An editorial essay in The Washington Times  argues that much of the hyper-crisis reporting and governmental action related to COVID-19 aligns with principles laid out in Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. Chumley begins her argument by quoting one of Alinsky’s foundational presuppositions, “[a]ny revolutionary change must be preceded by a passive, affirmative, non-challenging attitude toward change among the mass of our people. They must feel so frustrated, so defeated, so lost, so futureless in the prevailing system that they are willing to let go of the past and chance the future.” She argues that “[t]his is Coronavirus Chaos, exemplified.” In support of that bold statement, she provides examples of America being in full panic mode and willing to sacrifice more civil liberties to gain more perception of security. She argues that the Constitution has effectively been suspended, to the applause of the left and right. Pastors have been arrested for conducting services, fathers handcuffed for taking their kids to the park, public protest outlawed, and individuals drug from public transportation by the police.
Chumley observes that all of this, and more, have occurred in a time when we have yet to understand the real nature of Coronavirus. She observes that even a mere hint of skepticism is met in the public and private square with ostracization and ridicule. This comports well with Alinsky’s foundational presupposition, of a non-challenging attitude by defeated people, combined with later suggestiong toward the use of ridicule. Americans are not allowed to work, to produce and create a livelihood. Quoting Alinsky again she observes that this “shake[s] up the prevailing patterns of […] lives — agitate[s], create[s] disenchantment and discontent with the current values.” Chumley does not suggest that Coronavirus is not real, nor that it is necessarily a creation intended to bring about the consequences observed. She merely points out that the crisis and reaction cycle related to the event meshes well with Alinsky’s radical prescription. Her observation itself is a radical statement, bold questions and observations in a time when the discussion is so limited in the public square.
The Washington Times piece raises numerous questions that policymakers should be asking and framing during this event. Chumley raises two issues that are undeniable facts. First, the progressive left-liberals have held an objective of implementing many of the policies that have so easily entered public policy over the proceeding weeks, the adoption of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) as one example. The second is perhaps subject to interpretation but hard to argue against, much of the behavior of left-liberal media outlets and politicians align with Alinsky’s Rules, it appears that progressives are taking advantage of the crisis, perhaps even exacerbating it, in order to enact policies they might never gain consensus to enact otherwise.
If we ignore the ease that governments across the land have attacked religious liberty, often to cheers of ‘Christians’, as well as numerous other assaults on civil liberties and basic common sense and address just the implications of our adoption of MMT, we find those implications to be profound. One simply cannot put the genie of universal basic income and magic money creation back in the bottle once released. The longer the lockdowns continue, the more ‘stimulus packages’ passed by the Federal Government, the nearer we approach to establishing a universal basic income scheme. Printing money to give to people not producing is contrary to historical lessons, averse to common sense and contrary to biblical teachings (Proverbs 12:24). Public policymakers across the land must take action now to react to Cornovirous in a principled, right-reasoned, common sense manner. The Governors in South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennesee have recently taken the right steps in restarting their economies – others should follow.
Chumley’s interpretation of recent events and her analysis of progressive left-liberals utilization of this crisis to advance their agenda is a cautionary lesson for policymakers. Policies made in a time of uncertainty, when facts and truth are distorted and the emotions of the populace enflamed are often bad policy.
Chumley, C. “Coronavirus and the smell of Saul Alinsky”, The Washington Times. 18 April 2020. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/apr/18/coronavirus-and-smell-saul-alinsky/.
 One might argue, perhaps correctly so, that The Washington Times has a bias. Other news organizations that disavow the existence of their own observable bias would certainly make this claim in an effort to support an argument that the Times is not a legitimate news outlet. This is an absurd argument, in a time when the entire ‘Fourth Estate’ has abandoned neutrality and objectivity, the Times is as much a legitimate news source as any other.
 The Washington Times via, S Alinsky, Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals, Vintage (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2010), https://books.google.com/books?id=VIH0UbZ8qU4C. p. XiX.
 See for instance, “Unlimited Money and No Liquidity: Welcome to 2020”, https://www.nasdaq.com/articles/unlimited-money-and-no-liquidity%3A-welcome-to-2020-2020-04-15.
It seems that COVID-19 has ‘come and gone’, at least insofar as it was a threat we did not understand the nature of. We understand essentially what it is and what it is not now. We understand more about our world, ourselves and those around us also. Here is a baker’s dozen of what we learned at my house.
