. . . and the Mouse’s Necessary Pre-Emptive Response

Pride goes before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

– Proverbs 16:18

It is not only impending social and civic tumult which threatens to undermine and diminish the United States. In Existentialist and Exceptionalist arrogance, that nation has long sought to defy natural economic law with impunity, having taken comfort and advantage of its (fleeting) reserve currency status. In one of the rare truthful statements that President Trump has ever uttered or typed, theirs (and perhaps all those who, in varying degrees, are likewise connected to them) is a “false economy” with an “artificial stock market.” It has long been bolstered and held together by the duct tape of indebtedness since about the time that Federal Reserve Chairman Greenspan coined the phrase “irrational exuberance.”

In both fiscal and monetary policy, its leaders are the epitome of irresponsibility and folly, either having directly accrued public indebtedness (or transferring it from the private to the public); or worse, induced private indebtedness by Fed actions deliberately intended to do that very thing through absurd monetarist instruments, even to the point of negative real interest rates. It may be reasonably argued that a large part of economic growth in the last 20 years is directly and indirectly due to that indebtedness.

However, indebtedness has its tipping point, a level of precariousness that makes its beholder vulnerable to every breeze of exogenous shock. And if recent economic growth has been largely the consequence of leveraging, then the de-leveraging, as classically described by Irving Fisher in “The Debt-Deflation Theory of Great Depressions” (1933) can, at best, result in a long Japanese-style eon of economic sclerosis. But with ‘the mother of all asset booms’ (“we have a bubble in everything”), and few remaining economic panaceas, not already used, to cushion the blow, a worse thing is likely to happen to them (and to all those who, in varying degrees, are connected to them).

Typical of nations whose arrogance of preceding success leads to the overextension of empire, (even if America’s empire has been more of an Athenian kind), there is currently underway a rationalized retraction of that empire, with adversaries everywhere moving into the resulting void, paralleling the dynamics of the Late Roman Empire and the British empire from the late 19th century. If American foreign policy has turned “selfish, isolated, brutish, domineering, and driven by immediate appetites rather than ideals or even longer-term interests,” this was likewise notable when the costs of overextended European empires resulted in duplicitous, self-serving, and myopic foreign policy which stripped the veneer from “White Man’s burden” and facilitated the rise of American global power and influence.

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Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly or even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.[1]

If America experiences a social, economic, and/or civic earthquake, Canada, being in such close vicinity and having chosen to moor its tugboat a little too closely to that harbour (re: Continentalism), will inevitably encounter the full force of the ensuing tsunami. While our politicos and talking heads are just waking up to the tumult, which has been ongoing there, albeit often subterraneously, since the 1960s; and having but a superficial understanding of the deep and intractable causes and the great consequences; a disaster avoidance and recovery plan has become immediately necessary.

Certainly, a figurative wall has become necessary, not merely to regulate an influx of alien immigrants promised to flow from the American border because of current policy threats from the present administration; (and this not because of an antagonism to immigration but to forestall any anti-immigrant counterreaction because of illegals, as has happened elsewhere and is natural human response). No. If there is, by chance, a social/civic tumult in America, there will inevitably be an influx of American political partisans who will seek refugee status. This poses several perils to the peace and stability of our nation. Like the Iranians in 1978, the winning political faction may demand the heads of those refugees who reside here. Furthermore, will it be wise to allow in those whose factionalist rancour and hostilities may poison our own body politic. This nation prides itself on its moderateness and civility. But, we too are of the human species, and not Exceptionalistically immune to that which occurs in others of our species.

Roughly seventy-five percent of our exports go to the United States, constituting almost thirty percent of our economy. If there be economic disruption, whether because of social/civic or economic causes, those exports, just like happened in the aftermath of the 2008/9 Great Recession (re: a 25% decline), will be inordinately affected. Should not the diversification of our trade become first and overriding priority, especially with an American administration devoted to a Realpolitik bullying of other nations into a regime of permanent economic advantage for the United States? (Even apart from the present politicos, the existential economic sclerosis in the United States will incline them to increasing self-serving and myopic trade policy).

