Pandemic, Liberty, Justice and the Future

I came into 2020 intending not to watch much news, not to blog, to stay away from Twitter and to spend time reading, reflecting and thinking. But, how could one avoid the crisis after crisis that we have 'endured', impeachment, the 'threat' of WWIII, and more? In mid to late January I was watching foreign news wondering why nobody was talking about the Coronavirus event in China. Tucker Carlson it seems was the first and only major media figure to talk about it. I do not watch cable news so I was unaware that he was doing so in January until recently. At the time, I saw the headlines from the other 'trusted' news sources; "just the flu", "not that bad" etc. A local doctor, an epidemiologist from Augusta University, was quoted in a 28 January Government Technology article parroting the same stuff; "won't be bad here or Europe", "I don't think it will be that big of a deal here, I really don't.", 'no need to freak out and cancel travel plans'. he was not alone, Dr. Drew, the TV guy said the same thing.

I am not an epidemiologist, nor a doctor. However, if Communist China locks down an entire city of millions and then a region and it is too big to cover up - it is a big deal. I am also no longer 'in the government', I do not have access to classified intelligence data and have seen no briefings on this. However, I know how these things work. If epidemiologists at research hospitals, TV doctors and, news personalities that were too busy foaming at the mouth creating panic over war with Iran and the impeachment fiasco fine, we can accept those people have no credibility. But the intelligence people knew. The National Security Council knew and the President knew (but he was occupied with impeachment). If I knew it was a big deal, just watching open-source reports, many people knew.

Acting Locally

I will admit, and the record is there on Twitter to see, I cannot hide it, I aggressively 'attacked' other people that also should have known, beginning the week of 9 March. I berated the president of George Mason University to implement online classes. My daughter was in DC studying this semester. There were just a couple hundred cases in the US when I started pinging GMU's president. I began reaching out to local organizations like the Master's Tournament, reminding them it was careless and negligent to continue to plan that event. I pinged the president of Augusta University, one of my city's largest employers demanding he implement online classes and telework. I did these things as a father and a citizen of my community - did not want to see it in Augusta. Organizations and institutions taking preventative steps that cost them nothing really was just smart. These people should have been executing a plan long before folks started yelling at them. (I realize this cost the masters and the local city millions of dollars, but I suspected they would have had no choice - acting sooner probably saved them lawsuits)

We all should have been aware and acting locally. We all should have ignored any quacks that were saying things contrary to what obvious evidence showed us. If it was too big for China to hide, it was big!

But We Failed

Americans listened to news outlets that lie, sensationalize stories, create panic after panic and in the case of Coronavirus, downplayed the entire thing because they were so worried about carrying on with the normal news cycle of partisanship. We listened to 'experts' that misled us. We failed to listen to that voice of common-sense inside us that said take a look at what was going on. In late February Americans were still traveling. Some universities failed to call their students home, only later to ask the US Government to go get them (foolishness). In New York City the Health Director urged New Yorkers to attend Lunar New Year events in Chinatown. Jet setting celebrities flew to resorts and then through major cities, a process we now see was a major source of transmission and spread.

By the week of 9 March, few had begun to pay attention. The WHO had declared Coronavirus a pandemic, we were beginning to see the news reports from Italy, but employers, institutions and individuals continued on as normal. Thousands of youngsters went to spring break destinations, without a care or concern.  On 12 March President Trump made an Oval Office address and by 13 March many organizations began to react. Individually, we still acted not as citizens of a commonwealth that should be acting for the common good - but as selfish, careless individuals. We experienced the toilet paper apocalypse as greedy individuals bought up more then they will use a year. People still went out, socialized, attended large gatherings and went on oblivious.

All of that is history. Did we ever have to come to a point that we 'needed' to shut down the entire country? I suspect not. Not if:

  • Fools had stopped traveling, in a time when common sense and decency indicate it is a bad idea.
  • We had closed international travel sooner and tighter. Yes, Trump closed travel from China quickly, but there were many ways in. To do it right would have required an opposition party that was willing to work for the country occasionally and a media that did not scream racist at everything that goes on.
  • Some companies could have initiated remote work sooner (this is 2020). No need to shut the entire economy, just send some folks home - reduce.

Perhaps it never needed to get to the point of the shutdown with just those few simple steps. What we know is all those media people that either paid no attention for two months began to scream for action.

How Did We Get Here

How did it get from 'no big deal' to 'the world is ending, shut it down and give everyone money'.

Trump has some blame for this, a lot of blame. He said some stupid things about it early on. He was essentially, non-plussed. He repeats now, often, that he inherited a flawed system. If I were The President, seeing what I saw in January, people would have been fired and things changed, long before the last week. This assumes he knew, and that assumes the people that should have told him did. Again, many heads need to roll, either in the intelligence services or in doctors that somehow convinced him that the intelligence was wrong.

The Democrats have much to answer for. I watched all of the impeachment hearings. There was nothing impeachable there. Trump is as dirty and an uncivil as who he appears to be, and not unlike almost all of the politicians sitting in Congress. That was a silly, sad, tragic waste of time and resources. And, dangerous it seems. One cannot imagine that the entire process did not place stress on Trump, divert his attention from important matters and perhaps even make him cautious to act immediately afterward. Those people, those smug, clueless, hateful people have much to answer for in this. We did not have to get to this point if everyone in DC was doing their jobs and not playing games of stupid.

The media has much to answer for. Organizations that went from no big deal to fix this on a dime cannot be trusted. These people were looking for their next big crisis and scandal to attach to Trump. They were not doing their jobs. They cannot be trusted. Perhaps Americans will come to realize that.

Shutting the economy down, telling business they cannot operate, telling businesses the government will 'knock on your door' if you have supplies we need, activating the Defense Production act - these are big things, draconian things that set a terrible precedent. Do not let that pass by without reflection. These are all things tyrannical governments do and we have just set the precedent that is is just fine to implement these actions. If Obama had implemented half of that, many that have read this far would literally be up in arms - very literary speaking, UP IN ARMS.

Despite those draconian measures...All of that and fools still are out and about and spreading! (clueless children that likely need a dictator to take care of them)

Do not delude yourself - this leads to tyranny, we have set the stage.

So how did we get here?

You and I.

  • We sat by, some of us cheering the entire impeachment debacle. Our government has work to do, and no matter how much we dislike the results of an election and no matter how much a guy in office offends us it is stupid and dangerous to interfere in the government doing the things it is supposed to do - it has consequences.
  • We elect stupid, corrupt, incomplete people, from both parties.
  • We do not act like responsible citizens, from jet-setting celebrities and rich flying around the world as 'spreaders' to folks chasing cruise line deals in a time when prudence says stay home, shame on you all.
  • We only care about life when it might be our life! College kids on spring break - don't care. Governor Cuomo screaming about ventilators and saying the economy is not worth a human life, but deeming abortion clinics that kill babies an essential medical service...yeah.
  • Most Americans are in debt and cannot afford to go without a paycheck. Who shall we blame for that? Shame on you, especially you 'conservatives' now screaming for government payouts.
  • We have abandoned the faith of our fathers - we are a nation that believes in nothing but self, or the group we 'identify' with. Shame on us all.

Basically, we are fat, soft, lazy, weak, immoral and stupid. We got here because there are consequences to being fat, soft, weak, immoral and stupid. We listen to liars, we elect scoundrels and we waste the bounty that we produce.

Since August I have been working on a book that argues that classical liberalism has failed, precisely because of the nature of man as demonstrated over the last several years. Classical liberalism was built upon flawed premises and assumptions. The last several years have proven that so, but never more acutely than right now. The events of the last week have convinced me not to complete that book - why, what is the point, who would read it and who that read it would take steps? If I continue to write anything at all it will be directed at the Zoomer generation, to tell them how wrong this all is so that they may fix it in forty years when the crazy idealistic, socialist millennials begin dying off.

But

The die is cast. We are going to create billions of dollars of Federal debt to pay for the collective stupidity of us all. I admit, we have to do this now, failure to pay the proles their bread allowance would only have a bad end. How did we come here, to this place? We have come full circle, we have laid all the foundations for tyranny, socialism and authoritarianism. You know what? Maybe that is what we need, we have proven to be too childish, and stupid to maintain a free Republic.

 

If my tone in this post was polemic and pissed off - well I am pretty polemic and pissed off right now. I told my daughter in December I was going to evaluate why I had taken to scowling so much, well I see know I was not wrong. There is a lot to scowl about. I suspect that this will not win me many fans, but I have already used all of my good words long before this. It really does not matter what is said now.