- Bri and I really like one another. We have enjoyed our time together - never bored, always busy, doing new things, working together, and finding space.
- We picked the right house. When we walked into this place with the realtor a few years ago it screamed ‘practical and functional’ to me. It has proven to be true as we have been here now for a month and a half.
- Defining the Circle – we have gained a better understanding of the people we ought to pour our love, attention and resources into going forward. People that could not rally ‘round the cause and do the right thing in this little bump in the road are folks I cannot save.
- We were prepared. We strive to live within our means and to have the resources to weather a medium crisis. This has demonstrated that we did many of the right things long before this.
- We missed some small stuff. I have a growing list of small items that should have been in the ‘ready room’, nit-noid stuff one simply does not think about until you need it. This little exercise has helped illuminate those items. (I will at some point write a post about what one ought to have on hand for a medium crisis).
- A Boxer, that has not been able to see his girlfriend for a few weeks, senses that I might be more vigilant (thus he is also), and that knew from the start that cats were the ultimate spreaders of Coranavius is an interesting creature to be locked away with – never a dull moment from the minute he wakes up until he goes to sleep at night.
- Bri is able to work more effectively, efficiently and happily at home. She is so much happier not dealing with all the girl drama in her office. She has a nice workspace here, plenty of light, birds it is quiet and drama-free. I have found I can manage my contracts without going out nearly as much as I did before, much of that was self-induced. Working at home is great!
- Twitter and Facebook is such a waste. It is filled with ninnies, fools, communists, fascists and jerks it seems.
- Amazon is great – until it is not…see #5 above. Don’t wait next time.
- The sky is beautiful, the quiet is wonderful – with fewer cars and traffic running around, the birds seem more active, all the clutter of modern life so much less intrusive. It would be nice if we could just slow the world down a little bit on the regular.
- There is, apparently, a drug dealer a couple of streets behind us. He is out with his loud car every hour. I have added him to my high-value target list (HVT), if things get primal it is game on and a bad time for him.
- Some of the groups and organizations we were members of have proven useful, others not so much.
- There are important things and things that are not. Going forward we will redefine our circle to include just people that want to be in it. We will spend money differently, look at the world differently and perhaps pull back from some activities and groups and sustain some of the activities we have found so enjoyable.
Three Bonus Things
- Gardening is great!
- God is good, even when we do not fully understand everything.
- However, as I told someone recently, God will not send a man down from Paris Mountain with instructions chiseled on rocks to tell you the right thing to do. He gave us common-sense and a brain. He expects us to act.
Coronavirus may not be what the fearmongers said, not nearly as bad as all that – but the financial mess we have created, that will not go away soon. I do not want to make light of all this, we are all still surrounded by foolish people that do not live within their means, cannot bear a real crisis and would become very dangerous if things get much worse.
We all ought to take a moment to take stock of what we have learned thus far.
In a recent Newsweek piece, an article typical of so many, left and right, that incorrectly view the philosophical questions related to Coronavirus. Painting the struggle as one of liberty versus safety, the freedom of the individual versus the power of the centralized state the article misses entirely the question of the implications of such a struggle. It also ignores the question of what role should other important institutions be playing and to mitigate evil, and suffering as well as encourage citizens to use freedom ethically and government to act as little as required.
A recent Newsweek article[i] is representative of the much of the zeitgeist of the current state of American politics, left and right. A view of Natural rights, shaped by the Lockean view, have come to dominate both sides of the political spectrum, manifesting over separate issues, but deriving from the same root. Roger Parloff’s piece approaches the issue from the left-liberal progressive position; he is concerned with voting rights and abortion. One could easily find a piece approaching gun control[ii] or religious freedom deriving from the same flawed foundation. All such appeals begin with errors found in Locke’s conception of the state of nature, an incorrect view of natural law. Essential, both right and left approach these issues from a form of Pelagianism[iii] and an extreme focus on the individual; these approaches assume man alone can consistently choose good without divine aid and that the needs and rights of the individual are equal to the importance of the community and tradition and convention. Such a view is of course theologically flawed (James 2:8) but also is contrary to our history and traditions. It is a binary view that places the law and the central government’s role at odds with the individual, it completely ignores the historical importance of other institutions -subsidiarity - and the permanent things of a culture. It is also an appeal to an originalist view, left and right, that holds certain presuppositions about the de facto versus de jure nature of our system and the rule of law, premises that history calls into question.[iv]
Parloff begins his article with an assumption, that coronavirus is an “extreme crisis” that creates a conflict between safety and liberty. In this, he demonstrates two errors. First, it is impossible to know that Coronavirus is a crisis in and of itself because we simply do not know the nature of the thing.[v] Second, his assumption that a liberty/safety conflict must exist demonstrates the fundamental flaw of the ideologies of liberal societies. He goes on to equate delaying primaries as an affront to voters rights, prisoners being denied a ‘right to life’ because they may become ill, he conflates basic triage strategies with discrimination against disabled people and finally, the curtailment of medically ending the life of babies in the womb as an afront to human rights.
