This post is going to be rather more controversial than most. I’ll be getting deep into politics. But this is at the forefront in my mind and conscience, and the shape of government and society is a spiritual issue for me.
The Fall of the Empire
The name of America tells a tale. Phonosemantically, the sounds in America seem to parallel the history of the United States. The first syllable, “a”, is pronounced “uh” and indicates both freedom and thoughtfulness, and is appropriate for the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Federalist Papers. Its primary syllable, “mer”, is similar to the Middle English mere of mermaid, and Latin mare of maritime — “the sea“ — and suggests a manifestation of strength and power, appropriate for the military and economic strength of the United States as it extended its domain across the continent. The next syllable, “ric”, is similar to rich, reach, and Reich, and indicates solidification and containment of power, appropriate to America’s imperial ambitions. The final syllable, “a”, is pronounced “ah”, and indicates a return to Source energy. This corresponds to nothing in America’s history so far. We can only hope.
Furthermore, each phase of America’s history above corresponds to about one hundred years. The short “a” syllable pairs up with the end of the 1700’s; “mer” is the 1800’s, and “ric” is the 1900’s. Now we’re at the beginning of the final “a”, which means the American Empire — by which I mean our dominance in the economic and geopolitical sphere, despite the fact that our borders haven’t changed much since the 1800’s — should be ending.
And it is — though this may not be obvious.
For a hundred years, our empire has rested on the strength of the American military, which in turn has rested on the strength of the American economy. The economy has been strong because of a combination of peaceful borders and relatively free society.
Now our economy is starting to sputter. The dollar is dropping like a stone, more than most people realize.
Consider the price of gold, which has doubled in the past year or two. Has gold gotten so much more valuable? Has half of the world’s gold supply disappeared? No!
And think of gasoline, which has also doubled in cost. Is gasoline twice as valuable? Has half of the world’s oil wells dried up? No!
The dollar is losing its value. A dollar buys half as much gold and gas as it used to. And has your salary doubled in the last two years?…
No wonder we’re all working two jobs!
Why is the dollar falling? Because the government keeps printing money to finance its wars. We don’t pay nearly enough taxes to keep the war machine rolling, so the Fed lowers interest rates, making it easier to borrow; in effect, generating more money. And this lowers the value of the money already in circulation. The dollar falls.
Thus, when the government is spending more than it has, the value of the dollar decreases. It’s like an invisible tax. It’s a tax on everything — your income, your purchases, your savings — because it reduces the value of your money to pay for our Empire.
And when the dollar falls, and things get more expensive, what happens? Consumers don’t buy as much. (Or else they max out their credit cards and have to declare bankruptcy and then they don’t buy as much.) Corporate America’s profits go down. Fewer taxes are collected, and the government goes deeper into debt. The government borrows more and more money from other countries, which causes the dollar to drop further, which makes things more expensive, which decreases profits, which reduces government funds, so they create and borrow more money, which lowers the value of the dollar, which…
…creates a downward spiral. Things get crazier and crazier until finally…
Finally what? Well, we’ve seen what happens when empires fall. It happened with the Soviet Union in the 199o’s. Banks and businesses and governments fail, schools and libraries close, and there is widespread crime, unemployment, and privation.
Is this avoidable? Possibly, but we’ll have to shift course very quickly. The empire is going away; the only question is whether the landing will be hard or soft. To make a soft landing, we have to drastically reduce the size of our military, balance our government budget, and reform the monetary system.
Elections are coming up next year, and that’s our chance to influence the government’s direction. It may not be soon enough.
Parent and Parasite
I don’t think any American ever voted to have an Empire. None of us want to dominate the world. None of us wanted this mess. So why did it happen? And how can we keep it from happening again?
Some are inclined to blame big business for our situation. I think that this is a part of the problem, but a minor part. Corporations are soulless, machine-like entities that exist only to generate profit; but this means that they’re not necessarily evil, any more than any other machine that is soulless, and exists only for some simple purpose, like a hammer or a car. Corporations will act meaningfully and be good neighbors IF the market demands it AND government regulations (or lack thereof) encourage it.