We will get out of this, the virus will pass and eventually many will go back to work - but the damage is done. The precedence is set, the debt is there, the loss of income is there, and people will die that did not need to die - but it will pass. Things will never be the same again, there will return a semblance of the old, but everything has changed and we are on a very different trajectory now.

History will judge Trump as a baffoon, a man that stumbled arrogantly into this and then created systems that laid the foundation for the tyranny to come, they will see the Democrats as feckless fools; the media as incompetent and us as peasants that found ourselves incapable of self-governance.

Take care of you and your own!

@onlyBarryLClark

 

Something is Coming

TLDR: My daughter informed me that the text below was dark and gloomy. My wife said it was more positive than she expected. YMMV. Bottom line. If the stimulus works and Coronavirus ends soon - we will all still be a little poorer. If COVID-19 lasts longer or is more intense, no stimulus package can avert economic troubles for long. Be smart, start thinking about the next phase now. Take steps with your family, community and church. Do things now, and make decisions now that will make life easier for you over the next 18 months. There is no point in doom and gloom. Americans have historically risen to the occasion. Get moving.

 

I 'knew' what was coming in January. I regularly watch Foreign news media and saw the real situation with Coronavirus, I was tame in the post because - nobody cared then, we were still mired in talk of impeachment.

Something is coming, everything just might change. I am not a prophet. It is not my intention to predict the future, nor to spread gloom. I admit, my bias leans toward considering the worst-case scenario, but I am also pragmatic. I spent much of my life parsing intelligence data, applying risk assessments to complex military operations and reading history as an avocation. However, I am no more qualified than all the fools talking on the internet right now.

Despite that, I believe there is a distinct possibility I am right about much I will say below. Take my words from what they are and consider the source, but please, if you have arrived here, at least consider them. Let us begin as one should begin evaluating any operation, with facts and assumptions.

Facts

  1. (F1)People in the U.S., many of them at least, are afraid.
  2. (F2)The scale of the shutdown, economically speaking is unprecedented.
  3. (F3) The supply chain for regular and essential items is strained.
  4. (F4) Increasing the money supply faster than the growth in real output will cause inflation - i.e. the bailout packages.
  5. (F5) Coronavirus is just that, a virus. Modern medicine has proven deficient in creating drugs that effectively treat viruses.
  6. (F6) Some economists predicted the U.S would enter a recessionary period in early 2020, this had nothing to do with Coronavirus. If their facts are correct the market and economy were already vulnerable.
  7. (F7) Depression is a period of recession and inflation.
  8. (F8) Some economists and financial experts now predict a global depression.  Goldman Sachs is forecasting a 24% drop in second-quarter GDP.

Assumptions

  1. (A1)When people are afraid, some of them can become dangerous.
  2. (A2)The shutdown can't continue long, Americans will either just refuse, or the government will take steps to force compliance.
  3. (A3) Americans are not eating or consuming more than normal, we are simply buying from different sources.
  4. (A4) Suppliers of restaurants will soon figure out ways to shift delivery to the consumer market.
  5. (A5) Recessionary monetary trends may offset inflation caused by (F4) - that is the theory of modern monetary theory at least.
  6. (A6) Coronavirus appears to be past containment, and will likely 'burn' through the U.S. population.
  7. (A7) We assume that effective treatments will arise, but (F5) indicates this is difficult with a virus.
  8. (A8) Coronavirus, therefore, will be with us for a while.
  9. (A9) If depression(F8) becomes a reality, everything changes.

Something is Coming

Whether you accept the worst-case scenario of depression or the milder version of a recession, I think it is hard for any thinking person not to realize it will be significant, painful and transformative. Only the most rabid socialist could possibly think that the government can prop up or sustain the economy for long by simply creating money and injecting it into the system. Modern monetary theory, the sort advocated by so many on the left, is not that different than the monetary policy of the Weimar Republic. It has never worked historically. At best it is a temporary band-aid to keep people home and stop panic. Even in the best circumstance, it is dangerous and extremely destructive. But, this is the path we are on, it is a done deal. It cannot continue for long, not without adding many additional negative effects.

What does this Mean, What Practical Steps Should the Individual Take?

Work

As we get ready to go through this, the smart among us will realize that entire sectors of the economy are going to change during the event and then after. The Great Depression changed how people worked and lived, the 2008 Recession did the same on a smaller scale. A full-blown depression in 2020 will be more transformative than the 1930s. People are different now.

Smart people will right now begin to evaluate what they did for a living before this all began. There are many occupations and roles that are not critical to recovery and production. Administrative, marketing, middle-management, salespeople hawking unnecessary items, some lawyers, journalists and many many more - will soon find themselves redundant. Take a look at what you do for a living, what benefit you bring to actually producing or delivering the good or service your firm offers, and perhaps even what goods or services your firm is in. The government may bail out folks for a bit, but a depression is more transformative than a government can control.

If you are sitting at home reading the news on Facebook and Twitter, doing a little telework - this may be the time to try and figure out how to learn something new, to transform yourself and your skills. Doers act in a crisis, losers go hungry or cry for government tyranny. Take steps now.

Money

As mentioned above, depression means less production and higher inflation. Essentially your inflated dollars will chase fewer goods. People have already taken it on the chin in terms of investments, none of that will come back in a big way if (A8) becomes a reality. Speculators will rally the market some in the coming days, people do get rich in depressions and recessions, but these rallies will be just that, opportunism, not something the ordinary guy can risk.

The smart money right now is on shoring up the things we need to make it through. Chase lower interest rate loans now, while there is still money to lend. Pay down things you can. Buy things that last. Stop buying luxuries. Invest in sustainable things. Don't speculate unless you are willing to wear a sandwich board if it all does not work out for you.

Commitments

Don't sign leases, buy expensive new things, buy 'deals' you see for vacation packages in the fall. Save your money and reduce your expenses and commitments.

Food

Stop stressing over the availability of food. We are not eating more than we did a month ago. We are simply not going to restaurants, we are buying all that the groceries have. Suppliers will soon figure out how to get the food normally delivered to restaurants packaged and delivered to groceries. The only danger is the unknown of the virus. What happens if truckers start getting sick? You cannot just create new long-haul truckers from thin air.

Here is a fact that should reassure you. The government has a lot of capability they can throw at a problem. If in a worst-case the truck network stops or slows, the rail system will work, it is aligned with the strategic transport network. The military has trucks and drivers and planes. Food will be delivered, even in a worst-case scenario for a bit. This virus is not a world-killer. It will not get bad enough to stop civilization.

However, that does not mean your income will buy as much food as you might want in a depression. It does not mean that people may not have hungry bellies.

Plant a victory garden, in your back yard, on your balcony, in your common area. It is close to spring in many parts of the country. This all happened at basically the perfect time for us to take steps to make life easier. Some potatoes and fresh vegetables will reduce your financial burden, give you a physical task to work on, relieve stress, reduce anxiety and help the nation. Smart Americans need to do this right now and stop worrying and complaining. The generation in the Great Depression did this, so did the WWII generation. We have this in us. We have t can beat this. Plant a garden!

Skills

Learn to fix things. We have the Internet - learn stuff. Get ready to make some of the things at your home last longer than they might have otherwise, without the need to call a handyman. Give yourself the option.

Family

Parents - Prepare to make room for your adult kids. Go ahead and start rearranging things now so that they have a safe place to land. Adult kids - You should face no shame in moving back in when the time comes. Bring your resources, respect the house and the roof, endeavor to contribute and prepare to thrive through this. Do not be prideful and think you alone can get through this with no job or work if only you had an extra $thousand bucks loan. Know when it is time to change course.  Families will likely, in many cases, have to pool resources. Parents, if you have been stupid, selfish and wasteful and cannot provide a safe nest for the family to return to - take steps now.

Church and Community

This could be the genesis of the Fifth Great Awakening. Stay connected to your local church community. Come together, help one another, reach out to others. Pray and study. Find ways to help each other become more sustainable. Plant a church garden of vegetables that glorifies Christ's garden on Earth.

Crime

Be aware. Prepare for this. Scared, confused people are dangerous. It is not bad yet. But, a depression in 2020 will not be the sort of the 1930s. Many people are selfish, greedy, evil and violent. If you are not now prepared for this, it is too late - it is pretty expensive to buy a gun or ammo.

