The Old Order is Dying
Victor Davis Hanson
Ideas of the 1960s have now grown reactionary in our world that is vastly different from a half-century ago.
Take well-meaning subsidies for those over age 62. Why are there still senior discounts, vast expansions in Social Security and Medicare, and generous public pensions?
Five decades ago all that made sense. There was no such thing as double-dipping. Seniors often were physically worn out from blue-collar jobs. They were usually poorer and frequently sicker than society in general. The aged usually died not long after they retired.
Not now. Seniors often live a quarter-century or longer after a mostly white-collar retirement, drawing subsidies from those least able to pay for them.
Seniors are not like today's strapped youth, scrimping for a down payment on a house. Most are not struggling to find even part-time work. None are paying off crushing student loans. In a calcified economy, why would an affluent couple in their early 60s earn a "senior discount" at a movie, while the struggling young couple with three children in the same line does not?
Affirmative action and enforced "diversity" were originally designed to give a boost to those who were victims of historical bias from the supposedly oppressive white-majority society. Is that still true, a half-century after these assumptions became institutionalized?
Through greater intermarriage and immigration, America has become a multiracial nation. Skin color, general appearance, accent or the sound of one's name cannot so easily identify either "oppressors" or "victims."
So who exactly should receive privileges in job-hiring or college admissions -- the newly arrived Pakistani immigrant, or the third-generation, upper-middle-class Mexican-American who does not speak Spanish? Both, or neither? What about someone of half-Jamaican ancestry? What about the children of Attorney General Eric Holder or self-proclaimed Native American Sen. Elizabeth Warren? What about the poor white grandson of the Oklahoma diaspora who is now a minority in California?
Even if the 21st-century state could define who is a minority, on what moral grounds does the targeted beneficiary deserve special consideration? Is his disadvantage defined by being poorer, by lingering trauma from his grandparents' long-ago ordeals, or by yesterday's experience with routine racial prejudice?
If Latinos are underrepresented at the University of California, Berkeley, is it because of the stubborn institutional prejudices that also somehow have been trumped by Asian-Americans enrolling at three times their numbers in the state's general population? Are women so oppressed by men that they graduate from college in higher numbers than their chauvinist male counterparts?
Consider also the calcified assumptions about college education. The expanding 1960s campus was touted as the future gateway to a smarter, fairer, richer and more ethical America. Is that dream still valid?
Today, the college-educated owe a collective $1 trillion in unpaid student loans. Millions of recent graduates cannot find jobs that offer much chance of paying off their crushing student debts.
College itself has become a sort of five- to six-year lifestyle choice. Debt, joblessness or occasional part-time employment and coursework eat up a youth's 20s -- in a way that military service or vocational training does not.
In reaction, private diploma mills are springing up everywhere. But there are no "diversity czars" at DeVry University. There is no time or money for the luxury of classes such as "Gender Oppression" at Phoenix University. Students do not have rock-climbing walls or have Michael Moore address them at Heald College.
The private-sector campus makes other assumptions. One is that the hallowed liberal arts general-education requirement has been corrupted and no longer ensures an employer that his college-graduate hire is any more broadly educated or liberally minded than those who paid far less tuition for job-training courses at for-profit alternative campuses.
Scan the government grandees caught up in the current administration's ballooning IRS, Associated Press and Benghazi scandals. In each case, a blue-chip Ivy League degree was no guarantee that our best and brightest technocrats would prove transparent or act honorably. What difference did it make that White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Attorney General Eric Holder, President Barack Obama and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice had degrees from prestigious universities when they misled the American people or Congress?
The now-aging idealists of the 1960s long ago promised us that a uniformly degreed citizenry -- shepherded by Ivy League-branded technocrats -- would make America better by sorting us out by differences in age, gender, education and race. It is now past time to end that ossified dream before it becomes our collective nightmare.
Why has the topic of "inequality" been getting so much attention in recent years? My theory: people on the left don't have solutions to any other problems.
