Get Ready for Armageddon

Six years ago, Mark Steyn published America Alone, in which he argued that the demographics of Europe were in the midst of a paradigm shift — that the birthplace of Western civilization was about to be overrun with Muslims and their ideals. After a few years have passed, years in which elderly Jews have been driven out of their formerly quaint Swedish towns by angry Muslim immigrants, Steyn looks more and more like a prophet as well as a polemic. So when he opens his newest book with the lines: “The good news is that the end of the rest of the West is still on schedule. The bad news is that America shows alarming signs of embracing the same fate, and then some,” you should be afraid.

America’s future is not for the faint of heart.

Steyn writes in a highly confrontational style – mixing puns and barbs with each heart-sinking fact about the fall of America. But after decades of accepting the decline of America into a European malaise, it’s time for some confrontation. Besides — you’ve never read a more amusingly alarming book. For example, to describe the downfall of the American education system, Mr. Steyn juxtaposes the following pieces of writing. The first piece of writing was an official email from Otis Mathis, President of the Detroit School Board and the second was from an uneducated female British maid born decades before the start of free public schooling in Britain.:

Do DPS control the Foundation or outside group? If an outside group control the foundation, then what is DPS Board row with selection of is director? Our we mixing DPS and None DPS row’s, and who is the watch dog?

[Note the lack of ellipses in the above doggerel. It’s a direct quote.]

I just write to say you will be glad to know that I am settled in my new place, and going on all right up to now…It is a grand place inside, with trees and garden back and front. All has been newly done up. They are teetotalers and religious, so I ought to go on…

Sad, isn’t it?

Steyn’s new non-fiction book (oh, how I wish it was a novel) focuses on the decline of America. It also is one of the most frightening books I have ever read. His thesis is simple: Big Government will doom America to Armageddon, which he later converts into a strangely Seussian acronym. Stylistic flourishes aside, Steyn presents a convincing and devastating portrait of America and its future.

Steyn begins with an interesting thought experiment. Imagine a man living in America in the 1890’s. Now, imagine that he suddenly had access to a time machine similar to the one found in H.G. Wells’s seminal work. Send him forward in time just 60 years to the 1950’s. Suddenly, the world has changed:

There is a huge machine in the corner of the kitchen, full of food and keeping the milk fresh and cold! There is another shiny device whirring away and seemingly washing milady’s bloomers with no human assistance whatsoever! Even more amazingly, there is a full orchestra playing somewhere within his very house. No, wait, it’s coming from a tiny box on the countertop!

The advent of machines changed the world in innumerable ways in those sixty years. Steyn also points out the miracles of central heating, automobiles, telephones and air travel. Most importantly, these advances were open to nearly the entire middle class of America, a group that dominated the country’s culture at the time.

Steyn then pushes the thought experiment even further. Imagine that the same time traveler then decided to travel another 60 years into the future. It is now the 2010’s, the dates that almost all science fiction movies were set in. We were supposed to have flying cars and interstellar travel. But imagine the time traveller’s shock:

And when he dismounts he wonders if he’s made a mistake. Because, aside from a few design adjustments, everything looks pretty much as it did in 1950: the layout of the kitchen, the washer, the telephone…oh, wait. It’s got buttons instead of a dial…Let’s pause and acknowledge the one exception to the above scenario: the computer. Instead of having to watch Milton Berle on that commode-like thing in the corner, as one would in 1950, you can now watch Uncle Miltie on YouTube clips from your iPhone. But be honest, aside from that, what’s new?

Steyn then goes on to argue that the world hasn’t changed much, largely because of the interference of government regulation as well as government’s continued usurpation of the private economy. Before the Great Depression, people forget that the federal government spent less than 5% of the economy. Obama’s pushed it up to 25-30%. How quickly we forget what freedom feels like.

Because, much as the technorati would like to forget it, economic freedom is liberty. Anyone who has lost a job or a house in the current economic recession knows that. After all The Great Recession was brought to you by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the government-created cartel of regulators. Yet, the singular solution proposed by these same bureaucrats is more government.

Why? Steyn presents America as caught between two cultures. On the one hand, the culture that currently dominates the respected halls of academia, the increasingly powerful government bureaucracies, and the strident mainstream me­dia. Or as Steyn terms it, calling to mind H.G. Wells once again, the Eloi. In Wells’s novel, the human race split into two different races as evolution sped along. The Eloi were the supposedly more refined of the two — but the novel soon revealed that they were completely divorced from reality. In Steyn’s view, they are not that different from the liberal culture that dominates D.C., N.Y.C. and of course California, although not all of those places are faring equally well dur­ing the recession. D.C. is quickly becoming more equal than the rest – with the nation’s highest percentage of 25-34 year olds making more than a hundred thousand dollars while any business or high paying individual that can hope to escape California’s higher and higher tax rates is running for the border with lock, stock and barrel in tow.

Forget about Main Street vs. Wall Street. What about Main Street vs. Pennsylvania Avenue? What about the people who don’t have access to trillions of dollars in credit just to balance their books? Oh, I’m sorry, perhaps the correct term is “save or create jobs”? Don’t forget, the stimulus almost entirely went towards protecting government and union jobs, not building the infrastructure we so “desperately” need. Well, what else do you expect from a kleptocracy where the politicians are elected by teacher unions?

Unfortunately, I fear Mr. Steyn is right. We have a Presi­dent who has referred to his own party’s voters as “bitter” people who “cling to guns or religion.” How exactly did that happen again? Of course, while Obama may still send thrills up East Coast liberal news anchors’ legs, I doubt his speeches impress the unemployed masses out West of the Potomac. Or those small business owners who have to labor under the constant threat of new regulations and laws, like the monstrosity that is Obamacare. Yet, the Eloi, divorced from reality as they are, continue to vote for more and more government. Not that it should be too surprising — it’s not until the government stops sending those monthly paychecks that the so-called enlightened liberals catch on.

So what’s left for us? What will the wreckage of a gov­ernment modeled on the currently collapsing nanny states in Europe look like? A bill.

You’re being lined up for a twenty-first-century America of more government, more regulation, less opportunity, and less prosperity—and you should be mad about it: when you come to take your seat at the American table (to use another phrase politicians are fond of), you’ll find the geezers, the boomers, and the Gen X-ers have all gone to the bathroom, and you’re the only one sitting there when the waiter presents the check. That’s you: Generation Checks…You won’t be able to dream your dreams, because you’ll be the gray morning after of us oldtimers’ almighty bender.

That sinking feeling in your chest is what Jimmy Carter called “malaise.” Now, it’s called reality. The only question is when those of us with an ounce of common sense left plan to say “No.”

That’s all that matters in the coming election. Don’t listen to the screams of “That Republican’s a gun-totin’, Bible-believin’ idiot.” They like that one — it worked on both Quayle and Palin. Or the squeals of “that candidate is arrogant” or “that candidate is a flip-flopper.” The only thing that matters is cutting government in a meaningful and drastic way.

If that last paragraph seems out of place in a book review, it isn’t. Not in this book review, at least, because this book is about a call to action a call to reduce government now, before it is too late. Before we drive this country right off the cliff at over a hundred miles an hour.

Steyn’s book is biased. It’s polemical. It’s outrageous. The sad thing is, it’s true. And it’s convincing. So, don’t just buy a copy. Buy two or three and give them to your liberal friends. See if you can convert a few of the Eloi, pull their heads out of the clouds and back down to the ground. It’s only a few fiat dollars a copy – and besides, if we lose this next time around, we may be finished. Government is addicted to spending, the only question is are we going to keep handing it credit cards or send it to rehab?

–J. P. Harrington