The conflict between liberty and security is a problem only insofar as the Western liberal democracies have abandoned the partnerships for the common-good Aristotle wrote about in the opening to Politics.[vi] This, compounded with the abandonment of subsidiarity, of institutions that ought to have co-equal roles with the central government in the nurturing and maintenance of culture and people, has led to the conflict Parloff and so many others see.[vii]
Looking to history, the problems that Parloff highlights would be considered absurd. The individual is a member of a community, that is his natural state.[viii] His community is in partnership with others for the common good. John C. Calhoun warned repeatedly that a strong central government without subsidiarity would invariably lead to these sorts of conflicts.[ix] Thus we find ourselves faced with an event we cannot define, partially because we listen to sophists, in a crisis we do not understand, leaving us to discuss balancing liberty with security while applying no philosophic principles other than flawed concepts of man and nature – individuality and fear.[x]
Parloff is not alone in his mistakes and errors, the central theme of all such pieces is their failure to understand that liberalism, progressivism, and individualism is bound to end in authoritarianism and tyranny.[xi] He has framed the wrong question and has failed to ask what role other institutions should play in an event like this to ensure common-good[xii] and morality and virtue at the local level. Instead, he assumes that the individual and the central government are the only actors, an assumption that if true, will invariably lead to the individual losing.
[i] See, Parloff, Roger., “The Coronavirus Crisis Threatens 2020 Voting Rights, Abortion, Other Civil Liberties, Watchdogs Say”, Newsweek, Monday, April 06, 2020. https://www.newsweek.com/coronavirus-crisis-threatens-2020-voting-rights-abortion-other-civil-liberties-watchdogs-say-1496304
[ii] See as one example, Fernadez, Stacey,. “Texas gun stores are essential businesses, may stay open during the pandemic, attorney general says”, The Texas Tribune, March 27, 2020. https://www.texastribune.org/2020/03/27/texas-ag-says-gun-stories-are-essential-businesses-during-coronavirus/
[iii] See, “The Pelagian Controversy”, https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/pelagian-controversy/
[iv] See, McDonald, Forrest., “Was the Fourteenth Amendment Constitutionally Adopted?”, The Annotated Secessionist Papers, Second Edition, Abbeville: The Calhoun Institute, 2018, https://books.google.com/books?id=-jVhDwAAQBAJ. pp. 41-60. Dr. McDonald presents an argument that the 14th Amendment was not ratified in accordance with law or convention. This one amendment is the foundation of much left-liberal, progressive and libertarian-conservative ideology yet, it does not comport with de jure law.
[v] It is impossible, simply because the data related to COVID19 is all over the map and ‘experts’ have been wrong at each step to know what the true nature of this virus is and the implications of that. Marcus Aurelius warned in Mediations, Book X, “Focus on what nature demands, as if you were governed by that alone. Then do that, and accept it, unless your nature as a living being would be degraded by it. Then focus on what that nature demands, and accept that too—unless your nature as a rational being would be degraded by it.” The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. United Kingdom, Routledge, 1894. https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Meditations_of_Marcus_Aurelius/5qcAEZZibB0C.
[vi] Strauss, Leo, Cropsey, Joseph. History of Political Philosophy. United States, University of Chicago Press, 2012. p. 134. https://www.google.com/books/edition/History_of_Political_Philosophy/E7mScxst9UoC.
