Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Dissolving The Union: Our Incommensurable Americas

Peter Murphy, writing for Quadrant Online, has penned one of the most piercing analysis of the division in America I have read in his essay Two Incommensurable Americas, I had to look that word up but now I like it and plan on using it a lot. It's primary definition is:

1. not commensurable; having no common basis, measure, or standard of comparison.

That is a good way of describing America today, two (or perhaps more) Americas that have no common basis. I like the first half of his essay a lot, I think he has a great deal that is wise and accurate to say about the state of America and our sharp division. Here was my favorite part:
This is what the American “middle” now looks like. It is filled with graceless, cumbersome, knotty and embarrassing jerry-built pieces of legislation that claim to bridge what is in fact an unbridgeable chasm. The truth is that the two truths of American life cannot be reconciled. There is no meaningful in-between. There is no fuzzy logic that can square program spending and deficit reduction, balanced budgets and massive expenditure on infrastructure. Americans can see this. Tired of the political charade, they have been quietly separating themselves along geographical lines. In the last twenty-five years the number living in red and blue “electoral landslide” counties has risen from 40 to 60 per cent of the voting population. In step, the American political middle has shrunk. In 1994 49 per cent of American voters held “mixed” ideological views. In 2014 it was 39 per cent.
I think his solution is less workable, because it is based on everyone moving to places they like while maintaining the union. The problem there is obvious to me, I can live in a low tax state but I still am part of a big tax, big Federal government. They are not going to "leave me alone" in Indiana and as long as people in D.C. can cater to voters in California and New York by taxing and regulating me, my autonomy to move around within that system is not going to really help me. He also seems to be down on living near kinfolk as a support mechanism because he seems to think it traps people in opiod hellholes.

The "pick up and move" instead of relying on kin model is understandable but I think it also contributes to the fragmentation of family life where young families rely on daycare to raise their children because they are nowhere near their family and old people get stuck in homes because their kids moved away. It also, and I say this from personal experience, leads to kids that are not rooted and have trouble making connections outside of their own immediate family because "neighborhoods" are so fleeting and transitory.

Like I said, the essay is well worth your time to read for the first half because he just nails it on a lot of points. I also like something else he mentioned, the role of the Calvinist ethic in America. As he wrote, the secret Calvinists worked out a long time ago is this: "If you want a successful life then work hard and learn to read big books for yourself." Amen to that!

Give it a read and consider what he says and how it applies to our rapidly dissolving union.

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