Which is the short version of the speech that pretty much every lead-footed teenager gives his parent when it is suggested that driving like a bat out of hell is a good way to end up on a slab. I’m a better driver than those guys in the paper last week.
This is the same speech we’re getting from our political class, with its refusal to address the spending avalanche. Right now the Fed is the purchaser for over 90% of new issues of long-term treasury debt. Our left pocket is the only source of borrowed money for our right pocket, and our right pocket is shelling the stuff out as fast as the left pocket tops it off. At that fund-raiser where dear ol’ Mittens was so crass as to suggest that having 47% of your adult population not paying any money into the game was not a good idea, he also observed out that when a government is buying over 90% of its own debt, “at that point you’re just making it up.”
Almost no one’s really picked up on that comment; certainly no one is making an issue of the fact that we’re just making up our economy.
We’re assured by all the Deep Thinkers that this is not really a problem. The Fed will stop in time; the economy is just about really to take off. We’re going to grow our way out of this mess. No, really; we mean it, this time. And again and again, the numbers keep coming back — unexpectedly!!, as Instapundit would drily note — short of anywhere near what they would need to be for that to occur. And so we keep firing up the presses and printing off another run.
Math, of course, operates as it will, irrespective of person, party, or country. That we’re the U.S., or that we’re so diverse a society, or that we have a flashy military, or lots of television shows, or whatever won’t insulate us. That either party is in or out of power, or partly-in and partly-out won’t help. All the Learned Cogitations of our judiciary won’t stop it. The solemn assurances of our chattering classes (of which I am now to some degree a member, I suppose) that Everything Will Be OK can’t stave it off. Two plus two will never equal anything other than four.
As long as the federal government continues to spend not only more money that it raises in tax revenue, but vastly more than it can ever raise in tax evenue, even by expropriating not just the “1%” but the next 49% as well, the avalanche will not pull up short. It will reach the bottom of the hill, where we are standing, absorbed in the most recent doings of Big Bird, or the Kardashian sisters and their lady parts, or whatever “reality” show is currently up in the ratings.
Germany’s hyper-inflation destroyed its middle classes. The poor were already poor and generally on some form of relief. The wealthy either had their wealth in hard assets or abroad. The middle class, the ones who got up in the morning, went to work, came home and played with the kids, or with the kids’ mommy, went to church, listened to concerts, and generally pursued that inward self-development that is summed up in the uniquely German concept of Bildung — they were wiped out. For almost 150 years Germany had consciously, aggressively pursued the creation of a society based on Bildung, a notion that is quite a bit broader and deeper than what English-speakers would think of as “education,” or “learning,” or even “cultivation.” It is, to be sure, all those, but it is also quite a bit more. That segment of the society that Germany knew as the Bildungsbürgertum was its sea anchor. It was what kept the ship pointing into the waves.
Within a matter of months the Bildungsbürgertum was largely wiped out, their inward Bildung unable to heat the apartment or even rent one. The wealthy industrialists, merchant princes, bankers, and landed aristocracy took a lick, of course, but they survived. The proletariat, the Pöbel, was not to be considered sortable. And so the Bildungsbürgertum looked about them for a mode of existence, a form of organizing their world and their understanding of themselves in it, that would validate them, elevate them, show them a way forward.
Recently Peter Watson, an English author, published a book, The German Genius: Europe’s Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution, and the Twentieth Century, a social, cultural, and intellectual history of German from 1750 to right about now. His point in doing so was to demonstrate that there was a German culture before1933, and that to view Germany and its history exclusively through the prism of the Nazi era was not only to do it a disservice but also to abandon a rich trove of human insight. I am of course over-simplifying his argument, but Watson identifies the shattered Bildungsbürgertum of the 1920s as forming a large constituent of the fertile soil where sprouted the plants whose fruits were the mountains of corpses shown on the newsreels of the camps’ liberation.
There is only one sure way to keep a teenager from driving to his own death. You take away the keys. There is only one sure way to take away the ability of the political class to drive us over the cliff. You take away their power. Kicking out Set A of them and replacing them, temporarily, with Set B will not do the trick. We must get over the notion of “reinventing government” as a deus ex machina. What is wanted is not “reinventing”; it is uninventing government that will save us, if we are to be saved.