by Victor Davis Hanson
Human nature stays the same across time and space. That is why there used to be predictable political, economic, and social behavior that all countries understood.
The supply of money governs inflation. Print it without either greater productivity or more goods and services, and the currency cheapens. Yet America apparently rejects that primordial truism.
The United States has borrowed about $29 trillion in debt—about 130 percent of its annual gross domestic product. The government will run up a $2.3 trillion annual budget deficit in 2021—after a $3.1 trillion deficit the year before.
The Biden Administration still wants to borrow more—another $2 trillion in new social programs and “infrastructure.”
In the crazy last 100 days, the price of everything from lumber, food, and gas to cars and houses has soared. Yet many interest rates are still stuck at or below three percent.
Jobs are plentiful; workers are not. Is that a surprise when government cash handouts discourage the unemployed from taking a pay cut to go back to work?
After being freed from 13 months of quarantine, Americans are splurging. But meeting their huge pent-up demand is causing shortages.
Producers fear the Biden Administration’s loose talk of impending higher income, capital gains, estate, and user taxes, along with more regulations and cutbacks in energy development.
Are the old laws really obsolete, warning not to print money, while expanding government debt, keeping interest rates almost at zero, and discouraging employment, production, and thrift? That dangerous formula used to ensure inflation, followed by ruinous stagflation.
After the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody, many big cities slashed their police budgets. Mayors damned or defunded their departments. In terror of being fired or ruined for any use of force, patrol officers slowed down response times to inner-city violence,
In almost every major city—Baltimore, Los Angeles, New York, St. Louis, Washington—violent crimes and homicides have grown by double digits over the previous year.
State and local governments believed that they were exempt from primeval laws of deterrence that warned when criminals assumed they would not be caught and punished, then they committed more crimes.
The same dangers of ignoring unchanging human nature apply to foreign policy.
Aggressive opponents such as Iran, North Korea, China, Russia, and the West Bank expect that the new Biden Administration will ignore their brinkmanship. They assume it will cut American defenses. And Biden certainly sounds to them more critical of the prior Trump foreign policy than of America’s enemies. So why not take previously unwarranted risks?
So Russian troops predictably mass on the Ukrainian border. Chinese steps up its harassment of Taiwan. North Korea launches more missiles, Iran hazes U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf. And rockets from Gaza pour into Israel.
Apparently, the Biden Administration did not believe that dictatorships and theocracies would interpret its virtue-signaling as weakness to be exploited rather than as magnanimity to be returned in kind.
The old dictum of the Roman writer Vegetius —“He who wants peace, let him prepare for war”—was just too much of a downer to take seriously.
In the old days, the greater the impediments to crossing a nation’s border—walls and the enforcement of iron-clad laws—the less likely was illegal immigration. Here too the Biden Administration apparently rejected the ancient warnings.
Stopping construction of the border wall, promising amnesties in advance, announcing that illegal entrants would be caught and released, and damning the tough enforcement of its predecessors have only led to more illegal immigration.
Refusing to call the chaos at the southern border a “crisis” did not mean it was not a disaster.
Wisdom of the ages also warned that humans’ natural first allegiance was to their own tribe, as defined by race, ethnicity, or religion. That existential danger is why volatile multiracial states always wisely sought to tamp down tribal differences, and to emphasize instead common ties of citizenship and transcendent common interests.
Otherwise, a diverse country ended up like the former Yugoslavia, Lebanon, or Rwanda where tribal feuding turned bloody and barbaric.
Yet for three months, the Biden Administration has hyped racial differences rather than our melting-pot commonalities. On spec, it has demagogued its various opponents as being “racists.”
It has encouraged ethnic and racial groups to lodge claims for purported ancient grievances. And it has stereotyped a 220-million white population—hardly uniform in terms of class and ethnicity—as somehow uniformly enjoying “unearned privileged” and acting “systemically racist.”
The result was predictable. Crime is soaring. Racial tensions are at an all-time high. Hate crimes of tribe against tribe spike. Racial demagogues predominate. Meritocracy vanishes. Tribal solidarity replaces it. And the ancient idea of America unwinds.
When an arrogant present dismisses the wisdom of the past, then an all too predictable future becomes terrifying.
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Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush. Hanson is also a farmer (growing raisin grapes on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won and The Case for Trump.