Disclaimers

All that I said above has little to do with Coronavirus itself. For good reason. I am not an expert and many of the 'experts' we listen to on the television or the Web have been wrong about so much - how contagious it is, how it is transmitted, when people are contagious, how deadly it is, etc. We do not know and I would be hesitant to say.

Some reports indicate that Italy is a special case, with an older population that smokes a lot. I saw a disturbing and unconfirmed report today that demonstrated that active cell phone accounts in China have shrunk by millions since the event started there. The first data point would indicate it may not be nearly as deadly here. The second, if true, has all sorts of potential implications. But I do not know.

The virus is not a threat to how we live long-term. People will suffer, some will die and many will be afraid. I am not making light of that by pointing out what comes next. None of us can do a lot about the virus. We can try and avoid becoming sick or passing it along, but ultimately, what becomes of the virus is not in our hands as individuals.

What comes next, stage two of this event, the economic effects, these are things we can have an impact on. If you have read this far down, you know in your heart that this is different and things have changed. Take steps to prepare yourself and your family for stage two.

Winter Comes Again

William Strauss and Neil Howe predicted in The Fourth Turning, that once the cultural war was complete we would enter a period of great crisis, the fourth turning. They thought the cultural war would conclude perhaps around 2005 (ish). Most of us can see now, it ended in 2019 with total defeat of anything close to an authentic conservative worldview. Read chapter four of their book; pandemic, the great economic devaluing, grey champions - it is all there. Their observation of the cyclic nature of history is spot on from my observation, and it is hard to argue that their book, originally written in 1999 is not proving accurate as well.

What Does This Mean?

They predicted a crisis that would define the lives and worldview of a generation, specifically generation Z, those youngsters still in college or freshly graduated. These folks just entered a world or were preparing to enter on filled with hope, promise and prosperity. The events surrounding COVID-19 have done damage to the economy we cannot yet even reckon. This will change the lives of these youngsters - it will shape them in the way it shaped the youngsters coming of age in the depression and WWII. I have written a lot about the Fourth Turning here and in a couple books, I hoped it would never become a reality. But here we are.

However, all is not doom and gloom. The thing that has always emerged from past events is a young generation that went into adulthood and changed things. Hardened and shaped but the smack of dire reality, it has been the crisis generation that has in each prior event rebuilt, changed and corrected things.

I am sorry this burden falls to my children, to their generation, but this is the nature of things. We older folks need to love them, support them and pass along everything our grandparents taught us.

 

The excerpt below is from The Philosophy of Commonsense, published December 2019

A Love Letter to Generation Z – the Great Hope

Dear Zoomers,

When you came into the world in the late 1990s or the 2000s you provided your parents something to actually care about.  We, Gen Xers, were accused all of our lives of being aloof and nihilist but we had our reasons.  We were a small generation, ignored by advertisers and sandwiched in between two lame and uncool groups of people.

Our older cousins the Boomers we found to be full of it.  Self-righteous about their exploits in the 60s and so smug about all the stuff they bought in the 80s and 90s.

Our little cousins the Millennials were just annoying. From the time they could talk they were entitled.  As soon as they went to college, they thought they were smart enough to change the world. Many as young adults live with their Boomer parents, protest to tell everybody else what they should say or think, rail against capitalism yet they buy a lot of things.  Boomers hire these brats to actually run things, thinking they know how to talk to others of their ilk.

We have looked around at these lame hypocrites all of our lives and shook our heads. Those people are simply not cool.

Perhaps we were nihilist, perhaps our sense of sarcasm and irony was well developed seeing others mess things up.  We certainly were not perfect.  I think you are already aware of that.

Perhaps my generation was never meant to change the world, we were just too small and surrounded by two loud-mouthed know-it-all generations.

I am sorry you will have to spend much of your adult life dealing with the trouble the Millennials will cause.  I am sorry you will inherit a world that is far less perfect than it ought to be.

The political system in the United States that was described by Alexis de Tocqueville in 1835 as the finest example and a shining hope to the world has descended into lies, petty arguments, deceit, and ineptitude.  It will only get worse I am afraid in the coming years.

If the theories related to generational turning are correct, there will be, within your lifetime a major crisis.  This will be no mere market crash or a small war.  It will be a defining event such as the American Civil War, the American Revolution or World War II.  It may or may not involve a lot of violence but it will threaten to fundamentally change the very nature of society and government.  Everything that is and was may be threatened, the good and the bad.  What replaces it is uncertain.

That what, the thing that comes after, the solution that moves us forward is for you to figure out.  You will be the calmer, more reasoned, practical and creative voice in society.  The Boomers started this and the Millennials will take it to a climactic conclusion, you will end it and put it all back together.

Much rest upon your shoulders.  We and future generations are depending upon you. To coin a cliché, the fate of the free world is in your hands.

At the conclusion of all this mess, once the Millennials have enacted all of their ideas and ideologies, only to see them create more problems, less freedom, and less prosperity it will be you that finds a new way. You will have to find ways to balance liberty and responsibility, to define the nature and source of truth, to figure out what a just and good society and the government looks like.

We, your parents, had the privilege of knowing some great people in our lives.  Our grandparents from the depression, the WWII generation, and our parents from the Silent generation.  These were good, solid people that believed in traditional values of self-regulation, hard work, personal freedom, charity, justice, and responsibility.  They went to church and respected the God of their fathers.

We literally went to “old school” in hot and cold basic classrooms, where we were taught the story of American exceptionalism and the American Creed.

We have observed the idealist and hypocrite Boomers and Millennials and we have come to know a few things.

We know that there was a lot of value in the words of those old men and simple preachers we interacted with as youngsters.  Their common-sense and realist approach made them a lot smarter than all the other folks we have seen trying to change the world and tell everybody else how to think and talk.

After a rocky start of apathy and silent rebellion, we found our way back to church.  In fact, 94% of all adults that attend church weekly are Generation Xers, and 64% of all Generation X claim a belief in God. (Pew 2019)

We have come to know that those old folks we knew when we were young were right about a lot of things. We have come to know that those that advocate loudest in the public square from the generations before and after us are wrong about a lot of things.

We do not know how to handle the crisis you will face, we do not know the exact way that crisis will play out. We know that you are special, you were special to us because you gave us something to actually care about.  You are special in the minds of theorists like Strauss and Howe because you are a generation that fixes things.

I think there is one thing my generation was supposed to do.  That is to serve as something of a link between traditional America and you.  To be a living, speaking and perhaps writing testament to the words and ideas of people that were better than us.

What we are supposed to do is pass along some of that knowledge and insight to you.  To explain the values and ideas that made those people so much better than the ones running things now.

In the near future, as you look at problems and seek solutions don’t forget to look back and ask questions of those people.  Read some of their ideas, try and understand what they thought and why. Use common-sense.  Know that universal truth exists and seek a relationship with the Creator. Trust realism and over idealism until idealism can firmly prove an idea wrong.  Be stoic in your approach to life, self-governing, self-improving, humble and steadfast. Seek first principles based upon real truth to answer pressing questions.

I am sorry that this challenge is your lot in life, but you are well prepared for it. You gave us a reason to care.  You will fix things.

 

Coronavirus: A Principled Response

A Philosophical Question

Last evening a new acquaintance, and perhaps someday a friend, responded to one of my Twitter posts with a question that has plagued me since watching the events in China back in January.

It's just not obvious to me. People die all the time from new virus mutations. It infects entire societies. Why this one? Is it because it stays on surfaces for prolonged period?

Indeed. How and why is this different than SARS, the influenza epidemic of 1957, the Spanish Flu of 1918-20 or the Black Death?

I do not know? President Trump's Oval Office speech on 11 March used words that if a President in 1940, 50 or 80 had uttered would have positively impacted the spirit of the nation.

From the beginning of time nations and people have faced unforeseen challenges, including large-scale and very dangerous health threats. This is the way it always was and always will be. It only matters how you respond...

Spot on, common-sense, robust words. Tough times come, troubles arise and brave nations and people rise up to meet the challenge. None of what Trump said mattered the markets tanked, the news media went into a frenzy of speculation and attack and Americans, in general, acted like idiots. We bought up toilet paper but did not take any steps to avoid crowds. By Sunday 15 March, many took things seriously, reaction, overreaction and panic were the norms.

But as Harrison Frey asked via Twitter - why is this different? What first principle are we applying? Essentially he is asking, what is the nature of this thing, this coronavirus event?

