Flint is What Happens When Atlas Shrugs

Back when I was a middle and high school teacher, I often had to write students up for dumb stuff they did in the classroom.  They’d have their phones out during class or they’d be talking when they weren’t supposed to be or whatever.  Usually phones.

Anyway, so school policy would be for me to ask them politely for their phone so I could confiscate it and then give it back at the end of class.  Usually the kids complied.  Sometimes they wouldn’t.  At this point, I would have to ask them again.  Again, some of them would refuse.  At this point, I’d crouch down on my old-man knees next to their desks and whisper to them something like, “Look.  I’m not mad at you.  I’m not angry.  I’m not yelling.  I just need you to hand me your phone.  You’ll get it back.  I’ll make sure.”

At this point, almost all the kids have given me the phone.  Sometimes they would still refuse and, again crouching down by them, I’d say “Look, you know what happens if you refuse, right?”

At this point, their friends would usually be lobbying for them to “just give him the phone” because most kids are good kids and they don’t want their friends to get into trouble.

Some kids are just kids, though, and even when they know they’re going to get sent out of the room and get detention and have their parents called and maybe get suspended because they just got called down to the office for the third time that week, they still refuse.

At this point, I’d sigh, walk to my classroom phone, call the main office and ask that they send an administrator down to remove the child from the classroom.  Sometimes it was the dean, or a principal or vice-principal.  Sometimes it was the school safety officer.

And the kid would be escorted down, just like a perpetrator being escorted by the police, all because he had refused to comply with a very simple command.  A very routine situation, in which the kid was clearly in the wrong, had escalated almost to the level of a legal action.

Then, later, I’d have to fill out an incident report describing why I had asked for the child to be removed and what the problem was and how I  handled the situation.

For this last part–how I handled it–I would write down that my interactions with the student resulted in “the natural consequences of his/her actions.”

I’d like to comment on this idea that I hadn’t really punished the student, but that their getting sent out was just a natural consequence of their behavior.  That is to say, a reasonable person, if asked what should happen to someone who did something bad and refuses to obey an authority figure, would describe exactly what had happened: the offender would get hauled off somewhere. (Conversely, an unreasonable person would say that I “should have just left him alone”).

But, like, they’re kids, so they’re dumb and they don’t do what’s in their best interest to begin with, and they don’t think very far ahead.

But I don’t want to talk about just the kids being punished.  In a classroom of 20-30 kids there would always be the ones who “got it.”  These were the young adults in the sea of teenagers.  And you could see the frustration in their eyes while their class would be interrupted while some kid was getting in trouble.

Every once in a while, I’d look up from my little tete-a-tete with phone kid and lock eyes with the good kids and mouth “I’m so sorry about this.”  We understood each other.  They were as frustrated as I was.

There wasn’t a formula to produce them.  Some were rich.  Some were poor.  Single parents, two parents, whatever.  Sometimes they were twelve, sometimes they were eighteen.  What they had in common was that they were humans who had decided that they weren’t going to act like children anymore.

Those kids grew up to be leaders.  They grew up to be competent humans.  They’re the ones who work at the DMV and don’t mess up your paperwork.  They’re the ones at the office who refill the toner cartridge in the printer, even if they have to go google how to do it.  They don’t mind learning how to do something so that they won’t have to rely on someone else to do it.

Simply put, they’re the glue that holds society together.  They become the secretaries at your grad school that make sure your idiot professors (who make three times what they do) can sit around and BS all day instead of doing the administrative work that has to happen.  They’re the assistant principal who actually runs the show while the principal runs around being head cheerleader.  They’re the garbage truck guy who doesn’t just leave your cans lying in the middle of the street.

They’re the people who push the motherfucking carts into the motherfucking cart corrals at Walmart.

And they are fleeing the hell out of mainstream America as fast as they can.

You can call it brain drain, but it’s really competency-drain.  The competent humans are sick of picking up after everyone else’s messes and are segregating themselves from the rest of the population.

Atlas has already shrugged.  The John Galts are already gone.

