Laying the Foundations

Apparently, the Biden administration is preparing to emulate its neo-Marxist counterpart to the north, the Trudeau dynasty, in officially recommending that Americans imbibe no more than two alcoholic drinks per week. Two observations on this exciting news. First, it is interesting, not to say portentous, that the U.S. government is suddenly going all temperate on alcohol at the same time that the uniparty establishment is actively (if somewhat tacitly) normalizing the legalization of marijuana, following Canada’s socialist authoritarian rulers in this too. Secondly, it is portentous, not to say interesting, that these oh-so-forward-looking governments are trying to make certain morality- and health-based recommendations into official policy, not because (as irresponsible or loose-thinking media voices are declaring) they are trying to ban alcohol with these mere recommendations and advisories — Canada’s federal government has such an advisory in place, and yet a sizeable proportion of the populace are regular and heavy drinkers in addition to being dope smokers — but rather because everything on the books (and in the schools and public service announcements) as the state’s official preference today will become that much easier to program into the algorithms of the central bank digital currency coming tomorrow to a global governance regime near you, thus codifying into everyone’s access to his own digital funds certain restrictions or demerit points for making choices that fall outside the “recommended” limits defined by the state for certain behaviors or preferences deemed by the state to be unhealthy or immoral.

I must say that I think there are sound health reasons for severely limiting one’s intake of alcohol, and even better character and intellectual reasons for doing so. In this respect I have no qualms about the content of the recommendations that the U.S. government is contemplating. In general, however, I am highly suspicious of the creeping nanny state mentality implied in all recommendations and advice issued by governmental agencies regarding choices and behaviors that are not explicitly illegal, as though private citizens, individually and collectively (such as through churches), lacked the mental capacity to make reasonable judgments or discipline themselves in ordinary life matters without the assistance of state overseers. Or as if the state overseers were some sort of superior beings more capable of making objective analyses and decisions about the proper behavior of millions of citizens than those citizens themselves would be capable of making, alone or together. There is something so inherently authoritarian in that assumption on the part of the state, and something so inherently servile and morally passive in a population willing to inure itself to the idea that such pronouncements from their “representatives” derive from a source of knowledge and objectivity that they, as private citizens, could not or should not be expected to muster and apply for themselves without government guidance — as though medical science or moral rectitude, for example, were essentially governmental prerogatives and beyond the realm of private thought or private institutions. In other words, to the extent that most people today genuinely do lack that self-regulating capacity, how much of this deficiency, which is clearly unnatural, results directly from our gradual, multi-generational moral surrender to government as our externalized, “more perfect” conscience and behavioral monitor, until, due to a lifetime of habituation, the private soul becomes unwilling and then unable, in practice, to monitor itself and set its own reasonable parameters, based on its own conditions, concerns, and needs?

Consider, as a way of highlighting today’s habituated moral passivity, the standard mantra of libertarians in defense of legalizing recreational drugs, namely that these substances, or their antecedents, were legal in past centuries and yet this did not, so they assert, lead to any general civilizational disaster. The difference between those earlier times and today, however, and the obvious answer to today’s libertarians, is that the general population in past eras had both the moral compass and the pride of adult self-determination to resist the basest and most self-destructive temptations of immediate gratification most of the time, or at the very least to understand why they ought to resist such temptations, whereas today’s mainstream population occupies, in its daily life, the moral realm and maturity level of the most irresponsible and wayward fringe-dwellers of centuries past, and hence certainly would precipitate (and in fact is precipitating) the kind of social catastrophe to which earlier liberal societies were far less susceptible. Moral restraint vs. legalization is the implicit false dichotomy set up by opportunistic or irrational libertarians to win support from the hopelessly drug-addled. Against this false dichotomy, the very reason that many dangerous substances could remain legal in past eras was that private citizens, en masse, knew why their use was dangerous or foolish, and more generally had a clear enough sense of life’s deeper purposes to fight their demons on their own or amongst themselves. Today, we live in the disarray of rampant nihilistic material reductionism, in which any pleasure that may be indulged in without fear of immediate punishment, however corruptive and devolutionary in the long run, will be indulged in by a large proportion, if not an outright majority, of every “advanced” society on Earth. The libertarian argument for legalized everything is not offered from the perspective of adult maturity and the right of self-determination, but from the perspective of “none-of-your-business” self-absorption and voluntary social decay.

The proper point, again, is not that the government is necessarily wrong in its recommendations regarding matters such as alcohol consumption, but rather that every bit of active moral authority asserted by various government agencies and experts spells another increment of moral self-governance ceded to coercive powers by a private citizenry increasingly used to being looked after and patted on the head for good behavior by a paternal state that is only too eager to assign all decision-making authority about matters of right and wrong to itself. The result is the elimination of moral character and forethought in favor of mere obedience to rules and acquiescence to propagandized popular attitudes.

We have become too dependent on the state in modern life, passively relying, intellectually and morally, on the government for things that ought rather to define mature adult responsibility, the combination of self-reliance and self-determination that typified the older argument for classical liberalism. This degrading effect was foreseen by our modern forebears, who warned of the dangers of paternalistic government on precisely these terms, as captured most effectively in Toqueville’s prediction that liberal democracy would eventually enslave itself under a “soft despotism” as oppressive as any hard tyranny, but more insidious, in that, as the product of gradual steps of voluntary surrender, it would be experienced by its victims as self-government, even while all the real authority over those victims’ choices and actions was increasingly ceded to a coercive entity beyond their reach or recognition.

Government ministries of moral admonition, which is what all these state health advisories and expert recommendations amount to in practice, are the testing grounds or tenderizing hammers for a state’s ever-expanding development from insipid and adulthood-stunting schoolmarmishness into real coercive authority.

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