"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Thursday, October 20, 2011

VDH on What the OWS Protesters Don't Think About

Victor Davis Hanson, as always, takes the long view in criticizing the Occupy Wall Street protests.   Ultimately, he argues, their beef is a manifestation of anxiety about maintaining the West's affluence and their own lifestyles.    But, he notes, there are inexorable historical trends that they haven't taken into account:

None of these protesters discuss the effects of 2 billion Chinese, Indian, Korean, and Japanese workers’ entering and mastering the globalized capitalist system, and making things more cheaply and sometimes better than their Western counterparts.

None of these protesters ever stop to ponder the costs — and ultimately the effect on their own lifestyles — of skyrocketing energy costs. Since 1970 there has been a historic, multitrillion-dollar transfer of capital from the West to the Middle East, South America, Africa, and Russia through the importation of high-cost oil and gas.

None seem to grasp the significance of the fact that, meanwhile, hundreds of millions of Westerners were living longer and better, retiring earlier, and demanding ever more expensive government pensions and health care.

Something had to give.

And now it has.

I don't think I quite buy that the protests are symptoms of economic anxiety.   I think the protests are closer to being a pure sign of decadence -- bored young people with little in their lives to interest them (no children, no real work, no adult involvements in their communities or churches) adopt protesting as something fun and exciting to do, something they can tell themselves is somehow important.   They're not really risking anything; they don't expect any serious consequences; it's just a lark in the end.  But Hanson has identified clearly what has brought the larger civilization to this point, teetering on the edge of a long, discontented stagnation and potential decline.  

In other words, the OWS protests are a sideshow; the Eurozone and American debt debacles are high-wire act where finance ministers are working without a net in a death-defying act.  Death-defying, that is, at least until now. 

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