What is the Nature of the Thing

It is certainly hard to tell. We were told by 'experts' you could only get this if you were within three feet of someone coughing. Some people pushed a campaign of #StayCalmWashYourHands. I saw this locally from the folks in charge of AUMC. Washing one's hands is certainly sage advice, but did the 'experts' really understand the nature of the thing? So why the different information coming out now 'it lingers in the air and on cardboard boxes too'?  Did we not have enough information because China refused to let anyone in to observe what was going on? Is the virus mutating? Are our experts incompetent? Is it all three in combination or some other factor I have not considered? Is the virus as dangerous as it appears in Italy? Was it just as China depicted, or did they cover anything up? Is Iran being completely honest about their mortality rates? Why did so few people on crowded cruise ships contract it and so few die?

These are tough questions? Without answering them, it is difficult to approach the nature of the event by analyzing the virus itself. One thing is certain, it is no longer 'crack-pot' to at least wonder if Chinese bioengineering work in Wuhan had anything to do with this. Was it an accidental release? Is this mutating because it was bioengineered?

Of course many in the US are still hung up on what to call the virus, reporters that have the opportunity to ask serious questions that might inform the public waste their chance with ridiculous #ChinaVirus questions. Not the issue at hand, unimportant and detracts from the important conversations.

Perhaps this is the nature of the thing, not the virus, but the level of distrust, stupidity and triviality that infects the media, the Fourth Estate. Perhaps the ineptitude, bias, and dishonesty of the media (something no honest person can deny exists) have contributed to a general sense of cynicism, distrust, and fear in the population.  Perhaps when we couple this cynicism with our cultural decline (loss of faith, identity, unity, civility and ethics) and add-in selfishness, sloth, greed, laziness and overall weakness in American people generally - the true nature of this becomes clearer.

This is certainly not how the generation that faced the Great Depression or WWII acted, we know that as a fact. The Spanish Flu of 1918-20 did not cause this sort of fear and reaction and as far as we can tell the Black Death. As a fact, we know we, as people have changed - perhaps that is the nature of this thing.

Existential Risks and Biotechnology (post from February 2nd)

What First Principles Apply

My conversation with Harrison centered on first principles - what applies here. Is all life is invaluable and no life is invaluable; or to paraphrase Spock, do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few? Is the cost to the economy, and the suffering and death that will necessary? How deadly would this have been if normal controls were instituted?

These are solid philosophical questions - but not applicable. The United Kingdon considered implementing a plan where a portion of the least vulnerable would contract the disease and they would implement measures to protect those most likely to have serious complications. The theory being eventually the population would build up immunity and stop spreading the disease and the economy could carry on. Winston Churchhill could have briefed such a plan in 1941, you can essentially hear the words he would have used - they would differ only slightly from Trump's words on 9 March. But again, this is not 1941, people have changed, the zeitgeist has changed. The UK government quickly abandoned their herd immunity strategy. Britons it seems are not as stiff-lipped and stalwart as their ancestors. Neither are Americans.

Since it is impossible to implement any policy that measures the cost to life of overreaction versus underreaction, in our present culture, we must seek other first principles to apply. The only one I can envision fits at this point I propose is 'societal continuity' - the preservation of the structure necessary for safety and order. it is a bit more Platonic than I prefer, but in the absence of everything else, people expect the government to maintain order so that there is not a war of all against all.

Faced with a population that is more and more apt to turn to the government for solutions to problems individuals and communities should solve; a people that are weaker, less moral and less robust than past generations; a society filled with greed, laziness and unethical behavior in an environment where people cannot trust their news media and fear abounds - the government, state and Federal, has had no choice but to act drastically. Social continuity must be maintained, for the health and safety of all.

But This is America By God!

 

The government cannot just tell bars to close, limit alcohol or gun sales or institute a curfew, not here! Apparently, governments in New York, Ohio, California, Lousiana, and South Carolina disagree. We have seen mayor rush to limit gun sales (because that is proven to stop a virus) and now we are seeing curfews and shelter in place orders. By what authority you say? By the authority we as weak, selfish and lazy Americans have given them.

If you are upset with the reaction of the government and the fear and behavior of your local citizens, look at what you have done to stop the age of entitlement that proceeded this event. Look to the progressivism, socialism and weakness that has captured public policy and the politician of each party, that we have voted for over the years that have slowly grown government. This event is our penitence, not the virus, but our inability to weather it like brave and free men. We have done it and you and I over the years allowed the situation to develop. We have only ourselves to blame.

How we Beat Coronavirus and Why it Matters

TLDR: A bunch of y'all are acting like whiny children. Stop doing stupid things, suck it up, look for opportunities, be thankful, and carry on! This too shall pass.

You might ask, how can I write such, on 17 March...? I fully realize most Americans did not even recognize that this would affect them in any way until perhaps as late last Sunday. Many still do not believe this was anything to worry about. I do not have to go far on social media to find someone screaming that it is just the flu.

I also realize, very somberly, that people will still get sick and some will die. We invariably will see a spike in cases between now and the first week of April. It could be a large spike. Last week few people took any precautions, many were infected, asymptomatic and spreading it. My own 83-year-old mother went off to her church packed with many other people. We can excuse the Silent Generation, my mother's generation. They have seen illnesses come and go. They lived through the big influenza epidemic of 1957. They have a different perspective on life, death, and the news - they take some things with a grain of salt. That generation is also not savvy enough, technically speaking, to have been aware of what was really going on in China for the proceeding two months. Of those that will die in the coming weeks, my mother's generation will bear the brunt.

Who is to Blame for the Coming Spike

We cannot excuse Xers, Millennials and Zoomers. There were numerous foreign news outlets that covered the China event in great detail every day. We also have the Internet.  If you are intelligent enough to hold a salaried job in America you have no excuse for not having an understanding of this at the latest early last week (the second week of March 2020).

We also cannot excuse any local bureaucrat nor leader and manager of large local organizations. In the final analysis, everything is local - that is the principle upon which America was founded. We are people that have looked locally and within the community for solutions (after looking to our God and then ourselves as individuals and families).  Churches, schools, hospitals, local governments and major employers that were still sitting on their hands by the middle of last week without solid plans, messaging and strategies to change the paradigm for a while ought to fire their management and hire leaders!  Unfortunately, many will come through this and paint themselves as heroes for having weathered the storm - foolishness. It was the leadership of governors and the President that put these people on the right path.

My daughter complains regularly of her peers, many on spring break right now, many of those in crowded spots in Florida and elsewhere or crowded into bars and clubs near home. She just returned from an internship in Washington with a fresh and clear-eyed perspective. The foolish and nihilist youngsters will bear a significant burden of blame in the coming days.

There will be a spike in the coming weeks, it will not be because 'big government failed to save us' as progressives and proto-communist will whine (they never whined when almost 13,000 Americans died to swine Flu in the Obama administration). It will be because ordinary Americans and folks entrusted to lead and manage local institutions and organizations were foolish - last week. It will be because grown adults (looking at you Xers) exercised irrational ignorance last week. It will be because youngsters acted like foolish kids. The spike in the next few weeks is directly related to all that, no real argument there.

It Will Pass

From 13-17 March the US confirmed COVID-19 cases increased by just over 4600 cases.  Based upon the foolishness, stupidity, ignorance, and fear to act last week this number will invariably increase, ten-fold perhaps.

Based upon the steps the Federal and State governments have taken, and the degree of seriousness a larger portion of Americans now assign to this, the increase will flat-line much sooner. We should not see overcrowded hospitals as the norm across the country, our parents and grandparents will not die sitting on gurneys in hallways. It could have been much better - why the hell do we, in this age of so much available information, need the government to advise us what right looks like?

Why did schools, churches, organizations, and institutions not take steps to go virtual early last week? It was obvious to a fellow like me what was coming. Why did the 'leaders' of these organizations waffle and hesitate? This is 2020, we have the technology to conduct school and work at home for a vast swath of the population. It is both infuriating, and sad that so many will get sick and die, considering the overall numbers of infected could have been as low as perhaps 15,000. (of course, it is ironic many of these 'leaders' needed guidance from Trump, who they hate, skip forward to 37:38 to see what I mean).

The US Army in Korea, seeing this coming in January prevented all but nine of their soldiers from becoming ill - they operationalized a plan and acted boldly. it works.

Maybe Not...

