No Bread, No Circuses, No Problem

This year has been extraordinary. Americans have been ordered to lockdown, mask up, stay at home, avoid their loved ones, and otherwise suffer in the vain hope of controlling the coronavirus. 

The fruit of these efforts has been mostly needless suffering. When core freedoms were infringed, millions thrown out of work, and government power multiplied, things remained orderly. Other than a few mask protests in Michigan earlier in the year, and a few symbolic efforts by business owners, almost nothing happened. 

The capstone of 2020 was an election that half the country thinks was marred by fraud. We were warned Republicans would take to the streets and start a civil war if they lost, but instead we have had a few ineffectual lawsuits and a stream of grifting texts, imploring donations to the Republican Party, as if that will solve the problem.

A Massive Power Grab

One would like to believe these restrictions will soon end and things will return to normal, but consider that we’re still taking our shoes off in airports, and it’s been almost 20 years since the 9/11 attacks. The government doesn’t give up power easily. 

The coronavirus has been an incredible boon to the ruling class. This includes government at all levels, where busybody mayors and governors have shown enthusiasm that rivaled slippery federal government frauds like Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Government now has almost unrestricted power to pick and choose the winners. Amazon, Wall Street, Zoom, and various virtual industries are booming. Meanwhile, the working class—made up of waiters and bartenders—finds its employers shuttered. These establishments’ entrepreneurial owners and their dreams are now broken. Many will never recover.

In addition to spreading pain to millions, the coronavirus has allowed the government to get involved in the most intimate parts of our lives. Privacy used to be a bipartisan concern. The right to such privacy is the ostensible foundation of a constitutional right to abortion. According to the courts, any restrictions would interfere with intimate relations and the sacred relationship of patient and her doctor. Yet now the government is glibly commanding how many people can come into your home over the holidays and what you must wear, and no one seems terribly embarrassed by the contradiction. 

Although there is a lot of passive resistance to these measures, there is very little active opposition and outrage. We’ve become a rather tame people. 

Liberty Demands an Independent People 

At home, as elsewhere, liberty is more endangered by gradual diminution than when it is taken all at once. People are rather adaptable. 

Part of the American people’s recent quiescence comes from their lack of economic independence. Over the last 100 years or so, we went from a nation of small farmers and shopkeepers to a nation of employees. The higher-paid employees are the managers. But all of their jobs depend upon the system—that is, on others. 

Both groups are dependent on their jobs because there is little wealth, but much consumption: of healthcare, housing, education, cars, and a few small luxuries. All of this consumption is financed by debt that must be paid, rain or shine. A debt-saturated economy makes one’s job a lifeline. 

Our apparent prosperity is mostly an illusion. Job loss shows rather quickly the distinction between wealth and income. 

The old system produced a different kind of man. America’s Founders spoke of “republican virtue,” which they saw demonstrated in the ancient Roman republic, as well as in their own War of Independence. The American system was not just about freedom or an elaborate hydraulic system that brilliantly channeled competing ambitions, though these were important aspects of it. It also strove to cultivate a certain kind of person, one interested in and capable of self-government. This required property and independence. Early America’s numerous small proprietors, farmers, and tradesmen were people who did not want to be ruled by anyone other than themselves and their laws. 

It turns out the new American system and the people it has produced are not terribly attached to these principles. They instead value predictability, safety, and status. 

The Managerial System Requires Conformity and Dependence

Since the 1960s, at least, this new system’s economic foundations have been under stress. Home ownership plateaued. Wages stagnated. Credit filled in the gaps of stagnant wages, and products like the “reverse mortgage” became popular. Globalization rendered manufacturing vulnerable to the efficiencies of global labor markets. After the 2008 economic crisis, economic insecurity has been particularly manifest: a whole generation found itself many steps behind its predecessors, in spite of a long recovery. 

We sometimes look at the history of oppressive regimes and wonder why people didn’t revolt. Now we know. They had mortgages and rent payments and jobs and kids. They didn’t want to jeopardize their own or their family’s comfort and status. 

Oppressive regimes don’t have to throw people in jail for the most part—taking away their livelihoods is enough to keep them in line. In this sense, the recent coronavirus restrictions are a more severe form of the unwritten rules we have become used to that go by the umbrella term “political correctness.” 

America’s founding generation really did risk their “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor.” They weren’t poor or put upon. They were lawyers, importers, brewers, and large plantation owners; they likely would have continued to flourish under the British crown. But they perceived that King George’s policies consisted of “repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.” 

