These United States: Too Big to Fail? Or too big to survive?

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Speaking at one of many “tea party” anti-Washington protests held throughout the country on April 15, Texas Gov. Rick Perry touched on a theme that could, I believe, prefigure a growing trend in American politics — and, indeed, throughout the world. He hit all the partisan talking points that are so familiar to my readers that I won’t bother reiterating them, and then remarked that Texas is doing relatively better than some other states, in spite of the “federal budget mess.” According to the Dallas Morning News, at this point “some in his U.S. flag-waving audience shouted, ‘Secede!’” The Governor took up this theme in remarks to reporters afterward:

“There’s a lot of different scenarios. We’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that. But Texas is a very unique place, and we’re a pretty independent lot to boot.

I can just hear the Obamaites railing on about the “extremism” and “paranoia” of the “wingnuts” — it’s the characteristic way these people deal with ideas, in spite of the pretensions to transcendence of Obama’s beyond-red-state-and-blue-state credo. In spite of the fact that “right” and “left” are about as relevant to the current situation as the seating arrangements of the French parliament in the 1800′s — from whence the terminology derives — if it comes from the “right,” the “left” is honor-bound to take up position on the other side of the barricades. That’s too bad, because a major public figure like Perry raising such an idea is more than just a partisan ploy: it’s a harbinger of things to come.

Regardless of whether one endorses or disdains the Governor’s particular complaints against the federal government, the point is that bigness — in the world of nation-states, as well as finance — is out, and smallness is in.

It’s no accident that the world’s biggest financial combines, along with the giant producers like GM, are in trouble: like the dinosaurs, their bigness — once an advantage — evolved into a fatal gigantism. In the economic realm, this condition distanced management from the market it was supposedly serving and set up these companies for the big crash. They are now claiming that they’re “too big to fail,” and therefore deserve government bailouts — yet their very size (and the hubris that went with it) is what caused them to fail in the first place.

A similar trend is evident in the realm of nation-states. Remember when no one imagined that the mighty Soviet Union was about to fall flat on its face and shatter into several dozen pieces? A few years before the Berlin Wall was toppled, the USSR, to all outward appearances, was a colossus firmly rooted in Eurasian soil, an empire that was all but unchallengeable given its formidable nuclear arsenal and world-spanning apparatus. Even as the Communist regime was rapidly rotting from within, the sense that history was on its side — that inexorable forces were pushing it forward — was reflected in the rhetoric not only of Communist officials, but in the mindset of their Western adversaries.

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Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of Antiwar.com and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.

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