As I was writing this the wife came in to tell me it was time for our walk. In my own little town, I observed - restaurants filled with people, individuals exiting the Anytime Fitness, a party occurring at the wine and art place handshaking and all sorts of additional carelessness. We are little better off than a week ago!

No more CSRA Coronavirus updates until April, it is a waste of time

Stupid People

The Vulnerable, Unlucky, the Stupid and the Brave

Unfortunately, this is who will contract Coronavirus over the coming weeks (if it was not contracted last week).  Our elderly and those with other conditions, those unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time or that perhaps have jobs that take them from the home and brave healthcare workers, police, EMS and others that have to show up to keep society running. When any of those people get sick it is a tragedy - it is a shame; shame on the stupid among us.

This brings us to the stupid - those carefree, careless, inconsiderate morons among us that either cannot comprehend the world around them or see it and do not care. Many of these will get sick, likely few will die, but this is the mobile, roaming group that will extend this thing, this is the group that will stop us from getting out of this is a few weeks and extend it.

Fools! It creates within one the desire to channel Negan.

Negan

Disclaimer

I am not suggesting we take a baseball bat to the heads of the stupid spreaders out there that are too fat, dumb, lazy or careless to give a damn. Not yet. That has to wait until some remote scenario where the power goes out, trucks stop rolling and stuff gets real. 

The Good From This

I have never been a fan of Trump. I think he is too abrasive, too profane and in reality, not conservative enough for me. He is a pragmatist rather than a man of principle. I do not say the following as a cheerleader for the man, nor as some loyal Republican. I often simply do not vote at all when the GOP offers no good choice. However - Trump's administration is pretty much spot on with the response.

  • Acted early to shut down travel from China. I wanted it a week sooner, but I am not an expert.
  • Acted to close down travel from Europe.
  • People criticize the Oval office address from last week, but Trump is pretty poor at teleprompter speeches. He said the right things "these things happen, it is part of history, we will get through it and keep the economy going". Those are the sorts of words a president could have said in 1940, 50 or 80, in our new reality few understood him. That is on us and our weakness of character as a people. Real nations stand up, react and carry on through crisis. He was right, the economy has to keep going, people will suffer more from that, in total, than the disease.
  • His administration's actions since Saturday 14 March have been spot on - cutting regulations to get more supplies flowing, providing guidance and advice (as opposed to dictates - we are citizens of a free country, not subjects), partnering with industry to streamline things and move past ineffective federal bureaucracies. All solid stuff - yet I still see some 'conservatives' crying and progressives whining. Both groups are calling for a more drastic Federal government response. I suppose they want cities locked down and people dragged from their homes at gunpoint as Chian did.

As a conservative, I am never pleased with the idea of government intervention, such as the proposal to send checks to Americans or the Federal Reserve conducting the equivalent of a QE - but I get it. Americans have changed, we are weaker, the fabric of society is weaker. People are not as resilient nor as tough and independent as our ancestors. Pragmatically speaking, the government almost has to do something like this to account for our collective accumulated stupidity. I do not like it, but I get it.

If you are a progressive liberal complaining about the response - just stop. Nobody said a word about 13,000 deaths to Swine Flu under Obama. Biden, your frontrunner, was part of that. Sanders is a baffoon. Stop talking and say 'thank you'. This is America, not communist China. We take hard times like free-men. The Trump administration is doing just fine. We will get through this if the stupid among us get with the plan.

We now see that:

  • The supply chain is adaptive, Amazon and the supermarkets were hit with panic, but they have taken steps.
  • Many of us actually can get work done at home, no need for the corporate prison. If the kids were in school it would be super productive.
  • There is something special about observing the birds in your back yard, taking dinner together at home and not feeling so rushed and pulled (many of us have been living wrong).

The Next Few Weeks

Unfortunately, some people will suffer through this. Some will lose their jobs, others will take a major hit in income. During the SARS crisis in Asia entire new industries were created. Their massive e-commerce trade arose in that period. If you have been financially affected, it is not time to feel sorry for yourself, crisis is the time to look for new opportunities. Those that adjust the fastest are the ones that thrive.

Healthcare workers will feel the brunt of this. If you are being stupid right now, you will make it harder on them. Stop being stupid. Some will bemoan the fact that those two old men running for the Democratic nomination cannot hold rallies and some primaries are delayed. Honestly - at this point, realizing that Biden was in Pence's job at a time when 13,000 Americans died without much said and almost nothing done is this nomination even important? Biden is no Pence! He is an angry, nasty, establishment fool. Tell me he would have handled this better than Trump. Prove me wrong? His answer to fighting the virus? Using the right words to describe it. A fool.

This thing is over if Americans act like responsible adults. Reach down and find that sense of American can-do, come-at-me bro, robust attitude that built this nation. Make our ancestors proud they sired us! Stop the whining, stop the gloom and doom. No matter how bad it is, we have this.

How the Coronavirus Changed the World

The title of this post might seem premature, to say the least. As I pen this post (13 march originally) there are 137,445 reported cases and 5088 deaths. On the grand scale, this is a drop in the bucket. The US has barely been touched, with only 1268 cases reported.

Despite that, we can already see, sense perhaps, that this is something more. Perhaps not because of the virus specifically. Mankind has faced such before. On a philosophical level, many people know that when presented with something like a new disease, the best thing to do it be smart and carry on.  But we are not simply carrying on, and that fact, not the virus itself, will be the catalyst for change. Something is off and has been off, for some time in Western Civilization. It is hard to define in a few words - trust, reason or an anchor and foundation might approach it best. Leaving aside the definition of what has been wrong in Postmodern Western Civilization, and accepting the premise that something exists, the current Coronavirus hysteria makes sense. What comes next, the ramifications make sense.

What Will Change?
  1. The 2020 Presidential election outcome has certainly changed. Unless something significant happens Trump has no chance of reelection. His words during his Oval Office address made historical and philosophical sense the other night - 'these things happen, we will hunker down and get through and take steps to keep the economy going'. In times past that would have been sufficient to calm fears, in 2020, in our new reality, it had no positive effect, people did not understand his words, the markets still panicked. The old way, solid wisdom from the past has no currency now. People will either come to see that an American First policy was right and needs to be implemented full-force - or they will see full-throated socialism as the answer.  It is Bernie or Trump, people simply will not choose a man like Biden, all things considered now (unless the Democratic party manipulates a choice that is somebody versus Trump and excludes Mao Bernie)

 

Scratch that - Trump has won reelection in the last three days (15-17 March). His press conferences have been measured, informative and reasonable. His administration's plan has been proactive, reactive, forward-thinking, innovative and creative. Partnering with industry, eliminating regulations to speed the delivery of medical supplies, data-focused response, various tools to save the economy. Only a fool could really throw rocks at this point (and such people would anyway). Biden (current Dem frontrunner) was in Pence's position when 13,000 Americans died of SARS with no response. The election is over. Trump's plan will get us out of this as long as Americans act responsibly. This was his crisis, and to the chagrin of his detractors, he rose to the occasion. 

2. Trust.  If people had a difficult time trusting anything they were told before after this is over they will trust even less. If 1.6 million Americans die and our hospitals are overwhelmed (worst case projection) people that were originally naysayers and believers alike will become convinced they were lied to. If it all passes with just a few thousand cases, naysayers will never believe an emergency (confirmation bias) and original diehard believers will distrust their preferred sources and outlets. Either way, we come out of this trusting everything less, believing almost nothing and basically becoming more nihilist. Unless...we look at some of the flawed premises that supported postmodernism and our culture prior to Cornavirus and find the foundation and anchor that was missing.

2. How we shop. If things get really bad and supply chains are strained or broken, people will question the current global economy. If things become just a little stressed and more people are sent home to telework, many will turn to online shopping for groceries. In the first instance, coming out of this, people may demand the government do more to return key industries to their own nations (food and medical supplies). In the second, milder scenario, people may find they really like having groceries delivered. This could almost kill the local supermarket.

3. How we worship. (or if we worship). Many churches will be canceling in-person services in the next weeks. Many of those will offer online service formats. Some people will become enamored with the idea. On the other side of this, churches may find fewer people in seats, opting for online viewing instead. Long-term, without the ties of in-person community relationships, online worship arrangements will invariably fail to maintain interest. Fewer people may actually attend church in any form after this is over. Conversely, this could spark America's fifth great Awakening. Old stale denominations and structures might change or fade away and something new and real, or perhaps revitalized, might replace them.