But first things first. What do the writers who are obsessing about it mean by "inequality"? They basically mean inequality of income. That would make sense if we all agree that the most important way in which people are unequal is differences in income. But what if that isn't the case? Almost all of the people who are doing the complaining have chosen professions that earn less income than they could have had. That is, all these professors and editorial writers could have gone to law school or gotten an MBA or done something else that would have earned them more money. Obviously, money isn't the most important thing in their lives.
The list below shows some other ways in which people are unequal. These things basically can't be purchased. But if we were really concerned about life's unfairness, we could compensate those who have less of these attributes and tax those who have more.
On the last item, there has been a persistent gap between the life expectancies of men and women -- across all racial and ethnic groups. We don't want to lower the life expectancy of women and we don't know how to raise the life expectancy of men. But a general tax on women to be distributed to men would help redress some of nature's injustice (see Dwight Lee.)Plus, with this tax there would be very little of the avoidance and evasion behavior we see with the income tax. (Not many people would get a sex change just to avoid paying it.)
To return to college professors, for a moment, they have an enormous amount of time to do whatever they feel like doing. They only have, say, six to nine hours of required work every week (teaching) and even then they have enormous discretion over what they actually do. Plus they have the whole summer off. The term "leisure time" doesn't really capture what is going on here. Let's just say they have leisurely jobs. Contrast that with people who have no discretion over how they perform their jobs, who work 40 hours a week or more, who hate their work and who can't wait to retire. (College professors rarely want to retire.)
If you care a lot about inequality, an argument could be made for taxing college professors and giving the money to people whose work experience is boring, uninteresting, unfulfilling and has no purpose (for them) other than paying their bills.
If you believe Tom Wolfe, the most important thing on the list above is status. In Wolfe's novels, status is far more important than income ? for almost everybody. What are some indictors of status? Being quoted in major newspapers. Being interviewed on TV. Winning a Nobel Prize. By way of contrast, think of all the people who have never been quoted in any newspaper, who have never been on TV and who have never won any prize. I believe there is far more inequality of status than inequality of income, although I'm not sure how to measure these things.
In any event, if inequality bothers you, think about a special tax on Nobel Prize winners, on TV talk show guests and on people whose names appear in the national news media ? with the proceeds distributed, of course, to people who have no status. Anyone called "counselor" or "esquire" or "doctor" is an obvious candidate for a status tax. Someone called both "professor" and "doctor" ought to be a candidate for double taxation. If the professor/doctor also has an eponymous blog, make that a triple tax!
I definitely would include politicians. In fact, if status is what is most important in life, there should be a special tax on elected officials and a huge tax on whoever is president.
There is a closely related issue. In my line of work I meet an enormous number of people who are frustrated because the world pays no attention to what they think. They have no forum from which to get their ideas in front of everyone else.
But imagine you could be an editorial writer for The New York Times. Better, imagine you could say anything you wanted to say -- ignoring facts and even saying things that are demonstrably untrue. Plus, no matter what you say, you never have to publish a retraction or apologize. Imagine that you could use your column to say mean and nasty things about people you don't like and you could call them any name The NYT regards as "fit to print."
Now imagine auctioning off the right to have this job. How much do you think people would be willing to pay? I'll bet there would be some willing to pay $1 million for the opportunity.
In any event, there should be a special tax on whoever gets this job. A very big tax.
The suppressed history of how the Left have been betraying America for a very long time
A book called "American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character" (St. Martin's Press) shouldn't promise uplift and spiritual renewal. I know. I wrote it.
That said, the story of "betrayal" that my new book lays out -- betrayal enabled by a de facto Communist occupation of Washington by American traitors loyal to Stalin, which would solidify in the 1930s under FDR and be covered up by successive U.S. administrations and elites -- is not without inspiration. I am talking about the inspiration of the truth-tellers.
"American Betrayal" presents a rewrite of most of World War II and Cold War history, something I never imagined doing when I first began writing the book. This is simply the story that took shape from my research. And it takes shape in the book in a first-person narrative exactly as I stumbled across the revelations and put them together according to two basic mechanisms.
