If it feels like the United States is more split politically and culturally than ever before, that’s because it is. Not even July 4th can conceal the fact that we are a nation split in two, with fewer people than ever sharing the common values that once made this country great. With that continuing bifurcation, and with ever greater numbers of immigrants bringing their own and often diametrically opposed cultural views to the US, the prospect of the US regaining its position as one of the most prosperous and successful nations in the world is becoming less and less likely every year.
As with many once vibrant societies that faded away into obscurity, the breakdown began to occur with sexual ethics. The free love revolution of the 1960s emphasized the right to engage in any type of consensual sexual behavior. “If it feels good, do it,” was the mantra of the times. Along with relaxed attitudes towards promiscuity came a relaxed attitude towards drug use and a whole host of other behavior that previous generations would have scorned.
The focus now, buoyed by the civil rights movement, became all about rights. But with that renewed emphasis on rights came a diminution, if not outright rejection, of responsibilities. Yes, people have the right to engage in consensual sexual activity, but what about the responsibility to raise any children that may result from that union? Yes, people have the right to smoke marijuana, snort cocaine, and take LSD, but what about the responsibility to make up for any damage that occurs while using those drugs, not to mention the inevitable health effects that accompany long-term use and/or abuse of those drugs?
That focus on rights while excluding responsibility helped foster a generation of self-absorbed people who passed those same attitudes on to their children, or who became teachers and professors and made sure to teach those attitudes to their students. We now live in a society in which everything is about me, me, me, and to hell with everyone else. Bake my cake and pay for my contraception or else.
Biology has been turned on its head, with generations of students being raised to think of sex as merely a means of having fun. When pregnancy occurs, the reaction is inevitable shock, as people have forgotten that actions have consequences. The solution then is to kill the baby, dehumanizing it by referring to it as a fetus or a clump of cells. At least half of our country has no problem killing that innocent human being if it becomes an inconvenience. And we’re really supposed to be able to find common ground with people who think that way?
That revolution in thinking has now resulted in the explosion of the transgender movement in recent years, as the idea of altering one’s sex from male to female or vice versa is no longer viewed as an absurdity but as a matter of fact. Along with that have come increased attempts to punish those who don’t kowtow to the new modern orthodoxy, as positive right increasingly replace negative rights.
Rights have traditionally been thought of as negative rights; we have the ability to do or say as we please as long as we don’t harm others. We have the right to say what we want without fear of prosecution, the right to bear arms in defense of our life and liberty without fear of being thrown into prison, and the right to practice our religion without fear of persecution. But increasingly those negative rights are being suppressed, replaced with positive rights.
Those positive rights include the “right” to housing, healthcare, and education, all of which force others to provide those goods. Increasingly we’re seeing an assertion that there is a right not to be discriminated against or offended, as the negative right of freedom of association is being supplanted by a positive right of forced association with those with whom we may disagree. And of course there’s the right to be affirmed in any life decision we make and to force others to agree with us, as long as our life choices are non-traditional or aberrant.
Very often the suppression of negative rights is accomplished through abuse of language or logical fallacies. “Save kids, not guns,” is a common example of that, as though children’s right to life is somehow diametrically opposed to the right to bear arms. That’s not the case, but that type of false dichotomy has become very popular in the movement to eradicate natural rights and replace them with positive rights.
In matters of economics, central planning is the name of the game, the theoretical impossibility and practical failures of communism notwithstanding. But many fail to see behind the facade of capitalism and see the blend of socialism and fascism that has pervaded our economy for over a century. Government mandates, agricultural quotas, and various other vestiges of planned economies are accepted as just being part of the capitalist system. And so the vestiges of capitalism get blamed for the effects of socialist policies, leading to further calls for more overt socialism.
Hardly anyone questions the existence of the Federal Reserve System or the fact that it engages in monetary policy. And when successive cycles of boom and bust occur, no one understands that monetary policy was the root cause of the business cycle and that a monetary response to the bust will sow the seeds for the next cycle. That’s because the connection between actions and their consequences has been denied at the personal level, so it is similarly rejected at the policy level.
Anyone with an ounce of knowledge knows that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would lead to higher unemployment. Yet we continue to hear the call for that level of wages and even higher, often from the same people who express shock that sex might lead to babies.
All manner of taxes and regulations are added each year to the thousands of pages already on the books, putting a damper on entrepreneurship. The idea that anyone could start a business and build it into an empire through hard work and meeting consumer needs, an idea that sparked the imagination of many a businessman in previous centuries and inspired millions of immigrants to come to this land of opportunity, has been replaced with a get rich quick attitude of reaping as much money as possible in as little time possible by any means possible.
Businesses today focus less on pleasing consumers and more on pleasing government, with more and more companies across all different sectors focusing on securing government contracts in order to secure their existence rather than supplying consumers with the goods and services they desire. That attitude pervades businesses from Wall Street down to Main Street, and has resulted in an economy that siphons wealth away from the productive and thrifty in order to fund the politically connected or politically important parasites who demand more and more money every year.
The result of all of this is a society that is impoverished morally, culturally, and financially. And with generations of students indoctrinated with the idea that they need not exercise responsibility, that logic and reality are social constructs that can be changed on a whim, and that anyone who disagrees with them is a hateful bigot, the US is unlikely to change course anytime soon.
In order to make America great again, it will be incumbent upon right-thinking Americans to continue searching for and proclaiming the truth, even if it means suffering the loss of friendships or employment in the short term. Selfishness has to go by the wayside, as the very existence of a free society is hanging in the balance. Fighting the forces of absurdity with logic and reason are the only way forward. It won’t be a quick fight, nor will it be easy. But if we want to assure ourselves and our children a future free from oppression, we have to start fighting and we have to start right now.