4. Our demographics. If the virus is anywhere close to the worst-case projections it will decimate the older populations. The Silent Generation and Boomers will die disproportionately.  Such a demographic change will affect the markets, government expenditures, how companies market products, and even the vacation industry. It will fundamentally, and quickly change many things.

5. Our view of government. China, apparently did a pretty good job of controlling Coronavirus. They mobilized armies of workers, built hospitals from scratch, sent armed groups to drag suspected infected from homes and perhaps even build temporary crematoria (unconfirmed). Those are the sorts of things a totalitarian government is good at, all of those actions can only occur in a nation where the government has a lot of control and the people few rights. If all of this goes south in the West, many people will wonder why their government did not act as effectively as China. Some people will long for totalitarianism. Others, the wiser among us, will realize we have come to rely upon government too much for many things. This could change us into dystopian totalitarianism of return us to our individualistic roots.

6. Working from home. With massive levels of telework going on one of two things will happen. 1) people will come to view the corporate management model for what it is, a stupid prison. Companies may come to see the savings and benefits of remote employees. OR 2) humans being human, many will mess up this opportunity, and not work and corporate pea brains will assume they were right from the beginning, instead of admitting that perhaps they have hired the wrong people.

7. Online school. With all major universities transitioning to online learning for the rest of the semester students might just begin to wonder why they are going in debt and paying outrageous tuition, rent, and fees for the privilege of sitting in a room with someone that really does not teach them much anyway. This might just bust the entire education bubble.

8. Cynicism. If nothing really comes of the Coronavirus but a few thousand infected and some 'old people dying', many people will become entrenched in their cynicism. If there is ever a truly deadly, population destroying germ to emerge in their lifetime, they will simply blow it off and not act. In a way, Coronavirus might be preparing mankind for just that sort of stupidity. If it is very bad, worst-case scenario situation, many may adopt a 'ring around the roses' attitude - we all fall down. Conversely, we could come to see the ineptitude and dishonesty of institutions like the media and rebuke them and cause something better to emerge.

Those nine effects are almost guaranteed, depending upon the severity or lack thereof in each element.

Right now, 13 March 2020, only some areas in America are experiencing anything close to a 'run on the stores'.  Over the next few days, we will begin to see the picture better as cases pop up in areas where people are basically non-plussed at present. What all that means and how people act, and what they start saying they want the government to do will determine other elements that might signal real and permanent change. I will add those as the situation unfolds.

My daughter and I have toyed around in various discussions with the Strauss-Howe Fourth Turning generational theory. She commented to me "might this be the crisis that they spoke about that changes everything for my generation?" (she is a Zoomer) ---Yes darling, it perhaps could be, this could change many things - perhaps almost everything.

15 March 2020 Update: The Trump administration today in a press conference demonstrated innovation and creativity, partnering with industry and by-passing the ineffective CDC to expedite testing. Man does not control nature, and no matter how loudly some scream for government to fix this the simple fact is governments cannot control everything, nor should they try. Asking for too much, in a panicked rush will only have negative long-term costs to freedom and prosperity. This may all become terrible, it may just be an annoyance, either way, we must endeavor to persevere and retain our values and principles.

Something of note, Italy's mortality rate is at 7.3 percent as of today. That is outrageously high. These numbers throw all sorts of doubt on the numbers that China reported. Those 'fake news' sites that reported crematoria and smog from the smoke they produced in Wuhan perhaps deserve a second look. Did we ever really believe we could trust much of anything China released about their outbreak? All we know for sure is it was very serious in China, serious enough for them to shut down an entire industrial region and cordon off millions of people. I am not suggesting the situation in Italy will repeat elsewhere, but it is within the realm of possibility. It is worth considering if you are still on the fence thinking life can go on as before right now. Take steps to take care of your loved ones!

I have noticed some 'conservatives' trending progressive and calling out Trump for 'not doing more'. Do more like what? Do you want the Federal government to send armed groups into homes to drag people out or lockdown entire cities like China or nationalize industries perhaps? We are Americans, we have different principles to uphold. We need to do all we should but we cannot become something we are not, and should not want to be, just based upon fear. We need to be reasonable, cautious and stalwart and weather this like free-men!

Also, the Google built website that the Trump administration promised and the regular news outlets called a hoax went live today. https://www.projectbaseline.com/study/covid-19/. We really cannot trust any of the news companies in the US to be truthful, perhaps this situation will finally make that clear to all.

Courageous Calvinism and Paleoconservatism

John Calvin

I attend a conservative, biblically-based, doctrinally sound (based upon received and tested tradition) Presbyterian church. Many of my Baptist friends might assume that there can be no such thing as an authentic Christian Presbyterian church. In the Baptist tradition, there was a time, in the late 1960s, when liberal elements expunged Reformed and Calvinist aspects. Some of this was restored in the conservative resurgence in the SBC in the late 1970s and 80s, but most Baptists are not fully aware of their Reformed and Calvinistic roots. It is understandable not to see the possibility that a conservative branch of Reformed cousins exists in at least one of the Presbyterian denominations. It does exist, honest; but I digress.

Does Calvinism hold more memories than promises? I suggest it is not a mere memory. Reactionary Calvinism, based upon the traditions and the truths from which those traditions derive is the key to solving our religious decline in the culture and to address our difficulty in defining what authentic conservatism ought to look like in the public square. The megachurch will not do it, dead Christianity will not, hopes placed in feckless and foundationless political parties will not. A return to the traditional principles and courageousness of our Calvinist roots might – God willing.

Jarod Longshore recently opined, “[a] cowardly Calvinist is an illogical thing. I don’t say that it is a thing that does not exist. Sadly, regrettably, shockingly, it does exist. But it shouldn’t.” Read his entire post.

We need a renewal of a sparse, sincere rebellion – against sin, against the compromise of the glory of God, against the status quo, against the ‘wisdom’ of the world and against the absurdity that is all around us. Confident, courageous and certain that the Word of God is our life, guide, and answer to the needs of this world. Our difficulties in the culture and our fecklessness in politics are the results of many things; true. However, if there is any hope to fix it we need to consider the words of Paul, as he departed the Ephesian elders:

18 And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Acts 20 (ESV)

Robert Godfrey spoke to this issue at the Reformed Bible College. Highlights from the talk in the video below include: Christianity no longer has the influence on the culture it once had; however, Christianity is not in decline; God is at work in the world; Americans are often fixed within; Catholicism abandoned tradition; Evangelicalism no better off. American needs a return to Courageous Calvinism.

  • Confident
  • Christ-centered
  • Comprehensive
  • Coherent
  • Caring

What does this have to do with paleoconservative, or traditional conservatism – that thing way on the fringe that sees the Republican party and mainstream ‘conservatives’ as useful idiots in the progressive agenda? Everything!

I think CJay Engel suggested recently in an article I cannot locate that at every step of the progressive advance, mainstream conservatives have been just a step behind, building nice roads and structures to support what the progressives have done. What we have come to know as ‘conservatism’ in America, the talking heads, the pundits, the massive organizations and think tanks; all of these are tragically flawed. None of them look back and ask real questions about what went wrong, what policies and programs have been adopted, no matter how long ago, that are damaging to culture, tradition, and families that we might actually fight to repeal. Their fight has been about the day to day, small things, rudderless and foundationless notions. They continually lose because they abandoned the foundations of conservatism.

If we are to save America, and perhaps this is not within God’s plan, we have but a duty to try, it will never happen with the current leadership, ideas, and programs of Conservative., Inc. There is little left of what was, nothing much left of the good. What are we conserving? Look about, it has almost all been burnt down.

In these times, our calling is to become courageous. Protestant Christianity was a permanent thing of American culture, we simply do not exist as Americans without that influence. Reformed Protestantism was the foundation of that Christianity.

It is perhaps time to stop calling ourselves conservatives, there is little left to conserve, and instead become courageous, radical reformists and reactionaries against the staus quo. We need to stop fighting the ridiculous daily battles of red/blue politics and stand and say “all of this, all of these programs, ideas, trends, policies and this direction is wrong, we want to restore was was good and true of tradition.” We need to stop entertaining the notion of further compromise, in our denominations (looking at you SBC with your current fight over complementarianism) and in the public square. As Godfrey says above, Confident, Christ-centered, Comprehensive, Coherent, Caring; Courageous.

Only God knows if this is a fight we are supposed to win, but just as Paul knew certain death awaited him as he departed Ephesus, he did his duty, he spoke the truth, all else was in God’s hands and plan.