Especially in places like Flint.  Flint has a population of 99,000 people, none of whom are even remotely capable of being competent humans.  Because competent humans do not sit around and let two separate governments that they elected poison their children.

If any competent humans had existed in the past, you can bet that at some point they thought to themselves “Hmm, we keep electing politicians who can’t balance a budget and can’t figure out how to provide basic services.  I could stay here, or I could move to another place where people have their shit together.”

It’s not hard to imagine where that line of reasoning went [hint: it’s why I moved from Illinois to Indiana.]

But Flint isn’t just Flint.  Flint is everywhere.  Detroit is Flint.  Stockton is Flint.  Harrisburg is Flint.  Apparently, most of Appalachia has been, is, and always will be Flint. Chicago is going to be Flint (I can’t even imagine the covered-up-oh-no-shit-piles that Daley the Younger left for Rahm Emmanuel upon the former’s departure).

But not everywhere is Flint.  Naperville, Illinois is not Flint.  Carmel, Indiana is not Flint.

People from Chicago could very well imagine their city government poisoning them.  People from Naperville could not.

The difference is that Chicago is full of children; Naperville is full of adults.  Chicago’s civil service is a jobs program whose main goal is not providing service, let alone civilly; Naperville’s civil service is, well, a civil service.

Charles Murray says that this is the white community “coming apart.”  And in part, this is true.  White Flight in the 1950’s and 1960’s was middle class whites trying to escape from poor blacks.  Today we’re seeing the same thing only with middle class whites fleeing from poor whites.

But that’s not the only problem.  Sure, competent humans have abandoned poor communities in droves, leaving them with ill-provided public services.  But the problem has metastasized into a national crisis, most evident in this presidential race and its dearth of support for actual, real adults running for office.

The Democratic Party has not seriously considered nominating a governor for President since 1996.  The Republican Party will not break bread with Kasich or Christie because they had the gall to be actual executives, which involves making actual complicated decisions instead of just giving nice speeches.

The same assholes who kept forwarding the little “miss me yet?” pictures of W in 2010 now refuse to support his brother because he speaks a foreign language.  The majority of Republicans want to either elect a used-car salesman who just got endorsed by a woman who found the job of governing Alaska, a state so rich in natural resources that the residents all get tax rebates, too difficult and quit or a man whose claim to fame is that he’s really good at making the government stop working.  The hope of conservatives in the party is a nice-looking, well-spoken, first term senator who talks very, very pretty.

At the same time, the Democrats have narrowed their field to two, one of whom literally made a career out of defending rapists, and the other of who lives closer to Canada, physically and mentally, than he does to Washington, D.C.

Some of us saw this coming. When the US in 2012 straight up looked at two candidates, one of whom was a competent, sober human being, and the other of whom was, well, not, and they picked door number two, that was it.  The American Electorate had firmly put themselves in the “children” camp.

There is no return from this.  The children aren’t going to grow up.  There is no super ego in America any more, just id.  Those of us who read our Nietzsche knew it was just a matter of time coming, anyway.

Like dogs resisting getting their nails trimmed, the large majority of Americans can no longer even see what’s good for them, let alone enact those things necessary for their survival (i.e. not poisoning one’s children unto death) or thriving (i.e. higher taxes and less spending).

But really, how could you expect a citizenry to be self-governing when they can’t even put their goddam carts away at Walmart?








Deals with the Devil

I do not see a future for Conservatives in the Republican Party

For years, Conservatives have known that there is a white supremacist underbelly among many of our co-Republicanists.  For years, we conservatives have been willing to let them vote in the Republican party in order to try to make political gains, thinking that even if they were the ones pulling the levers at the booth, we would be pulling the levers in Washington, using them for our own benefit.

It turns out we were wrong all the time.  We thought that as long as we were the captain, we could control the rats.  Now the rats have mutinied and we will go down with them.

Some history and some definitions

The great debacle really starts in the early 1900’s with Roosevelt.  By progressivism, I mean the idea that a government, run by smart people, should pretty much be given free rein to control whatever they think necessary in order to improve the lives of the citizenry.  From population control to food and drug standards to management of the economy, scientists (biologists, sociologists, statisticians, etc.) would see to it that the government and country was run in terms of the big picture, where individual liberties were sublimated to the greater good.

