hyde-Whyte, or the character of Alfred in Batman—polite, reliable, elderly, and, above all, ineffectual.
Though I dislike the European Union, I believe that the long term interests of my country lie in a close relationship with France and Germany, and in an amicable working arrangement with Russia. We have an obvious commonality with France and Germany of economic and strategic interests. We are of approximately equal weight. None is able to dominate the others. Each must work in compromise with the others. Any talk of "hands across the Atlantic" is either self- deception or a lie. Except perhaps between 1922 and 1940, there has never been an equality between England and America. Any close relationship between these countries has otherwise rested on the domination of one by the other—a domination with at best a limited overlap of interests. Though roles have changed, so it was at times before 1914, and so it has been since 1940.
Whether it will happen I cannot say. What I want to happen, however, is a continued relative decline of American power, both military and cultural, and probably in terms of economic output. I want the rise of a purely West European alliance able to dominate the whole of Europe, and to deal, in the light of its own interests, with the rest of the world. I want the re-emergence of my own national culture within my own country. I want this new equilibriusm to continue for a very long time. I do not want England to be a satellite of any other country or civilisation.
Do I want America to collapse? Do I want it to break up into squabbling regional blocs on the North American continent? Do I want to see the rise of China or India, or even Russia, to world power? The answer is no. I do not believe any of these countries has the ability to replace America. Even if one could, I would not want it to. Nor do I think an internal collapse is likely.
Here, I come to the difficult point in my view of the world. I am hostile to America. I want to diminish its control over England. But, if the world must be dominated by one big power, it is probably for the best that this power should be America. Without romanticising America as it actually is, I see liberal democratic capitalism as the best human order presently on offer. I benefit from the universal use of the English language. I do not like what I know of the authoritarian state capitalism of the East. What I know of modern Russia is not something I understand or admire. Had I been in charge of England between 1945 and 1990, I would have told the Americans to fight the Cold War without our active help. At the same time, like the Swedish Government, I would have been clear which side I did not want to win. I can sympathise with resentment of America in the Moslem world. I do not regard Islam as in any sense a worthwhile civilisation.
And so, I wish America to decline, but not to fall. I want a looser world order, but not a replacement for America. I will never call a railway station a "train station," nor will I cease to regard American popular culture with the contempt it deserves. At the same time, I will continue, without any feeling of inconsistency, to use the Internet and all the other technological marvels of American civilisation. For the rest of my life, I expect to look on America as a safety blanket, variously useful and despised
In short, Death to America—but not just yet!
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