Progressives may preach the joys of localism, but the trend in government is all the other way in everything from climate change to the economic complexion of your neighborhood.
The End of Localism
This could be how our experiment with grassroots democracy finally ends. World leaders—the super-rich, their pet nonprofits, their media boosters, and their allies in the global apparat—gather in Paris to hammer out a deal to transform the planet, and our lives. No one asks much about what the states and the communities, the electorate, or even Congress, thinks of the arrangement. The executive now presumes to rule on these issues.
For many of the world’s leading countries—China, Russia, Saudi Arabia—such top-down edicts are fine and dandy, particularly since their supreme leaders won’t have to adhere to them if inconvenienced. But the desire for centralized control is also spreading among the shrinking remnant of actual democracies, where political give and take is baked into the system.
The will to power is unmistakable.California Gov. Jerry Brown, now posturing as the aged philosopher-prince fresh from Paris, hails the “coercive power of the state” to make people live properly by his lights. California’s high electricity prices, regulation-driven spikes in home values, and the highest energy prices in the continental United States, may be a bane for middle- and working-class families, but are sold as a wonderful achievement among our presumptive masters.
The Authoritarian Impulse
Under President Obama, rule by decree has become commonplace, with federal edicts dictating policies on everything from immigration and labor laws to climate change. No modern leader since Nixon has been so bold in trying to consolidate power. But the current president is also building on a trend: Since 1910 the federal government has doubled its share of government spending to 60 percent. Its share of GDP has now grown to the highest level since World War II.
Today climate change has become the killer app for expanding state control, for example, helping Jerry Brown find his inner Duce. But the authoritarian urge is hardly limited to climate-related issues. It can be seen on college campuses, where uniformity of belief is increasingly mandated. In Europe, the other democratic bastion, the continental bureaucracy now controls ever more of daily life on the continent. You don’t want thousands of Syrian refugees in your town, but the EU knows better. You will take them and like it, or be labeled a racist.
Already the disconnect between the hoi polloi and the new bureaucratic master race has spawned a powerful blowback, as evidenced by the rise of rightist, even quasi-fascist parties throughout the old continent. The people at the top—including much of the business leadership—may like the idea of a central European master-state, but support for the EU is at record low. Increasingly Europeans want, at the very least, to dial down the centralization and bring back some control to the local level, and something of the primacy of traditional cultures and what are still perceived as “European values.”
In some ways, the extreme discontent in America—epitomized by the xenophobic Trump campaign—reflects a similar opposition to bureaucratic overreach. This conflict can be expected to grow as new federal initiatives—initiatives that seek, among other things, to enforce racial and class “balance” in neighborhoods and high-density housing in low-density suburbs—stomp on even the pretense that cities might have any control over their immediate environment. This policy is being adopted already in some regions, notably Minnesota, where planners now seek to change communities that are too white and affluent populations need to meet new goals of class and economic diversity.
NC could lose federal funds set up for climate change
WSOC - Charlotte, NC
The Rule of the Wise-people
Historically, advocacy for the rule of “betters” has been largely a prerogative of the right. Indeed the very basis of traditional conservativism—epitomized by the Tory ideal—was that society is best run by those with the greatest stake in its success, and by those who have been educated, nurtured, and otherwise prepared to rule over others with a sense of justice and enlightenment. In this century, the idea of handing power to a properly indoctrinated cadre also found radical expression in totalitarian ideologies such as communism, fascism, and national socialism.
In contemporary North American and the EU, the ascendant controlling power comes from a new configuration of the cognitively superior, i.e., the academy, the mainstream media, and the entertainment and technology communities. This new centralist ruling class, unlike the Tories, relies not on tradition, Christianity, or social hierarchy to justify its actions, but worships instead at the altar of expertise and political correctness.