The Wilderness of Liberty

On the elevator up to the office just now, several fellow financial types from various firms were reading the paper. One of them muttered gleefully to the rest of us, sotto voce, “Our first day without a government!” We all chuckled. Another said, “Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we’re free at last.” More hilarity ensued; happy laughter, rather than bitter. Another said, to furloughed government workers, “Let them do whatever they please.” I said, “They could get jobs!” We left the elevator in fine fettle, grinning on our way to our desks.

We were all financial types, granted; so, if only by virtue of our years of reading the Wall Street Journal, more likely than most  to understand and chafe at the absurdity and evil of the Fake Economy. But like most professionals, even financial types are more apt to be liberals than not. So, I was struck by the atmosphere of holiday, of jubilee, that suddenly pervaded our little rising car. A black secretary in the corner joined in the merriment; presumably she had had a real job for many years, and like the rest of us had paid lots and lots of taxes.

This little sojourn in the free country of the Fathers will probably be over before the end of the day. But there is a yearning in the American heart for that simpler and, therefore, more honest life. The question arises naturally in the mind: what if the whole monstrous edifice of waste and foolishness, of deceit and pretense just … vanished? What would that be like?

The question answers itself. It would be wonderful.

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21 thoughts on “The Wilderness of Liberty

  1. The question arises naturally in the mind: what if the whole monstrous edifice of waste and foolishness, of deceit and pretense just … vanished?

    Well, it probably would be bad to get rid of the whole financial sector . . . but it’s fun to think about! ;-)

  2. But there is a yearning in the American heart for that simpler and, therefore, more honest life.

    Always has been. Tear it all down, leave it all behind, and start anew is as old as America. All you Catholics, you can do this, too, just become Protestant!

    • You know, Proph, I’ve thought about that. I think it would be about twice as disruptive to life as lived by most people as the Y2K Crisis and the Sequester rolled into one, and then multiplied by 10 bajillion. I.e., no big deal; barely noticeable, really.

  3. Conceiving, with gladness of heart, the absence of something ubiquitous and obturate is an inspiration. It is like seeing the first brick fall out of the wall.

  4. This little sojourn in the free country of the Fathers will probably be over before the end of the day. But there is a yearning in the American heart for that simpler and, therefore, more honest life. The question arises naturally in the mind: what if the whole monstrous edifice of waste and foolishness, of deceit and pretense just … vanished? What would that be like?

    Ha. I have these little two-minute daydreams sometimes in which we all move to the same state and then promptly secede from the union. Then we split up the state evenly between the Catholics and Protestants and live happily ever after. And then I snap back to reality, which seems even bleaker than ever for a few minutes.

    • Then we split up the state evenly between the Catholics and Protestants and live happily ever after.

      How many generations do you think will pass before our descendants are at each other’s throats? o.O

      • Oh indeed, that is why I say split the state up – as in, split it up with concrete walls and barbed wire. :)

        I made that same exact comment to Bryce Laliberte on Donal Graeme’s blog, though, when he mentioned the “let’s all go form our own state together” fantasy. We’re united now because we have a common enemy. Take that away and…

        Despite the Old West saloon feel to many of my comment threads, I’ve only ever had to close one thread and delete it, from a post in which I wrote about my affection for Mary despite being a Protestant. Within an hour, the entire reformation was being refought with cyber-sabers a-rattling, and men telling each other to eff off. In Jesus’ name, of course. That was when I realized that our traditionalist tendencies will not override our religious convictions in any broader sense.

  5. Kristor,

    What do you make of Chesterton’s criticism of the Capitalism? A lot of people are calling him a prophet but insist that in economic matters, he was an ignoramus. But can a person be a prophet if he, being ignorant in a particular field, yet insists on discoursing upon that field?

    There is a lack of economics discussion in orthosphere as well.

    • Vishmehr, sorry it has taken me so long to respond to this question. I could swear I had posted an answer, but I don’t see it, so I guess I didn’t.

      My general reaction to Distributism is that it is a proposal for laissez-faire capitalism, that does not understand itself as such. It seems to me that laissez-faire capitalism homeostatically seeks a state of economic order very much like what Distributism understands as an ideal for human flourishing. Belloc and Chesterton were reacting against the social disruption of industrial capitalism – so for that matter were William Morris, Tolkien, and Marx, each in their way – which was or is a phase of capitalist development, rather than capitalism per se. The Industrial Age is passing; it is already far more humane and gentle than once it was.

      When society discovers that it needs to make massive capital investments so as to take advantage of economies made possible by an advance in engineering – e.g., railroads, electrification, the Internet, and so forth – then you get massive enterprises cropping up to finance and install the new equipment, that can coordinate the activities of many thousands of people (not just employees, but vendors and customers). Eventually, when a technology matures and its ramifications for productive processes across the economy have been integrated – an integration that can call for social and financial coordination on a very large scale in its own right – what tends to happen is that the formerly immense companies dwindle in size, compared to the economy as a whole, and to the new enterprises needed to install the more recent engineering advances.

      Technology in any case seems to be leading us toward an economy that offers almost anyone who desires it the opportunity to go into business for himself, or with a few partners, with very few and very low barriers to entry – the Distributist nirvana. Sure, there will always be large companies, because engineering won’t stop advancing. But right now, and for the foreseeable future, that advance seems to be toward smaller, cheaper, lighter and much more intelligent devices, that allow for distributed production.

  6. One thing I am struck by in this whole “debate” surrounding the government shut down is just how intellectually impoverished the terms of the debate truly are. The folly of liberal so-called “rational” republicanism is on full display. Yet many in the contemporary mainstream conservative movement seem to think their problems will be solved by electing more Rand Pauls to government. This debate also showcases a kind of infantile anarchism that has been increasingly metastasizing within contemporary American conservatism. Are these ill-adjusted children trying to make their Ayn Rand fantasy come true? Is this all they have to offer?

    Bottom line- if you want have a real cultural movement in America be sure to keep it out of Congress where principals go to be co-opted.

    • Defund the left, keep out anti-Americans, and let people discriminate fairly. That is the Rand/Ron Paul solution. Who else on The Hill is both anti civil rights and pro human rights from conception?

      • I believe it is folly to try and defeat one form of liberalism with a different form of liberalism. Since the 17th century every liberal revolt in the name of “liberty” somehow always results in a more centralized and formidable government.

  7. Pingback: I’ll dress up as Truman if you’ll dress up as Stalin. | Sunshine Mary

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