Pipelines, both east and west, must be approved; not because there are not environmental dangers and detriments to carbon-based energy; but because the welfare of the nation is dependent upon more than just one aspect of life. Oil and natural gas should be used as a trade lever (through long-term guaranteed supply) to open up foreign markets which are effectively closed through tariff and non-tariff barriers. An activist inculcation of extensive balanced trade deals with other nations of similar economic status should be pursued.

The goal should be the reduction of our exports to the United States to considerably less than 50% of total exports, not only for economic reasons of safety, but to reduce any threat to political autonomy by a more bullying American foreign and trade posture. There will be disruption. There will likely be economic loss, at least in the interim. However, such is the need for inoculation to make us less vulnerable to the most likely outbreak of American disease.

While we are thinking of the unthinkable; because America is showing itself to be a less reliable defense partner, and because conflict in the United States may induce military incursions into our country, we may need to acquire our own weapons of mass deterrence.

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Is this alarmist conspiracy theory? Such askance looks and ridicule have I encountered in the last several decades when I posited the thesis of an inevitable civil war in America.

[1] Pierre Trudeau, Washington Press Club Speech, Washington, March 25, 1969, http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/1797537698.

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The Implosion of the Elephant . . .

Almost thirty years ago, after reading Francis Schaeffer’s “Marking the Watershed,”[1] I had extrapolated that a similar dynamic due to an inherent ideological schism at the heart of the American experiment would invariably lead to civil war. Having had deep interest in U.S. history and civics; and a more impartial, albeit foreign understanding of American affairs than the myopic and partisan-skewed perspective of those living with that present cauldron; I had viewed the Sixties and Seventies, the warning shots of the present confrontation which threatens to turn violent, as the inevitable consequence of a long unravelling of a marriage of convenience between the third stream of Protestant/Evangelical Christianity and that of (largely English/Scottish) Enlightenment liberalism. The support of Madison/Jefferson on behalf of the incarcerated Baptist preachers against the Established State Churches in Virginia was symptomatic and symbolic of that larger ideological alliance.

With the early 1990 recession, I was detecting the opening strains of a widening disparity of income, wealth, and the underlying economic power leverage that undergirds that r > g dynamic. To put Piketty’s formula in laymen’s language; if corporate profits (rate of return on capital) consistently rise faster than economic growth, instead of a rough balance in the distribution of that economic growth as had occurred between 1945 and 1975, a widening income inequality and the concentration of wealth and the means of production was inevitable. Having complained to my father, a couple of years prior, about the larger economic consequences on wage earners, of which he was one, in his aspiration for a 7–10% real rate of return on his investments, I could hardly disagree with Piketty, who to his credit provided incontrovertible statistical proof (to what is or should be intuitive common sense) in order to pre-empt and overcome the sophistries and mendacities of the corporate shills.

Knowing my Bible (“Woe to them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the middle of the earth!” – Isaiah 5:8), and the histories of Sparta (Lycurgus), Athens (Draco and Solon), the late Roman Republic, and the French, Russian, and Cuban Revolutions; it is a historical truism that extreme imbalances in socioeconomic power and wealth between the social classes invariably leads to civic, social, and political inequality, two-tier justice, civic schism and social wars, the end of free civic polities, autocracy, and the economic and/or literal culling of the elites, who have isolated themselves in their Juvenalian contempt for the “deplorables” and their welfare.

Finally, in reading Christopher Lasch’s “The Revolt of the Elites” (1995), I could perceive the third leg of that civic schism, between the cosmopolitanism of the largely corporatist elite who have more in common with fellow cosmopolitans in the urban islands throughout the world against those of the hinterland, who still believed in the national heritage. I saw demagogic champions, purported tribunes of the people around the temporal corner, although I did not anticipate that it would come in the form of Trump.

