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On Tuesday night President George W. Bush delivered his State of the Union address.
It was a speech worthy of another Texan, named Lyndon
Johnson, who spoke of a “great society.” Johnson said that America had spent
a century settling and subduing a continent, then another half century in
“untiring industry to create an order of plenty” for ourselves.
“The challenge of the next half century,” said Johnson, “is whether we have the
wisdom to use that wealth to enrich and elevate our national life, and to
advance the quality of our American civilization.”
A hundred years ago, researcher and scientist Gustave Le Bon warned
that “often it is the very falsity of an idea which constitutes its
strength.” He also noted that for the masses, “the most glaring error
becomes a radiant truth.”
Using government to elevate our national life and advance the quality
of our civilization is a glaring error. It even rates as delusional.
Government exists to protect civilization from its enemies. When President
Johnson asked his fellow Americans to “Join in the battle to give every
citizen an escape from the crushing weight of poverty,” he was talking
nonsense. Poverty is something that government programs cannot eradicate.
When Johnson called for a battle to “prove that our material progress is only
the foundation on which we will build a richer life of mind and spirit,” he
was merely demonstrating his own poverty of mind. President Johnson was
sociologically incompetent and his programs did not significantly stem the
tide of decadence. In fact, his programs enabled decadence and social
disintegration to make greater headway than ever.
The bureaucrats who run government programs have little or no
culture, little or no deeper understanding, and are ill equipped to elevate
anyone or anything. Look at the National Endowment for the Arts, for
example. Rather than elevating us with something as awe-inspiring as
Michelangelo’s David or as magnificent as the Sistine Chapel, our National
Endowment for the Arts has given us William Allen’s portrait of a cigarette
butt floating in the gutter. Or take a look at Judy
Chan’s “Do I Have to Be The Enemy No. 1?”. Remember the late Robert
Mapplethorpe, who died of AIDS in 1989? He was the fellow who won critical
acclaim for exhibiting pictures of men engaged in homosexual acts or with
Our government cannot elevate culture any more than it can cure
poverty or establish universal human equality.
In reality, government intervention in our culture and economy has had a negative effect. For every helpful program funded, there has been a corresponding decline in the family,
which used to serve as our social safety net. In this respect, the
government has replaced the family as the core social unit for combating
poverty, illegitimacy, crime and ignorance. Yet the government has clearly
failed where the family was succeeding for hundreds of years. And now the
family, as an institution, has been dangerously weakened.
In terms of culture, the situation is no better. As it turns out,
the government has funded a horde of impotent wits, degenerates and
parasites. President Johnson was delusional when he delivered his “Great
Society” speech. He wanted to use federal tax dollars to stop the decay of
our cities. “Our society will never be great,” he declared, “until our
cities are great.”
After pouring billions down the drain, our cities are still plagued
with decay, crime and poverty.
By pouring money into higher education over the past half century we
have produced a large pool of persons educated beyond the level of their
intelligence. Convinced by university credentials of their own worthiness,
this new class believes itself entitled to positions of power and influence.
Meeting the needs of this new class, more than anything else, Johnson’s Great
Society provided the perfect outlet. Here is a fat salary for you, go out
and fight poverty. Here is a wad of cash for you, go out and fight
inequality and ignorance.
Socialism by any other name is still destructive. It attracts, as
honey attracts bees, a dangerously self-righteous type of human being.
According to Gustave Le Bon: “It is from the throng of demi-savants, notably
college graduates discontented with their lot … of university professors
who find their merits overlooked, that the most dangerous disciples of
socialism are recruited, and even the worst anarchists.”
We staffed the government with such people, from top to bottom. We
even filled up the FBI with them — and now we are surprised if they have
handed everything over to the Kremlin?
Billions of dollars later, the situation is always worse. And nobody
has yet been hanged or jailed for what amounts to a criminal fraud on the
public. It is criminal, quite clearly, because it is purely destructive in an
overall sense. It is one thing to merely waste billions of dollars to no
effect. It is quite another matter to pay handsomely for the sabotaging of
our own system.
Take a look at education, as a key example. In 1964 President Johnson
worried about a decline in American education. “In many places,” he said,
“classrooms are overcrowded and curricula are outdated. Most of our qualified
teachers are underpaid, and many of our paid teachers are unqualified.”
Billions of dollars later, our children graduate without basic skills
or knowledge. (Though they are intensively indoctrinated on sexuality and
Tuesday’s speech by President Bush, of course, was different from
President Johnson’s 1964 speech. Bush was not proposing a huge expansion of
the welfare state. He was merely embracing the welfare state at its present
bloated size, affirming the logic of Lyndon Johnson’s idea. Overall Bush is
not expanding the federal government. Yes, he is going to triple federal
spending on education. Yes, he is going to triple funding for “values”
education. But these are small items in the budget to begin with. There is
room, in these areas, for rapid growth.
Like Lyndon Johnson, Bush wants to bring people together, he wants
to build a grand coalition; but like Lyndon Johnson he is deluding himself.
Government is not an instrument suited for raising the cultural level.
Government is about force. It is about armies and police officers. It is
about a vast bureaucratic hive that ends by producing Caesarism.
I understand that halting the advance of our welfare state is Bush’s
secret aim, and that he is behaving as all good Machiavellians must. In
combating socialism, he portrays himself as a champion of human need. In
halting the cancerous growth of government spending, he is careful to say: I
acknowledge the need for wasting billions of dollars. What I object to,
however, is the failure of Bush to see the oncoming derailment. He is caught
up in the cult of economic optimism. He does not see the trouble into which
our oil-dependent economy has fallen. He does not connect Russia’s arming of
Syria, Iraq and Iran with this danger. He does not connect the rise of a
Marxist dictator in Venezuela with this danger. For George W. Bush it is all
one great disconnect.
At this unlikely moment in the history of American decline, we have a
Republican president and a Republican Congress. One might call this “too
little, too late.” Besides, such a combination is not likely to last long.
If anyone thinks Bush’s promise of National Missile Defense will be
fulfilled, then ask any leading Democrat. Once the presidency or the
Congress falls back to Democratic control, National Missile Defense will be
Here is what Bush’s defense policy of the moment amounts to, and I
quote from an official Republican source, which claims that Bush’s budget
“Strengthens our military by improving the quality of life of our troops and
their families and beginning the transition to a 21st century force.”
I’m glad that Private Ryan can buy more things at the store. But can
he keep our oil supplies from being cut?
Even though Bush appears to be a realist, his State of the Union
message might be characterized as a “state of the delusion” message. And to
play fast and loose with one of President Clinton’s speeches, “The state of
our delusion is strong!”
The federal government was originally created to defend the country,
manage diplomacy and pay the Revolutionary War debt. Since when is it the
federal government’s job to fight teen pregnancy, illiteracy and drug
addiction? Where in the Constitution is power expressly delegated for this?
“As government promotes compassion,” began George W. Bush at one point
in his speech. One ought to shudder at hearing this expression. It’s not
government’s job to “promote compassion.” This is dangerous and delusional
nonsense. If the best Republicans can do is to ratify Lyndon Johnson’s Great
Society, then we only have to wait for the next Democratic administration to
turn yet another page in the great socialist book.