I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen. -Luther

_________________________________________

Connect with Barry on Twitter, @onlyBarryLClark. Wondering who I am? See here.

How Locke and Hobbes Were Wrong: State of Nature

Much of modern political theory is a result of or a reaction to the theories of Locke and Hobbes and their individual views of both the state of nature and of the social contract. Although both men differed in their views of each of those topics, they share a commonality in that they missed key elements. Theirs was an idealist view of how community and government came into being. In their idealism, they missed key elements of reality.

In broad strokes, each envisioned a pre-government world where man either lived mostly in peace, following natural law (Locke) or in a constant state of war of all against all (Hobbes). Man eventually decided it was in his best interest to come together, in community, and to surrender rights to some form of government. Hobbes would say all rights were surrendered, locker argued only some. Hobbes would argue that man did this out of fear of his neighbor, Locke essentially that man saw this as the best way to preserve his rights to his property and prosperity. Hobbes was more Platonic in his view, Locke more Aristotelean. Both, Hobbes to a greater extent, abandoned key elements of philosophical thought going back to the Greeks. Both proposed something new and radical; idealist.

However, both abandoned a realist view of history, anthropology, and sociology in their theories of ‘man in nature’. Man has never existed in nature as an individual, alone with no authority, no structure, and just his senses and desires.

If one is inclined toward an evolutionary view of history and the rise of man, looking back we would find the first human-like creatures with intelligence and some form of capacity for reason were not so different from the primates that evolution would tell us these humanoids descended from. That is to say, they were social creatures built around family groups. The individuals in those groups were born into a social hierarchy and authority structure. The same sort of structure that existed for eons before, in that individual’s ancestors that were not humanoids at all but rather apes.

No individual ape ever contracted with other apes to form a group for protection, biology provided the template for the social order; the family. There was no instance of a Lockean state of nature with apes ‘monkeying’ around, eating bananas from their private property trees, such radical individualist would have been killed and never allowed the chance to procreate. There was never a case of all apes individually at war with all other apes in the Hobbesian view. Each ape was born into a social order, a social order that went back in one form or another as far as their mammalian ancestors existed. It developed over time, being traditional, it was learned, it was also inherited. It was never contracted. When the first humanoids arrived in the evolutionary story, they brought with them these traditions and learned behaviors and biological facts; the family group.

If one is inclined toward a literal interpretation of the Genesis story, again we find no instance where an individual man was without a structure and some authority over him. God created Adam and served as his sovereign. God created a mate for Adam, creating the family and gave Adam headship over the family. The entire Old Testament from Genesis to Kings is centered on the family group and tribes that derive from extended family. Never in the Biblical story did either a Hobbesian or Lockean state of nature exist.

It never existed in an evolutionary recount nor a Biblical view, Locke and Hobbes were working in the realm of idealism, not realism. Yet, their entire theories begin with the premise that the social contract exists because man previously lived in a state of nature. Somebody, somewhere, in their view, came together to contract for something better, to form community and then an authority to rule over that community. The fact is, humans have always had the foundational building block of community, the family, and authority that naturally resides in a parent over a child. Social order has existed throughout most of human history because of convention, tradition, and power derived from biologically inspired sociological facts – greybeards were stronger and wiser than youngsters and taught them the way. Families formed the core, family leaders became tribal leaders, and later kings – no social contract.

In the American story, our rights, laws, and traditions came from Britain. A nation that developed a constitution from what began as a simple monarchy. In the 1600’s ours was a British system, in the 1700s also, when the Constitution was ratified, we were still recipients of these British traditions. Ours was a combination of centuries of convention, tradition, subtle modifications and progressions. We were not founded, we were framed.

The implications of these errors are not insignificant. All of classical liberalism, all of the political theories that derive from that and have emerged to oppose it are based on or opposed to the fundamental errors that both Hobbes and Locke made. Thus, democracy, republicanism, and socialism all have inherent flaws. They either promote the idea of the individual or the community above that of the foundational building block of society for eons – the family. They downplay the importance of tradition, accidents of history, and received knowledge.

In the US, many of the framers of the Constitution understood the difference. The anti-federalist did not see a founding but rather a continuation of British traditions and ancient liberties. They understood the notion of sovereignty and knew full well that the British sovereign had relinquished sovereignty not to the Continental Congress but to thirteen free and independent states individually. They thus understood that the will of the people might only be expressed through their states in congress assembled.

The Federalist, had a pretty different idea, they used many of the words of Locke, but upon analysis, they were much more Hobbesian and Neoplatonic in their view. They feared a lack of control, they feared checks and balances – they wanted centralization, a Hobbsean Leviathan that operated under the rule of law, but a could also define and redefine what that law meant and what the limits of its own power were at will. The Federalists did not see America as a continuation of British traditions and ancient liberties – established through convention and sometimes accidents of history. They say themselves as founders of a nation based upon idealistic notions.

Their hubris combined with the error of Hobbes and Locke at the base of their thinking is what has brought America to this stage of absurdity.

Existential Risks and Biotechnology

Yeah, I do not believe in coincidences!

Apparently, Twitter just banned Zero Hedge for proposing a Coronavirus theory similar to what Josh Clark talks about in episode # six of his podcast The End of the World – gain of function biotechnology laboratory research.

I wall say it, it is too early in the news cycle to be taken seriously, I may be termed a conspiracy guy. But based upon legitimate open-source info, this smells like an engineered phenomenon, an accident, but man-made.

The internet is abuzz with all sorts of false information about Coronavirus, perhaps from official and fringe sources alike. Zero Hedge certainly qualifies as an outlet on the fringe. Whether than makes them always wrong, I cannot say. Josh Clark is certainly not always correct in his treatment of the issue in his podcast linked below – but he raises curious facts.

See below why you ought to listen
The End Of The World with Josh Clark

I admit that is a pretty catchy title. So catchy that when my wife and I were on a road trip a few weeks back she voted a hard ‘no’ when I suggested we listen to it. However, it is perhaps not what she assumed it to be. Josh begins with the question, if there are billions of stars and millions and millions of planets in the universe, statistically, many of them should have produced life and some of that intelligent life. If the scientific answer regarding the formation and timeline of the universe is correct, we simply should already be aware of other life.

Unless life is so unique it exists only here (God? or some scientific reason that makes life statistically improbable?) I could personally accept that God made life unique, but let’s stick in the realm of how a scientist might answer this apparent problem or paradox in their theories.

Josh does a good job of explaining the paradox

Science might attempt to answer this paradox by stating 1) life is hard to form, or, 2) life is easy to develop but also easy to eliminate, or, 3) life is easy to develop, but intelligent life is difficult to sustain.

Item number one would place Earth in some improbable cosmological lottery, if life is so hard to form that it has only formed here, among all the possible other options, it makes us a statistical anomaly (or designed by God).

If life is easy to develop but also easy to eliminate through various disasters, then why are we here and still do not see anyone else? Why did we and nobody else, out of millions and millions of possibilities, make it? This would mean, again, Earth and humanity are winners of a cosmological lottery (or God).

If number three is correct, this assumes there was nothing particularly improbable about us getting to this stage of history and development, yet we look around and do not see anyone else. Why? Josh describes the answer as the great filter, a set of problems that intelligent life would have to navigate to exist much past us and our level of development.

Just look around as some of the technology that we are only beginning to play with, even though we only dimly understand it; AI, biotechnology, physics experiments at the quantum level, etc. Passing the great filter, in this sense, is a civilization learning to both create and control AI without creating the terminator. To master bioengineered food, drugs, and germs without accidentally releasing an extinction-level pandemic. And finally to master physics at the quantum level without blowing up the world. All of those dangers are perhaps low probability, but at the extreme, they are highly dangerous, as they potentially end civilization.

The great filter then is this set of challenges a civilization has to solve as they become just smart enough to play with the ‘fire’ but not yet wise enough to fully understand it.

More on the Great Filter

So what does this have to do with coronavirus? As Josh points out biotech laboratories are all over the world. Several years ago many of these labs began gain of function research. Essentially this is the process of speeding up the development of viruses by stimulating the artificial selection of some of the most horrendous traits. This can result in a much more lethal, more contagious and more resilient virus. Many scientists view this as a way to get ahead of bad germs so that we might be able to fight them if they appear in the wild.

Of course, Josh also points out that the numerous ‘high containment’ labs around the world have a pretty poor history of containing the bad stuff inside. He suggests the great filter might consist of one of these Franken-viruses escaping from a lab and decimating the population.