On this basis, I concluded in a rejected submission to The Nation and The Atlantic in 2011/2, that America faced imminent civic schism and war on the crucible of what I iconically coined, Adam Smith, the Bible, and the Constitution (ABC). In a more general sense, since these dynamics can be detected throughout the globe; there is an ideological struggle between the descendants of Abraham (religion) and Plato against those descendants of Thales (naturalism) and Pyrrho (skepticism); an economic struggle as consequence of the inherent flaws within advanced capitalism; and a cultural struggle between the advocates of cosmopolitanism (which is as old as the ancient Persian Achaemenid Empire established by Cyrus the Great (ca. 550 BC)) and those of the various and disparate national heritages throughout the world. The struggle in Egypt since the so-called Arab Spring, the turnback from Ataruk’s secularist policies in Turkey, the Brexit plebiscite, and Marine Le Pen’s declamation of cosmopolitanism in the recent French Presidential Election; all are symptoms of the global nature of schism.

However, like 18th century France, or early 20th century Germany, America is the avant garde of this civic division, discord, and war. I do not believe that America has more than five years before it turns violent, bloody, and spectacularly and monumentally disruptive to the global order. The tell-tale symptoms of imminent civil war are erupting faster than one can keep tabs.

Specific to the American sociopolitical landscape, there has preceded in each of the civic disruptions (American Revolution, Civil War) religious schism. While schism and separation between northern and southern factions of the same denominations in the decades prior to the American Civil war are commonly known, less known is the theological and ecclesiastic divisions as consequence of the First Great Awakening and the deporting of Anglican/Episcopalian divines in the 1780s to Canada, Britain, the West Indies and British colonies elsewhere.

In common with the decades prior to the American Civil War and in civic disturbances elsewhere, the governing leaders since Junior Bush (2001–9) have proven as singularly incompetent and hapless as they are arrogant.

Strange and soulless forms of sexuality are being paraded like Sodom, consistent precursors of other civic disruption (e.g. Weimar Republic, the Marquis de Sade, Catallus). Corruption abounds and private morality and civic virtues have taken the last train to the coast.

Judgment is turned away backward, and justice stands afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. Yes, truth fails; and he that departs from evil makes himself a prey.

– Isaiah 59:14–15a

The center has clearly collapsed. “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” The necessary ingredients for free civic polities, that of, for instance, a common and sure-footed civic language is dissipating and undermined by a general assault on objective truth (as epitomized by the subjective and solipsistic definition of gender which others are socioeconomically pressured to give sanction) and on truthfulness. If truth be the first casualty of war, the nation is well on its tumble down that rabbit hole. And other axes of division (e.g. race, gender, religion) are proliferating like weeds.

Indeed, the war has already begun but conducted through the civic, bureaucratic, “deep state,” and judicial organs of government. Like the late Weimar Republic, (which involved both radical right and radical left paramilitary groups), low level mob violence and harassment are erupting in increasing frequency. Talk of factionalist discord and violence are now in the reader’s and listener’s face, (which but only five years ago was confined to the fringes of the sociopolitical spectrum). Laments and forlorn appeals for compromise and unity are falling on deaf ears while vehement and vitriolic partisans from both primary factions have resorted to yellow journalism and dehumanizing epithets of their sociopolitical adversaries. “The way of peace have they not known” (Romans 3:17). Like many a divorce, one faction’s existential integrity is deemed threatened by the continued relationship with the other. The larger sociopolitical schism is already setting brother against brother, and dividing and destroying marriages and families.

To reprise and revise Lord Chesterfield’s observation[2] concerning the present circumstances:

In short, all the symptoms which I have ever met with in History, previous to great civil wars and systemic changes in governmental structures, now exist and daily increase in America.’

[1] Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1984, pp. 43–66, http://www.bible-researcher.com/schaeffer1.html.

[2] Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution, London: Chapman & Hall, 1837, 1.1.II. “Such things can the eye of History see in this sick-room of King Louis, which were invisible to the Courtiers there. It is twenty years, gone Christmas-day, since Lord Chesterfield, summing up what he had noted of this same France, wrote, and sent off by post, the following words, that have become memorable: ‘In short, all the symptoms which I have ever met with in History, previous to great Changes and Revolutions in government, now exist and daily increase in France.’ (Chesterfield’s Letters: December 25th, 1753.)”