Progressivism was embraced by pretty much everyone in the ruling class, who, well, were already ruling.  Telling people “you’re so smart we want to put you in charge” isn’t a terribly hard sell.  This was especially true in the early 1900’s when higher education became more and more specialized and foreign to the layman.  In the 17- and 1800’s, plenty of smart, ambitious men could self-study and accord themselves well in educated circles.  A willingness to learn a little bit of Latin (for show) and access to a library of a few hundred books could get you a classical education.  By 1900, a sociologist, a physician, and a statistician lived in entirely different worlds of training, background, and thought.  Moreover, nobody could get to be a political economist without going through the (now) very stratified lanes of undergraduate-graduate-doctorate degrees.  The autodidact was gone, mostly because there was too much didact for any one auto to learn.

Whether for good or ill, this multifrucation of the sciences fed into the zeitgeist of progressivism.  Why leave society to its own mercy when there were so many people who were experts (and had the credentials to prove it) in solving its problems.  At heart, I think this is still why the Academy is so dominated by progressives.  It’s understandable that someone with a PhD in economics feels like they should have a little more control over an economy than Putzy the Burger-Flipper.

[*things have only gotten worse in higher education.  Jobs that used to require a general degree and some on the job training are now filled almost entirely by people with ultra-specialized degrees.  Try getting a job as a librarian without a degree in Library Science.  Cardinal Newman, by the way, warned about this centuries ago…]

The reaction against Progressivism was called Conservatism, which argued that maybe it was a bad idea to put the government in charge of everything and change things because maybe the experts would get it wrong.  Maybe the way things had always been done were done that way because it turns out that that was the correct way to do them.  This idea is closely tied together with Russell Kirk.

But there was another reaction to Progressivism that was rooted in an economic argument.  This is most closely associated with Friedrich Hayek, who basically argued that the experts couldn’t make good decisions because the questions were so complicated.  The government would be bad at running things because no one person or group could take into consideration all the data that society, as a self-organizing collective, could.  The government’s decisions were bound to be short-sighted and insufficient because not even a panel of experts new everything going on at all times.

Eventually, conservatives also ended up as the “sanctity-of-life” island in American politics, almost by default.  Progressives had always been more comfortable with the idea of government-sanctioned, -endorsed, and (from time to time) -forced sterilization, abortion, and euthanasia.  This was not immediate, though, and has much more to do with 1980’s politics than with any inherent belief in conservatism.

[It has always seemed silly to this author that the proposition that people should not be legally allowed to kill other people even needs to be argued]

The Problem and Its Very Bad No Good Solution

Conservatism was, therefore, essentially an ideology of skepticism in both its geneses.  Conservatism says “It’s preposterous that the government says it can make everyone richer and the way we’ve done things thus far have turned out pretty good anyway.”

In many ways, it’s an ideology of salutary neglect.  People are probably doing what’s best for themselves anyway, and government would just muck things up if it tried to get involved.

This turned out to be a hard sell, mostly because of human nature in a Democracy.  Franklin Roosevelt’s government may have done some very bad things to the economy, in aggregate, but helped out a lot of people individually.  Those individuals wound up with plenty of real belief that FDR had helped them personally, because he had.

[*Free Marketers will talk endlessly about the visible and invisible effects of economic policy, and that few government programs consider the enormous harm their solutions will cause.  They are absolutely right, but this plays terribly in the press.]

When Barry Goldwater ran for president saying that he was going to not do so much, this turned out not to be what people want to hear.  The conservative answer to a lot of problems (even rightly so) is “let’s not poke around because we’ll probably make it worse,” which doesn’t play as nicely as “I’m going to get you a bigger house and free college and other stuff.”

Conservatism also took some very stony-hearted, albeit principled, stances, especially in the area of civil rights.  Civil Rights was wholly a Republican-led movement politically in the 1950’s and early 60’s, and the fact that it is no longer is the greatest tragedy in modern American politics.  Goldwater’s opposition to desegregation as government policy, even though he himself agreed with it privately, would lead to the mess the Republican Party is in today.