Two points are interesting, the sheer number of these labs around the world doing this sort of research and the number of mistakes that have been documented to occur.

Zero Hedge was banned from Twitter because of an article they posted, suggesting that Coronovirus originated in just such a lab in Wuhan China. They listed the lab and the lead scientist from that lab. We will perhaps never know if this is exactly what occurred but based upon the track record of such labs and the sort of gain of function research routinely going on; it is possible. Worth discussing for those with a dog in the fight.

Coronavirus certainly does not seem to present an existential risk to mankind. Not in its present form. It does not seem lethal enough and it does not spread fast enough. It could perhaps end up being bad, or it might burn itself out. But it does not seem to be a civilization killer.

What is interesting about this whole situation is just how slow the world has reacted. Last Friday when the State Department announced real travel restrictions, the doctors they brought out said essentially, ‘at first we did not know infected individuals could be asymptomatic and infectious, now we do”. We are now three or four weeks into the outbreak, and nations are just now taking anything close to real action. If this were the sort of virus that could end, or severely depopulate mankind, we would be far too late in reacting.

If the great filter is a real thing, if biotech labs are as inept at maintaining containment as Josh points out, then we seem rather unprepared when a serious virus escapes one day.

Public policy guys need to consult somebody (philosophers and theologians) to help guide scientists in these efforts. Big money throwing cash at mad scientist without wise people thinking past stage one is dangerous.

Final Words on the Megachurch

I have written at length about the megachurch movement and why I am convinced it is so dangerous to authentic, organized Christianity. I have thrown about the word communitarianism as a pejorative. I have spoken of the importance of the community over the individual in what might be considered a very classical liberal way. So what gives?

Perhaps if you have read much of my writing you have noticed that I call myself a paleoconservative. Surely you must say, if I truly am such, I realize full-well that the Straussian neoconservatives and the progressive liberals alike would likely make the same arguments. They argue that the United States was founded on liberal principles, deep Lockean principles that recognized natural rights.

Of course, I know such claims are at best complex and at worst utterly false. The United States was founded on conservative principles, and the US Constitution was perhaps only a compromise between a Hobbesian and Lockean view. The states and their constitutions, the entities that really mattered in 1788-89, were definitely conservative instruments. Rights were viewed not as natural but derived from British tradition. In honest truth, no man in nature has the right to anything he cannot defend. We know this is true but like the philosophical position that this may not be true. But I digress, what does this have to do with the megachurch you say.

I do not hold that the individual is supreme, that the natural moral law and reason alone can suffice to inform a man of what is right. As a true conservative, in the philosophical sense of the word, I know full well that the experience of the ages and tradition combined with received knowledge are the main ways that men come to know truth.

This then is the crux of what might appear divergent views within my own mind on the subject of the megachurch movement. I argue that their communalism diminishes the individual, and the authority structure they set up is potentially dangerous. It is not a traditional authority they prescribe but one of their own design. Yet, I am a man that believes that it was the local communal Reformed Protestant nature of America through most of its history that defined us. It was, from the perspective of many, a very illiberal history and circumstance, but it worked well. In short, I agree with communitarianism, just not the sort that Drucker and his ideology invented.

My main argument against the megachurch movement was that it was built upon bad ideology deriving from bad philosophy. And, perhaps most dangerously, they are built upon the premise that they must be relevant, they have to offer something the people want, in order to get them in the door. It is this reliance upon relevance, combined bad ideology that makes this movement so dangerous to organized Christianity.  The megachurch movement and its churches will fail because the culture will drive them eventually. I am opposed to submitting or seeing others submit to community and authority built upon such a base.

But these churches identified some real problems and attempted to solve them. They used, and sometimes, misused, techniques straight out of America’s conservative tradition to get after the problem. The various Protestant denominations in the US in the late 1980s were dying or dead, stale, stuffy, feckless beasts. The pastors, boards of directors and initial groups of elders that founded what would become megachurches were predominantly generation X folks, they had sat in those stuffy pews, saw exactly how ineffective those churches were and wanted something different. Many of these churches got their start in the mid-late 1990s, this was just off the heels of the failure of the Moral Majority and the exposure of many televangelist. It was a pretty bad time in Christianity.

Peter Drucker offered a model to Bob Bufford and the Leadership Council.  Early generation megachurches based mostly upon strong pastor personalities, such as Rick Warren’s Saddleback provided examples and lesson-learned. The Leadership Network supplied the template, and the disgruntled, dissatisfied upstart GEN Xers took it and built churches, everywhere.  

They identified a problem, applied methodology and systems to the problem and created solutions. It is hard to argue with that. Except for the foundation, Drucker’s ideology, and his stated intent. His was a vision to fundamentally change society, through building community in churches. The problem with utopian ideas is just that, history generally has something to say about the frailty of man’s ability to reason out complex social issues with brilliant solutions – generally the best of such ideas fail the worst, sometimes with catastrophic results.

History has taught us that the best way to move forward and solve complex problems is by relying upon the experience of the ages, to fall back on tradition, to fix what is broken rather than create something new, shiny and brilliant. The innovators of my generation, GEN X, that abandoned traditional career paths and forged ahead to build Amazon, Google, Facebook, and our digital world would disagree with that statement, as too would those folks that built started those future megachurches in the 1990s. But there is a difference in building an online shopping mall and digital warehouse and redefining how to ‘do church”.

Success is something that is hard to argue with, yet success does not make a thing optimal or even correct. Do we yet know the cost of Amazon on society and our way of life?  If someday the only real purchasing option is online will that be better? We do not know. We do know that sort of innovation was transformative and abandoned tradition rather than refurbish old practices? Is the social media revolution truly good for mankind?  I suspect not in total, but it is too soon to say. The point is, yes, those innovations have thus far succeeded, but at what cost? And, again, technological innovation is not on the same level as changing the church just because you can.

What will be the cost to the success of the megachurch movement? What happens if it fails, now that so many formerly dying churches have been drained?

As a Christian, Protestant, conservative, I applaud the efforts by the megachurch folks to bring back community. I wrote about this very need in Retrenchment: Christian Defense of Permanent Things. For the same reasons, I am opposed to the idea of building a new and shiny thing, particularly for something as important as faith, theology and religion – Christianity itself. The ‘community’ of a megachurch is too big for accountability – too big to be called community. The group is beyond one’s circle of influence and of concern. The pastor and the staff are too far removed to be knowable. How can you keep accountability of a man that teaches you the word if his congregation is so large that you most can never break bread with him, and few can do it regularly enough in a personal way to actually know him?

What should that entrepreneurial generation Xers have done in the mid-to-late 1990s? If I think the megachurch movement has gone all wrong what should have been done? I agree with them, all the major denominations had serious flaws and error. There was no real possibility of working inside of them to effect change, not in the short-term, not to change the whole thing.

They should have done the only thing a right-reasoned conservative can do when faced with such a circumstance; retrench and double-down.  Buying into what Drucker was selling, the Rick Warren-like model, was wrong and they should have recognized it from the start. That they did not perhaps speaks to motivation, but I cannot see into their hearts.

By retrenchment and doubling down I mean, in seeing the problem that existed in the church, they should have focused on the local church. If they saw it as dead an irrelevant, make it alive, while remaining true to what came before. If they wanted to build community, they should have begun in the local church. You do not have to move an entire denomination overnight to change the world, you do it the proven conservative and rational way, in small steps at home with people you know. The solution in 1990,1995 or 2000, when these megachurches got their start, was not that complicated.

Yet, that is not the path the leaders and founders of these churches chose. They picked a model that allowed them glory from building something bright and shiny. It was hubris, arrogance and pride that told those 20-something-year-old idealists that they knew better than the centuries of doctrine, procedure, and creeds that proceeded them. A bold statement, but I stand beside it. A lot of harm can come from relying upon oneself to try to do good.

If you want to know why I have written so vigorously about the megachurch, yes it is about what I have seen, things that are easily discernable as fruit from the movement. However, it is also something else. Look to the founding, look to Drucker’s own words concerning his intentions with The Leadership Network. Ask yourself about the thought processes of the young men that started these churches 25 or so years ago – why did they choose the Drucker model instead of putting their heads down and getting to work on the local church? 

I suspect their egos wanted to build something.

First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing, ask what is it in itself? What is its nature? What does he do, this man you seek?

This is all I will say on this issue.

See Also