On a terrible day in the not-so-distant future, the stock market will close below the lows it made on October 10th. When it does, it will become apparent to many more Americans that transferring wealth from middle class taxpayers to wealthy bankers will not revive the economy.
I call that day terrible because when faith withers, what is left? America will be a faithless country—a country without faith in the fantasy that government and its anointed financial “experts” can engineer the economy; and most importantly, a country without faith in the founding principles that brought us liberty and prosperity.
Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does politics. Out of that faithlessness, populism with totalitarian tendencies will take root—a National Populism if you may. The mood is already angry, fearful, and bitter; and we have experienced only the first snowflakes of the long economic winter to come. The future politicians who prey on this anger, fear, and bitterness will reflect these emotions and channel them to their own advantage.
Barring some unforeseen circumstances, the next president of the United States will be Barack Obama; and for far too many of the faithless, he will be America’s first “dear leader.” No longer trusting the experts and never having believed in America’s principles, all that is left to the faithless is to create a cult of personality around a human being. This behavior is worthy of a totalitarian state—but not worthy of a free people.
Now, it is true that the Obama administration’s unconstitutional misdeeds are unlikely to exceed those of the Bush administration. But, as the economic situation continues to deteriorate and the social mood along with it does too, the growing populist movement will be more and more dangerous. Worshipping an individual human being gives rise to the most primitive of political systems.
Last week, I asked my family to view with me two YouTube videos. One was of California school children singing the praises of Obama, while the other was of Kansas City school children chanting for Obama. If you haven’t seen these chilling videos, both are only intermittingly available as they are removed as fast as they are posted.
My thirteen year old son was shaken by the videos. He turned white, almost started to cry, and he said: “Dad, this is just like the Hitler youth. These children don’t even understand what they are singing.”
Read none of this as an endorsement of McCain. Like Obama, McCain has run a campaign devoid of any articulated principles; and his shoot-from-the-hip style is ill–suited to American constitutional government. His campaign has begun to attract angry crowds that have been shouting “traitor” and “terrorist” at the mention of Obama’s name.
Why this anger? And, why this desire to worship a human being? Many want to believe that they are innocent victims. Others think a political savior can save them and their “innocence.”
Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek wrote The Road to Serfdom in 1944, but his words echo today. In the following passage he helps us understand why people would believe that we can get out of our economic crisis without pain:
That people should wish to be relieved of the bitter choice which hard facts often impose upon them is not surprising. But few want to be relieved through having the choice made for them by others. People just wish that the choice should not be necessary at all. And they are only too ready to believe that the choice is not really necessary, that is imposed upon them merely by the particular economic system under which we live.
Let Hayek’s words sink in. The successful American politicians of the future will be those who increasingly blame the “system.”
And what will replace the “system”? It will be whatever politicians define as the “common good,” and these politicians will say that nothing should get in the way of that “common good.” Hayek provides many cautions as to why this leads to amoral totalitarianism:
The principle that the end justifies the means in individualistic ethics is regarded as the denial of all morals. In collectivist ethics, it becomes necessarily the supreme rule; there is literally nothing which the consistent collectivist must not be prepared to do if it serves “the good of the whole” because “the good of the whole” is to him the only criterion of what ought to be done.
It’s not hard to predict where this is going. The economic climate will worsen over time. When Barack Obama takes office, we will be in or on a cusp of an economic depression. With the Republicans discredited and the Democrats controlling both Congress and the presidency, the pressure will be enormous for government to do even more than what has already been tried.
Obama speaks frequently of hope. My hope for Obama is that he is a decent enough man so that he will never exploit the power that many Americans will be prepared to give him.