[vii] Organized religion, State and local government, business and trade organizations, fraternal and community based organizations – all have had a traditional and historic role in both protecting and nurturing communities and people locally but in allowing people, through voluntary organization to take care of themselves. Liberalism in the west has replaces all f this with Government and the individual.
[viii] Strauss, Leo, Cropsey, Joseph. History of Political Philosophy. p. 121.
[x] See previous argument, “How Locke and Hobbes Were Wrong: State of Nature”, http://barryclark.info/how-locke-and-hobbes-were-wrong-state-of-nature/.
[xi] See previous argument, “From Radical Progressivism to Authoritarianism”, http://barryclark.info/from-radical-progressivism-to-authoritarianism/ or Clark, Barry, From Radical Progressivism to Authoritarianism (December 19, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3506918 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3506918
[xii] See previous argument, “Government for the Common Good”, https://calhouninstitute.com/government-for-the-common-good/
Three days before I went into isolation with the wife and dogs a friend of mine and I went to lunch and obviously discussed the developing Coronavirus story, (this was 11 March). He said, and I believe he was half-serious, that he wondered if China could have done this intentionally. He was commenting on my post from 2 February discussing gain of function bioengineering experiments and the Wuhan high containment biotechnology lab. We laughed and moved on. Conspiracies are complex, and therefore are almost never the answer to an event.
However, this entire situation gets stranger all the time. Below I lay out all the very odd things that simply make no sense when you look at them all together.
- February 2019 - China opens a biosafety lab in Wuhan China for the purpose of conducting experiments with highly infectious pathogens.
- Beginning in 2019 and accelerating drastically in 2020, CEOs have left their companies and dumped their stock. (record numbers, particularly in 2019 when the economy was churning).
- 18 December 2019 - The House impeached Donald Trump. Remember, he was a danger to the universe and could not be allowed to remain, it was 'that serious', remember the words?
- 31 December 2019 - Reports of a new repository illness in Wuhan China.
- Late January 2020 - Wuhan is cordoned and isolated.
- From late January until the week of March 9th we are told by Trump that any talk about a pandemic is a hoax and fake news, the left media said it was just like the flu and medical 'experts" said it was not that bad.
- The week of 23 March - the US economy shutdown. Congress passes two massive 'stimulus' packages.
- 26 March 2020 the US tops all nations in the number of Coronavirus cases.
- 27 March 2020 -Trump authorizes the call-up of 1 Million ready reservist and retirees. (this is not the national Guard nor drilling reservist, this is folks that have retired or 'left' the service)
Consider these facts:
- These massive bills passed with really very little debate, the Democrats control the House, remember how dangerous Trump was in their words in December, now they are all working together?
- These bills contain the progressive dream agenda and enormous 'help' to large corporations. It is the worst of both worlds from both sides.
- It 'nationalizes' part of entire industries - taking ownership of a portion of the airlines.
- QE forever? The government can create 'money' to buy shares of entire industries as it pleases?
- A large step toward universal basic income (universal poverty).
Only a Republican could have done what Trump has done, the Defense Production Act, activated today - in peacetime! The progressives could never have hoped to accomplish what has occurred without regular Americans literally taking up arms. It could happen when a swath of Americans believe in "Q" and think Trump equals 'Judges'.
I am not denying that people have and will die from COVID-19. However, nobody, not the experts nor the media seem to understand the true nature of this thing. We have no real data to even analyze the problem. In all of history, what nation has ever stopped their economy and essentially mortgaged their future of many future generations based upon guesses and fear? I took it seriously, as an individual, as individuals should - but this? This thing we have done, very strange set of coincidences - and I do not believe in coincidences.
China has now shut its borders. It is ramping up its production and economy while we create trillions of dollars in magic money. Why? what are the implications? How does this all work out to our benefit?
I am not suggesting the following is the answer to these questions but it certainly looks a lot more like all those conspiracy guys that have preached for years that some global cabal of governments and the elites were planning a crisis to take our freedom and impoverish us are worth reconsidering right now. It actually seems plausible.
Nothing that has happened, shutting it all down, creating these outrageous bills, locking people down, trampling the Constitution - all while we cheer. It is very strange. That is the only fact I know for sure, it is strange.
Plausibly Explaining It all
All of the coincidence and strangeness above could make sense, if:
- Trump and Congress are idiots, liars, and fools.
