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Jewish World Review
December 29, 2008
/ 2 Teves 5769
The pedophile Santa of global capitalism
I was at the mall two days before Christmas, and it was strangely quiet. So quiet that, sadly, I was able to hear every word of Kelly Clarkson bellowing over the sound system "My Grown-Up Christmas List." Don't get me wrong I love seasonal songs. "Winter Wonderland" I dig it. "Rudolph" man, he's cool, albeit not as literally as Frosty. But "Grown-Up Christmas List" is one of those overwrought ballads of melismatic bombast made for the "American Idol" crowd. It's all about how the singer now eschews asking Santa for materialist goodies beribboned trinkets and gaudy novelties in favor of selfless grown-up stuff like world peace.
Which is an odd sentiment to hear at a shopping mall.
But it seems to have done the trick. "Retail Sales Plummet," read the Christmas headline in The Wall Street Journal. "Sales plunged across most categories on shrinking consumer spending."
Hey, that's great news, isn't it? After all, everyone knows Americans consume too much. What was it that then Sen. Obama said on the subject? "We can't just keep driving our SUVs, eating whatever we want, keeping our homes at 72 degrees at all times regardless of whether we live in the tundra or the desert and keep consuming 25 percent of the world's resources with just 4 percent of the world's population, and expect the rest of the world to say, 'You just go ahead, we'll be fine.'"
And boy, we took the great man's words to heart. SUV sales have nose-dived, and 72 is no longer your home's thermostat setting but its current value expressed as a percentage of what you paid for it. If I understand then Sen. Obama's logic, in a just world Americans would be 4 percent of the population and consume 4 percent of the world's resources. And in these past few months we've made an excellent start toward that blessed utopia: Americans are driving smaller cars, buying smaller homes, giving smaller Christmas presents.
And yet, strangely, President-elect Barack Obama doesn't seem terribly happy about the Obamafication of the U.S. economy. He's proposing some 5.7 bazillion dollar "stimulus" package or whatever it is now to "stimulate" it back into its bad old ways.
And how does the rest of the world, of whose tender sensibilities then-Sen. Obama was so mindful, feel about the collapse of American consumer excess? They're aghast, they're terrified, they're on a one-way express elevator down the abyss with no hope of putting on the brakes unless the global economy can restore aggregate demand.
What does all that mumbo-jumbo about "aggregate demand" mean? Well, that's a fancy term for you yes, you, Joe Lardbutt, the bloated, disgusting embodiment of American excess, driving around in your Chevy Behemoth, getting two blocks to the gallon as you shear the roof off the drive-thru lane to pick up your $7.93 decaf gingersnap-mocha-pepperoni-zebra mussel frappuccino, which makes for a wonderful thirst-quencher after you've been working up a sweat watching the plasma TV in your rec room with the thermostat set to 87. The message from the European political class couldn't be more straightforward: If you crass, vulgar Americans don't ramp up the demand, we're kaput. Unless you get back to previous levels of planet-devastating consumption, the planet is screwed.
"Much of the load will fall on the U.S.," wrote Martin Wolf in The Financial Times, "largely because the Europeans, Japanese and even the Chinese are too inert, too complacent, or too weak." The European Union has 500 million people, compared with America's 300 million. Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain are advanced economies whose combined population adds up to that of the United States. Many EU members have enjoyed for decades the enlightened progressive policies that Americans won't be getting until Jan. 20. Why then are they so "inert" that their economic fortunes depend on the despised, moronic Yanks?
Ah, well. To return to Kelly Clarkson and Barbra Streisand and Michael Buble and Amy Grant the striking thing about their "Grown-Up Christmas List" is how childish it is. The vocalist tells Santa that what she wants for Christmas is:
"No more lives torn apart,
That wars would never start…"
Whether wars start depends on the intended target's ability to deter. As to "lives torn apart," that, too, is a matter of being on the receiving end. If you're in an African dictatorship, your life can be torn apart. If you're in a society that values individual liberty, you'll at least get a shot at tearing your own life apart you'll make bad choices, marry a ne'er-do-well, blow your savings, lose your job but these are ultimately within your power to correct. The passivity of the lyric the "lives" that get "torn apart" is very revealing. A state in which lives aren't torn apart will be, by definition, totalitarian: As in "The Stepford Wives" or "The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers," we'll all be wandering around in glassy-eyed conformity. "Lives" will no longer be "torn apart" because they're no longer lives, but simply the husks of a centrally controlled tyranny.
To live is messy but liberating: free societies enable the citizenry to fulfill their potential to innovate, to create, to accumulate while recognizing that some of their number will fail. But to attempt to insulate free peoples from moral hazard is debilitating and ultimately fatal. To Martin Wolf's list of a Europe "too inert, too complacent, too weak," we might add "too old": Healthy societies recharge their batteries by the aged and wealthy lending their savings to the young and eager. But Germany is a population of prosperous seniors with no grandchildren to lend to. Japan is a society of great invention with insufficient youth to provide a domestic market. That's why if you're Sony or IKEA or any other great global brand, you want access to America for your product. That's why economic recovery will be driven by the U.S., and not by euro-Japanese entities long marinated in Obamanomics.
One final thought on "My Grown-Up Christmas List". The first two lines always give me a chuckle:
"Do you remember me?
I sat upon your knee…"
When was the last time you saw a child sit upon a Santa's knee? Rod Liddle in the British Spectator reports that at a top London department store Santa sits at one end of the bench while a large "X" directs the moppet to a place down the other end, well out of arm's reach. For even Santa Claus is just another pedophile in waiting. Naughty or nice? Who really knows? Best not to take any chances. That's another way societies seize up by obsessing on phantom threats rather than real ones.
Are free peoples now merely vulnerable infants in need of protection from the pedophile Santa of global capitalism? This is the issue that will determine the future: Euro-style state-directed protectionist sclerosis versus individual liberty in all its messiness. I know what I want on my "Grown-Up Christmas List."
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"America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It"
It's the end of the world as we know it…
Someday soon, you might wake up to the call to prayer from a muezzin. Europeans already are.
And liberals will still tell you that "diversity is our strength"while Talibanic enforcers cruise Greenwich Village burning books and barber shops, the Supreme Court decides sharia law doesn't violate the "separation of church and state," and the Hollywood Left decides to give up on gay rights in favor of the much safer charms of polygamy.
If you think this can't happen, you haven't been paying attention, as the hilarious, provocative, and brilliant Mark Steynthe most popular conservative columnist in the English-speaking worldshows to devastating effect in this, his first and eagerly awaited new book on American and global politics.
The future, as Steyn shows, belongs to the fecund and the confident. And the Islamists are both, while the Westwedded to a multiculturalism that undercuts its own confidence, a welfare state that nudges it toward sloth and self-indulgence, and a childlessness that consigns it to oblivionis looking ever more like the ruins of a civilization.
Europe, laments Steyn, is almost certainly a goner. The future, if the West has one, belongs to America alonewith maybe its cousins in brave Australia. But America can survive, prosper, and defend its freedom only if it continues to believe in itself, in the sturdier virtues of self-reliance (not government), in the centrality of family, and in the conviction that our country really is the world's last best hope.
Steyn argues that, contra the liberal cultural relativists, America should proclaim the obvious: we do have a better government, religion, and culture than our enemies, and we should spread America's influence around the worldfor our own sake as well as theirs.
Mark Steyn's America Alone is laugh-out-loud funnybut it will also change the way you look at the world. It is sure to be the most talked-about book of the year.
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© 2007, Mark Steyn