Friday, January 1, 2016

Looking back, looking forward

One safe prediction for 2016 is that Americans will, for the most part, not bother to vote. Why is that?

At the extremes, you will hear that voting cannot make any difference, that the corporations (or the Jews or the liberal media or whatnot) run everything and it doesn’t matter which party is in power. But — and here RtO is merely stating the obvious — that cannot explain why people vote even less in local elections than in state or national elections, though it seems unlikely that anyone really thinks Citibank bothers to exert its influence on the level of a county commissioner election.

Obviously — and this year-end post is going to consist entirely of obviousnesses — people who could vote don’t bother because they are generally content with how the country is being run. The malcontents are noisier but the contents speak more clearly by saying nothing much.

This was to be expected. A government of the people should gradually solve its problems. After a couple of centuries, most of the big problems should have been corrected. They have been.

The issues that tore the nation almost to pieces in the 19th century are now so remote that only students of history even know what they were:

Slavery is an exception, but how many citizens remember that it was a big issue whether the United States should have a national bank and paper currency? Rand Paul but he is only a lonely crank. Or votes for women? Restrictions on child labor? Newt Gingrich but he is only a lonely crank. National parks? Only libertarian crackpots think those were a mistake.

Standing army? Settled. Income tax? Settled. Copyright for intellectual property? Settled and approved everywhere outside Silicon Valley.

National highways? Approved by all. Deed covenants to keep out Jews and blacks? Illegal. Using the National Guard to shoot workers? Hasn’t happened since 1936. Looking to the Ku Klux Klan for moral leadership? Millions of Americans did in the Roaring Twenties but now the KKK is a national joke.

How about a government old age pension or a public safety and welfare program for those not able to support themselves? Both are still widely hated by many but neither is much of an issue.

Unemployment insurance? That used to be a moral issue but the Bush Crash exterminated any residue of doubters outside the Cato Institute. 

There are still problems to be addressed, but none equals the enormity of slavery or has the potential impact of the switch to fiat currency. Today,we are asked to think that something called net neutrality is a vital issue. So low has the content of public controversy fallen.

It is the premise of Restating the Obvious that people know a lot more than they realize, they just haven’t taken a moment to reflect.

For example, in 2015 every American realized:

— that the right-wingers were lying about death panels.

— that the right-wingers were lying about guns being confiscated.

In 2015, no hurricanes touched the United States, the tenth year in a row that hasn’t happened. That explains a lot about why few Americans take global warming seriously. That and the fact that of the 40 college bowl games this season, only two were played north of Annapolis: New York and Boise. Americans have been moving to warmer climates for three generations. Small wonder they don’t get excited about a warmer climate.

In 2015, of the two in three Americans who don’t have a gun, 99.999999% never had occasion to need one. Even of the Trembling Third who do keep guns, 99.999999% had no more occasion to grab a firearm for protection than a sterling silver fishknife.

Yet in 1875, many Americans either had or aspired to have a silver fishknife. Thanks to the father of one of my high school classmates, who invented the fish stick, most Americans have never seen a silver fishknife, and I’d bet that 8 in 0 have never even heard of it.

For my money, the biggest public event of 2015 was the growing national perception that guns serve no useful function in a modern society. For those who didn’t get the message, 205 was a year of rising anxiety and extravagant purchases of guns and ammunition. As these slowly rust away, even they will sooner or later begin to think the 2nd Amendment was a bad idea.

UPDATE: New Year's night

The same old story, terrified gun nut shoots own child.


Thinking it over, it occurs to me that sports, despite its ridiculousness, is a fairly sensitive barometer of public opinion. It is not only bowl games that have failed to migrate north despite the alleged change in climate.

Spring training started in the 1890s (according to Wikipedia) in Florida and became common by 1913. Experiments with locations were extensive, from Hawaii to the Dominican Republic, and occasionally as far north as Hot Springs. But the only significant shift has been not north but west, to Arizona.

1 comment:

  1. For example, in 2015 every American realized:

    — that the right-wingers were lying about death panels.

    Proving you know noting about socialized medicine, and are forgetting all about "you can keep your plan, you can keep your doctor"

    — that the right-wingers were lying about guns being confiscated.

    The new target for gun bans: All semiautomatic weapons?

    By the way, how many times has Obama mentioned the "Australian solution"?