In other words, the Founders could see the consequences of a policy that deprived them of their liberty and their historic rights of self-government. They could plan for the future. And they had a spirit of independence and courage. 

Today, the mass of people in charge are both incompetent and selfish. Their failures include a 40-year pattern of huge deficits, which substitute plenty today for pain tomorrow. More subtle failures include the neglect of corroding infrastructure, increasingly useless schools, and a business climate that does not account for the good of workers and the nation. The ruling class’ combination of selfishness and incompetence is more visible today, as government and privileged professionals have shown themselves indifferent to the fates of those who are bound up in small private enterprises.

Without being cruel, and while recognizing many exceptions, there is a whiff of “Boomerism” about much of this. As with large deficits and cheap imported goods, it is one more example of sacrificing the well-being of their children and grandchildren to eke out a few more years of the high life. Missing is any demonstrable principle of stewardship or proportion.

If the rulers are incompetent and selfish, those ruled over are cowed, dependent, and lacking in energy. The long habits of accommodation fostered by economic insecurity and compliance with arbitrary edicts have siphoned off most of the spirit of resistance. 

The Election Was Stolen Long Before 2020

Over the past month, we’ve heard a lot of talk about a stolen election. The story certainly seems to have some legs. But, regardless of the particulars of this contest, the election was stolen long before 2020. 

It was stolen in 1965, when millions of foreigners began to be imported to enrich corporate balance sheets and increase the ranks of Democratic voters. No one would think it democracy to make China or Mexico the 51st state, with these new “citizens’” votes overwhelming those of Daughters of the American Revolution or former members of Patton’s Army. But importing 60 million people over 50 years, a population equivalent to the nation of Italy, is treated as a perfectly normal thing. America only had 180 million or so people when this radical social engineering began. 

In other words, our country and the ability of the American people to pick its leaders was taken away long before 2020. The swift “bluing” of conservative strongholds such as Texas, Georgia, and Arizona is all part of the plan. The end result will be the one-party governance that we see in places like California. 

California was once the quintessential symbol of the American dream—a state where Ronald Reagan twice won the governorship. It is now a place with habits and customs more reminiscent of Chinese oligarchy or Mexican corruption than anything recognizably American. Its coronavirus restrictions are some of the most severe in the country. Its foreign-born population is the highest in the nation.

A lot of people have reacted to the ideological straightjacket and economic consequences of the blue states by moving to places like Florida and Arizona. It’s one of the abiding copes of traditional Americans: to find a little place and get away from all the craziness. 

But Texas and Georgia are turning blue for a reason. There is nowhere left to move. The army of newcomers and the indoctrinated young people from our schools are everywhere. Even if we wanted to depart en masse, and even if there were somewhere to go, one doubts we would be allowed to leave. 

Whether democratic or not, a country’s laws, customs, and leaders reflect and embody its character. If Trump was the last gasp of the old America, Biden is the embodiment of the new America and its managerial ruling class. Biden will leave little personal mark upon things, and not only because he is senile and lacks independence. He is not really in charge. No one person is. 

In this new nation, which has slowly emerged from the social revolution of the 1960s and the managerial revolution of a generation before, the elected leader—like the old Soviet party secretaries—is simply a figurehead for a vast, complex, consensus-oriented party apparatus. And that class does not want an independent people, capable of self-government or resistance. They’ve locked nearly everyone into a system that makes any such gestures a fast track to poverty and powerlessness. 

The new America doesn’t need bread and circuses, it has credit scores and Netflix and human resource departments to keep its people in line. People don’t even need to leave the house. And it’s all quite a bit easier for them that way. 

The widespread propaganda, rules, and restrictions of 2020 provide a glimmer of hope. Those attached to this new order know that in mingling with one’s fellows at the pub, the water cooler, and in church, we would quickly realize we’re not alone in our anger and frustration. Real-life connections and organizing are the key to an authentic right-wing political movement. 

It’s not a coincidence that the Founders met in taverns, nor one that our current ruling class is closing them down. 

About Christopher Roach

Christopher Roach is an adjunct fellow of the Center for American Greatness and an attorney in private practice based in Florida. He is a double graduate of the University of Chicago and has previously been published by The Federalist, Takimag, The Journal of Property Rights in Transition, the Washington Legal Foundation, the Marine Corps Gazette, and the Orlando Sentinel. The views presented are solely his own.

Photo: Medesulda/Getty Images

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