One relates to revelations from secret archives in Moscow and Washington that opened, briefly and partially, after the USSR dissolved in 1991. I discovered that the treason documented in these archives, treason committed by Americans in government, some in the very highest positions of power, had not been incorporated into our general historical understanding of such defining events as World War II and the Cold War. So I did my best to incorporate them. What emerges makes our history look completely different -- even our near-sacred history of World War II.
The other stream of new information that I was able to reweave into the American story came from those I think of as the truth-tellers. These are the forgotten and/or maligned witnesses and investigators who told and sought the truth about the massive penetration and infiltration by Americans serving a hostile foreign power. (Yes, among them is Sen. Joe McCarthy.)
Their truth-seeking example is inspiring, particularly in an age of routine, serial lying and obfuscation in Washington. If there is one thing I hope my book does, it is to reintroduce us to these great Americans. Because they contradicted the official narrative -- the "court histories" as author and historian M. Stanton Evans calls it -- these Americans were smeared, marginalized and lost to us, their rudderless descendants.
We need them back in our historical and moral consciousness. To that end, I am embarking on an occasional series devoted to truth-tellers highlighted in "American Betrayal."
I will begin with Maj. George Racey Jordan, who in 1949 and 1950 came forward to testify under oath before Congress that one big reason the Soviet Union had recently surprised the world by exploding an atomic bomb was that he, Jordan, the top "expediter" shipping thousands of tons of U.S. war supplies and aircraft through an airfield in Great Falls, Mont., to the Soviet Union under Lend-Lease during World War II, had personally overseen the shipment of uranium to Moscow.
Really? Sure enough, as a congressional investigator would testify, two specific shipments of uranium oxide and nitrate were "completely documented to include even the number of the plane that the flew the uranium ... out of Great Falls." This postwar revelation before Congress would shock and anger Gen. Leslie Groves, head of the Manhattan Project, because he had slapped an embargo on the wartime export of uranium from the U.S. Of course, the shipments in question came from Canadian stocks. How did that happen? Therein lies a tale -- a tale of betrayal.
Meanwhile, it wasn't just uranium that Jordan expedited, as he testified. Heavy water, too.
The congressional committee was able to document the shipment of heavy water, too.
In all, Jordan "expedited" 23 atomic materials through the big airbase in Montana to Moscow during the war, along with nearly 14 million pounds of aluminum tubes, also essential to atomic experimentation.
Findings in Soviet archives would later confirm that possession of the atomic bomb was what emboldened Stalin to trigger the Korean War in 1950. The implications of the theft of U.S. atomic secrets, then, becomes staggering.
After Jordan went public, all manner of witnesses stepped forward to corroborate different aspects of his story. There was the pilot who flew the uranium shipment (and said he handled brown grains of uranium that spilled from a box). There was the GI who recognized in Moscow-bound blueprints the chemical structure of uranium. Soviet defector Victor Kravchenko, celebrated author of "I Chose Freedom," would himself testify before Congress and corroborate specific allegations by Jordan attesting to Lend-Lease as a giant conduit of Soviet espionage.
What even this skeletal synopsis of a tale that unfolds in detail in "American Betrayal" should make clear is that it wasn't just the Rosenberg atomic spy ring that enabled the Soviet theft of U.S. atomic secrets. There was a massive looting effort underway inside the U.S. government overseen by senior Washington officials. Chief among these powers was Harry Hopkins, FDR's very top, very enigmatic, very sinister (I have concluded) adviser. Hopkins was the power behind Lend-Lease -- often the power behind Roosevelt, too -- and a central figure in my book.
I knew none of this "lost" history going into my research more than four years ago. Precious few Americans, I've since learned, do. Hopkins, once famously known as Roosevelt's "co-president," is as absent from our national history lessons as Jordan, a credible eyewitness to what might well have been treason. Why do we have such blanks? Why isn't Jordan's earth-shaking testimony, most of it corroborated by documentation and supporting eyewitness accounts, ever taught? How did Hopkins, once the most powerful man in Washington next to FDR (and maybe more so) slip out of our collective memory? Who stole our history -- and why?
These are the questions I set out to unravel in "American Betrayal." On this quest, I learned there was nothing like seeking out, dusting off and listening to history's truth-tellers.
For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.
List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)