Goldwater was not a racist, nor did he think segregation was a good thing.  He was opposed to government interference in business which led to his opposition in government telling businesses that they had to serve all customers.  It would be fairest to say that Goldwater was anti-Jim Crow and anti-desegregation for the same reason: both were government interference in business.

But this principled stance eventually became a cancerous tumor in the Republican Party.  Goldwater’s principles did not attract liberal-minded individuals that said “Wow, this guy really believes in liberty,” it brought in racists.

It’s not like racists completely abandoned the Democrat Party (I grew up in the South Suburbs of Chicago.  Almost all the racists I knew growing up were Democrats).  But the Democrats were more comfortable with the idea of government intervention in business.  Moreover, the conservative, Kirkian ideas of tradition played well to Jim-Crowers.

And so, over the years, racists came into the Republican party and began departing from the Democrats.

Conservatives knew this was happening all along.

Conservatives, personally had little appetite for racism, but were willing to allow their principles to be used as cover for racists.  When Goldwater got the support of the deep south, he might have said to himself, “they must really love the free market down there!” but in his heart he knew “they must really hate niggers down there.”

And today it’s not just niggers.  Are you a white person who hates Jews?  Catholics?  Mexicans?  The Republican party is your party.

Sure there are racists in the Democrat Party.  If you’re a black person and you hate Jews, you’re a Democrat.  And, like I said earlier, I knew plenty of racist Chicago Democrats growing up.

But the grandchildren of segregationists in Alabama?  They’re Republicans now.  Sure they talk about “immigration” and “demography” and whatever, but they really are just racists who don’t like the idea of white people not being in power.

They are fundamentally anti-conservative in economic sense.  To them, minorities in the USA are taking jobs and benefits that rightfully belong to white people.  Welfare isn’t a problem.  Government jobs aren’t a problem.  A big government isn’t a problem.  The problem is that the big ol’ government teets are beset with so many non-whites, that the white little piggies can’t get what they deserve.

And conservatives knew this was happening.  And we allowed it to happen because we needed the votes.  We thought that even though we were letting Satan vote for our guy, our guy would be the one to put in limited government/tax reform/free market whatever.

And we said, “But we’re not racists.  I’m not racist!  I like Thomas Sowell and Alan Keyes and Walter Williams!  I want economic and social policies that will empower and enrich black humans!  I oppose the black genocide of targeted abortions!”

And we’re not racists, but we let them into the party.  And for too long we’ve sat at the same table and broken bread with the little rat bastard monsters so that we could get our guy into office.


But it hasn’t worked.  Regan’s presidency was a fiscal nightmare.  Bush the Elder got us stuck in the never-ending saga of “As the Saddam Turns”.  Bush the Younger took budget surpluses and pissed it down whatever rat holes he could find, with a happy little smirk on his face as he decided the Middle East abattoir was a few knives short.  So much for conservatives looking for the invisible consequences of actions…

And so here we are today.  Conservatives trying desperately to survive in a party of nativists, here at our invitation.  And we won’t.

We won’t because there is a very sad truth about Conservatism in the United States in the “free-market, limited-government, sanctity-of-life triad” sense.

We’re just not that popular.  We never have been.  The Republican Party doesn’t give two shits for us because we don’t bring in the votes.  We’re token intellectuals at best.  Hired guns to lend our principles to the service of Racism, Cronyism, and the Military-Industrial complex.

We are not the masters in the Republican Party.  We are the pets.

There is no hope for Conservatism in the United States.  It will continue to be a niche political philosophy, ill at home in the republic that needs it.  The nation’s fiscal status and social fabric are torn beyond repair.  Like the Caesars of old, our political leaders can only win by promising bigger circuses and cheaper bread.  American society has no appetite for hardship as a character building exercise and no will or motivation to fix its own problems.

We are alien here.  As we have always been.  Go to Mass, confession, and your job.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  And remember that there is another world awaiting those who love their neighbors as themselves.

And in that blessed place will be no Trumpkins.