The market is not an evil force, either; it simply consists of individuals and companies, and their resources and desires. Each of these actors may be good or bad, but in the aggregate they’re not an evil force (unless you think that people in general are basically evil). The market generally encourages corporations to be good neighbors, since corporations that get too big or too nasty lose business to competition. This is why McDonald’s offers salads and organic coffee nowadays.
How about government regulations? On the face of it, government regulation isn’t necessarily bad, either. After all, the government is controlled by duly elected representatives of the people, right?
But governments can be much, much worse than corporations. They have no competition to keep them in check; and they produce nothing at all of their own — every dollar or service they provide is taken by taxes from someone else. They represent a huge source of coercive power.
As such, they are tremendously tempting. They’re tempting for individuals who have a taste for power, and they’re tempting for corporations — again, not because the corporation is evil per se (though they may certainly be led by evil individuals), but because it’s in the corporation’s nature to try to control sources of wealth. It’s what they’re designed to do.
…And Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely
Government is powerful; and therefore it attracts power-hungry people and organizations. The more powerful the government is, the more of a target it will be for the unscrupulous.
Many people believe that government is necessary — imperfect, but necessary, because (a) it helps to keep rich, powerful people and corporations from preying on the poor and weak, and (b) it can help redistribute the wealth and power of a society to make it more fair and equitable.
Of course, government can only do this if it is run by people who are basically good, and who are not allied with the rich and powerful. Otherwise the government simply becomes another tool of the rich and powerful to become even more rich and powerful.
And I’ve come to realize that a powerful government is always a tool of the rich, the powerful, and the unscrupulous. Given enough time, these people and corporations will worm their way into control. After that, forget about protecting the poor or redistributing wealth.
Suppose you think people are basically good, and left to themselves, maybe with some encouragement, most folks would do a decent job of being charitable and helping everyone raise up to a decent standard of living. Then what do you need a government for? A government will just attract the bad apples in the society, and they’ll use its power to mess everything up. (This is my view, anyway.)
Suppose you think people are basically self-centered and hard-hearted, and left to themselves, they’d never give money to charity, and income distribution would continually get more and more skewed. In this case, government still won’t help, because it’ll just attract the worst of the worst, the bottom of the barrel.
Either way, a strong government leaves the society worse off than without it.
Enough of Your Opinion, Jeff. What do the Gods Say?
Good question! Apollo favors the Platonic philosopher-king approach — preferably one with a light touch, who basically lets people do what they want, but occasionally steps in to guide matters, like a tolerant parent. Belanus agrees, but emphasizes a very strong centralized education system, to make sure people know what the duties of a free society are, and get everyone off to a good equal start.
Cernunnos, on the other hand, believes very strongly in complete freedom — no government at all. “The more government control you have,” he says, “the less people are free to make mistakes and learn from them. It slows down the growth and maturity of the society and all its individuals. Let people do what they want! They’ll quickly learn what works and what doesn’t.”
All the gods agree that free will is the core of the human experience — the engine that drives our spiritual development. It is a sacred thing, and something we can never hand over to another. We may think we have no options in our lives, no choices in our actions — but we always do. The barriers we see around us are erected by ourselves.
The Anarchist’s Playground
When I talk to Cernunnos, I always think of the internet, which is hardly regulated at all, and its amazing growth in size and usefulness in the past decade. It hasn’t collapsed under the weight of spam or denial-of-service attacks, and it hasn’t come under the control of any single government or corporation. People are making plenty of money online, and yet so many basic software packages and services are completely free. What if all of society were like that? Perhaps it shows that free individuals really can self-organize productively, sanely, and ethically.
Maybe this will be the final legacy of America. When the imperial government collapses and the dollar disintegrates, the internet will remain — ironically created by the US “defense” department — an excellent foundation for rebuilding the economy and the society from the ground up.
You have to wonder what the internet will develop into. They say that 9/11 changed everything forever — but really it’s the internet that’s doing that. Maybe — anything’s possible! — maybe it will nurture a mature society, a society without a governmental parent/parasite. A society free to grow, to nourish, to interconnect in mind and spirit…
None of my guides know the answer. They’re hopeful; but they say it is up to us.
If it’s really up to us — if no government or corporation is going to decide for us — then for the sake of all that’s holy, let us take up the task!
Let us use our free will to make it so!