- Medical 'experts' in the west were either deniers, fools or liars
- Maybe all those CEOs just saw the tea leaves of a coming recession (nothing to do with Coronavirus) and resigned their positions and cashed out over the last 14 months - nothing nefarious in that case.
- The virus really is as bad, or close to as bad as some of the models predicted - it was only less deadly in said because of social norms in places like Japan and Hong Kong, and governmental control of the population (and spread) in China.
- The West's love of individual freedom (in this case license to not be good citizens) made us more susceptible - think Carnival, Madi Gras, Spring break and idiots going to bars.
It is possible this really was an 'accident of history', just a natural virus that China's authoritarian regime was able to control through draconian measures while our attention in the West was diverted by incompetent news media and politicians worried about petty partisan squabbles. If it turns out to be a pretty bad virus, but just an accident of history that highlights and takes advantage of our weaknesses as moral citizens - well perhaps there never needed to be a 'global cabal' and all the conspiracy theories associated with it.
In either case, authoritarianism wins, China wins, freedom loses, the entire ideal of 'Americanism' loses. Sometimes, oftentimes it is just 'accidents of history' that shape and define the future. Cultures and societies that are not prepared for those accidents, and people that are not just and moral, do not survive them unchanged.
Our only real option is to seriously consider a new system of government that values the common good and morality as a virtue.
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.
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.
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.
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.
All week, random people I talk to say, "Something is coming". An old man that used to sit in front of me at church would say that almost every Sunday. I dunno. #somethingiscoming
— Barry L. Clark (@onlyBarryLClark) January 31, 2020
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.
- (F1)People in the U.S., many of them at least, are afraid.
- (F2)The scale of the shutdown, economically speaking is unprecedented.
- (F3) The supply chain for regular and essential items is strained.
- (F4) Increasing the money supply faster than the growth in real output will cause inflation - i.e. the bailout packages.
- (F5) Coronavirus is just that, a virus. Modern medicine has proven deficient in creating drugs that effectively treat viruses.
- (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.
- (F7) Depression is a period of recession and inflation.
- (F8) Some economists and financial experts now predict a global depression. Goldman Sachs is forecasting a 24% drop in second-quarter GDP.
- (A1)When people are afraid, some of them can become dangerous.
- (A2)The shutdown can't continue long, Americans will either just refuse, or the government will take steps to force compliance.
- (A3) Americans are not eating or consuming more than normal, we are simply buying from different sources.
- (A4) Suppliers of restaurants will soon figure out ways to shift delivery to the consumer market.
- (A5) Recessionary monetary trends may offset inflation caused by (F4) - that is the theory of modern monetary theory at least.
- (A6) Coronavirus appears to be past containment, and will likely 'burn' through the U.S. population.
- (A7) We assume that effective treatments will arise, but (F5) indicates this is difficult with a virus.
- (A8) Coronavirus, therefore, will be with us for a while.
- (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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
All week, random people I talk to say, "Something is coming". An old man that used to sit in front of me at church would say that almost every Sunday. I dunno. #somethingiscoming
— Barry L. Clark (@onlyBarryLClark) January 31, 2020
A Love Letter to Generation Z – the Great Hope
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.
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?
Oh, don't give me the stink eye when you have Negan and Lucille in your post >:D
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?
— Harrison Frey (@LegalTechWiz) March 18, 2020
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.
Josh Clark did a reasoned explanation of the trends in biotech that lead to this in '18. Some of the open-source resources (not just the 'crazy-web') produced interesting information a month ago. It was a whackadoodle then, not so much now. #coronavirus https://t.co/HoJktd87Km
— Barry L. Clark (@onlyBarryLClark) February 13, 2020
Existential Risks and Biotechnology (post from February 2nd)
China has opened its first #biosafety level four #laboratory, capable of conducting experiments with highly pathogenic microorganisms. The #Wuhan #P4 lab will conduct research in anti-virus drugs and vaccines. #ChinaMarvels pic.twitter.com/JLoZX4T9go
— ShanghaiEye (@ShanghaiEye) February 6, 2019
Q: "Why do you keep calling this the Chinese Virus?"
President Trump: "It comes from China...it's not racist."
— CSPAN (@cspan) March 18, 2020
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!
Columbia, SC, will begin abiding by a curfew beginning tonight. https://t.co/VvQ4osmQoH
— WJBF (@WJBF) March 18, 2020
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.